DETROIT (AP) -- Spending a Saturday afternoon at the typical car dealership is not exactly pampering yourself. Drab floors, battered furniture, weak coffee in a paper cup. And that's before the salesman abandons you for half an hour to "check with my manager."
But Detroit automakers are finally stable after their brush with death, and most dealers can afford to spend a little money to spruce up the showroom. So they're adding leather chairs, rich oak walls, theatrical lighting -- even hair salons.
The improvements can cost from $200,000 to $15 million. But dealers say it's worth it because people expect a more memorable, luxurious experience these days as they make one of the biggest purchases of their lives.
"If we don't meet that expectation, we will not compete," says Richard Bazzy, who plans to spend more than $1 million each to renovate his two Ford dealerships in the Pittsburgh suburbs, including brushed-aluminum exteriors and mahogany and maple furniture.
Whether it helps sales is up for debate in the industry. Nicer surroundings may draw people in, but they also raise costs and let dealers with shabbier buildings sell for less.
Bazzy says he'll pay for the upgrades without help from Ford, but sometimes automakers will kick in. Some dealers have spent millions on their own, while others were forced to by automakers.
General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have been trying for years to get dealers to spiff up, but they're pushing harder now. Honda and Toyota have similar programs. There are specifications for uniform signs, paint colors and furniture as automakers try to make dealers look alike and create a unified image for their brands.
Dealerships that sell luxury cars have been one-upping each other for years, but the contest is moving into everyday brands. Some dealers say it's getting out of hand and the customer will wind up absorbing the additional cost.
After all, who really needs a putting green when they're sizing up a new ride?
"There's a point here where I think it's excessive," says Gary Dilts, a former Chrysler sales chief who now runs a consulting business. "How much cappuccino are you willing to pay for?"
Detroit automakers can afford to turn their attention to modernizing dealerships because the existential crisis of 2009, when GM and Chrysler went bankrupt, is behind them. All three Detroit automakers are profitable again for the first time in nearly seven years.
The dealerships could use the attention. Many have buildings that date to Detroit's boom years in the 1950s and '60s -- and it shows. Competitors came along in the '70s, the time of the Arab oil embargo and long lines for gasoline, when Americans began shifting to more fuel-efficient foreign cars. Toyota and Honda dealers blossomed with shiny buildings, especially in the suburbs.
In the '80s and '90s, Detroit's market share sank further, and it ended up with too many dealerships in more rundown neighborhoods, all fighting over fewer sales. Cheap desks and fake plants had to do.
Detroit tried to get its dealerships, which operate as independent franchises, to spruce up in the 1990s and 2000s. Some did; others wouldn't or couldn't afford to. Then came the financial crisis of 2008.
Many dealers who made it through were targeted by Detroit companies for closure. GM and Chrysler cut dealers during their 2009 bankruptcies while Ford was easing dealers out, all with the idea of selling more cars with less competition.
All told, the Detroit carmakers shed more than a quarter of their dealers between 2008 and the start of this year, when they had about 10,000, according to the trade publication Automotive News. Since the survivors are selling more cars, the companies want them to invest.
The average U.S. dealership has been in the same place for almost 28 years, and nearly half the buildings haven't been renovated in more than five years, the National Automobile Dealers Association found in a survey.
While automakers are pressing mainstream-brand dealers to spruce up, the pressure is even more intense on luxury dealers, especially Cadillac and Lincoln.
Many of those dealerships are worn out compared with Lexus and BMW.
GM is pushing Cadillac dealers to separate showrooms and service entrances from other GM brands, and it expects wooden walls, leather furniture, and fancy tile and carpet. Ford's struggling Lincoln brand has a similar program, prodding dealers to spend at least $1 million each.
At Suburban Cadillac-Chevrolet near Ann Arbor, Mich., the first dealership renovated under a new GM program, both sides of the 41-year-old building were upgraded this year. The luxury side got the best amenities, but Chevy got attention, too.
There's a cappuccino machine in the Cadillac waiting area and coffee on the Chevy side. The Chevy walls are a freshly painted bright yellow, while they're English oak on the luxury side. Cadillac salesmen have separate office space; Chevy salesmen share new cubicles.
Renovation of the once-dingy building cost around $4 million, and Mike Mosser, the general manager, said it's now nicer than the Lexus store down the street.
Even with the upgrade, Mosser would have a hard time out-classing Performance Lexus, a dealer in Cincinnati's upscale suburbs. It has a fitness center, a white grand piano and a lounge with a home theater. It's worth $9 million, according to tax records.
Although automakers often say they aren't requiring the upgrades, they can take steps such as withholding hot-selling models to force improvements, said Dilts, the ex-Chrysler sales chief. The dealers association worries that dealerships could start struggling again if they have to borrow too much money for a makeover.
But for others, upgrades are good business. Ryan LaFontaine, whose family-owned group spent $15 million two years ago to build a sparkling Cadillac-Buick-GMC dealer with a hair salon and restaurant, said he covers the costs by selling more cars than other dealers north of Detroit. He ranked second in the nation last year in Buick and GMC sales.
"We're getting customers into our building that maybe we wouldn't have gotten an opportunity to talk to or wow," he says.
The race for fancy buildings has spawned a backlash from dealers who advertise lower prices because they don't spring for frills.
Bob Shuman, co-owner of a Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram dealer near Detroit, says he rebuilt his showroom in 2008 on land his family owned. He brews the coffee and mows the lawn himself. There's a soft drink machine, but no restaurant or theater.
"I don't get it," Shuman says. "I don't understand why customers don't ask themselves `Who's paying for all of this?'"


NEW YORK (AP)—The NBA locked out its players Friday when its collective bargaining agreement expired, becoming the second pro sports league shut down by labor strife.

The labor deal ended at midnight after players and owners failed to reach a new contract. The two sides remained far apart on just about every major issue, from salaries to the salary cap, revenues to revenue sharing.

The long-expected lockout puts the 2011-12 season in jeopardy and comes as the NFL is trying to end its own work stoppage that began in March.

It is believed to be only the second time that two leagues have been shut down simultaneously by labor problems.

In 1994, the NHL and MLB were idle from October through the end of the year. The NHL locked out its players from October 1994 until mid-January 1995 and reduced the 1994-95 season from 84 games to 48. MLB endured a 232-day strike from August 12, 1994 until April 2, 1995, which led to the cancellation of the entire 1994 postseason and World Series.

In a call with the labor relations committee on Thursday, Commissioner David Stern recommended that the first lockout since the 1998-99 season be imposed.

“We had a great year in terms of the appreciation of our fans for our game. It just wasn’t a profitable one for the owners, and it wasn’t one that many of the smaller market teams particularly enjoyed or felt included in,” Stern said. “The goal here has been to make the league profitable and to have a league where all 30 teams can compete.”

Despite a three-hour meeting Thursday and a final proposal from the players — which NBA leaders said would have raised average player salaries to $7 million in the sixth year of the deal—the sides could not close the enormous gulf between their positions.

“The problem is that there’s such a gap in terms of the numbers, where they are and where we are, and we just can’t find any way to bridge that gap,” union chief Billy Hunter said.

All league business is officially on hold, starting with the free agency period that would have opened Friday. The NBA’s summer league in Las Vegas already has been canceled, preseason games in Europe were never scheduled, and players might have to decide if they want to risk playing in this summer’s Olympic qualifying tournaments without the NBA’s help in securing insurance in case of injury.

And teams will be prohibited from having any contact with their players, most of whom won’t be paid until a deal is done but insist they’ll hang in anyway.

“We’re going to stand up for what we have to do, no matter how long it’s going to take,” Thunder star Kevin Durant(notes) told The Associated Press. “No matter how long the lockout’s going to take, we’re going to stand up. We’re not going to give in.”

The lockout comes exactly one year after one of the NBA’s most anticipated days in recent years, when Lebron James(notes), Dwyane Wade(notes) and the rest of the celebrated class of 2010 became free agents.

That free agency bonanza—highlight by the James, Wade, Chris Bosh(notes) trio in Miami—got the league started on a season where ticket and merchandise sales, ratings and buzz were all up. That weakened the owners’ case that the system was broken beyond repair, but it also demonstrated why they wanted changes, with Stern saying owners feel pressured to spend as much as possible to prove their commitment to winning to fans.

The last lockout reduced the 1998-99 season to just a 50-game schedule, the only time the NBA missed games for a work stoppage. Hunter said it’s too early to be concerned about that.

“I hope it doesn’t come down to that,” he said. “Obviously, the clock is now running with regard to whether or not there will or will be a loss of games, and so I’m hoping that over the next month or so that there will be sort of a softening on their side and maybe we have to soften our position as well.”

The NBA appeared headed this route from the start of negotiations. Owners said they lost hundreds of millions in every season of this CBA, ratified in 2005. League officials said 22 of the 30 teams would lose money.

So they took a hard-line stance from the start, with their initial proposal in 2010 calling for a hard salary cap system, reducing contract lengths and eliminating contract guarantees, as well as reducing player salary costs by about $750 million annually. Though the proposal was withdrawn after a contentious meeting with players at the 2010 All-Star weekend, the league never moved from its wish list until recently, and Hunter said he believes negotiations never recovered from that rocky beginning.

The union had previously filed an unfair labor charge against the league with the National Labor Relations Board for unfair bargaining practices, complaining the NBA’s goal was to avoid meaningful negotiation until a lockout was in place.

Despite frequent meetings this month, the sides just didn’t make much progress.

Owners want to reduce the players’ guarantee of 57 percent of basketball revenue and weren’t moved by the players’ offer to drop it to 54.3 percent— though players said that would have cut their salaries by $500 million over five years.

They sparred over the league’s characterization of its “flex” salary cap proposal—players considered it a hard cap, which they oppose—and any chance of a last-minute deal was quickly lost Thursday when league officials said the union’s move was in the wrong direction financially.

“I don’t think we’re closer; in fact it worries me that we’re not closer. We have a huge philosophical divide,” Stern said.

Hunter said he hopes the two sides will meet again in the next two weeks, after the union has looked at some additional documents it requested.

The players’ association seems unlikely, at least for now, to follow the NFLPA’s model by decertifying and taking the battle into the court system, instead choosing to continue negotiations. Hunter said last week he felt owners believe the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, which is debating the legality of the NFL’s lockout, will uphold employers’ rights to impose lockouts.

“We’ll just continue to ask our fans to stick with us and remain patient with us. As players we want to play. That’s who we are; we’re basketball players,” Lakers guard and union president Derek Fisher(notes) said. “Right now we’re faced with dealing with the business aspect of our game. We’re going to do it the same way we play basketball. We’re going to work hard. We’re going to be focused. We’re going to be dedicated to getting the results that we want.”

About 90 percent of NBA players get paid from Nov. 15 through April 30, so they won’t be missing checks for a while. But Stern has warned that the offers only get worse once a lockout starts, so the league could try to push through elements of its original proposal when bargaining resumes.

“The fortunate thing about this situation is it didn’t just come up over the past couple of weeks,” Hornets guard and players’ executive committee member Chris Paul(notes) said at an event in Louisiana. “We’ve known this could be a possibility the past couple of years. I’ve been telling my teammates the past couple of years, and even the young guys that come in the league, to just be ready for it.”

Like with the NFL lockout, NBA players won’t be the only ones affected. Employees of teams and the league also face a very uncertain future. Stern admitted all options would be considered, including furloughs for his employees.

“The people who stand to have their livings impacted by a shutdown of our industry are going to have a negative view of both sides,” Stern said. “I think our fans will tend to have a negative view of why can’t you guys work this thing out.”

AP Sports Writer Rachel Cohen in New York, Brett Martel in New Orleans and Jeff Latzke in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.


Democrats and Republicans are locked in a death-grip over how to cut the deficit but agree the government must get its financial house in order. So you'd think there'd be bipartisan support to end the $6 billion annual subsidy for corn ethanol, which most experts agree is money poorly spent.

Former Car Czar Steven Rattner calls the corn ethanol subsidy "completely wasteful" and almost entirely about naked politics.

"Almost since Iowa — our biggest corn-producing state — grabbed the lead position in the presidential sweepstakes four decades ago, support for the biofuel has been nearly a prerequisite for politicians seeking the presidency," Rattner writes in a recent NYT op-ed entitled The Great Corn Con.

"Those hopefuls have seen no need for a foolish consistency. John McCain and John Kerry were against ethanol subsidies, then as candidates were for them. Having lost the presidency, Mr. McCain is now against them again. Al Gore was for ethanol before he was against it. This time, one hopeful is experimenting with counter-programming: as governor of corn-producing Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty pushed for subsidies before he embraced a 'straight talk' strategy."

In addition to $6 billion in direct government subsidies, Rattner notes the "real" cost to American consumers is much higher. Thanks to mandates requiring certain amounts of ethanol be blended into gasoline, about 40% of U.S. corn production is diverted toward ethanol. That, in turn, drives up the price of feed for cattle and pig, which puts upward pressure on food prices. In the past year, corn prices have doubled while the price of bacon is up 24%, Rattner notes.

Citing these "hidden costs" of mandates, the government's corn ethanol policies are a "much more pernicious force" then even most critics realize, he says.

All this despite studies suggesting corn ethanol is energy inefficient — meaning making a gallon the fuel consumes more energy than it produces.

"Of all the examples I've come across in my time both in Washington and watching Washington, this is one of the most remarkable, inexplicable, inexcusable [subsidies] I've come across," Rattner tells Dan and I in the accompanying video.

Last month, the Senate voted 73-27 to end the subsidy. But the vote was largely considered symbolic since the White House has basically taken a 'mend it, don't end it' approach, meaning Senators had cover to cast the "tough" vote.

Still, the Senate vote is "a signal of the fact the world is changing," Rattner says, holding out hope the political winds are finally shifting away from corn ethanol.


The 1989 baseball comedy "Major League" is consistently near the top of moviegoers' favorite sports films despite the ridiculous concept of the Cleveland Indians beating the New York Yankees for a pennant. Crazy, right? Sports Illustrated writer Chris Nashawaty recently interviewed the director, David Ward, and most of the cast for his latest feature, an oral history of the movie that digs deep and reveals some things we didn't know.
Here are the top 10 revelations from Nashawaty's exhaustive interview feature in the July 4 "Where Are They Now?" issue of Sports Illustrated. Hopefully, he'll avoid doing a followup for the cast and crew of that dud "Major League III: Back to the Minors."
1. Charlie Sheen was doing steroids during filming!: Or so he claims. Sheen, who played fireballing reliever Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn, played some baseball in high school but got kicked off the team because of poor grades. To prepare for his role in the film, Sheen says he improved his fastball from the high 70s to the mid 80s with the help of steroids. That's dedication to the craft. Or something.
2. Jeremy Piven was left on the cutting room floor: Director David Ward admits that Piven, then a prematurely balding 23-year-old actor with just "Lucas" and "One Crazy Summer" under his belt, played a supporting role as a bench player who pelted opposing teams with insults. All of Piven's scenes were (mercifully) cut.
3. Dennis Haysbert can hit a baseball pretty far: All of the actors in the film had enough athletic ability to fill the roles of ballplayers, but Haysbert, who played voodoo-worshipping slugger Pedro Cerrano, actually hit a ball out of the park during filming. Sure, it was only 315 feet but there are enough Yuniesky Betancourts in the majors now who could use that kind of power.
Top 10 
revelations from SI’s oral history of ‘Major League’4. Bob Uecker was hired for his work in commercials: Ward claims that when he asked Uecker to play the role of Indians radio announcer Harry Doyle, he did it because of Uecker's hilarious work in Miller Lite ads. Ward had no idea Uecker was already the real life radio voice of the Milwaukee Brewers.
5. Bob Feller didn't like all the swearing: Legendary Indians hurler Bob Feller saw a screening of "Major League" in Cleveland soon after the film's release and told director Ward that he was upset at the foul language used by ballplayers in the locker-room scenes, claiming that they "didn't talk like that." I guess in Feller's day, teammates spoke to one another with flowery prose and bend-over-backwards politeness!
6. The original ending was terrible: Spoiler alert! Ward originally put a twist in the end of the movie where evil owner Rachel Phelps, who spends the entire season trying to sabotage the team in an effort to move them to Florida, turns out to be the team's savior, working behind the scenes to make them better. Test audiences hated that ending, preferring to live in a world where good people are good and evil people own baseball teams in Miami.
7. Wesley Snipes is actually slow as molasses: Snipes played Willie Mays Hayes, a character who was supposed to have both the baseball skills and the self-aggrandizing attitude of Rickey Henderson. Turns out he had the latter but not the former. Scenes where Snipes runs the basepaths were shot in slow motion because he was "not very fast."
8. Corbin Bernsen is as arrogant as the characters he plays: All the actors playing ballplayers auditioned for their part by participating in actual baseball tryouts except Bernsen, who was shooting another film at the time and assured the producers, "Trust me, I can play." Playing washed-up third baseman Roger Dorn, however, didn't require much skill anyway except to be cuckolded by Ricky Vaughn.
[Let your friends know which games you're watching with IntoNow]
9. "Major League" was Joe Morgan's "Citizen Kane": According to Charlie Sheen, the film became a quick favorite among the MLB community and that Hall of Famer Joe Morgan claimed that "Major League" was the only movie he brought with him on airplanes. Bringing your own VCR tapes on airplanes? Fancy!
10. Nearly all the cast members want to do another sequel: David Ward has written a third sequel (or second sequel, for those of us who pretend "Major League III" never happened) in which 20 years have passed and Ricky Vaughn is mounting a big league comeback. In these interviews, Bob Uecker, Dennis Haysbert, Tom Berenger (catcher Jake Taylor), Corbin Bernsen and, of course, Charlie Sheen are all open to come back and let Hollywood unleash foist another sequel upon the popcorn-addled masses.


This photo taken Wednesday, June 29, 2011 released by China's Xinhua news agency shows the Jiaozhou Bay Bridge in Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province. China opened Thursday, June 30, 2011, the world's longest cross-sea bridge, which is 42 kilometers (26 miles) long and links China's eastern port city of Qingdao to an offshore island, Huangdao. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Yan Runbo)

A sign that reads: "Shandong Highway Corp. invests to operate Shandong Highway Jiaozhou Bay Bridge" is seen at Qingdao Jiaozhou Bay Bridge in Qingdao, Shandong province June 27, 2011. The world's longest sea bridge spanning Jiaozhou Bay of Qingdao City, Shandong Province, opened on Thursday, June 30, 2011. The bridge is 42 km (26 miles) long, Xinhua News Agency reported. Picture taken June 27, 2011. REUTERS/China Daily


CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told his country Thursday night he underwent surgery in Cuba to remove a cancerous tumor but assured them he is doing well, seeking to cool growing questions about his health and ability to govern.
Chavez said in a televised talk that the operation took out a growth in which there were "cancerous cells." He said the surgery was done after an initial June 10 operation for the removal of a pelvic abscess.
He called his situation "this new battle that life has placed before us."
Clearly thinner and paler after his surgeries, Chavez read from a prepared speech with a sad and serious expression. He stood at a podium, flanked by the Venezuelan flag and a portrait of 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar, the namesake of his Bolivarian Revolution political movement.
It was unclear what type of cancer is involved or what Chavez's treatment will be. He said it was a mistake not have taken better care of his health through medical checkups.
"What a fundamental error," he said.
Chavez did not say how much longer he expected to remain in Cuba recovering, and there was no information on when or where his message was recorded.
His appearance came after government efforts, including Tuesday's release of photos and video showing Chavez with Fidel Castro, had failed to quell growing speculation among Venezuelans about his health.
Adding to the anxiety, the government announced Wednesday that it was canceling a two-day summit of Latin American leaders that Chavez would have hosted next week on the 200th anniversary of Venezuela's declaration of independent from Spain.
Chavez said his first surgery was for a "strange formation in the pelvic region that required an emergency operation due to the imminent risk of a generalized infection."
After that surgery, Chavez said, doctors began to suspect other problems. A series of tests "confirmed the presence of an abscessed tumor with the presence of cancerous cells, which made necessary a second operation that allowed for the complete extraction of the tumor," he said.
Chavez said his condition has been "evolving satisfactorily while I receive a complementary treatment to combat the different types of cells found, and thereby continue on the path to my complete recovery."
After Chavez's speech, Vice President Elias Jaua appeared on television at the presidential palace, calling for support and unity among Venezuelans.
"It's up to us, people and government, to keep advancing," Jaua said, according to the state-run Venezuelan News Agency. "We feel extremely optimistic about this battle that President Chavez has begun for a full recovery of his health."
Before Chavez's appearance, some in the opposition had demanded more information about his condition. Some government opponents had also urged Chavez to temporarily cede his duties to the vice president while recovering in Cuba.
Chavez's allies, however, insisted that he remains firmly in control of government affairs, even as he has been recovering.
Finishing his speech, Chavez recited a revolutionary slogan often used by his mentor, Fidel Castro: "Forever onward toward victory! We will be victorious!"
Before finishing, he added: "Until my return!"
After his appearance, some of his closest allies went on state television. National Assembly president Fernando Soto Rojas, standing alongside other supporters, said Chavez is in good hands in Cuba.
"We wish for him to get better soon! Onward, commander!"


NEW YORK (AP) — Former International Monetary Fund Leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn will have his pricey bail substantially reduced in his sexual assault case because of issues with his accuser's credibility, a person familiar with the case said Thursday.
The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters not yet made public in court, said prosecutors have raised issues about the credibility of the hotel housekeeper who has accused Strauss-Kahn of raping her, but would not elaborate on what those issues were.
The New York Times first reported that the investigators uncovered major holes in the maid's credibility, citing two law enforcement officials. One of the officials told the Times that the woman has repeatedly lied since making the initial allegation May 14.
The woman's lawyer did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
Another person familiar with the case, speaking on conditions of anonymity for the same reason, said earlier Thursday that Strauss-Kahn may get his pricey bail and house arrest arrangement eased in the case. The person declined to detail what the new bail arrangements might be.
Strauss-Kahn lawyer William W. Taylor would say only that the hearing was to review the bail plan. The Manhattan District Attorney's office declined to comment.
Strauss-Kahn has been under armed guard in a Manhattan townhouse after posting a total of $6 million in cash bail and bond. He denies the allegations.
Strauss-Kahn was held without bail for nearly a week after his May arrest. His lawyers ultimately persuaded a judge to release him by agreeing to extensive — and expensive — conditions, including an ankle monitor, surveillance cameras and armed guards. He can leave for only for court, weekly religious services and visits to doctors and his lawyers, and prosecutors must be notified at least six hours before he goes anywhere.
The security measures were estimated to cost him about $200,000 a month, on top of the $50,000-a-month rent on a town house in trendy TriBeCa. He settled there after a hasty and fraught househunt: A plan to rent an apartment in a tony building on Manhattan's Upper East Side fell through after residents complained about the hubbub as reporters and police milled around the building.
Under New York law, judges base bail decisions on factors including defendants' characters, financial resources and criminal records, as well as the strength of the case against them — all intended to help gauge how likely they are to flee if released.
Defendants and prosecutors can raise the issue of bail at any point in a case. It's common, if asking a judge to revisit a bail decision, to argue that new information or new proposed conditions change how one or more of the factors should be viewed.
The 32-year-old maid told police that Strauss-Kahn chased her down a hallway in his $3,000-a-night suite in the Sofitel hotel, tried to pull down her pantyhose and forced her to perform oral sex before she broke free.
Strauss-Kahn's lawyers have said the encounter wasn't forcible, and that they have unreleased information that could "gravely undermine the credibility" of the housekeeper. Her lawyer has said she is prepared to testify despite a "smear campaign" against her.
The Associated Press generally does not identify accusers in sex crime cases unless they agree to it.
Strauss-Kahn, 62, was in New York on a personal trip. He left the hotel shortly after the alleged assault — to have lunch with a relative, his attorneys have said.
During his initial bail hearings, prosecutors noted that Strauss-Kahn was arrested on a Paris-bound plane at John F. Kennedy International Airport, and that they could not compel his return from France if he fled. His lawyers have underscored that it was a long-planned flight, and they've said he wants to return to court to clear his name.
He resigned his IMF post after his arrest.


Scrooge McDuck lives. An ATM receipt showing a balance of nearly $100 million dollars was discovered at an East Hampton Village bank.

A customer found the receipt hanging out of the ATM's slot. The customer who found the receipt showed it to financial blog The receipt, dated June 18, doesn't list the account holder's name but does indicate that the person has $99,864,731.94 in a personal savings account (that's after a $400 withdrawal and a $2.75 service charge). The East Hamptons is a well known playground for the very wealthy.

Is the receipt a mistake of some kind? Perhaps. Anyone with that amount of cash would know that keeping $100 million in a savings account isn't the wisest investment move. Savings accounts earn paltry interest rates and are only guaranteed by the federal government for amounts up to $250,000.

A buzzy article from The New York Post speculates that the holder of the account may be billionaire mogul David Tepper (Forbes lists him as the 208th richest person in the world). When contacted by The New York Post, Tepper denied ownership of the receipt and pointed out that he "would never do something as irresponsible as leaving $100 million in a savings account."

Maybe it really was Scrooge McDuck?


As both major parties debate their conditions for raising the nation's debt ceiling, some Senate Democrats and constitutional scholars are questioning whether the limit is constitutional in the first place.
Delaware Sen. Chris Coons told The Huffington Post this week that he's part of a group of lawmakers now examining whether, in the case that debt negotiations fail, the Treasury could ignore Congress and continue paying its bills on time.
"This is an issue that's been raised in some private debate between senators as to whether in fact we can default, or whether that provision of the Constitution can be held up as preventing default," Coons told Huffington Post reporters Ryan Grim and Samuel Haass. "[I]t's going to get a pretty strong second look as a way of saying, 'Is there some way to save us from ourselves?' "
Critics of the debt limit cite the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which states: "the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned." (Emphasis ours)
Of course, the Fourteenth Amendment is open to wide, and varying, interpretation and debate. The most basic question here is, does a limit on debt "question" the "validity" of the debt?
Legal scholar Garrett Epps, writing in The Atlantic in April, said that a case could easily made for simply ignoring the congressionally mandated debt limit.
"This provision makes clear that both the monies our nation owes to bondholders, and the sums promised in legislation to those receiving pensions set by law from the federal government, must be paid regardless of the political whims of the current congressional majority," Epps wrote.
In essence, Epps argues that Obama should stand before Congress and say, Tough luck--the Constitution says we can't default. Epps argued that in the event that Congress does not act, Obama should (and could) instruct the Treasury Department to issue "binding debt instruments on the world market sufficient to cover all the current obligations of the United States government, even in default of Congressional action to meet those obligations."
President Obama's own views on the subject, however, are unclear. During his press conference Wednesday, Obama dodged a question about the debt limit's constitutionality, telling NBC's Chuck Todd: "I'm not a Supreme Court justice, so I'm not going to put my constitutional law professor hat on."
Obama understandably didn't want to show his cards by hashing out a plan for how he would act in the event Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling. But some observers have already outlined how he could--and still get away with it.
Writing in the Financial Times in April, Former Reagan adviser and Treasury official Bruce Bartlett said the Obama administration could justify ignoring Congress to ensure the nation pays its debts.
"The president would be justified in taking extreme actions to protect against a debt default. In the event that congressional irresponsibility makes default impossible to avoid, he should order the secretary of the Treasury to simply disregard the debt limit and sell whatever securities are necessary to raise cash to pay the nation's debts. They are protected by the full faith and credit of the United States and preventing default is no less justified than using American military power to protect against an armed invasion without a congressional declaration of war," Bartlett wrote. "Under those circumstances, when default is the only possible alternative, I believe that the president and the Treasury secretary would be justified in taking extraordinary action to prevent it, even if it means violating the debt limit."
However, if Obama were to follow that route, it's still unclear how the courts would rule.

Grim and Saass point to the 1935 Perry v. U.S Supreme Court ruling, which determined that the language in the Fourteenth Amendment does apply to the national debt. What's more, they observe, according to the majority opinion on the case, no act of Congress can undermine promises of debt payment from the federal government.
"To say that the Congress may withdraw or ignore that pledge is to assume that the Constitution contemplates a vain promise; a pledge having no other sanction than the pleasure and convenience of the pledgor," wrote Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, who presided over the case.
Even with that precedent, however, the specific debt limit as we know it today has not yet seen its day in court. Should the White House's negotiations with Congress on the debt ceiling fail, it will be up to Obama to decide whether he wants to start that fight, which would no doubt require years-long court battles to settle.


No, really. The Samsung Infuse 4G’s huge 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus screen not only looks great, but practically begs for video playback.
Of course, that raises the question: Is that enough to differentiate the Infuse from Android’s numerous oversized offerings? For the most part, yes.
Samsung has packed this lithe handset with pretty much everything necessary for delivering entertainment on the go. Front and center is its spacious, yet ever-so pixel-challenged 800 x 480 display, a 1.3-megapixel forward-facing camera (with an 8-MP heavy hitter on the rear), and a row of capacitive Android navigation keys.
Inside its slinky 0.35-inch frame is a 4G data radio, and a beefy 1,750-milliampere-hour battery and a 1.2-GHz processor. The processor is powerful, but only single-core. I was surprised by this — Android phone manufacturers are rapidly switching to dual-core processors, as the beefier chips are a marquee differentiating feature in a crowded market. And while this phone doesn’t have a dual-core chip, it had more than enough guts for my typical smartphone needs. E-mailing, task management, light calling and even heavy app and web use was reasonably smooth within the phones somewhat outdated Android 2.2 Froyo OS. In fact, once I got over the pocket-stretching size of the device, the multimedia-minded battery made the Infuse a solid performer for marathon productivity sessions.
However, the real fun of the Infuse lies in goofing off.
Bloatware is rarely worth celebrating, but the video-centric apps that ship on the handset aren’t a complete waste. AT&T’s U-Verse app brought both live TV and on-demand downloads of favorite series like Parks and Recreation, while Samsung’s movie rental store and the generic video player supplied access to feature-length content.
It’s worth noting that none of these options are exactly free (save for the video player, which let me play my ripped movies). Despite that predictable hitch, the Infuse mostly handled playback like a champ. Streaming live TV over the 4G connection produced the occasional hiccup, but pretty much anything I downloaded locally played back flawlessly on the device.
An integrated kickstand or dock would’ve helped for longer viewing sessions, but that’s a minor gripe for a phone that actually has the muscle and endurance to rain down serious flickage at a moment’s notice. And that screen! It’s gorgeous.
Is this enough to dethrone hulking competitors like the Droid X2? Probably. Though we’ve all seen a lot of the Infuse’s individual elements before, it’s rare that they’re packed into such a single cohesive package. Even the mildly girth-conscious will likely balk at the size, but it’s hard to take issue with a handset infused with this much win.
Form+Function+Fun. Oversized touchscreen is great for flicks. Fantastic battery life regardless of use patterns. Preternaturally light at 4.5 ounces. Ships with a $25 voucher for movie rentals. Great photos (8MP) decent video (720p).
Speaker is fine for calls, anemic for movies. Plastic chassis and volume rocker are pure chintz. Getting video onto a TV is dongle-reliant. All this downloadable video sweetness ships with a tiny 2GB card.


Radio listeners in the United Kingdom won't be subjected to loud shrieking coming from their wireless sets during Wimbledon. The BBC recently unveiled a new program that allows listeners of live Wimbledon broadcasts to minimize the sound of on-court grunting.

This week, BBC's Radio 5 released NetMix, an online tool that gives viewers the option of decreasing the volume of the sound on the court relative to commentary provided by analysts. The site boasts that NetMix can change the level of "the crowd, base-line, grunting and ball," as if people care about any but the third.

[Latest iPad app: Does the grunting bother you? Let your friends know what you think with IntoNow.]

The program came out days after the head of Wimbledon said he would like to see less grunting in the women's game. Listeners on Thursday, for instance, could adjust the volume of on-court sound in matches featuring two of the loudest grunters on the WTA, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova.

Robert Brun, the head of audio and music technology for BBC radio told London's Telegraph newspaper:

"Having known for a long time that broadcasters have a problem with balancing the ambient sounds of a sports match with the commentary, we felt we had to develop a tool which put the control back into the hands of the audience.

"The BBC receives lots of complaints from the public regarding sound balance — with many of them wanting the sound of the commentators turned up and the noise for a match turned down. Wimbledon was a clear choice to launch this product for as there are always so many comments about the amount of grunting from the players."

This could be a "be careful what you wish for" situation. Turning down Azarenka's interminable, 95-decibel grunts is a no-brainer. Having to listen to certain broadcasters may not be any better, though.


New term: mom-zilla. We know all about temporary bridal insanity, and the underreported groom version, but in some families, it’s the parents who are seized by irrational wedding meltdowns.

Last month, 60-year-old British florist and total mom-zilla, Carolyn Bourne attacked. After her stepson’s bride-to-be, Heidi Withers, was a guest in her house she had a thing or two to teach her before she entered the Bourne family.

So Bourne sent the 29-year-old a soul-crushing email. The subject line: “Your lack of manners.” The bullet points for the bride, in paraphrase: her wedding is going to be tacky, she’s too picky of an eater, her sense of humor sucks, and her stepson is making a dreadful choice in marrying her. And one more thing: her out-of-work parents are cheap.

When Withers received the email (Bourne sent it three times to be sure) she did what anyone would do: she forwarded it to a few friends to share in the shock. What was the alternative —respond with a 'frowny' face? But instead of simply offering advice, some anonymous friend got pro-active and forwarded Bourne’s e-attack, launching a viral sensation in a matter of hours. Now everyone in the Western Hemisphere has laid eyes on Bourne’s email.

In a way, it’s the ultimate revenge on a mother-in-law who needed to be put in her place after such power-mongering. But it’s not going to make for smooth wedding. Bourne has been labeled the mother-in-law from hell by media outlets and Withers’ father Alan has fueled the fire  by publicly calling Bourne “Miss fancy pants." Now parents on both sides of the couple are fueding and nobody's manners are in check. Suggestion for Heidi and Freddie, her groom: elope.

Bourne has told London's Telegraph she still plans to attend the wedding, but will maintain a "dignified silence." She may know about English etiquette but she’s clueless about the cardinal rule of the Internet: never send an email you don’t want the world to see.  You almost have to feel bad for the lady, mom-zilla or no. That is, until you read the actual email she sent Withers. Here’s an excerpt:

from: Carolyn Bourne 
to: heidi withers 
subject: your lack of manners

Here are a few examples of your lack of manners:

When you are a guest in another's house, you do not declare what you will and will not eat - unless you are positively allergic to something.

You do not remark that you do not have enough food.

You do not start before everyone else.

You do not take additional helpings without being invited to by your host.

When a guest in another's house, you do not lie in bed until late morning in households that rise early - you fall in line with house norms.

You should never ever insult the family you are about to join at any time and most definitely not in public. I gather you passed this off as a joke but the reaction in the pub was one of shock, not laughter.

You regularly draw attention to yourself. Perhaps you should ask yourself why. No one gets married in a castle unless they own it. It is brash, celebrity style behaviour.

I understand your parents are unable to contribute very much towards the cost of your wedding. (There is nothing wrong with that except that convention is such that one might presume they would have saved over the years for their daughters' marriages.)

If this is the case, it would be most ladylike and gracious to lower your sights and have a modest wedding as befits both your incomes.

One could be accused of thinking that Heidi Withers must be patting herself on the back for having caught a most eligible young man. I pity Freddie.

Ouch. There's no denying it's harsh, but if you've ever been in the line of fire in a wedding party, you know marriage anxieties strike darkness in the hearts of man. What do you think: Is this mom's email forgivable


The San Antonio Spurs guard is reportedly dating 20-year-old Barbara Morel, the winner of France's 2010 Miss Nationale pageant. Parker divorced his wife, "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria, in November after a three-year marriage.

Morel was the winner of the inaugural Miss Nationale pageant last December. The competition was created to challenge the more-established Miss France pageant, a French equivalent of Miss America.

Parker told a French newspaper last month that he thought the Spurs' title chances were over. He later backed off those comments when they created a firestorm in America. Before last week's draft, Parker was the subject of trade rumors but remains with the team that drafted him in 2001. The 29-year-old begins a new four-year, $50 million contract this season.

He and Longoria met in 2004 and were engaged two years later. She filed for divorce late last year after reportedly discovering hundreds of text messages he had sent to the wife of a Spurs teammate.

In addition to her pageant career, Morel studies trade and commerce in Saint-Lambesc, Bouches du Rhône.


MSNBC has suspended political analyst and Time magazine writer Mark Halperin indefinitely over a remark he made about President Obama Thursday morning.
"Mark Halperin's comments this morning were completely inappropriate and unacceptable," said MSNBC spokesman Jeremy Gaines in a statement. "We apologize to the President, the White House and all of our viewers. We strive for a high level of discourse and comments like these have no place on our air."
Appearing on "Morning Joe" this morning, Halperin, senior political analyst at Time and MSNBC and co-author of the 2008 election opus "Game Change," sought to characterize the president's demeanor at a press briefing the previous day. You can watch the video below--though the term Halperin uses to characterize the president is vulgar, as the partial transcript after the jump will also show:
"Are we on the seven-second delay?" Halperin asked.
"We have it. We can use it. Go for it. Let's see what happens," co-anchor Joe Scarborough replied.
"I thought he was a dick yesterday," Halperin replied, sending the hosts into a brief moment of panic.
Halperin apologized later on in the show and issued his own mea culpa hours later via MSNBC.
"I completely agree with everything in MSNBC's statement about my remark," he said. "I believe that the step they are taking in response is totally appropriate. Again, I want to offer a heartfelt and profound apology to the President, to my MSNBC colleagues, and to the viewers. My remark was unacceptable, and I deeply regret it."
You can watch a clip of Halperin's apology here:
Halperin is the latest in a string of MSNBC suspensions this past year. Scarborough himself was suspended last November for violating the network's campaign contribution policy, as was Keith Olbermann, who left MSNBC several months later. More recently, Ed Schultz was suspended in May for calling pundit Laura Ingraham a "slut." And former MSNBC dayside host David Schuster also got a suspension in 2008 for complaining that Hillary Clinton had "pimped out" her daughter, Chelsea, on the presidential campaign trail.
UPDATE 12:30 pm: Time also has issued a statement reprimanding Halperin: "Mark Halperin's comments on air this morning were inappropriate and in no way reflective of TIME's views. We have issued a warning to him that such behavior is unacceptable."


One of the worst doctored photographs in Internet history? That's the emerging verdict on a clumsily altered photo of bureacrats in the sleepy county of Huili, in southwest China's Sichuan province. In an ill-fated PR stunt, the trio of area government officials are shown appearing to float over the surface of a road, casting nary a shadow in a bid to promote a local road construction project.

"The saga began on Monday when Huili's website published a picture showing, according to the accompanying story, three local officials inspecting a newly completed road construction project this month," the Guardian's Peter Walker reports.

Calls soon began flooding the county's offices, which quickly issued an apology and removed the image.

And like government bureaucrats the world over, Huili county officials were quick to blame the mix-up on journalists--or in this case, a photographer. "The explanation was almost as curious as the picture itself: as other photos showed, the three men did visit the road in question, but an unnamed photographer decided his original pictures were not suitably impressive and decided to stitch two together," Walker writes. You can see the undoctored photos below.

Huili county explanation posted to China's Weibo social networking site. (China Internet …

Still, other China watchers noted the Chinese officials were quick to apologize for the incident and embrace social media as they sought to undo the damage and explain what had happened.

"What also surprised me is the government response. Huili County set up a Sina Weibo account today, apologized and responded with what happened," China Internet Watch's Rocky Fu writes, referring to a popular Chinese Facebook-type social networking site.

So for all the furor surrounding the clumsy PR overture, it does at least appear that the Chinese government has mastered the first lesson in PR crisis management: Get out ahead of the problem, 'fess up and move on.


LONDON (AP) — The FBI's most-wanted list features a dated black-and-white photograph for the man wanted in connection with the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya. Saif al-Adel, reads the glaring red banner, alias Muhammad Ibrahim Makkawi.
But intelligence officials and people who say they know al-Adel and Makkawi tell The Associated Press that they are two different men.
In the wake of Osama bin Laden's death, AP reporters around the globe began hunting for fresh details on al-Adel — al-Qaida's so-called third man because of his strategic military experience. Traversing a reporting trail that spanned from Europe to Egypt and from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, a new picture started to emerge about the al-Adel investigation: that the FBI's manhunt dragged in the name of a one-time jihadist turned vocal al-Qaida critic who now can't get his name off the wanted list.
Intelligence officials from five countries and a handful of sources who say they knew the men personally over the years confirmed to the AP that al-Adel and Makkawi were two distinct people. Some of those sources came forward with two photographs that show two different men.
"That is certainly not Makkawi," Montasser el-Zayat, a lawyer who represented Makkawi in Egypt, told the AP after looking at the FBI's photo of al-Adel.
In emails seen by the AP, a man who identifies himself as Makkawi says he has tried several times to clear his name but to no avail.
In response to several questions, the FBI declined specific comment last week on whether it was possible the information it had been using was bad or dated. However, on Wednesday the FBI defended its characterization of al-Adel.
"It is fair to say that a.k.a.'s/alias known to the FBI and used by subjects listed on our Most Wanted site or for that matter for any individual being sought by law enforcement, can also be the names of true individuals," said FBI spokeswoman Kathleen R. Wright.
She said the FBI was confident the man on the poster was al-Adel, but offered no immediate redress for Makkawi over the possible use of his name on the poster.
"The distinction in this case is such that we have a photo and other identifiers that distinguish one individual from another," Wright said in an email.
She said al-Adel, like other suspects on the 'most wanted' list, was indicted by a U.S. grand jury. However, the original documents in al-Adel's case remain sealed, making it all but impossible for the public to see where the FBI obtained its original evidence or the basic details about al-Adel's identity.
The description of al-Adel highlights the questionable intelligence that often goes into profiles of top suspects by the world's intelligence services.
Many of the profiles are based on information obtained from captives under duress or worse. Some bits come from unreliable sources. Other tips are never verified.
On the surface, some may ask why the world should care — one man is a jihadist with a $5 million bounty on his head; the other a former jihadist turned al-Qaida critic. But the case raises a number of important questions about the accuracy of FBI profiles and how stale or misleading intelligence could hamper searches. Even with fairly good leads, it took U.S. authorities more than a decade to find bin Laden.
Al-Adel's profile, for example, was posted in October 2001 when the FBI "Most Wanted Terrorist" list was created — just a month after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Although some of the descriptive details may be old, the FBI says the details are still accurate and relevant.
"We have no information there have been any significant errors regarding the individuals in which we are seeking the public's assistance in locating," the FBI said.
Yet since 9/11, dozens of people have been wrongly mistaken for suspected terrorists because of faulty or spotty intelligence.
A German man snatched by the CIA in Macedonia and tortured at a secret prison in Afghanistan is suing Macedonia for his ordeal after U.S. courts rejected his case on the grounds that it could reveal government secrets. The man says he was kidnapped from Macedonia in 2003, apparently mistaken for a terror suspect.
A Canadian engineer who was also caught up in the U.S. government's secret transfer of terror suspects to ghost sites was deported to Syria when he was mistaken for a terrorist as he changed planes in New York on his way home. The Supreme Court refused to hear his case against top Bush administration officials.
"You are going to have good intelligence and bad intelligence, but the problem is when that bad intelligence is used to charge and detain people or to build cases against others," said Ben Wizner, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney representing Khaled el-Masri, the German who was sent to a secret prison and, according to Wizner, has suffered because of the trauma. "This faulty intelligence and disregard for the legal process has damaged and disrupted the lives of innocent people."
It is unclear exactly how Makkawi's life has been affected. The former Egyptian army officer who worked in a counterterrorism unit has yet to come forward and did not respond to several emails sent by the AP.
Still, in May a man who identified himself as Makkawi sent a handful of emails to journalists and commentators, saying he had been mistaken for al-Adel. In one email to the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, which publishes an English edition in London, he claimed he was a colonel in the Egyptian army, has long been an opponent of al-Qaida and other jihadist groups and has been mistaken for al-Adel ever since settling down in Pakistan.
He says he and his family have been branded enemies of both the United States and al-Qaida — an unenviable position.
In an earlier message to the newspaper in July 2010, the same man criticized al-Qaida and Pakistan: "There is an immoral extortion campaign against the U.S. and its allies and the Islamic movement being led by Pakistan, for its own motives. Pakistan has all of these international terrorists in its hands."
Pakistani authorities have said they have no knowledge of Makkawi's whereabouts.
In a third email sent to a London commentator and seen by the AP, the man said he and his family had survived multiple assassination attempts in Pakistan. He also says he appealed to officials in the Bush administration to clear his name, but without success.
The email is full with basic biographical data — the man says he graduated from the Egyptian Military Academy in 1972, refused to participate in a war against Libya in 1977 and claims he was eventually viewed as a traitor by Egyptian authorities.
It is easy enough to understand how the FBI might have thought Makkawi was simply an alias for al-Adel.
A tip may have come from a detainee at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, who told investigators he met with a "Muhammad Ibrahim Makkawi, aka (al-Adel)," according to secret documents released by WikiLeaks. Others who say they know both men say al-Adel might intentionally be using Makkawi's name as revenge for Makkawi's pointed criticism of al-Qaida and other jihadist groups.
But photographs provided to the AP by people who say they knew both al-Adel and Makkawi show two different men. The FBI's photo of al-Adel shows a slender man with thin hair, full lips and delicate features; a picture of Makkawi — which does not appear on the FBI poster — shows a stout man with a round face, bulbous nose and thick, curly hair.
Noman Benotman, a former jihadist with links to al-Qaida and now an analyst at the London-based Quilliam Foundation, says he has met both al-Adel and Makkawi.
Describing Makkawi as "well-educated, short-fused and unpredictable," Benotman said the last time he saw Makkawi was in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, around 1994.
Benotman said the last time he saw al-Adel was in 2000 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He said he was impressed with his knowledge of military strategy and country profiles.
"The big difference between them is that Makkawi hates al-Qaida, hates these jihadist groups, and in particular hates the Egyptian jihadist groups where Zawahiri came from," said Benotman, referring to the Egyptian eye doctor who has succeeded bin Laden as head of the terror network.
Both al-Adel and Makkawi are Egyptian, reportedly served in the Egyptian army and were accused of links to jihadist groups.
But Makkawi reportedly severed all ties with extremist groups after growing disillusioned with their goals and strategies.
Specializing in counterterrorism operations, Makkawi was one of several army officers accused in 1987 of forming a jihadist group. Although he was released without charge after six months in jail, he was sacked from his army job and struggled to find consistent work afterward. In 1988, he reportedly sued the Egyptian interior ministry and demanded compensation. When the suit failed, he went to see family in Saudi Arabia, then went to Afghanistan, and eventually settled in Pakistan.
Two British officials, who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because they aren't authorized to discuss intelligence matters, confirmed that Makkawi is a different man from al-Adel and said he is not wanted as a terror suspect by the British government. Britain has no such public "most wanted" terrorist list.
"Makkawi is a different man to el-Adel," one of the officials said.
El-Zayat, Makkawi's lawyer in the 1987 case, also told the AP the men were two different people and that al-Adel's real name is Mohammed Salah Zidan.
There is no mention of the name "Mohammed Salah Zidan" on al-Adel's profile.
Yasser el-Siri, founder of the Islamic Marsad Center in London — a research center for Islamic and jihadist affairs — said he met Makkawi in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca between 1989 and 1990.
He also offered some key differences in the men's lives.
Al-Adel was born in the 1960s, is tall, comes from the Nile Delta and married the daughter of a well-known Egyptian journalist-turned-jihadist, Abouel Walid, who was editor-in-chief of The Islamic Emirate magazine, an extremist publication, el-Siri said. The editor was one of an early generation of jihadists who fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Western intelligence officials believe al-Adel is living in Iran but travels frequently to Pakistan and Afghanistan. He was a reservist in the Egyptian army.
Makkawi, who was born in the 1950s, also comes from the Nile Delta but had a Saudi father and Egyptian mother. He graduated from military college in 1972, became a lieutenant and then joined the special forces. He is reportedly short compared al-Adel.
Makkawi joined jihadist groups in Afghanistan but then criticized them for their poor tactics and planning, describing their battles as "the war of the goats."
It is unclear when al-Adel formally joined al-Qaida or an affiliate, but he is thought to be one of the group's most experienced military strategists. Prior to the U.S. Embassy bombings, he allegedly had a hand in operations against U.S. forces who entered Somalia in 1993 in an attempt to capture Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid and some of his top lieutenants. In the end, 18 U.S. troops died in the operation.
On the surface, the truth is still unclear.
The shadowy world of intelligence has long been built on knowns and unknowns, truths and half-truths and spider webs of good, bad and old information that can take years before it is investigated, if at all. New leads often eclipse old information even as that old data lives on.
"Intelligence is a business like anything else," Bob Ayers, a former U.S. intelligence officer, told the AP.
"When the Sept. 11 terror attacks hit, the intelligence community wasn't prepared. It scurried around and it tried to make do. Old leads should and could be followed up if there were enough resources, but it's unlikely you're going to shut your best analysts in a dark room for months just so they can investigate information that is sometimes 10 years old."
Richard Barrett, a U.N. representative responsible for monitoring al-Qaida and the Taliban, also confirmed to the AP that the FBI mistakenly identified al-Adel as Makkawi and — importantly — neglected to say on his profile that al-Adel's real name, according to people in the intelligence community, is thought to be Mohammed Salah Zidan.
"We have no information that Makkawi is one of the aliases that Saif is using, so it's a question-mark why that name is on the FBI list," said another European security official speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to talk publicly about the issue.
Officials at Egypt's newly established National Security apparatus, which is now the gatekeeper of all documents and records related to the Islamic jihadists, declined to provide any details or information about al-Adel or Makkawi.
The new body is replacing Egypt's State Security apparatus, which was dissolved after the toppling of Hosni Mubarak.
Social networking sites, meanwhile, were bubbling with people claiming to be the real Saif al-Adel. None has claimed to be the real Makkawi yet.
Although the FBI says it has only listed Makkawi as one of al-Adel's aliases — not necessarily mistaken him for al-Adel — it is not entirely clear how someone gets off the FBI's 'most wanted' list, even if the name is just the alias, not the face, on the poster.
"The individuals listed on the FBI Most Wanted Terrorist page will remain wanted in connection with their alleged crimes until such time as they have been arrested, charges are dropped or when credible physical evidence is obtained, which proves with 100 percent accuracy, that they are deceased," the FBI said.


his summer, 28-year-old Anthony Shepherd and his wife of seven years, Cynthia, will fly from China, where they've been teaching English since 2009, to Wisconsin for a vacation. In addition to relaxing, catching up with friends, and attending her brother's wedding, they plan on stopping by a vasectomy clinic. The People's Republic may be notorious for its one-child policy, but the Shepherds' attitude toward reproduction is even more stringent. Call it the zero-child policy.

Even before the Shepherds left Asheville, North Carolina, for Sichuan province, they'd made their life decision based on the experiences of their "childed" friends. "We watched them struggle to pay bills, find suitable apartments or houses to fit their families, and work at jobs they didn't like because they needed the insurance," Cynthia says. So she and Anthony enthusiastically took a pass on parenthood, an increasingly common decision for America's couples.

Related: Should Men Wear Engagement Rings?

Considering the state of the economy, it should come as no surprise that the ranks of the child-free are exploding. The Department of Agriculture reports that the average cost for a middle-income two-parent family to support a kid through high school is $286,050 (it's nearly half a million dollars for couples in higher tax brackets). Want him or her to get a college education? The number jumps to nearly $350,000 for a public university, and more than $400,000 for private. Though if your kid's planning to major in Male Sterilization, it could wind up being a good investment: The vasectomy business seems to be one of the few in America that is booming. In the past year, the Associates in Urology clinic in West Orange, New Jersey, has seen a 50 percent jump in the procedure. So you could stress over starting a college fund, or you could consider that you can get a vasectomy at Planned Parenthood for less than the cost of a Bugaboo Cameleon stroller. Unless you're among the less than 2 percent of Americans who farm for a living and might conceivably rely on offspring for free labor, children have gone from being an economic asset to an economic liability.

But for the child-free, the benefits go beyond dollars and cents. There's less guilt, less worry, less responsibility, more sleep, more free time, more disposable income, no awkward conversations about Teen Mom, no forced relationships with people just because your kids like their kids, no chauffeuring other people's kids in your minivan to soccer games you find less appealing than televised chess.

Related: The Birth-Control Extremists

In his best-seller Stumbling on Happiness, Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert writes, "Couples generally start out quite happy in their marriages and then become progressively less satisfied over the course of their lives together, getting close to their original levels of satisfaction only when their children leave home." No wonder so many are choosing to spend their entire marriages as empty-nesters. A 2009 University of Denver study found that 90 percent of couples experienced a decrease in marital bliss after the birth of their first child. And in a 2007 Pew survey, just 41 percent of adults stated that children were very important for a successful marriage, down from 65 percent in 1990. Meanwhile, nearly one in five American women now ends her reproductive years without children, up from one in ten in the 1970s.

This isn't just an American trend. Global birth rates dropped from six children per woman to 2.9 between 1972 and 2008 as people migrated to cities. One Italian mayor has resorted to bribery to restock his town, offering couples $15,000 for each child they produce. Germany's baby shortage results in an annual population loss of 100,000. And the sheep-to-human ratio in New Zealand, which currently stands at 10 to 1, seems sure to increase, since a staggering 18 percent of adult men there have elected to get vasectomies.


ROME (AP) — Independent experts are disputing much of the forensic evidence collected against Amanda Knox, saying in a report Wednesday that some of the DNA traces used to convict the American student and her co-defendant in the murder of her roommate may have been contaminated.
The review by two court-appointed experts was requested by the defense and has been eagerly awaited. Its conclusions could boost Knox's chances of overturning her murder conviction.
Knox was convicted in 2009 of sexually assaulting and murdering Meredith Kercher — with whom she shared an apartment while both were exchange students in Perugia — and sentenced to 26 years in prison. Her co-defendant and ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito was also convicted and sentenced to 25 years.
Both have denied wrongdoing and are appealing.
Prosecutors maintained in the first trial that Knox's DNA was found on the handle of a kitchen knife they believe to be the murder weapon, and that Kercher's DNA was found on the blade. They say Sollecito's DNA was found on the clasp of Kercher's bra.
Those findings were disputed by the defense, and the appeals court granted an independent review.
The experts say in the report filed to the Perugia court on Wednesday and obtained by The Associated Press that the genetic profile attributed to Kercher is "unreliable" and cannot be attributed with certainty. They said results may have been contaminated on both the blade and bra clasp.
Regarding the blade, the experts said: "We believe that the technical tests are not reliable." The document said the tests did not conform to international standards and procedures. "It cannot be ruled out that the result obtained ... may stem from contamination," said the report's conclusions.
The experts reached a similar conclusion regarding the bra clasp.
The findings are likely to please the defense, which had long maintained DNA traces were inconclusive and that they might have been contaminated when they were collected and analyzed.
The two experts — Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti from Rome's Sapienza University — are to present their review in court next month.


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Casey Anthony's father wrote in a suicide note that he had unanswered questions about what happened to his granddaughter, a revelation that undercuts defense claims that the toddler drowned accidentally and he helped cover it up.
Casey Anthony is on trial for murder in central Florida, accused of suffocating 2-year-old Caylee with duct tape in the summer of 2008. Her remains were found in the woods in December of that year.
Defense attorneys, who have been trying to paint the Anthony family as dysfunctional, say Caylee drowned in her grandparents' backyard pool and Casey's father, George, disposed of the body.
On Wednesday, lead defense attorney Jose Baez asked George Anthony about his January 2009 suicide attempt. But when prosecutor Jeff Ashton later asked Anthony if he had bought a gun five months before that, Baez objected.
With the jury out of the room, George Anthony said he planned to use the gun to try to get his daughter's friends to tell him what happened to Caylee.
He also said he wrote in his suicide note about "unanswered questions" and that he chose to kill himself because "I needed at that time to go be with Caylee because I knew I failed her."
Ashton argued that the statements were valid for the jury to hear because they rebutted the drowning theory and implied that George Anthony didn't know what really happened to Caylee. Ashton also said the suicide note did not include any reference to George Anthony molesting Casey Anthony when she was a child, as Baez claimed in his opening statement.
Judge Belvin Perry agreed the jury could hear about the gun purchase and the suicide note.
"It looks to me like someone opened the door and someone is trying to walk through it," he said.
When the jury came back, George Anthony got emotional as he recounted the months before his suicide attempt, in which he drove to Daytona Beach and tried to overdose on prescription medication.
He also said he never got the opportunity to confront his daughter's friends because law enforcement confiscated the gun the day after he bought in August 2008. Casey was out on bond and staying in his home, and firearms are prohibited in a place where a person on bond is living.
Karin Moore, a law professor at Florida A&M University, said alluding to the suicide attempt was a misstep by Baez.
"I think it backfired on him," Moore said. "I think his intention was to craft an inference for the jury that George Anthony tried to commit suicide over the alleged abuse and death of Caylee. He opened the door and Ashton correctly pointed it out. "
Moore said she also thinks Baez was trying to avoid putting Casey Anthony on the stand.
"I think (Baez) did nothing but engender sympathy for George Anthony now the jury has contempt for Baez that could certainly reflect on Casey Anthony," Moore said.
Cindy Anthony, Casey's mother, was the first witness called Wednesday. Baez said the defense began the day with about six more witnesses to call, but it wasn't clear if Casey would testify.


According to a 2010 Accountemps survey, 28% of executives say the resume is where most job seekers make mistakes in the application process. But what exactly constitutes a mistake?

We talked with career coaches and resume writers to find ten gaffes that will guarantee that your resume never makes it past round one.

1. Unnecessary Details About Your Life

There are a few personal details you should include on a resume: full name and contact information, including email, phone number and address. But beyond that, personal details should be kept to a minimum. If the prospective employer wants to know more than the minimum, they will ask you or figure it out for themselves.

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"Your age, race, political affiliation, anything about your family members, and home ownership status should all be left off your resume," says Ann Baehr, a certified professional resume writer and president of New York-based Best Resumes. "What's confusing is that [a lot of personal information is] included on international CVs. In the U.S., including [personal data] is a no-no because it leaves the job-seeker open to discrimination."

The exception to the rule: If you're looking to work for an organization closely tied to a cause, you may consider including your race, political party, or religious beliefs.

"Personal data may suggest a bias, unless what you want to do next is directly tied to one of those categories, because it shows aligned interest," says Roy Cohen, a New York City career coach and author of "The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide." So, unless you're looking to work for a religious, political, or social organization, you're better off keeping personal philosophies to yourself.

2. Your Work Responsibilities as a Lifeguard When You Were 16 ...

"Don't include information that will not advance you in your work goals," says Rena Nisonoff, president of The Last Word, a resume-writing and job-coaching company in Boston. "Anything extraneous should be left off your resume." That includes hobbies and irrelevant jobs you held many years ago.

Unless you're an undergraduate student or a freshly minted professional, limit your work history to professional experience you've had in the past 10 to 15 years (or greater, if it was a C-level position).

3. A Headshot

In some industries, being asked for and including a headshot is commonplace, but unless you're a model, actor, or Miss America, the general rule of thumb is that photos should be left out.

"To many [hiring managers], including a headshot feels hokey," says Cohen. It can give off the wrong impression, and isn't a job-seeking tactic that's customarily received well.

Furthermore, it's illegal for employers to discriminate against job candidates based on appearance, so attaching a headshot can put employers in an awkward position, says Nisonoff. Unless it's specifically requested, and it's relevant to the job at hand, keep your appearance out of it.

4. Salary Expectations

Most job candidates feel uneasy discussing salary requirements. For good reason: Giving a number that's too high or too low can cost you the job. You should keep it out of your application materials entirely, unless the hiring manager asks for it.

"If they specifically ask for it, you should give them a range," says Nisonoff, but even still, that information should be reserved for the cover letter and not put on the resume. If you have the option, save that discussion for a later stage of the interviewing process, ideally once the interviewer brings it up.

5. Lies

This should really go without saying, but career coaches and resume writers alike report that the line between embellishment and fabrication is often crossed by job applicants -- and that they've seen it cost their clients jobs.

One of the most common areas in which people fudge the facts is the timeline of their work history.

"A client of mine who worked for a Wall Street firm had moved around quite a bit," says Cohen. The client, who was a registered representative, intentionally excluded a former employer from his resume, and covered it up by altering the dates of employment at other firms. "Registered representatives leave a FINRA trail, and when his resume was checked against his FINRA trail, [the company] saw he had left off a firm and they pulled the offer," Cohen explains.

Whether it's using false information to cover a blemish or exaggerate success, there's no room to lie on your resume. No matter how miniscule the chance is that you'll be caught, you should always represent yourself as accurately as possible.

6. Things That Were Once Labeled "Confidential"

In many jobs, you will handle proprietary information. Having inside information from your positions at previous employers might make you feel important -- but if you use that information to pad your resume, chances are it will raise a red flag.

"Confidential information should never be shared, it shows poor judgment," says Cohen.

If you're sharing the names of your clients, in-house financial dealings, or anything else that might be for your eyes only, it can backfire in two ways. The prospective employer will know that you can't be trusted with sensitive information; and your current (or former) employer might find out what you have been sharing and it could be grounds for dismissal or even a lawsuit.

7. If You Were Fired From a Job -- and What You Were Fired for

Your resume should put you in a positive light. Including that you were let go for poor performance, stealing from the company, or any other fault of your own will have the exact opposite effect.

"Leave out information about a situation that positions you negatively, such as 'I got fired' or 'I mishandled funds,'" says Cohen. "Anything that suggests you used poor judgment in your current or former job."

Following this advice does not violate the rule about lying (No. 5). If you're asked to explain why you left a job, you need to bite the bullet and be straightforward, but until then, make sure you're putting your best foot forward.

8. Overly Verbose Statements

There is a pretty fine line between selling yourself and overselling yourself. Too many resumes overstate the importance of job responsibilities.

"Job seekers with limited experience [try] to put themselves in a 'management' light," says Baehr, using phrases like "'Spearheaded high-profile projects through supervision of others, leading by example.'" Keep your flair for the dramatic to a minimum, so resume readers can get a picture of what your real responsibilities were with your past or current company.

9. "References Available Upon Request" and Your Objective

The age-old "references available upon request" has become archaic. You should have solid references lined up from the get-go, so when the hiring manager asks for them, you're ready to share them.

"It's not really an option," says Baehr. "If they want your references, they're going to get them."

Also nix the objective statement. It's not really necessary to explain your career goals unless you are a recent graduate or are switching careers. If necessary, work your objective into a summary of your qualifications, says Cohen.

"It explains what you want, which may not be readily apparent from the resume," he says, "and it also tells a story to explain why you want to make the career change."

10. TMI

Too much information is almost never a good idea. It's particularly bad when it's put in front of hiring managers who are busy, tired, and quite frankly, probably not going to read your resume word-for-word. If you put too much information in your resume, recruiters will likely not read it at all or just scan it quickly.

"Far too much detail is damaging because it won't get read," says Cohen. "It suggests that you get lost in seeing the forest for the trees and also suggests an attachment to information. It's a burden to the reader, and these days, readers of resumes don't want to be burdened."


A new report out of Brown University estimates that the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq--together with the counterinsurgency efforts in Pakistan--will, all told, cost $4 trillion and leave 225,000 dead, both civilians and soldiers.

The group of economists, anthropologists, lawyers, humanitarian personnel, and political scientists involved in the project estimated that the cost of caring for the veterans injured in the wars will reach $1 trillion in 30 or 40 years. In estimating the $4 trillion total, they did not take into account the $5.3 billion in reconstruction spending the government has promised Afghanistan, state and local contributions to veteran care, interest payments on war debt, or the costs of Medicare for veterans when they reach 65.

The Congressional Budget Office, meanwhile, has assessed the federal price tag for the wars at $1.8 trillion through 2021. The report says that is a gross underestimate, predicting that the government has already paid $2.3 trillion to $2.7 trillion.

More than 6,000 U.S. troops and 2,300 contractors have died since the wars began after Sept. 11. A staggering 550,000 disability claims have been filed with the VA as of 2010. Meanwhile, 137,000 civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq have died in the conflict. (Injuries among U.S. contractors have also not yet been made public, further complicating the calculations of cost.) Nearly 8 million people have been displaced. Check out Reuters' factbox breaking down the costs and casualties here.

Perhaps the most sobering conclusion of the researchers is that it's unclear whether the human and economic costs are worth it. Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are now dead, the Taliban is marginalized, and the dangerous terrorist network al-Qaeda has been all but destroyed. But Iraq and Afghanistan are far from being stable democracies. Meanwhile, the half a percentage point a year in GDP growth the war has fueled has been offset by the enormous increase in the national deficit, the report says.

"We decided we needed to do this kind of rigorous assessment of what it cost to make those choices to go to war," study co-director Catherine Lutz told Reuters. "Politicians, we assumed, were not going to do that kind of assessment."

The researchers recommend that the U.S. government be more transparent in disclosing the costs of its wars to taxpayers, by including the costs of future health care for veterans, the cost of paying interest on debt taken out to fund the wars, and estimating how much state and local governments take on in war costs. You can see their recommendations here.