Thursday, February 14, 2013

PFT: No talks between Saints, TE Graham

Marky Ramone, Joe FlaccoAP

The Ravens eventually must decide whether to apply the non-exclusive franchise tag (at $14.6 million for 2013) or the exclusive franchise tag (at, under current calculations, more than $20 million for 2013) to quarterback Joe Flacco, unless the two sides can work out a new contract.

Under the former, another team could pilfer the Super Bowl MVP, giving the Ravens two first-round picks as compensation if Baltimore can?t or won?t match an offer sheet signed by Flacco.? Under the latter, Flacco can?t talk to any other team.

As explained by Albert Breer of NFL Network, the rules give the Ravens a way to soften the cap blow from using the pricier level of the tag.? If the Ravens opt to go ?exclusive? with Flacco, the cap number will remain at $14.6 million through April 19.? At that point, it will become the average of the five highest quarterback cap numbers for 2013.

Nearly two weeks ago, we listed the five highest 2013 quarterback cap numbers, currently:? $21.55 million for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, $20.82 million for Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, $20.35 million for Giants quarterback Eli Manning, $20 million for Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, and $19.6 million for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.? Restructurings or extensions would cause some of those numbers to drop, thereby dropping the average below its current level of $20.464 million.

The ability to carry Flacco on the books at $14.6 million through April 19 makes it easier for the Ravens to use the exclusive level of the tag and still transact other business.? Then, if they don?t have a long-term deal in place with Flacco by April 19, they?d need to be able to absorb the higher cap charge.


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Cellular renewal process may underlie benefits of omega fatty acids

Feb. 13, 2013 ? A search for genes that change their levels of expression in response to nutrient deprivation has uncovered potential clues to the mechanism underlying the health benefits of omega fatty acids. In the Feb. 15 issue of Genes & Development, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers describe finding that feeding omega-6 fatty acids to C. elegans roundworms or adding them to cultured human cells activates a cellular renewal process called autophagy, which may be deficient in several important diseases of aging. A process by which defective or worn-out cellular components and molecules are broken down for removal or recycling, autophagy is also activated in metabolically stressful situations, allowing cells to survive by self-digesting nonessential components.

"Enhanced autophagy implies improved clearance of old or damaged cellular components and a more efficient immune response," says Eyleen O'Rourke, PhD, of MGH Molecular Biology, lead author of the report. "It has been suggested that autophagy can extend lifespan by maintaining cellular function, and in humans a breakdown in autophagic function may involved in diseases including inflammatory bowel disease, Parkinson's disease, and in a more complex way in cancer and metabolic syndrome."

O'Rourke is a research fellow in the laboratory of MGH investigator Gary Ruvkun, PhD, whose team investigates the development, longevity and metabolism of C.elegans. Ruvkun and other researchers have discovered that simple mutations in genetic pathways conserved throughout evolution can double or triple the lifespan of C. elegans and that similar mutations in the corresponding mammalian pathways also regulate lifespan. Many of these mutations also make animals resistant to starvation, suggesting that common molecular mechanisms may underlie both response to nutrient deprivation and the regulation of lifespan.

To find these mechanisms O'Rourke searched genomic databases covering many types of animals for shared genes that respond to fasting by changing their expression. She found that expression of the C. elegans gene lipl-4 increases up to seven times in worms not given access to nutrients. A transgenic strain that constantly expresses elevated levels of lipl-4, even when given full access to food, was found to have increased levels of arachidonic acid (AA), an omega-6, and eicosapentanoic acid (EPA), an omega-3 fatty acid and to resist the effects of starvation.

Following the implication that omega fatty acids stimulate a process leading to starvation resistance, the researchers found that feeding AA and another omega-6 fatty acid, but not EPA, activated autophagy in non-transgenic C. elegans with full access to nutrients. Since activation of autophagy has been shown to increase lifespan in several genetic models, the authors tested the effect of omega-6 fatty acids on C. elegans lifespan and found that roundworms consuming a full normal diet supplemented with omega-6 fatty acids lived 20 to 25 percent longer than usual.

Since dietary supplementation with both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids has been shown to prevent or improve several human health conditions, the researchers tested the response of cultured human cells to omega fatty acid supplementation. As in C. elegans, the human cells responded to supplementation with the omega-6 acids, but not to EPA, by activation of autophagy, measured by levels of marker proteins. That result suggests that omega-6 acids induce autophagy across the full range of multicellular animal species. The researchers then showed that the lifespan-increasing properties of omega-6 fatty acids in C. elegans depend on the presence of genes required for autophagy.

"Almost all the mechanisms of lifespan extension studied until now -- sterility, insulin insensitivity, and caloric restriction -- have been shown to depend on activation of autophagy," says O'Rourke. "Our finding that omega-6 supplementation activated roundworms' cellular response to fasting -- namely autophagy -- even though the worms were eating normally suggests that consumption of omega-6 fatty acids may provide the benefits of caloric restriction without the need to limit food consumption. It also suggests that the reported benefits of omega-6 acids could depend in part on activation of an evolutionarily ancient program for surviving food deprivation."

O'Rourke and her co-authors note that many investigators and clinicians believe that omega-6 fatty acids -- commonly found in meats, poultry and vegetable oils -- may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, despite epidemiologic evidence that omega-6 consumption actually reduces cardiovascular risks. "We hope that our findings -- made by investigating the cellular responses of a 1-millimeter roundworm -- will lead the scientific and medical community to look back at all the epidemiologic, basic and clinical research data and to study the effects of omega-6 fatty acids on multiple types of human cells and live animals in order to gain better knowledge on how balanced intake of these nutrients benefits human health," she says.

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Massachusetts General Hospital, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

  1. E. J. O'Rourke, P. Kuballa, R. Xavier, G. Ruvkun. ?-6 Polyunsaturated fatty acids extend life span through the activation of autophagy. Genes & Development, 2013; DOI: 10.1101/gad.205294.112

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.


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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Four biggest moments from ?The Ultimate Fighter?

Last week's "The Ultimate Fighter" knockout was memorable, so how do you try to top that? A rap battle, some blood and a hospital gown.

Adam Cella still in his hospital gown. Fresh off last week's stunning knockout by Uriah Hall, Cella returned to the TUF house still wearing his hospital gown. He was not seriously injured, but did have to go over the details of the fight with teammates to know exactly what happened. He also nearly joined Hall in the shower to congratulate him.

Rap battle? Rap battle. Gilbert Smith made fun of Kevin Casey for his rapping, specifically this video.

This turned into a rap battle with several fighters participating, and Casey emerging as the clear winner.

Don't mess with people's sleep. When power went out at the TUF house, Team Sonnen thought it would be a good idea to run into Collin Hart's room and throw toilet paper at him as he slept. No, I don't get it, either. But with Hart preparing to meet Casey, he did not want his sleep messed with. Hart was so heated about it that he put up his middle finger during the post-weigh in staredown.

Hart breaks Casey. In a bloody battle, Hart starts with a jumping kick and follows it with a takedown. From there, Hart controls the entire fight. UFC president Dana White is impressed, saying, "It's almost like he broke him." Hart takes the fight 20-18 on every card.

With Hart's win, Team Jones wrested away control from Team Sonnen. The next bout is Bubba McDaniels and Kelvin Gastelum. What did you think of this week's episode? Speak up in the comments, on Facebook or on Twitter.


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Maldives ex-president in Indian embassy to avoid arrest

MALE (Reuters) - Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed took refuge in the Indian High Commission in the capital Male on Wednesday as police attempted to arrest him, raising the prospect of protests by supporters who say he was ousted a year ago in a coup.

Nasheed, the Maldives' first democratically elected leader, was removed from office in contested circumstances and his supporters have frequently clashed with security forces in the Indian Ocean archipelago, famous as a luxury tourist resort.

"Mindful of my own security and stability in the Indian Ocean, I have taken refuge at the Indian High Commission in Maldives," Nasheed wrote on his Twitter page.

Riot police barricaded the street outside the High Commission after Nasheed's arrival at noon, as his supporters began to gather.

India's External Affairs Ministry said in a statement that Nasheed had sought India's assistance and that the High Commission was in touch with Maldivian authorities.

A court ordered Nasheed's arrest after he missed a February 10 court appearance in a case relating to accusations that he illegally detained a judge during the last days of his rule, police spokesman Hassan Haneef said.

"We have received the order and we will be trying to carry it out in accordance with the Maldivian constitution and the order itself."

Imad Masood, spokesman for Maldives President Mohamed Waheed Hussain Manik, said the police would wait for Nasheed to come out. "If he doesn't come, then police will begin to talk to High Commission officials," he added.

Nasheed says he was forced from power at gunpoint after opposition protests and a police mutiny. A national commission last August said the toppling of his government was not a coup, a ruling that triggered several days of large demonstrations.

If he is found guilty in the court case, Nasheed could be barred from standing in a presidential election on September 7. His party says the trial is an attempt to exclude him from the contest and has challenged the court's legitimacy.

India said it had "expressed concern over the ongoing political instability in Maldives and called upon the government and all political parties to adhere strictly to democratic principles and the rule of law, thereby paving the way for free, fair, credible and inclusive elections".

The Maldives held its first free elections in 2008. Nasheed defeated Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had ruled for 30 years and was accused by opponents and international human rights groups of running the country as a dictator.

(Reporting by J.J. Robinson in Male and Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal in Colombo; Editing by Kevin Liffey)


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College of Idaho inks first football signee



Posted on February 11, 2013 at 10:33 PM

Updated yesterday at 10:35 PM

EAGLE -- The College of Idaho football program got one-step closer to kickoff on Monday when it announced Eagle High School senior Marcus Lenhardt as its first signee in nearly four decades.

Lenhardt, a 6-foot-4-inch tight end, made 27 catches for the Mustangs this season, for 343 yards and four touchdowns.

The College of Idaho disbanded its football program in 1977, but voted to reinstate it last summer.? The Coyotes will begin play in August of 2014, and will compete in the Frontier Conference.??


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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

IBM overtakes Microsoft to become second-most valuable tech company (Digital Trends)



IBM may not make the news much nowadays with big consumer product announcements, but that hasn?t stopped the long-time computer giant from growing. In fact, IBM?s market value has now officially passed that of Microsoft, making it the second-most valuable technology company in the world, after Apple, and the fourth most-valuable company in the world, overall.


The value of IBM jumped to $214 billion on Thursday, while Microsoft?s market value dropped to $213.4 billion, reports Bloomberg. This marks the first time since 1996 that the two companies have been this close in price.


IBM?s rise is the product of CEO Sam Palmisano?s strategy to focus on software and consulting businesses, rather than PC manufacturing. In 2005, Palmisano sold IBM?s PC business to Lenovo. Since then, the company has spent a reported $25 billion investing in its software and other business ventures. The move has led to an increase in per-share profit for more than 30 straight quarters. And sales have risen 20 percent from 2001 through 2010.


Microsoft, on the other hand, has gone in the opposite direction. In 2000, Microsoft???s worth was more than $430 billion. The market downfall in 2008 forced its value down to $135 billion as of 2009. And it has since increased in value as the markets grew stronger.


Revenue from its Windows and Office software businesses account for approximately 60 percent of its total, or about $69.9 billion as of its previous fiscal year, which ended in June. Success in with these products, as well as Xbox, helped boost Microsoft?s sales last quarter, but the company continues to loose money on its online services ventures, which includes the Bing search engine. That segment brought in increased revenue in the last quarter, about $662 million, but its operating losses grew to $728 million.


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First lady will host 102-year-old who waited hours to vote in 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) ? A delicate centenarian from Florida will sit with first lady Michelle Obama during Tuesday's State of the Union, symbolizing the ferocity and determination of a voter and giving testament to problems with America's voting system.

Desiline Victor, 102, of Miami, endured a weather-delayed flight to Washington on Monday in order to get to town for President Barack Obama's address. She will be among the guests seated with Mrs. Obama, an opportunity she called "a beautiful thing."

Victor's gentle appearance belies the resolve she mustered in October when she went to the polls on the first Sunday of early voting in Florida. That day, she had to make two visits to her voting precinct, and waited three hours on the first attempt, in order to cast her vote for Obama.

Her determination, despite the physical strain, inspired others to remain and endure up to six-hour waits.

"She just wants everyone to know she wants everyone to vote," said Victor's nephew, Mathieu Pierre-Louis, who translated her words from Creole. Her vote, she said through her nephew, is special. She said she loves Obama and will tell him so if she gets the chance.

A farmworker from Haiti, Victor was born in 1910. She arrived in the U.S. in 1989 and was naturalized in 2005. She first voted in the 2008 presidential election and cast her ballot for Obama.

A slew of states, including Victor's home state of Florida, implemented new voting restrictions in the two years after Obama's historic first election, in which black and Hispanic turnout reached record highs. The laws reduced early voting days, instituted rules requiring voters to show accepted forms of photo identification and curtailed some voter registration activities.

Obama again enjoyed overwhelming support from minority voters in his victory over GOP rival Mitt Romney last year.

Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, a group that advocates for civil rights, said Victor's story underscores the need to fix the voting system to ensure, among other things, that it accommodates elderly voters.

"It's clear Ms. Victor's story is a story that shows the tenacity of a voter to overcome barriers," Davis said. "Unfortunately there were dozens who didn't get to vote because of problems."


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Performing Arts Department Presents ?The Cyrano Project? | The ...

Later this month, the SOU Department of Performing Arts will be showcasing, ?The Cyrano Project?. This production is adapted by Jo Roet from original playwright Edmund Rostland, with Hilary Tate bringing in additional material.

The original tale of Cyrano (a real-life dramatist and duelist) was written in 1897, and the Performing Arts Department hopes to breathe new life into it. This classic play features fencing, comedy, heroism, and romance. The story takes place in Paris, in the year 1640. A poet and swashbuckler named Cyrano de Bergerac falls in love with the sophisticated and beautiful Roxanne, but he lacks the confidence to confront her due to his unseemingly large nose. Scott Key plays Cyrano, Sazi Bhakti plays Roxanne, and Michael Hays plays Christian, the third member of the story?s love triangle.

?It applies to young people because it?s a play about a person against society and against themselves,? said guest director James Edmondson, an Associate Artist at the Oregon Shakespeare festival. He has been an actor and director for over 37 seasons. ?Cyrano is a complicated guy. He has plenty of friends who stick by him. Even in this short, stylized version, the audience will experience tolerance and learning to value people beyond the packaging. It tells about coming to grips with how we look and coming to know our deeper self.? This is Edmondson?s seventh directing production for SOU. In the past he has directed ?All my Sons?, ?King Lear?, and next summer he will be directing ?Henry V?.

Professor Deborah Rosenburg, costume designer, said ?We will be employing imagination and whimsy to tell the story, rather than using ornate sets. In particular, I?m most looking forward to the pastry scene, the sword fight, the parasol with letters, and the costume for De Ligniere.?

?The Cyrano Project? will be playing at the Center Square Theatre, on the SOU campus. Showtimes are at 7pm on February 22nd and 23d, as well as on March 1st, 2nd, 8th, and 9th. There will be 2pm showings on February 23d, March 2nd, and March 9th.

Tickets for ?Cyrano? are $21 regular, $18 senior, and $6 students. Tickets can be purchased from the Performing Arts Box Office in (located in the Theatre Arts Building lobby) between 10am-5pm, Monday through Friday. (Tickets may also be purchased during the two hours before each performance.)? Tickets are also available to purchase at 541-552-6348, or at

For more information about tickets and ?The Cyrano Project?, please visit


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Monday, February 11, 2013

Galaxy On Fire Space Sim MMO For iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch Coming In Q3 2013

Fishlabs, the German studio behind popular space trading and combat sim Galaxy On Fire games for iOS devices, today announced that it is currently developing a massively multiplayer online game called Galaxy On Fire ? Alliances, with real-time strategy components, aiming for a release later this year. The spin-off project is designed to capitalize on the success of the original GOF and GOF 2 games, but starting with a free-to-play model and incorporating massive?multiplayer?elements like alliances, resource trading and P2P combat.

If you haven?t tried Galaxy On Fire 2, I?d highly recommend you go check it out, especially since it?s free right now as Apple?s ?App of the Week? pick on the App Store. Fans of games like Escape Velocity for the Mac and Freelancer for Windows will likely find themselves on familiar ground, but the GOF series, and GOF 2 in particular, does the best job yet of translating that experience to the iOS platform. Plus, while it employs in-app purchases, it does so in a way that only modestly affects gameplay, so you can achieve full enjoyment simply playing through without paying for any upgrades.

Galaxy On Fire ? Alliances will be a different beast, as it is designed from the ground up as a free-to-play experience. That means you can bet that in-app purchases will be a more core element of gameplay, and likely something that players will feel more compelled to indulge in. Fishlabs did an excellent job of threading the needle on paid unlockables with GOF 2, however, so I?m very interested to see if the company can pull off the same kind of subtle approach to the F2P market.

Alliances will features three factions, the Terrans, the Vossk and the Nivellians, competing for a newly-explored part of space. Players will engage in tactical combat, diplomatic activity, trading and resource management in order to research and develop new technologies and gain control over these territories, as well as form alliances with their fellow players, which you probably figured out from the name. Fishlabs promises ?epic space battles,? and I can?t help but hope this game can somehow live up to the precedent set by EVE online for desktop space exploration sims.

While Galaxy On Fire ? Alliances isn?t set for release until the third quarter of 2013 on iOS (after which it will eventually be ported to Android, the developer says), but gamers will get a glimpse at it at GDC in San Francisco at the end of March.

Spearheading the mobile games industry since 2004, Fishlabs Entertainment is one of the world?s leading independent developers and publishers of international top titles for feature phones, smartphones and tablets. With an award-winning portfolio of critically acclaimed core titles such as Galaxy on Fire?, DEEP?, Blades & Magic?, Rally Master Pro? and Snowboard Hero? under its belt, the Hamburg-based studio has launched an impressive selection of high-end 3D action, racing, sports and RPG games on a huge variety of platforms,...

? Learn more


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Gunmen kill 4 in northern Iraqi city of Mosul

BAGHDAD (AP) ? Gunmen killed four people in three attacks on Sunday in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, officials said.

Violence has dropped in Iraq since the country's worst sectarian fighting in 2006 and 2007, but insurgents carry out near-daily attacks on security forces and civilians to try to undermine the Shiite-led government.

Assailants fired at a police checkpoint in the center of Mosul, killing two policemen, police said. Later in the day, gunmen killed an off-duty soldier at a car repair shop in the city. In a third attack, gunmen fired at a van carrying oil workers, killing one and wounding three, police said.

A health official confirmed the casualty figures.

The health official and two police officers spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to publicly release the information.

Also on Sunday, the head of the Nalia satellite TV station in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region confirmed that a bomb exploded on the roof of the station, causing no casualties.

The bomb went off on Saturday, a day after a caller to the station's call-in program was perceived to be insulting the father of Massoud Barzani, the president of the autonomous region, station chief Sarwa Abdul-Wahid said.

A day after the call, several hundred Barzani supporters demonstrated outside the station and tried to break in, but were stopped by police, Abdul-Wahid said. Later that day, the bomb exploded on the roof.


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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Some Cost-Effective Solutions For Internet Marketing | www ...

February 10th, 2013 | Posted in Uncategorized

Internet marketing has proved to be a successful strategy for companies which have an online presence. Search Engine Optimization is the most important component of a successful website.SEO is the process which cultivates your website in a manner that makes a search engine give top ranking to your website on the search result page for the relevant keyword search. SEO Toronto will increase your online reputation, your website hits and your sales. Refer to as well.

Earlier marketing depended on traditional outreach methods but now the Internet has improved business communication to allow businesses to reach customers through effective and inexpensive online access. Now anyone with an Internet connection can find your products and services online and all it takes is a simple keyword search on a search engine. In the last 10 years the Internet has become the new marketing resource and the best method for business promotion.

Internet Marketing Toronto companies offer many online marketing plans at an affordable price. Web Marketing Toronto and their teams of dedicated and passionate professionals will take your business to the top of the online world at a cost-effective price.SEO Company Toronto doesn?t just work on your website. They ensure your success by making your website rank better in all search engines and drive traffic to it which definitely increases your revenue.

Web Marketing Toronto provides huge range of services including website design, website optimization, search engine optimization, Social Media Marketing, web marketing campaign, article submission, blog promotion, web analytics, directory submission, link building, social bookmarking, pay per click services, reputation management, blog commenting, content writing and many more. These services will make your online presence strong and reputed. In fact they will boost your sales on the global platform.

SEO services such as Aplus SEO first understands your business niche and customer sources. Then they will develop specific strategies for your marketing campaign. With keywords and competitor sites analysis, link building and development of website will take place. Continued monitoring and on-page optimization will keep your website updated. These organic and ethical SEO practices are most reliable and work better in the long run.

There are some companies in Toronto which provide some unethical SEO services that deliver immediate success but availing these services can damage your reputation and search engines can block your website. Ethical optimization of the website for the search engines is considered to be the most vital step in online marketing.



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Americans still spending big on their pets

NEW YORK - It is almost time for Alvin's massage. After a rubdown, he is off for a personal grooming session, to make sure he looks his best. Alvin is from Thailand originally but recently has been hanging out in California, and this weekend is jetting off to a hotel in New York City.

Alvin is a beagle.

Not just any beagle. Alvin is a champion of his breed, the recipient of three Best in Show ribbons at dog shows around the United States. His handler hopes he will compete for the overall crown at New York City's famed Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, starting this Monday. But being a champion doesn't come cheap.

"I've heard of some owners taking out second mortgages or going bankrupt because of their dog," says Lindsay Bryson, Alvin's handler, who says expenses for a typical show dog run between $2,000 and $4,000 a month. "Most show dog owners know their financial limits -- but some don't."

It's not just the Westminster best-of-breeds that cost Americans serious money. Indeed, not even the brutal economy of the past few years could reverse people's spending on Fluffy and Fido. Total pet industry expenditures are now estimated at almost $53 billion annually, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA). The figure has risen every year right through the Great Recession.

That kind of robust spending -- not just on dogs but also on a menagerie of pets from cats to iguanas to parakeets -- is up from $41.2 billion just five years ago, making for an almost 30 percent increase over that time frame. From gourmet food to designer wear, from pet insurance to organic treats, Americans always seem able to make room in the family budget.

"American pet owners continue to spend on their animals," says Howard Telford, a pet care analyst for research firm Euromonitor International. "Long-term, I am encouraged by increasing consumer confidence, and feel that pets -- treated as members of the family -- will be leading beneficiaries of increased consumer spending."

Treated like kings and queens
These days you can find Martha Stewart-brand dog beds ($49.99 for the "Bonequilt Snuggler" model at or BK Atelier's luxury poop-bag holder ($39.99 at Forget tasteless dry kibble; now it's all about repasts of free-range chicken and organic quinoa, like the dehydrated meals prepared for dogs by San Diego-based The Honest Kitchen ($69.99 for a 10-pound box of the company's "Verve" mix).

When it comes to show dogs, like the ones strutting their stuff for the Westminster show, the pampering can be taken to a whole new level. Bryson, Alvin's handler, has seen owners pay up for everything from pet psychics to dog chiropractors to luxury motor homes that allow the furry little kings and queens to travel between shows in style.

But even the mutt down the street can run up some serious bills. According to the APPA's 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey, dog owners spent an average of $407 a year on surgical visits, $248 on routine checkups, $274 on kennel boarding and $254 on food. And that is before other costs like vitamins ($95), travel expenses ($78) and toys ($43).

Add it all up, and according to a separate survey by the American Kennel Club, dog owners reported spending around $2,500 annually on our four-legged friends. In many cases, this is more than many dog-owning families signed up for. Only 3 percent of respondents said dog ownership was costing them less than anticipated; 29 percent said it was costing them more.

That is affecting a lot of families. More than 46 million American households own a dog -- more than any other animal, besting cats by about 7.4 million households.

Paying for your pet's health
The largest portion of a pet owner's budget is simply keeping the animals in good health. Total up those APPA figures about surgeries and vet visits, and the average dog owner reported spending $655 a year on health care, up by almost half from a decade prior. And according to one survey by the Veterinary Pet Insurance Co, 70 percent of pet owners said they would spend "any amount" to save their pet's life.

Wall Street has been taking note. Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer's recent spinoff of its animal-care division, Zoetis, was an unqualified success. Its shares, originally priced at $26, leapt 20 percent in their first day. That made for the biggest IPO since Facebook. The company's products include an array of pet and farm animal vaccines, anti-infectives and other medicines, like Revolution, a flea and heartworm-battling potion for cats and dogs.

"Healthcare has been one of the most successful and dynamic areas of pet care in the U.S.," says Euromonitor's Telford. "Sales of health care products for pets increased by 14 percent between 2009 and 2012, and I expect continued growth. It is not unreasonable to think that the likes of Sanofi or Merck could follow suit in spinning off their animal health businesses."

Other trends that Telford notes: "Premiumisation," with luxury food and treats consistently ramping up sales despite the sluggish overall economy. Telford says sales of high-end cat and dog food grew by 4 percent a year from 2007 to 2012, outpacing lower-end brands.

In addition to pet food, observers also note increased spending on pet insurance, to cope with the punishing cost of veterinary procedures. Payments for pet-policy premiums grew by an estimated 10 percent in 2012, to over $400 million a year.

The burgeoning business in pet care doesn't surprise Bryson, who is busy prepping 4-year-old Alvin for his big moment. If all goes well, Alvin will win his group on Monday, and then battle other breeds for Best in Show honors on Tuesday in the heart of Madison Square Garden.

"People who love dogs will make huge financial sacrifices for them," says Bryson, whose first Best in Show victory as a handler turned her into a blubbering mess of tears. "Real dog lovers will put high-quality food in their dog's dish before they put it on their own table."

Copyright 2013 Thomson Reuters.


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Merkel confidante resigns in German plagiarism scandal

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's education minister resigned on Saturday after being stripped of her doctorate for plagiarism, embarrassing Chancellor Angela Merkel and depriving her of a close ally in the run-up to a September election.

Annette Schavan quit four days after the University of Duesseldorf ruled she had "systematically and intentionally" copied parts of her thesis, and withdrew the Ph.D it had granted her more than 30 years ago.

It was the second time in two years that Merkel had lost a cabinet minister in a scandal over academic cheating. Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg resigned as defense minister in 2011 after being exposed for plagiarizing his thesis - behavior that Schavan condemned at the time as 'shameful'.

The chancellor, who rarely displays her emotions, turned to offer Schavan a consoling smile at a joint news conference where she told reporters: "I accepted this resignation with a very heavy heart."

Schavan's departure is unlikely to weaken Merkel's chances to win a third term in elections on September 22. Her Christian Democrats regularly poll above 40 percent, giving them an easy lead over the main opposition Social Democrats.

But losing her key confidante is still a blow to the German leader, and forces her to make her fifth cabinet change of the current four-year term by bringing in Johanna Wanka, a former education minister in two German states, to replace Schavan.

Andrea Nahles, general secretary of the main opposition Social Democrats, said the government was "at its end".

Juergen Trittin, parliamentary leader of the opposition Greens, said Merkel had made a "glaring false start" to the year, with defeat in an important regional election and a budget row over a planned new train station in Stuttgart.


As Schavan was education minister, the charges were a direct threat to her credibility and, had she not resigned, would have threatened to overshadow Merkel's election campaign.

She said their friendship would last and reiterated she would fight the university's annulment of her doctorate, a distinction which carries prestige in German business and politics as well as in academic circles. Losing it means Schavan is left without any academic title as her degree led directly to a doctorate, not a bachelor or master's.

"I will not accept the decision and will take legal action against it," Schavan told reporters. "When an (education) minister sues a university, then that comes with strains, for my office, for the ministry, the government and for the Christian Democrats. I want to avoid just that."

Since Guttenberg stepped down two years ago, other German politicians have also lost their academic titles as a group of anonymous Internet activists took to examining doctoral dissertations on websites in search of plagiarism.

Merkel has survived a range of high-profile resignations without sustaining lasting damage. Early last year, disgraced president Christian Wulff, whom she had hand-picked for the job, stepped down over his financial ties with a wealthy businessman.

(Reporting by Berlin bureau, writing by Annika Breidthardt; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)


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Friday, February 8, 2013

Blizzard Nemo update: 2 feet of snow possible

Blizzard Nemo will hit New England tomorrow, dropping between 6 inches and 2 feet along the 95 corridor and blanketing a swath of the country from Pennsylvania to Maine.

By Bridget Murphy,?Associated Press / February 7, 2013

NOAA's satellites reveal storm systems over the eastern half of the United States on Thursday at 11:15 EST. Nemo, a blizzard of potentially historic proportions, will result from two storm systems merging: one currently over the Great Lakes and one over Georgia.



Nemo, a blizzard of potentially mammoth proportions, threatens to strike the Northeast with a vengeance Friday, with up to 2 feet of snow feared along the densely populated Interstate 95 corridor from the New York City area to Boston and beyond.

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From Pennsylvania to Maine, people rushed to stock up on food, shovels and other supplies, and road crews readied salt and sand, halfway through what had been a merciful winter.

Before the first snowflake had even fallen, Boston, Providence, R.I., Hartford, Conn., and other New England cities canceled school Friday, and airlines scratched more than 2,600 flights through Saturday, with the disruptions certain to ripple across the U.S.

Forecasters said this could one for the record books.

"This one doesn't come along every day. This is going to be a dangerous winter storm," said Alan Dunham, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass. "Wherever you need to get to, get there by Friday afternoon and don't plan on leaving."

The snow is expected to start Friday morning, with the heaviest amounts falling at night and into Saturday. Wind gusts could reach 65 mph. Widespread power failures were feared, along with flooding in coastal areas still recovering from Superstorm Sandy in October.

Boston could get more than 2 feet of snow, while New York City was expecting 10 to 14 inches. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said plows and 250,000 tons of salt were being put on standby. To the south, Philadelphia was looking at a possible 4 to 6 inches.

"We hope forecasts are exaggerating the amount of snow, but you never can tell," Bloomberg said, adding that at least the bad weather is arriving on a weekend, when the traffic is lighter and snowplows can clean up the streets more easily.

Amtrak said its Northeast trains will stop running Friday afternoon. The organizers of New York's Fashion Week ? a closely watched series of fashion shows held under a big tent ? said they will have extra crews to help with snow removal and will turn up the heat and add an extra layer to the venue.


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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Vonn to have surgery on torn ligaments, broken bone

SCHLADMING, Austria (AP) -- Lindsey Vonn will head home for surgery in Colorado next week after tearing two ligaments in her right knee and breaking a bone in her lower leg in a crash at the world championships.

Vonn said Wednesday that she plans to compete in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, which start in 12 months. She was released from the hospital late Tuesday and returned to the team hotel.

''I am grateful to my fans for the outpouring of support, which has really helped me stay positive,'' Vonn said in a statement. ''I can assure you that I will work as hard as humanly possible to be ready to represent my country next year in Sochi.''

The Olympic downhill champion will have surgery next week in Vail, Colo. Because of intense media attention, neither she nor the U.S. Ski Team would say when she's leaving Austria.

''She'll be heading back to Vail (Colorado) and I will be doing surgery on her knee early next week,'' team physician William Sterett told The Associated Press on Wednesday. ''Lindsey is doing well. She's in good spirits.''

Sterett would not set a return date to skiing for Vonn until after the surgery, but other doctors believe she will be sidelined for up to eight months.

Vonn wants to be back for the World Cup speed races in Lake Louise, Alberta, in late November or early December, a course she has won 14 times on.

''She's got her mindset, she's going to come back stronger than she was,'' Alpine director Patrick Riml told the AP. ''She's got her goal - 'I'll be back in Lake Louise' - and Lindsey will do whatever it takes to be back.''

Vonn tore her anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in her right knee. The broken bone was described as a lateral tibial plateau fracture.

''The fracture is called an impaction fracture,'' Sterett said. ''It should not require any surgery. It just needs to be non-weight on crutches.''

The accident happened after Vonn landed a jump in the opening super-G race at the championships. As she hit the ground, her right leg gave way and she spun forward, throwing an arm out to protect herself. She ended up on her back as she smashed through a gate.

''The hospital staff did an excellent job with X-rays, MRI,'' Sterett said. ''She had very good care and they were very, very helpful.''

Sterett said Vonn was ''a little banged up, and sore everywhere.''

''She's intently focusing on the next step and the next step now is getting from point A to point B, with point B being next season,'' he said. ''She's determined and upbeat.''

U.S. speed coach Chip White also found Vonn motivated by her injury.

''Last night she was (angry) but she was also positive that she's coming back and she's going to come back strong,'' he said. ''We're looking forward to her return. She's a great competitor and always will be.

''She has that determination. If she wants to be (as strong as before) she will be.''

Sterett left open the possibility of Vonn requiring more than one surgery, saying that with these types of injuries ''that's always a possibility.''

However, the plan now was only one operation.

''I want to say thank you to the amazing medical staff that cared for me,'' Vonn said. ''I plan on returning to Vail as soon as I can to have the necessary surgeries.''


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Netflix could gain from loss of Sat. mail delivery

SAN FRANCISCO ? Netflix won?t miss Saturday mail delivery, even though the weekend service helped keep its DVD-by-mail subscribers happy.

The U.S. Postal Service?s planned shift to five days of home delivery a week instead of six may even make Netflix Inc. slightly more profitable by lowering the costs for sending out its familiar red envelopes with DVDs. That?s because subscribers may be able to watch fewer DVDs for the same monthly price.

For Netflix customers, DVDs that used to arrive on Saturday would come on Monday instead, delaying when they could watch a movie and send it back for the next one. Those who want to make sure they have a DVD to watch on the weekend might have to mail the discs back to Netflix a day earlier to ensure that they receive it on Friday.

However, analysts believe few customers are likely to mind. Most Netflix subscribers no longer get DVDs anyway, and those who do often let their discs sit on shelves for days or weeks, so the extra waiting time won?t hurt that much. Complaints are more likely to come from subscribers who try to watch as many DVDS as possible each month ? an unprofitable audience for Netflix anyway.

Investors reacted positively to Wednesday?s announcement that the U.S. Postal Service intends to stop Saturday home delivery beginning Aug. 10. Netflix?s stock gained $10.02, or nearly 6 percent, to close Wednesday at $184.41. Earlier in the session, the stock hit a new 16-month high of $185.14.

Under the plan, mail would be delivered to homes and businesses only from Monday through Friday, but it would still be delivered to post office boxes on Saturdays. The plan, designed to save about $2 billion a year, could face a challenge from Congress.

Investors? reaction might have been different if Saturday mail service had been eliminated three years ago, when the idea was first broached.

Back then, mailing DVDs was still Netflix?s main business. It was so important that Netflix grew into the postal service?s biggest customer. When the total number of Netflix?s subscribers receiving DVDs peaked at 24.6 million during the summer of 2011, the company was spending about $600 million annually for discs to make the round trip between customers? homes and dozens of distribution centers around the U.S.

Netflix began this year with just 8.2 million DVD subscribers, and the number is expected to keep dwindling as the instant gratification of being able to watch video over the Internet makes the notion of watching movies and TV shows on DVDs seem antiquated. By contrast, Netflix had 27.1 million Internet video subscribers in the U.S. at the start of the year. It doesn?t even offer the DVD option in Canada, Latin America, the United Kingdom and other markets it?s expanding to.

Janney Montgomery Scott analyst Tony Wible estimates that Netflix will spend about $300 million on postal expenses this year and perhaps as little as $200 million next year, depending how many more DVD subscribers cancel their service. The company no longer discloses its postal expenses.

The DVD-by-mail service began to shrink in mid-2011 when Netflix unbundled it from its rapidly growing service for streaming video to TVs and other devices with high-speed Internet connections. The change required Netflix customers to pay separate monthly fees if they wanted both Internet video and DVDs through the mail, which offered the latest theatrical releases more quickly.

The switch raised Netflix?s prices by as much as 60 percent for those who wanted both options, much to the anger of hundreds of thousands of subscribers who canceled. Most customers, though, decided to stick with Internet video and dropped DVDs.

If Saturday mail delivery ends as planned this summer, even more subscribers may opt for a streaming-only plan.

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter doubts most DVD subscribers will care about the loss of Saturday delivery. The customers most likely to be irked are ones who typically watch eight to 10 DVDs per month, because four or five fewer days of mail delivery each month will make it more difficult to get as many discs. ?Those guys cost them money, so if they quit, it won?t hurt them,? Pachter said.

Netflix makes more money when its subscribers watch fewer DVDs in a month because its expenses go down while the monthly fee remains unchanged. The DVD plans start as $8, as do the ones for Internet streaming.

Even though Netflix has fewer DVD subscribers, that side of the business is still slightly more profitable than the streaming service. That?s mainly because Netflix?s licensing fees for Internet video are higher than its DVD expenses.

Netflix, which is based in Los Gatos, Calif., had little to say about Wednesday?s developments, other than to say it?s ?in favor of a healthy postal service.?

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was more forthcoming during an April 2010 conference call with analysts. If Netflix were to lose Saturday home delivery before the company had more time to expand its streaming service, ?it?s not a good thing for us,? Hastings said then. ?We hope they hold off as long as possible, but we?re also cognizant that the total health of the USPS is at stake, and they may need to make changes that they need to make.?


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Five Days of Mail a Week Is Still Too Much

The United States Postal Service announced plans today to end Saturday mail delivery later this year, as part of its spirit quest to become something other than a $16 billion taxpayer sinkhole. Good! But it's not enough. In an age where we've already started to leave email behind, five days of bulk catalog and sweepstakes deliveries is pure, unmitigated excess. More »


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Undead ahead! 7 tips for playing 'Dead Space 3'

Tip 1: If you're going to play "Dead Space 3," the first thing you must do: Turn down the lights. Then: Turn up the surround sound.

So advises Steve Papoutsis, executive producer for the newly launched horror game and a man who knows a little something about enjoying a good scare. The best-selling Dead Space franchise is filled with grotesque monsters, creepy space locales and a whole lot of mind-bending madness, and it has been scaring the space suits off gamers since the series began in 2008.

This week Dead Space returns with the third installment, and this time around it has some new twists designed to spook players both veteran and newb. There are new terror-filled locales and new monsters with all new tricks up their, um, barb-spewing tentacles and blade-shaped arms. Meanwhile, for the first time, two players can tackle the atrocities that lie in the cold, dark reaches of space together cooperatively.

"It's the most ambitious and largest game we?ve ever done," Papoutsis told me in a recent interview.

To help you get the most (blood spatter) from your "Dead Space 3" experience, we've collected the following tips from Papoutsis as well as from my own time playing the game. Read on ... if you dare.

Tip No. 2 - Get to know your Necromorphs

Playing "Dead Space 3" means playing poor tortured space engineer Isaac Clarke. And as Isaac, you'll have to kill a great many undead former humans known as Necromorphs. The thing about Necromorphs is: They come in more than one flavor.

You've got your Wasters, Leapers, Exploders and Twitchers ... just to name a few. And they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. The key: Learn their weaknesses. Fast.

Take the Lurker for example. Shooting at this creature's bulbous body is a waste of valuable ammunition. Instead, take aim above its head where its three (THREE!) barb-spewing tentacles meet. One well-placed shot with a Line Gun here and you'll sever the three tentacles clean off and be done with this terrifying business.

Tip 3: Stray from the path

If you consult Isaac's hand-dandy Locator gadget, it will tell you exactly where you need to go next in the game. But I suggest you go the exact opposite direction as often as you can. Visceral has hidden helpful goodies (ammo, materials to craft weapons and the mysterious Peng Treasure) throughout the game. But you'll need to hunt to really score the extras.

And don't just keep your eyes open for goodies. Keep your ears open too, Papoutsis says. "Dead Space 3" gives players a new Scavenger Bot to help find and retrieve hidden loot, and there's a particular audio cue that signals a good time to unleash it.

"When you hear that sound, if you deploy your Scavenger Bot, he?ll go off and scavenge around, and you have a chance of getting a much richer cache of items," Papoutsis explained.

Tip 4: Use your words

If you're playing "Dead Space 3" on an Xbox and happen to own a Kinect, then here's a chance to put its voice recognition capabilities fun use. Speak a variety of voice commands and you'll see immediate results in the game. For example, say "reload weapon" or "switch weapon" and Isaac will do just that.

Meanwhile, "Dead Space 3" is the first game to use voice co-op voice commands. And that means reducing time spent fumbling with inventory. For example, if your partner needs ammo simply say "give partner ammo." In fact, here's a handy-dandy list of what to say to get what you want.

Yes, talking to the television takes some getting used to, but if you want to truly immerse yourself in this horror show it's worth giving a try.

Tip 5: Play with a friend

When you play "Dead Space 3" in co-op mode, one of you plays as Isaac and the other plays as John Carver ? a soldier plagued by moments of terrifying dementia.

Visceral has made co-op a seamless drop in/drop out experience, so that you can play with a second person as long as you like and then leave when you like without losing your progress or your items.

Meanwhile, if you play with a friend, you get a deeper look at the Dead Space world, access to unique missions and, most interestingly, a look at Carver's disturbing story. You also get some seriously hair-raising moments caused by his battle with own mind.

Tip 6: Choose weapons wisely

With the new weapons crafting system in "Dead Space 3," players can customize weapons in many ways. And so Papoutsis suggests that, when playing with a friend, "mix and match your strategy and the upgrades on your weapons so that you complement each others? play style."

For example, one player might decide to take the lead when it comes to taking out enemies and thus choose a weapon with an attachment that maximizes damage. Meanwhile, the other player could take the support role and use an attachment that heals both players.

Tip 7: Pick your partner carefully

Ultimately, when it comes to playing co-op "Dead Space 3," Papoutsis said it's important to team up with someone who wants the same thing out of the game. Do you want a partner who keeps the friendly chit-chat to a minimum so you can immerse yourself in the tension-filled horror mood? Or are you looking for a fun partner to take a romp through a sci-fi epic?

"I think both can be equally fun," said Papoutsis." You just have coordinate that with your friend."

Winda Benedetti writes about video games for NBC News. You can follow her tweets about games and other things on Twitter here @WindaBenedetti and you can follow her on Google+. Meanwhile, be sure to check out the IN-GAME FACEBOOK PAGE to discuss the day's gaming news and reviews.


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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Lincee Ray: 'The Bachelor' Episode 5 Recap: Tierra's Crazy Is Showing

Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 18, Episode 5 of ABC's "The Bachelor."

I've been recapping "The Bachelor" for about a decade. I've logged a ton of hours studying the "special" intricacies of this show and consider myself proficient in both the logistics needed and emotions best suited for a journey to find love. After 17 seasons, patterns begin to emerge. The competitors slowly fall into their roles and "The Bachelor" archetypes are on display for the world to see and judge accordingly.

The Girl Who Flies Under the Radar
You catch a glimpse of her in the sunken living room as Chris Harrison gives the 4-1-1 on how this week's dates will work and the entire watching party whispers variations of the same inquiry: "Who's that girl?" Someone remembers she was the crazy wearing the wedding dress on Day 1 while another incorrectly convinces the group that her name is Lucy. You're glad she scored the one-on-one so you can get to know her better, but you're quickly underwhelmed by Lindsay's (thanks to ABC for the text box reminder) picnic date that garnered only eight minutes of screen time even though filming took place both on the side of a mountain and in a lodge on a bear skin rug under a very large moose head. No wonder we all asked, "Who's that girl with the rose?" during the rose ceremony. She's flying low and proud of it. You go, Lacey.

The Girl Who Will Do Anything To Impress the Boy
Competitions really bring out the best in people, don't they? What better way for Sean to find true love than for eight women to duke it out during an old fashioned lumberjack obstacle course? Winners get to hang with Sean on a rooftop somewhere drinking cocktails and wrapping themselves in fuzzy blankets. Losers have to go home and watch Tierra catch up on her correspondence. All you have to do is row a canoe 50 yards, carry some hay bales from here to there, saw a log and milk a goat. Extra points are awarded to the girl who guzzles said goat milk at the finish line. And Des is just the chugger for the job. Things we didn't need to know? It was warm. And came out of her nose. Team Red for the WIN!

The Affectionate Intoxicated Crier
Even though Team Red won the lumberjack Olympics, Sean felt bad for the Blue Team and sent Harrison to fetch them for the victory party. Our Host found them in various stages of intoxication, since each was drowning her sorrows in her respective adult beverages of choice. Clearly those on the Red Team think this move is super uncool, especially Des, who still tastes goat milk residue in her mouth. At Daniella's fifth cosmo, she and Sean have their first serious conversation. Daniella cries. Sean consoles. Daniella sticks her tongue down his throat. Sean sees something in Daniella that he hasn't before and gives her the date rose. She remembers nothing of this night.

Manipulative Victim
Paying homage to the villains before her (see Courtney, Vienna, Michelle Money), Tierra wears the Drama Queen title proudly. She steals a lumberjack shirt from the Blue Team and sneaks in to the victory party to tell Sean that she can't wait for their two-on-one date tomorrow. She waxes on about her heart and how sensitive she is before confessing to the camera that poor Jackie has no idea that she's on a date with Tierra and her future husband. She opts out of displaying crazy eyes and goes straight for the maniacal laughter. She'll go far.

The Tattler
Poor Jackie is stuck with the Manipulative Victim and never stood a chance. She further nails her coffin shut by breaking the cardinal rule: NEVER TALK ABOUT THE OTHER GIRLS BEING THERE FOR THE WRONG REASONS. Get your head in the game, Red. In contrast, when being escorted to the limo after the most awkward date ever and you have the opportunity to tell Sean the truth about the Manipulative Victim, GROW A PAIR AND TELL HIM. You're the Tattler! Tattle already! Quit speaking in code, warning Sean to guard his heart. Tell him he's on a one-way trip to Crazy Town and Tierra is the mayor.

Oblivious Bachelor
Sean keeps hearing repeatedly that Tierra is not well-liked in the house. Then he witnesses her flying off the handle at the rose ceremony. Her explanation? She's done with all the drama and the girls ganging up on her in the house. Flags. Red. Flying. Everywhere.

The Stud
Two words. Chris Harrison.

To read the entire recap, visit

"The Bachelor" airs Mondays at 8 p.m. EST on ABC. This week, there's a special second episode airing on Tuesday, February 5 at 9 p.m. EST on ABC.

  • Emily Maynard

    On Jan. 24, it was officially revealed that Emily Maynard would be the next "Bachelorette," premiering on ABC in the spring of 2012. The 25-year-old former contestant on "The Bachelor" -- who split from Season 15 "Bachelor" Brad Womack in July 2011 -- is the show's first single mom.

  • Ben Flajnik

    The 28-year-old winemaker had his heart broken on "The Bachelorette" when his marriage proposal to Ashley Hebert was rejected during the seventh season finale of the reality series. But he bounded back to become the 16th "Bachelor" and he's currently looking for love on ABC.

  • Ashley Hebert & JP Rosenbaum

    This announced their engagement to the world on the Aug. 1, 2011 proposal episode aired on ABC. They are still <a href="" target="_hplink">working on their wedding plans</a>, as of December 2011.

  • Jason & Molly Mesnick

    Jason was the runner-up on Season 4 of "The Bachelorette" and then became "The Bachelor" in its 13th season. He proposed to Melissa Rycroft and then revealed that he still loved the runner-up, Molly Malaney. Apparently, he stuck with his second choice: Mesnick and Malaney's wedding aired in a two-hour special called "The Bachelor: Jason and Molly's Wedding" in March 2010.

  • Melissa Rycroft

    Melissa Rycroft was the first woman that Jason Mesnick proposed to before ditching her for Molly. (Remember when <a href="" target="_hplink">that drama</a> went down?) She went on to capitalize on being a woman scorned with a contract to be on "Dancing With the Stars," which made her a bit more famous and led to lucrative deals for the sales of photos of her wedding to Tye Strickland and growing family (the couple currently has a one-year-old daughter, Ava Grace Strickland).

  • Trista Rehn & Ryan Sutter

    For nearly a decade, Trista Rehn has been extending her 15 minutes from her time spent on the debut season of "The Bachelor" in 2002. She next went on to become the first-ever "Bachelorette" and received $1 million from ABC to televise her wedding to firefighter Ryan Sutter. She has since appeared in a Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial, a Brad Paisley video and on "Dancing With the Stars." She recently became a quasi-spokeswoman for the permanent birth control, Essure. On a more positive note, she and Sutter have used their fame to promote various causes including the American Heart Association.

  • Travis Lane Stork

    Travis Lane Stork, who refused to propose on national television to Sarah Stone, actually put his faux-fame to relative good use by taking a spot on the medical talk show "The Doctors" and writing the diet book, <em>The Lean Belly Prescription</em>.

  • Vienna Girardi and Jake Pavelka

    Vienna Girardi and Jake Pavelka were probably the most fame-whorey of all former "Bachelor" couples -- and we say that with love. Though the couple split up in June 2010, both have found ways to keep their names in the headlines...


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Vonn hospitalized after crash in super-G at worlds

SCHLADMING, Austria (AP) ? Lindsey Vonn crashed during the super-G Tuesday and was taken to a hospital by helicopter after apparently hurting her right knee at the world championships.

The four-time overall World Cup champion lost balance on her right leg while landing after a jump. Her ski came off immediately, and Vonn slid off course and hit a gate before coming to a halt.

She received treatment on the slope for 12 minutes before going to the hospital. Her U.S. team had no immediate information on her condition.

The crash came almost exactly one year before the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Vonn returned to the circuit last month after an almost monthlong break from racing to fully recover from an intestinal illness that put her in a hospital for two days in November.

Vonn trailed race winner Tina Maze of Slovenia by 0.12 seconds shortly before the crash.

The race, which was postponed for 3? hours because of fog, resumed after another 15-minute delay. Several racers struggled with the conditions.

"It's not a very difficult course, but in some parts you couldn't see anything," Fabienne Suter of Switzerland said.


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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Kashmir girl band breaks up after threats

(AP) ? The first all-girl rock band in Indian-controlled Kashmir has decided to disband after only one concert because of threats its teenage members received on social media and a demand from a top Muslim cleric that they stop performing.

The fate of Pragaash, which means "First Light" in Kashmiri, highlights the simmering tension between modernity and tradition in Muslim-majority Kashmir, where an armed uprising against Indian rule and a relentless crackdown by government forces have killed more than 68,000 people since 1989. Separatists criticized the band for what it said was "Western-style cultural waywardness."

Adnan Mattoo, the rock group's music teacher and manager, said the three high school students who formed Pragaash ? drummer Farah Deeba, bass guitarist Aneeqa Khalid and singer and guitarist Noma Nazir ? won't talk about their decision to disband and what led to it.

"They feel terribly scared and want an immediate end to this controversy once for all," Mattoo said Tuesday. "First, the girls had decided to quit live performance due to an online hate campaign and concentrate on making an album. But after an edict by the government's own cleric, these girls are saying goodbye to music."

Pragaash performed in public for the first time in December in Srinagar, the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir. It won third place in an annual "Battle of the Bands" rock show organized by an Indian paramilitary force as part of a campaign to win hearts and minds in the region.

Soon after the show, Kashmiri pages on social networking sites like Facebook hotly debated the band. Some questioned whether the performance was appropriate in the Muslim-dominated society in Kashmir and others raised broader questions on the Islamic approach to music and role of women in the society.

Many commenters backed the girls, but others were abusive, calling them "sluts" and "prostitutes" and calling for them and their families to be expelled from the region.

The controversy deepened Saturday after Omar Abdullah, the region's top elected official, promised a police probe into the threats and wrote on Twitter that "the talented teenagers should not let themselves be silenced by a handful of morons."

The girls then became a political tool for all sides in the conflict.

Mufti Bashiruddin Ahmad, Kashmir's state-appointed cleric, issued a fatwa Sunday ordering the girls to "stop from these activities and not to get influenced by the support of political leadership."

Kashmir's main separatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, criticized Abdullah for selectively supporting freedom of expression and said the band's concert was "a step toward diverting young girls toward Westernization."

However, the alliance distanced itself from the cleric's edict and denied the girls were under threat. "Indian media is blowing up a small issue with a purpose to defame the Kashmiri freedom struggle," the alliance said.

Experts say for most people in Kashmir, neither women performers nor music are a problem. "It becomes an issue when these strings are used to subvert a dominant political reality," said Wasim Bhat, a Kashmiri sociologist.

Kashmir has a long tradition of poetry and music, and has produced iconic female singers including Raj Begum, Kailash Mehra, Naseem Begum and Shamima Azad, the wife of India's health minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad.

That cultural heritage suffered when Muslim militants began their armed campaign two decades ago to gain independence for Indian-controlled Kashmir or its merger with Pakistan.

The rebels ordered the closure of cinemas and liquor shops, calling them "un-Islamic" and vehicles of India's cultural aggression. India's military responded to the insurrection with crackdowns that included torture, kidnapping, extortion and murder.

As armed violence waned in recent years, music shows and theater performances re-emerged, but some of the boundaries set during the conflict remained.

In 1996, a group of four girls broke a centuries-old convention when they started learning Sufiyana music, a classical Persian genre of music which Kashmir adopted after Persian Sufi saints started visiting the region.

A music school named after legendary Sufiyana maestro Ustad Ghulam Mohammed Qaleenbaf began training the girls at a time when guns roared in every corner of the region.

"Despite the unprecedented unrest, I received support from everyone who came to know of my initiative," said Sheikh Mohammed Yaqoob, Qaleenbaf's grandson.

Bhat, the sociologist, said nobody objected to the initiative "perhaps because they stayed within a tradition that does not contest the present-day political realities here."

"The tension between modern and traditional is in every society. But what exemplifies this in a conflict situation like Kashmir is its motivated politicization," he said.

Mattoo, the manager, did not hide his anger.

"I know it from my last eight years' experience that we could have easily dealt with the online abuse," Mattoo said. "We were failed by the government-run mufti, who asked us to forget our music and declared our band against the religion," he said.

Associated Press


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