Watchdog groups question tourism agency’s CEO pick

The day after the CEO of the state’s top tourism agency announced he was stepping down, board members quickly handpicked his replacement.

There was only one problem. Picking Visit Florida’s chief marketing officer Will Seccombe to head the agency without doing a national search could upset the agency’s main funders — state legislators and Gov. Rick Scott.

Visit Florida’ solution: give a recruiting firm a no-bid, $45,000, two-month contract to conduct a nationwide CEO search. The firm, Minnesota-based Searchwide, just happened to be the same one that brought in Seccombe five years earlier.

Now, a state watchdog group is slamming the agency's recruiting process, saying it suggests either favoritism, government waste, or both.

The developments highlight the awkward relationship between Visit Florida's board and elected state officials who control so much of the agency's budget. While the board appears set to hire Seccombe, its handling of the transition process could lead to more scrutiny from the very lawmakers who control the agency's purse strings

“Visit Florida claims to be an equal opportunity employer, but it appears they have rigged their hiring process to unfairly benefit the acting president,” said Dan Krassner, executive director for Integrity Florida, which advocates for tougher ethics laws, and is now questioning whether the swift recruiting process is completely open and fair.

Searchwide, which signed the contract on Oct. 5, did not respond to requests for comments. The agency is expected to complete its nationwide search by early December.

Experts in the field of executive talent recruitment say that such a short period is abnormal for a national CEO search.

“That’s a really aggressive timetable,” said Theresa Rohr, senior associate at Stanton Chase International, a global executive search firm with offices in San Francisco. “For a CEO, very aggressive.”

While Searchwide is a top name in the hospitality industry, Visit Florida has used it only once before: to recruit Seccombe in 2007.

Visit Florida’s former CEO, Chris Thompson, who left in October to head up a national tourism agency, defended the decision to give the contract to Searchwide. While Seccombe may have an advantage as an “incumbent,” all candidates will be considered, he said.

He pointed out that Searchwide also had been retained by Visit Orlando for an executive search this year.

“It is absolutely in no way, shape or form going through the motions,” Thompson said. “It is a legitimate search.”

But Visit Orlando offers a useful comparison. The Central Florida tourism agency hired Searchwide to do a national search for a CEO back in May. A spokesman said the organization doesn’t expect the process to be completed until January. Several other companies that have contracted with Searchwide have given the company more than six months to complete a national search.

When Thompson announced he was leaving, some board members, in an emergency meeting, quickly decided to promote Seccombe to the $225,000-a-year CEO position.

Doing so would allow the state-funded agency to have a permanent CEO in place before Scott and the Legislature began making crucial decisions about how much taxpayer money the organization should get next year.

“I don’t think we need to put the time, money and effort into a nationwide search,” said John Perez, a hotel executive who sits on Visit Florida’s board. “I think we have a very competent replacement for Chris, in Will, already in place.”

But some board members were concerned about the perception of appointing a new CEO without consulting the Legislature or conducting an official search — something they believed Scott, Florida’s businessman-turned-governor, would expect.

Visit Florida relies on the Florida Legislature for a large chunk of its operating revenue. The public-private organization bolsters its budget with free advertising from private partners, but its cash revenue is overwhelmingly taxpayer-funded. That means the Legislature and governor hold sway over the future finances of the organization.

Visit Florida has been a darling of Scott and the Legislature in recent years. As most state agencies weathered drastic budget cuts in the last two years, Visit Florida saw its taxpayer funding more than double to $54 million.

At least one Visit Florida board member said the Legislature feels it should have a say in how the agency conducts because of lawmakers’ generosity.

“I think if we’ve all learned anything from our past, it is that there is a certain entitlement from the Legislature because there’s so much funding that they now allow us to have,” said Carol Dover, president of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

The organization should “dot all our I’s and cross all our T’s” before appointing Seccombe as CEO, she warned.

Read More..

Former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz pens book about reinventing the city

Former Miami mayors don’t usually write books anyone would want to publish, much less read.

Then there’s Manny Diaz. Whether you admire him like many in Miami and across the country do, or excoriate him as some at home did, Diaz was hardly shy about embracing big plans and notions. And few would disagree that the city was a far different place when he exited City Hall in 2009 after two terms in office.

So it should come as no surprise that Diaz has written a book for a national audience, recapping his greatest hits as mayor. Recall police reform and Irish-cop Chief John Timoney, Midtown Miami, the downtown condo boom, the “mega-plan’’ and the innovative Miami 21 zoning plan. It’s been published by the über-serious University of Pennsylvania Press. No vanity press project, this.

But Miami Transformed: Rebuilding America One Neighborhood, One City at a Time, is no policy wonk-fest, either. A breezy read at just over 200 pages — index and foreword by New York mayor and Diaz buddy Michael Bloomberg included — the book is meant as a concise case-study of how a poor, crime-ridden and economically stagnant medium-sized city can be swiftly transformed into a flourishing, swaggering metropolis with a hurtling skyline and its own Tom Wolfe novel.

“I wanted to keep the book short and easy to read,’’ said Diaz, who will appear at the Freedom Tower for the Miami Book Fair International on Friday evening. “You can lose someone with a 750-page book really fast. So it’s sort of conversational, talking about how we got to where we are.’’

If features, of course, an ambitious Cuban-refugee protagonist who arrived as a 6-year-old child, grew up happy in Little Havana despite poverty, studied hard and became a successful lawyer and behind-the-scenes political fundraiser and operative. Then he was thrust into the spotlight by the curious case of another young Cuban refuge-seeker: the rafter-child Elián González, whose Miami relatives Diaz famously represented.

Diaz was in the family home in Little Havana, working on last-minute negotiations, when the Border Patrol broke down the door at gunpoint to take Elián, and says he still feels betrayed by then-U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, a former Miami-Dade state attorney who ordered the raid.

There is little inside baseball and only a few reveals: For instance, Diaz earned $1.10 an hour working as a janitor at Belen Jesuit Prep, where he was a student, under a federal jobs program.

All this and more is quickly recounted before Diaz, who wrote the book with longtime collaborator Ignacio Ortiz-Petit, gets into the heart of the matter: The eight years he served as mayor, which coincided with a dramatic real-estate boom and helped usher Miami into the rank of world cities with a changed downtown, regenerated neighborhoods, a growing, young population and the kind of buzz even the best promotional hype can’t buy.

The overriding goal of his administration, Diaz writes, was to bring the middle-class back to Miami from the suburbs by improving substandard city services, fostering both private development and affordable housing, and rebuilding crumbling streets. He also focused on creating alluring amenities, including parks, museums, and arts and cultural institutions, which he says are proven economic generators.

Read More..

Stars Come Out For Restore The Shore Fundraiser

Celebrities from MTV and beyond came together Thursday night to lend their name to the network's Restore the Shore fundraiser in the wake of Superstorm Sandy's destruction of New Jersey's iconic Seaside Heights.

Video: Tearful Snooki Witnesses Sandy's Devastation

Stars from The Jersey Shore, Awkward, Teen Mom, The Real Housewives of New Jersey and Teen Wolf stepped up to man the phones for the special's "thank-you bank," personally calling individuals who donated to the cause with a personal message of gratitude.

Reflecting on good memories of the Seaside Heights, Snooki, DJ Pauly D, Deena Cortese, Sammi Giancola, Jenni Farley, Vinny Guadagnino, Ronnie Ortiz-Magro, and Michael Sorrentino made an emotional visit to the now-destroyed boardwalk to get a first-hand look at the devastation.

Video: Ty Pennington Sees Sandy's Aftermath Firsthand

Demi Lovato, Nicki Minaj, Demi Lovato, Taylor Swift, P!nk, Christina Aguilera, Carly Rae Jepsen, No Doubt, Kelly Clarkson, One Direction and Kim Kardashian were just some of the many stars Thursday who delivered personal pleas for donations benefiting the cause.

American Idol winner Phillip Phillips and Gym Class Heroes also lent their voices to the cause with emotional live performances.

If you'd like to help, you can still Text SHORE to 85944 to give $10 or go to to find out how you can help. Those who donate of $500 or more will be immortalized in writing on the boardwalk when it is restored.

Related: Celebrities Lend Their Star Power to Sandy Victims

Restore the Shore is paired with Architecture for Humanity, a non-profit that led rebuilding efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, with intent to restore the famed boardwalk as well as local businesses and homes destroyed by the storm.

Read More..

Israel offers to suspend Gaza Strip offensive as tension builds in the region


A Palestinian man inspects the destroyed Hamas Ministry of Interior building after an Israeli air strike in Gaza City Friday.

JERUSALEM — Israel offered to suspend its offensive in the Gaza Strip on Friday during a brief visit by Egypt's premier there if militants refrain from firing rockets at Israel, an official said, but the Palestinians unleashed a fresh salvo.

An official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said the Israeli leader was responding to an Egyptian request.

Gaza militants stepped up their barrages of rocket fire into Israel as Hesham Kandil crossed into Gaza before midday through the only border post with Egypt, heavily guarded by Egyptian security personnel wearing flak jackets and carrying assault rifles.

He was greeted by Gaza's Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, who ventured out in public for the first time since Israel launched the offensive Wednesday by assassinating the militant group's military commander.

Israel told the Egyptians the military "would hold its fire on the condition that during that period, there won't be hostile fire from Gaza into Israel," the Israeli official said. "Prime Minister Netanyahu is committed to the peace treaty with Egypt, which is in the strategic interest of both countries," he added, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the diplomatic exchange.

There were no immediate reports of Israeli retaliation for the latest salvo. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the militants were making a clear statement. "There's no intention whatsoever to stop firing into Israel," he said.

Three days of fierce fighting between Israel and Gaza militants has widened the instability gripping the region, straining already frayed Israel-Egypt relations. The Cairo government recalled its ambassador in protest.

Egypt said Kandil's three-hour visit Friday was meant as a show of solidarity with the Palestinian territory's militant Hamas rulers.

Egyptian intelligence officials involved in negotiations to end previous rounds of fighting are accompanying Kandil on his visit, an Egyptian diplomat said, suggesting it was more than a display of support.

The diplomat said Gaza militants have told Egyptian intelligence officials they would be willing to hold their fire if Israel would commit to mediation to stop its military operation and targeted killings.

Word of the possible pause in the fighting came after a night of fierce exchanges and signals that Israel might be preparing to invade Gaza. Overnight, the military said it targeted about 150 of the sites Gaza gunmen use to fire rockets at Israel, as well as ammunition warehouses, bringing to 450 the number of sites struck since the operation began Wednesday.

Read More..

Steve Wozniak, Chris Hughes share tales with Coconut Grove audience

Co-founders from two of Silicon Valley’s most innovative companies gave a South Florida audience a glimpse into the early days of developing the technology that would reshape the world.

Steve Wozniak, of Apple, and Chris Hughes, of Facebook, were back-to-back speakers for the three-day Americas Business Council’s Continuity Forum that wrapped up Wednesday at the Ritz-Carlton in Coconut Grove.

The conference brought together innovators, activists, and thought leaders in entrepreneurship and philanthropy and also showcased 32 emerging social entrepreneurial ventures from around the Americas.

On Wednesday afternoon, both men relayed plenty of stories.

As a teenager, Wozniak used to hole up in his bedroom on the weekends, designing a computer on paper.

And he made a game of it — every weekend he would try to make a machine that would work just as well or better but cost a little less than the last design.

That engineering mentality to build things more efficiently as well as the desire to learn never left him, he told the audience. “I would buy my college books on a Friday and be halfway through before the first class on Monday.”

Then he met Steve Jobs, and began working with him on a variety of projects. “Steve Jobs was a hippie with no money. I was an engineer with no money. We had to think creatively. I designed projects for fun, and he would figure out how to make money,” Wozniak recalled as he told how he invented the Apple I and Apple II that started it all and the company’s ups and downs through the years. He called the iPhone the greatest product ever.

As one of the Facebook co-founders that lived in the famous Harvard dorm room, Chris Hughes said the movie The Social Network got a lot of things wrong.

“Our dorm wasn’t like a luxury condo, there was no sex in the bathroom, as far as I know. An alcohol-fueled hackathon, while it looked like a lot of fun, didn’t happen.”

Hughes told the real story of Facebook and described his roommate Mark Zuckerberg as “highly analytical and very skeptical of conventional wisdom.” What the movie did get right, Hughes told the crowd: “Facebook is the defining example of American ingenuity and entrepreneurship of the 21st century.” And at the core: “There’s a new universal respect for the entrepreneur.”

Hughes, now owner and publisher of The New Republic, also talked about his current passion: How to use mobile and social technologies to support serious long-form journalism into the 21st century.

“Conventional wisdom says this kind of journalism isn’t sustainable. Cynics say the golden age of journalism has past,” said Hughes.

Yet, over the past six months Hughes said it is the long, in-depth New Republic stories that have gone viral.

“Folks are reading just as much news today, if not more. ... We have an opportunity to deliver it across a limitless number of devices. [These trends] all come together to suggest … we are entering a true golden age of journalism.”

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter at @ndahlberg.

Read More..

Concert tells tale of a ‘Tough Turkey’

Orchestra Miami will present a series of free family concerts, designed to introduce young children to classical music. At 7 p.m. Friday , the orchestra will perform "Tough Turkey in the Big City: A Thanksgiving Odyssey," by Bruce Adolphe and Louise Gikow at Miami Shores Presbyterian Church at 602 NE 96th St.

At 1:30 p.m. Saturday the orchestra will bring the concert to the North Dade Regional Library at 2455 NW 183rd St. in Miami Gardens.

The story behind the music is what happens when a turkey from the sticks meets a Park Avenue pigeon? Tough Turkey... follows the comic blunders of Tom Turkey, who leaves the farm to try his luck in the big city. The story is told to the audience by a narrator and illustrates a close call with a menacing chef, a tussle at the "Turkey Club," a brief romance with a pigeon, and a happy mix up at the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Tom is portrayed by the bass trombone and his barnyard friends by the violin and clarinet.

The two concerts are sponsored in part by the Miami-Dade Public Library System. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, children are asked to bring canned goods to be donated to local food banks.

Handbell choir

Some sacred music seems all the more beautiful when the choir is accompanied by a handbell choir, and on Saturday (Nov. 17) churches with handbell choirs and individual ringers are invited to a workshop to be from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Grace Lutheran Church, 254 Curtiss Pkwy. in Miami Springs.

The workshop is sponsored by the Miami Chapter of the Amrican Guild of Organists and will be conducted by Maryann Tobin.

A free lunch will be provided and following the workshop, the ringers will perform a short concert.

For more details call the church before 1 p.m. weekdays at 305-888-2871.

‘TED’-style lectures

Rabbi Mitchell Chefitz will continue the monthly "TED"-style lecture series at 10 a.m. Sunday in the board room of Temple Israel of Greater Miami 137 NE 19th St. The talk is entitled, "Blessings and Prayers That Work in Real Time."

Just in case you don’t know, the rabbi said TED is the acronym for Technology, Entertainment, Design, an online collection of thought- and soul-provoking talks on a wide range of topics, given by some of the world’s most innovative thinkers, Chefitz is a TED fan and in his talks, which he calls "Moshe Talks," he has put a Jewish spin on the concept with a four-part series of TED-style discourses he said he wished he’d heard to enhance his own Jewish education.

"I regret I never heard these talks," said Chefitz, a bestselling author and scholar-in-residence at Temple Israel. "But now, 40 years later, I know how to give them."

The series which began Oct. 14, will run through January. The event is open to the community and is free. For more information call the temple at 305-573-5900 or email

‘Five Keys to Health’

The public is invited to a free health lecture presented by Dr. Matthew Westrich, at 7 p.m. today in the fellowship hall at Silver Palm United Methodist Church, 15855 SW 248th St. Westrich will speak on the topic, "Five Keys to Health." Attendees are asked to bring a can of food in support of the church’s Family Food Ministry, which provides food weekly on Fridays to the families of children attending Redland Elementary and Middle Schools.

Call Margaret Cross at 305-255-5894 for more information.

Read More..

Ellen Throws Keira Knightley a Bridal Tea Party

In light of Keira Knightley's engagement to Klaxons keyboardist James Righton, Ellen DeGeneres has a refined surprise for British actress on her next show.

PIC: Knightley 'Doesn't Mind' Going Topless

The TV host throws Knightley a bridal tea party as a celebration of her upcoming wedding, which the Anna Karenina star admits she hasn't put much thought into.

"The problem is ever since [our engagement] everyone keeps going, 'So when is it going to happen and what's they dress like?'" explains Knightley, who announced her engagement in May. "I'm just not one of those girls that's had the kind of fantasy wedding thing, so we haven't planned anything and it's all quite terrifying and I sort looked up on the Internet, 'if you're getting married what should you do?'"

RELATED: Knightley Engaged to Indie Rocker

In addition to her future nuptials, Knightley also discussed her topless Allure cover, which came out to her liking.

"I know that sometimes you have not been happy with the way your breasts have appeared in certain things and you're happy with this?" Ellen asked.

Knightley responded, saying that she sometimes doesn't appreciate the alterations made in past shoots to make her breasts seem bigger.

"You know, I'm happy with them -- with the size they are," said Knightley. "I'm alright with it unless they make them really droopy. Then I kind of think, 'Okay, if you're going to invent that fact that I have big t--s any way, could they at least be perky ones?' It seems a little unfair to go from nothing to a big droop. So that's when I get quite unhappy about it."

Catch Knightley's entire interview Thursday, November 15 on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Check your local listings.

Read More..

Rocket attack from Gaza Strip kills 3 Israelis


A rocket is seen after its launch from the northern Gaza Strip towards Israel Thursday.

JERUSALEM — Militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip killed three Israelis on Thursday in a rocket attack likely to deepen a bruising Israeli air, naval and artillery offensive, the most intense assault on the Palestinian territory in four years.

The casualties were the first in Israel since it launched its operation on Wednesday with the assassination of Hamas' top military commander, followed by an onslaught of airstrikes and shelling by tanks and naval gunboats. Eleven Palestinians, including two children and seven militants, have been killed and more than 100 wounded in Gaza since the Israeli operation began.

Few in the Palestinian territory's largest urban area, Gaza City, came out following the call for dawn prayers on Thursday, and the only vehicles plying the streets were ambulances and media cars.

About 400 angry mourners braved the streets, however, to bury Hamas mastermind Ahmed Jabari, whose body was draped in the green flag of the Islamic militant Hamas movement. Some fired guns in the air and chanted, "God is Great, the revenge is coming." When the body was brought into a mosque for funeral prayers, some tried to touch or kiss it. Others cried.

"This crime will not weaken us. It will make us stronger and more determined to continue the path of jihad and resistance," Hamas lawmaker Mushir al-Masri said in a eulogy. "The enemy opened the battle and shall bear the consequences."

Israel said Jabari's assassination was the start of a broader offensive, launched after days of rocket fire from the coastal territory. It was Israel's most intense attack on Gaza since its full-scale war there four years ago.

The fighting has deepened the instability gripping the Middle East. Egypt recalled its ambassador to protest the military operation.

Just days earlier, Israel was drawn into Syria's civil war for the first time, firing missiles into its northern neighbor for the first time in four decades after stray mortar fire landed in Israeli-occupied Syrian territory.

Israeli aircraft, tanks and naval gunboats resumed pounded Gaza early Thursday and about 60 rockets thudded into southern Israel as terrified residents on both sides of the frontier holed up in their homes.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said two Israeli men and a woman died after a rocket struck their four-story apartment building in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi. A 4-year-old boy was seriously wounded in and two babies lightly wounded in the strike.

Read More..

No touch screen? Stick with Windows 7

Q. I recently had to replace my 9-year-old Windows XP computer, and am having trouble adapting to Windows 7.

What are the advantages, if any, for me to upgrade to Windows 8, which I’ve read has touch-screen capability and works with other equipment besides desktop computers? Since I don’t have a touch screen, I’m wondering if there is any point in upgrading.

Peter Robinson Chaska, Minn.

Different versions of Windows 8 are being offered on PCs, tablet computers and smartphones. But in every case the new operating system is primarily aimed at people who are using touch-sensitive screens.

So unless you’re planning to buy a touch-screen device in connection with upgrading to Windows 8, you’re probably better off continuing to use Windows 7. By most accounts, using the touch-screen-oriented Windows 8 with a mouse and keyboard is more difficult than using previous Windows versions with a mouse and keyboard.

In addition, if you find the changes in Windows 7 to be challenging, I suspect you won’t enjoy the more radical changes embodied in Windows 8 (i.e., much different start screen.)

I’m not saying you should never upgrade to Windows 8; just let Microsoft deal with some of these usability issues first.Q. I disagree with your warning to never click the unsubscribe link to put a stop to spam emails. Totally inundated with spam, I began unsubscribing and cut my spam down from more than 50 a day to one or two.

Some spam senders were more difficult to shake than others. I threatened a nonexistent Florida corporation that I would go to their state attorney general’s office, but never heard from them again. I gave a dental company a taste of their own medicine until they finally stopped sending me email. Others just took me off their lists pronto. It has been well worth the effort.

Deborah Gray Mitchell North Miami

Your strategy will work with legitimate companies and with spammers who can be located and threatened with legal action.

Unfortunately, most spam producers are neither legitimate nor traceable. When you respond to their emails, you confirm that yours is a working email address, and therefore fair game.

At the same time, you’ve essentially challenged some spammers to a duel, a risky business because they know your email address. Make sure you have a strong email password to prevent tampering.

Congratulations on your success, but I can’t recommend your approach to others.

Read More..

Transit worker who was killed was walking on Metrorail tracks from disabled train

George Andrews, a Miami-Dade Transit employee who was killed Monday near the Earlington Heights station when a moving train struck him, was walking on the tracks after parking his train on a side track because it had been malfunctioning, the director of MDT, Ysela Llort, said Tuesday.

“He had a train that was not functioning correctly and central control told him to park the train in what we call a pocket, north of Earlington Heights. He then was walking back to the station and was 30 yards from the station.”

Llort declined to give further details saying the case is still under police investigation. Miami-Dade police detectives, who are investigating the incident, said they will not provide all details until the investigation is completed.

Jeffrey Mitchell, vice president of the Transport Workers Union Local 291, which represents Metrorail operators, said walking on the track after parking a disabled train is normal procedure for MDT. What is unclear, he added, is why the train hit Andrews while he walked on the track.

A train operator who parks a train on a side track and then begins to walk on the track must advise his position to central control and technicians there must warn all trains, said Mitchell.

"The problem is that the trains are not like cars," said Mitchell. "The operator of the train that hit him may have seen him on the track, and may have applied the brakes immediately, but the train does not stop immediately."

Llort's explanation of the incident departs from the original explanation released by county police.

“According to investigators, the decedent, a Miami-Dade County Transit employee, was working on the Metrorail tracks when he was struck by the moving train. He died on the scene,” the police statement said Monday.

According to Llort, Andrews was operating a Green Line train between Dadeland South station and Palmetto station when the tragedy occurred.

Llort said Andrews was a highly valued employee of MDT. He was 47 and would have turned 48 on Friday. His family could not be reached Tuesday.

“He was a very beloved family member, and very well thought of by the transit family,” said Llort. “This is a tragedy to the transit family and we are in mourning.

Llort said she had ordered that every employee receives counseling if desired.

Andrews began working as bus operator trainee on Nov. 23, 1987, said Llort. Then he became a Metrorail operator full time in the summer of 2003.

Metrorail has two routes, the Green Line from Dadeland South to Palmetto station and the Orange Line from Dadeland South to Miami International Airport (MIA).

Read More..

Turn out lights on LIPA boss

Now LIPA’s chief has something in common with thousands of Long Island residents — they’re out of power.

Interim CEO Mike Hervey — who still has 45,000 total customers without electricity after Hurricane Sandy — will step down at the end of this year.

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees I have accepted his resignation, with regret,” said LIPA Chairman Howard Steinberg.

Hervey resigned the same day Gov. Cuomo authorized a commission to “investigate the response, preparation, and management of New York’s power utility companies with major storms hitting the state over the past two years, including Hurricanes Sandy and Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee,” according to a statement from the governor. The commission can issue subpoenas and examine witnesses under oath.

LIVING IN THE DARK AGES: Virginia Portella lugs a cart full of groceries up to her third-floor apartment in Brooklyn’s Red Hook Houses yesterday as the elevator remains out and residents are forced to live without electricity more than two weeks after Hurricane Sandy struck.


LIVING IN THE DARK AGES: Virginia Portella lugs a cart full of groceries up to her third-floor apartment in Brooklyn’s Red Hook Houses yesterday as the elevator remains out and residents are forced to live without electricity more than two weeks after Hurricane Sandy struck.

LIPA customers aren’t the only ones still in the dark.

Neighborhoods and buildings across the region are still without electricity 16 days after Sandy struck and utility companies are sticking some of the blame on powerless residents.

About 424,000 customers in the Rockaways, Gerritsen Beach, Red Hook, Staten Island, the Lower East Side, Midland Beach, Coney Island, Nassau, Suffolk and New Jersey still need juice, utility officials said yesterday.

About 39,000 of those outages, mostly Con Ed and LIPA customers, could get power, but an electrician needs to inspect their home equipment first.

It’s a slow and confusing process.

Richard Aloi, 57, a Staten Island landlord, had power restored to two of his Midland Avenue buildings yesterday, but not before he shelled out $400 to have an electrician inspect four meters that he said were not even touched by water.

“They’re afraid to get sued — they misled me on everything!” Aloi said.

In Manhattan, Knickerbocker Village residents are still freezing as they wait for electricity to get turned back on after flooding in the basement.

“Some days it’s warmer outside than it is in the house,” said Debbie Felice, 43, an MTA station supervisor, who lives in the Lower East Side facility.

“It’s like we’ve been forgotten about over here. It’s tough trying to get up and go to work when it’s freezing in the house and there’s no hot water, there’s no heat. I still have no electricity in the apartment either. It’s terrible.”

Con Ed has 4,000 customers waiting to have their homes inspected.

And those numbers grow considerably when Con Ed factors in affected public housing complexes where a “customer” can be hundreds of residents.

As of Sunday, 30,000 New York City Housing Authority residents didn’t have power — though that number has dropped since then.

Still, a Con Ed executive declared yesterday, “We essentially have power up in all areas.

“The only issues that exist now is if customers are able to take the power from us,” spokesman Bob McGee said.

As for LIPA, 10,000 people in Nassau and Suffolk still have outages, and another 35,000 in the Rockaways, Nassau and Suffolk need inspections.

And in New Jersey, only 78 percent of 1.7 million PSE&G customers have power restored — 375,000 remain in the dark due to downed lines.

Mayor Bloomberg yesterday said the city will open seven centers in Far Rockaway, Gravesend, Coney Island, Staten Island, Red Hook, Breezy Point and Throggs Neck-Pelham to connect residents and businesses with financial, health, environmental, nutritional, FEMA and residential services.

“There are a lot of residents who are going to be without power for a long time. Rather than complain about it or even write about it, we’re trying to do something about it,” Bloomberg said.

As for NYCHA houses, he said they “see the finish line” for power.

And Council Speaker Christine Quinn proposed a $20 billion initiative to protect the city from storm surges, with a sea wall, bulkheads, dunes, wetlands and floodgates.

In other developments:

* Bloomberg said gas rationing will go on for at least five more days.

* The Brooklyn Battery Tunnel opened one lane for cars.

* Alternate-side-of-the-street parking regulations will be reinstated in most areas.

* Nassau County police are investigating an assault of a Florida utility worker — here to help Sandy relief efforts — who was beaten outside an East Meadow restaurant as he got out of his truck.

Tomorrow, President Obama will visit many areas without power, such as Staten Island, the Rockaways and Nassau.

“He should definitely come [here],” said Brenda Pratt, 49, of Coney Island. “This is a disaster. He should look at what Sandy did to us. I gave him my vote, I want to see him.

Additional reporting by David Seifman, Sally Goldenberg, Liz Sadler and Kieran Crowley

Read More..

Noven’s niche: The Miami company is key producer of transdermal patches

At the Noven Pharmaceuticals plant in southwest Miami, scientists and technicians use highly specialized machinery to blend prescription medications and adhesives to make layered transdermal patches that release precise quantities of drugs over time after being applied to a patient’s skin.

Noven, a subsidiary of Japan’s Hisamitsu Pharmaceutical, has about 700 employees nationwide and ranks as a relatively small player among pharma giants. Nonetheless, the company, a leading research and development center for medicinal patches, produces a line of specialty pharmaceuticals and is the U.S. market leader in sales of estrogen patches for women.

“By industry standards, Noven is a small company,” said Jeffrey F. Eisenberg, Noven’s Miami-based president and CEO. “But we have a line of specialized products that competes successfully in the U.S. and overseas. We are experts in developing transdermal patches and produce other pharmaceutical products.”

In one key market — estrogen patches for women — Noven holds about a 68 percent share, he added. And the company has a robust research and development department in Miami at work on a variety of new drugs.

Medications may be delivered to patients orally, via injection or through transdermal patches, which can administer drugs slowly over an extended period of time. While Noven makes products other than medicinal patches, it devotes an important share of resources to transdermal patch technology.

“We have a talented group of scientists who are at the forefront of this specialty,” Eisenberg said. “We have M.D.s, PhDs in biology and chemistry and chemical engineers who specialize in pressure-sensitive adhesives and polymer chemistry.”

Noven has won more than 30 U.S. and 100 international patents and is developing several new drugs. The company recently announced it is making progress on studies to evaluate a new, amphetamine-based transdermal patch for treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children and adolescents. Currently, there is no such patch approved for use with ADHD, the company said.

Noven also has applied to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for approval of a new oral, non-hormonal medication to treat menopausal hot flashes.

Making patches is a complex process that requires the design and development of an ideal combination of drug, adhesive and backing, Eisenberg said. Patches must be formulated so that they will deliver a safe and effective dose of medication over a period of time and adhere to the skin as required.

At the Noven patch facility, which has the capacity for making 500 million patches per year, active drug compounds are mixed with custom adhesives in large, specialized kettles. The mix of drug and adhesive is then applied to sheets of release liner material under very precise tolerances. Noven removes a blending solvent from the compound and applies the backing material, making a three-layer patch. Laminate rolls subsequently are sent to punching, pouching and packing machines (Patches are punched into different sizes.). All of this occurs under strict quality control procedures and is not open to the public.

Noven was founded in 1987 by Steven Sablotsky, a chemical engineer, who had worked for another pharmaceutical firm and was an expert in transdermal patches. Noven went public in 1988 and operated as a publicly-traded company until it was taken over in 2009 by Hisamitsu, a Japanese pharmaceutical company that also manufactures and markets transdermal patches. (Salonpas, an over-the-counter analgesic patch widely advertised in South Florida, is made by Hisamitsu.)

Read More..

Miami police: Two found shot inside a car

Two people were found shot in a car early Tuesday morning, according to Miami police.

Investigators are at the shooting at Northwest 11th Avenue and 43rd Street.

This article will be updated as more information becomes available.

Read More..

Belize wants to quiz anti-computer virus guru McAfee in murder probe

BELIZE CITY (Reuters) – Police in Belize want to question U.S. anti-computer virus software pioneer John McAfee in connection with the murder of a neighbor he had been quarrelling with, but they say he remains a person of interest at this time and is not a suspect.

McAfee, who invented the anti-virus software that bears his name, has homes and businesses in Belize, and is believed to have settled in the country sometime around 2010.

“He is a person of interest at this time,” said Marco Vidal, head of Belize’s police Gang Suppression Unit. “It goes a bit beyond that, not just being a neighbor.”

Police officers were looking for the software engineer, said Miguel Segura, the assistant commissioner of police.

Asked if McAfee was a suspect, he said: “At this point, no. Our job … is to get all the evidence beyond reasonable doubt that Mr A is the one that killed Mr B.”

“He (McAfee) … can assist the investigation, so there is no arrest warrant for the fellow,” added Segura, who heads the Criminal Investigation Branch.

McAfee’s neighbor, Gregory Viant Faull, a 52-year-old American, was found on Sunday lying dead in a pool of blood after apparently being shot in the head.

McAfee has been embroiled in controversy in Belize before.

His premises were raided in May after he was accused of holding firearms, though most were found to be licensed. The final outcome of the case is pending.

McAfee also owns a security company in Belize as well as several properties and an ecological enterprise.

Reuters was unable to contact McAfee on Monday.

Segura said McAfee had been at odds with Faull for some time. He accused his neighbor of poisoning his dogs earlier this year and filed an official complaint.

“There was some conflict there between (them) … prior to the death of the gentleman,” Segura said. “But those dogs didn’t have a post mortem to see if the toxicology would confirm what type of poison, if any.”

McAfee previously accused the police Gang Suppression Unit of killing his dogs during the May raid.

McAfee was one of Silicon Valley’s first entrepreneurs to amass a fortune by building a business off the Internet.

The former Lockheed systems consultant started McAfee Associates in 1989, initially distributing its anti-virus software as “shareware” on Internet bulletin boards.

He took the company public in 1992 and left two years later following accusations that he had hyped the arrival of a virus known as Michelango, which turned out to be a dud, to scare computer users into buying his company’s products.

(Reporting by Simon Gardner and Gabriel Stargardter in Mexico City and Jim Finkle; Editing by Kieran Murray and Todd Eastham)

Internet News Headlines – Yahoo! News

Read More..

One Direction on What They Look for in a Girl

Ellen DeGeneres is holding her biggest outdoor concert ever with British pop sensation One Direction on Thursday, and we have an advance clip.

RELATED: One Direction Plays Catch with Super Bowl Champ

During the sit-down portion, the boys answer the crucial questions: Which members are single and what do they look for in a girl?

"I like someone that's cute. Someone I can have a laugh with. And I also like people that are American. And you all qualify," said Niall Horan, 19, sending the crowd of teenage girls into frenzy.

Tune in to The Ellen DeGeneres Show November 15 for the full interview and concert. The band's sophomore studio album Take Me Home is available now.

Read More..

Cheat hearts

Getty Images

Now all they have to do is kiss.

Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson looked as if they had made up last night for the premiere of “Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II.”

It was the former — and possibly current — couple’s first red-carpet appearance together since they split after Stewart, 22, was caught cheating with married movie director Rupert Sanders, 41.

Stewart and Pattinson, 26, seemed very cozy at the LA premiere, and rumors swirl that they’re back together.

They have refused to talk about their current status.

“I’m just going to let people watch whatever little movie they would like to think our lives are and keep them guessing, I always say,” Stewart said last week on NBC’s “Today.”

Read More..

Self-publishing industry explodes, brings rewards, challenges

The publishing world is being upended, and reinvented, by people like Hugh Howey, Ily Goyanes and Kristy Montee.

They are part of a movement using the power of e-books and the Internet to lead publishing into a new frontier, and through the biggest upheaval of the industry since Guttenberg’s press.

“It’s the Wild West,” Montee said. “It is literally changing at the speed of light.”

Howey is a writer who authored, designed, formatted and self-published all but the very first of his 14 novelettes and stories as e-books — and saw his Wool series of sci-fi stories make the Top 100 Kindle Best Sellers of 2012, above J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy and the four-book bundle of George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones.

Goyanes is one of a new breed of independent publishers filling the void between self-publishing and traditional publishing giants, offering technical, marketing and distribution help for do-it-yourself authors.

Montee is a Fort Lauderdale-based writer better known to her readers — along with her sister and writing partner, Kelly Nichols — as P.J. Parrish, the pseudonymous author of the Louis Kincaid and Joe Frye thriller series. She’s among the new “hybrid authors,” with a foot in both traditional and the self-published worlds.

“For a long, long, long time in our business anything that you published yourself just had a stench of amateurism about it,” she said. “That was just for desperate people who couldn’t make their way through the labyrinth of the New York system, so they resorted to paying pretty much scam artists to publish their books for them at great expense. And then, Amazon came out with the Kindle, which pretty much changed everything.”

With the stigma fading, and Amazon’s help, self-publishing has exploded. On its website, Publishers Weekly last month cited a new analysis of data from Bowker, which shows the number of self-published books produced annually in the U.S. has nearly tripled, growing 287 percent since 2006, with 235,625 print and e-titles released in 2011.

As a “mid-list author” with 13 moderately successful books to her name, Montee felt the pressure when her publisher began trimming its author list to reduce costs.

“So a lot of us, and this includes a lot of my friends,” began looking for ways to survive independently, Montee said. “Amazon made it extremely easy and very attractive to go self-publish through their model.”

She and her sister regained rights to two of their early books to re-publish and have a novella in the works they plan to self-publish.

The advantages, and the profits, can be huge. The downside, of course, would make a Vegas gambler sweat.

“The largest, by far, percentage of authors are making less than $500 a year self-publishing, because there’s a glut,” said M.J. Rose, a best-selling novelist and founder of the writer’s marketing company “There’s over 350,000 books being self-published every year and readers are not finding them. There’s just no way to expose people to all of these books.”

Howey, however, who spends mornings writing at his home in Jupiter, might be the perfect example of what “making it” looks like in this thoroughly modern twist on every writer’s dream. He began writing while working at a bookstore, and he received a modest advance when a small press picked up his first novel.

Read More..

Two more Cuban dissidents allege abuse by former prison official now living in Miami

Two more Cuban dissidents have alleged that they were abused personally or on the orders of a former Villa Clara provincial prison chief Crescencio Marino Rivero, who now lives in Miami.

Rivero, 71, and his wife Juana Ferrer, both former officers in Cuba’s Interior Ministry and members of the ruling Communist Party, appear to have obtained their U.S. visas and residency without revealing their activities on behalf of the Cuban government.

Wilfredo Allen, one of the two Miami lawyers who referred the allegations against Rivero to U.S. prosecutors two weeks ago, has asked for the start of deportation procedures against the couple. Rivero has denied committing any abuses.

Arturo Conde Zamora said he was 12 or 13 years old and was being held in a reformatory when Rivero hit him with a stick two or three times on his back and legs. Rivero was in charge of the lockup in the Villa Clara village of Maleza.

“He beat me with a stick and then threw me into a cell,” Conde, now 47, told El Nuevo Herald by telephone from his home in the Villa Clara town of Placetas. “He tied me up with a rope and left me in a tapiada” – a cell with a solid steel door instead of bars.

Rivero has been identified as provincial head of youth reformatories and reeducation programs in the 1980s before he was promoted to head Villa Clara’s overall prison system.

Conde said he was sent to a reformatory for chronic school skipping, and was beaten by Rivero and two or three reformatory “re-educators” in 1981 or 1982 because he had fought with one of the other 100 or so youths in the Maleza lockup.

A decade later, Conde added, he was serving a new prison term in the maximum security Alambrada de Manacas prison in Villa Clara when Rivero turned up there following a clash between prisoners and guards.

“Not even 30 minutes later, they brought in dogs to attack the prisoners.” Conde was bitten on the thigh, he said.

Another Placetas dissident, Jorge Luis García Pérez, known as Antunez, said he never saw Rivero personally abuse prisoners. “Officers of that rank don’t have to,” he said, because they can order guards to abuse the inmates.

Antunez alleged that on Feb. 19, 1991, while serving a 5 ½-year sentence for “enemy propaganda” at the La Pendiente prison in Villa Clara, he was taken to see Rivero for his refusal to wear prison uniforms — a type of protest used by many political prisoners.

“Look, you black counterrevolutionary, we’re not going to allow that here,” Antunez, who is black, quoted Rivero as telling him.

Rivero told the guards “take him to the cell and if he takes off his clothes, bust his head,” the dissident added in a phone interview with El Nuevo Herald. Antunez said he did try to take off his clothes and got such a beating that he remembers the exact date.

Antunez and Conde’s allegations, and similar previous accusations against Rivero by three other dissidents, could not be independently confirmed. Rivero did not return an El Nuevo Herald call to his phone last week, and his daughter said he would not speak to the newspaper because his previous comments to other journalists were “distorted.”

Read More..

Top 5 Apps Your Kids Will Love This Week

Chris Crowell is a veteran kindergarten teacher and contributing editor to Children’s Technology Review, a web-based archive of articles and reviews on apps, technology toys and video games. Download a free issue of CTR here.

[More from Mashable: 4 Tips for Finding a Job in Your Niche]

Spot the Dot

$ 3.99 Ages 3-up Overall rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars Why we like it: Spot the Dot turns a children’s book into a lively, engaging experience. Based on the book by David Carter, Spot the Dot is a “needle in the haystack” or “I Spy” type of app, where the same item — a small colored dot, is hidden in nine screens. Need to know: On some pages the dot is hidden in a moving illustration, and the dot moves around, extending the utility of this app, despite the limited number of pages. This is a great app for a group of children to play together. Ease of use: 9/10 Educational: 10/10 Entertaining: 9/10

Click here to view this gallery.

[More from Mashable: Scientists Use Their Braaaaains to Find Perfect Product Tester [SUNDAY COMICS]]

If you’re getting in the mood for the holiday season, A Charlie Brown Christmas is one app that both kids and nostalgic parents are sure to enjoy. And while you’re sharing, why not stretch your brain and see if you remember those isosceles triangles and quadrilaterals as well as your kids do. Those are just some of the apps in store for you this week!

The folks at Children’s Technology Review shared with us these five top apps from their comprehensive monthly database of kid-tested reviews. The site covers everything from math and counting to reading and phonics.

Check back next week for more Top Kids Apps from Children’s Technology Review.

This story originally published on Mashable here.

Tech News Headlines – Yahoo! News

Read More..

BBC says its news chief, her deputy have 'stepped aside'

LONDON — The BBC says its news chief and her deputy have 'stepped aside' while the broadcaster deals with the fallout from a child abuse scandal that forced its director-general to resign.

Helen Boaden, the BBC's director of news and current affairs, and her deputy, Steve Mitchell, have handed over their responsibilities to others for the time being, BBC media correspondent Torin Douglas said Monday.

There was no formal announcement from the corporation.

Read More..

Gov. Rick Scott may shift stance on health reform law

With the reelection of President Barack Obama, Florida’s Republican leaders are reconsidering their fervent opposition to federal healthcare reform, triggering a discussion that could have huge repercussions for South Florida.

At stake is more than $6 billion in federal funding for Miami-Dade and Broward over the next decade and the possibility of health insurance for a large percentage of the 1.4 million people in the two counties who now lack coverage.

After the defeat of Mitt Romney, who vowed to halt Obama’s healthcare overhaul, the Republican leaders of the Florida House and Senate quickly said the Legislature needed to reexamine the federal act. On Friday evening, Gov. Rick Scott said he agreed there needed to be a discussion.

“Just saying ‘no’ is not an answer,” Scott said in a statement that repeated exactly what Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Destin, the incoming Senate president, told The Miami Herald on Thursday.

“I don’t like this law,” Gaetz also said, “but this is the law, and I believe I have a constitutional obligation to carry it out.” He added that he thinks “there needs to be some adult debate between Republicans and Democrats” on finding ways to make the law work.

Still, Gaetz, Scott and others in the Republican leadership, which controls both the Florida House and Senate, have many criticisms of what both parties now call “Obamacare.” Some are searching for compromises on how it is carried out in the state. What this means for patients and the healthcare industry in Florida — particularly South Florida — remains an enormous question mark.

Time is running short for decisions as the once-distant consequences of the Affordable Care Act are scheduled to kick in during the next 14 months.

The first deadline is Friday. That’s when states must tell Washington whether they plan to set up exchanges — marketplaces where individuals can purchase insurance at discounted group rates and cannot be denied because of pre-existing conditions.

Florida’s political leaders acknowledge they won’t make the deadline. The exchanges are scheduled to start Jan. 1, 2014, and if a state doesn’t set up an exchange, its residents can participate in a federal exchange.

The next provision starts Jan. 1 with an increase in Medicaid fees for primary care physicians. Primary care physicians, who have long complained about low rates for Medicaid, which provides coverage for the poor, are scheduled to be paid at considerably higher Medicare rates — with the feds picking up all of the added cost. But such a pay hike can only happen with the approval of the governor and Legislature, and it’s unclear whether that will happen.

The following year, on Jan. 1, 2014, the biggest changes are slated to start, including a major expansion of people covered by Medicaid. An analysis from the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida shows that if the state doesn’t expand coverage, Florida will lose $27.9 billion in federal funds over 10 years.

That breaks down to a $4.5 billion loss for Miami-Dade during that time, and a $2.3 billion loss for Broward, according to the alliance’s analysis.

Under the law, Washington will pay all Medicaid expansion costs for the first three years, but then the states would have to pay up to 10 percent of the costs in following years — an expense that the Safety Net Alliance calculates will come to $1.7 billion over 10 years in Florida. The expansion could provide coverage to an additional million-plus Floridians. Reform supporters say the expansion would provide cheaper basic care that would help prevent serious illnesses that lead to expensive hospital stays.

Read More..

Course to explore Jewish communities in Asia, Africa

Florida International University research professors Nathan Katz and Tudor Parfitt, considered to be the world’s leading authorities on Eastern Jewish communities, will explore the Jewish experience in Asia and Africa in a new, 13-week course to be offered at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, 301 Washington Ave. in Miami Beach.

The course will look at the Jewish experience far beyond Florida, which has been the traditional focus of the museum. Among the Jewish populations of Africa to be explored include the Lemba of Zimbabwe, the Beta Israel of Ethiopia, and the Ibo of Nigeria. The Asian communities include the Jews of Kochi; Mumbai and northeastern tribal peoples of India; Shanghai, China, a home in the 19th century to Sephardic Jews seeking business opportunities and refuge in the 1930s-40s to European Jews fleeing Nazi persecution; and a "Judaizing " movement in Papua New Guinea.

Classes start in January and are open to both degree-seeking FIU students and community members interested in taking it on an auditing

basis. The class will be the first FIU offering at the Miami Beach museum, which recently joined the FIU family.

The classes will feature guest speakers, including a visiting member of Zimbabwe’s Lemba Jewish community.

Before joining FIU earlier this year, Parfitt was director of the Jewish Studies Center at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, where he was dubbed "Britain’s Indiana Jones" for his pursuit of the Ark of the Covenant and his discoveries of remote Jewish communities.

Katz is Bhagwan Mahavir Professor of Jain Studies and is director of FIU’s Program in the Study of Spirituality. He spent many years living in South Asoa and is a recipient of four Fulbright research and teaching awards. He was instrumental in bringing the Dalai Lama to Miami three times and has played an influential role in the interreligious dialogues between Jews and Hindus, Buddhists and Jains.

Degree-seeking FIU students may register for the class though Nov. 18. Community members who want to audit the class should contact the Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education at 305-576-4030, ext. 128 or by emailing The cost for the 13-week course is $295.

Books club at the garden

The Green Book Club will begin its monthly meetings on Nov. 13, at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, 2000 Convention Center Dr. in Miami Beach.

My sources tell me the meetings, which are from noon to 2 p.m., are a great place to meet new people and become a better reader/writer by experiencing books in a whole new way.

The group reads and discusses environmentally-themed books chosen and read during the month preceding each meeting, which is on the second Tuesday of every month. This month’s pick is "Vita’s Other World: A Gardening Biography of V. Sackville-West," by Jane Brown (Viking, 1985).

Also, floral design classes, taught by accredited floral designers, will begin at the garden on Nov. 27. The designers will combine lectures, demos, and critiqued hands-on workshops to develop an understanding of the art of flower arranging. The class runs from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is the first part of a six-part floral design study hosted by the Miami Beach Garden Club.

The cost is $26 per class, or $150 for all six. A certificate from the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs will be awarded those who complete the six courses. Lunch is included in the cost. To register, email Nina Worth at or call 305-532-9987.

Read More..

Mail.Ru cuts stakes in Groupon, Facebook, Zygna

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian email-to-social networking group Mail.Ru cut its stakes in U.S. internet firms Groupon, Facebook, and Zygna, according to the company’s website.

Mail.Ru now has a 0.52 percent stake in the world’s largest social networking site Facebook, 0.16 percent of U.S. game maker Zynga and 0.84 percent of daily deal website Groupon.

As of October 30, it had a 1.17 percent stake in Zynga, a 0.75 percent stake in Facebook and 4.12 percent of shares in Groupon.

It could raise between $ 200 million and $ 250 million from the sales, said Anastasia Obukhova, an analyst at VTB Capital in Moscow. Mail.Ru declined to comment on the disposals.

“We’ve always been very clear that Groupon, Zynga and Facebook, positioned inside of Mail, are financial assets, not strategic ones,” said Matthew Hammond, the investor relations director at Mail.Ru Group.

At the end of October, Mail.Ru, part-owned by metals tycoon Alisher Usmanov, sold 16 million Facebook shares, worth around $ 370 million, on top of a more than $ 700 million sale as part of Facebook’s initial public offering. That was followed by a hefty dividend payout to Mail.Ru’s shareholders.

(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova and Anastasia Teterevleva; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

Social Media News Headlines – Yahoo! News

Read More..

Buzzmakers: Brooke's Cancer Fight & World War Z

What had ET readers buzzing this week?

1. It's Brad vs. Zombies in World War Z

Zombie attack!!! Brad Pitt plays a family man and United Nations employee who faces a deadly zombie pandemic in World War Z -- we gave you an exclusive first look and now we've got the intense trailer!

Just when you thought that the zombie genre may be starting to generate less screams and more Zzzz's, World War Z arrives with an adrenaline shot in the arm for the genre -- complete with insane special effects and a claustrophobic urgency and realism not seen since the introduction of those "speed zombies" in 28 Days Later.

Directed by Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace), World War Z invades theaters June 21, 2013.

2. Oprah Reveals Her 2012 'Favorite Things'

It's officially the holiday season!

Oprah just revealed her "Favorite Things" for 2012, which includes such items as a $1,800 Jetson E-Bike, a $192 hand-picked Tom Ford lipstick palette and a $238 Lafco soap set.

"This luxuriously oversize, deliciously scented soap is my new go-to gift. I even brought a set to Mr. and Mrs. Colbert when I interviewed Stephen for Next Chapter," she says about the pricey soap set.

But of course if you don't have the income of Oprah, you can pick up O's December issue to learn how you can win all 49 of Oprah's favorite things, which hits newsstands November 6.

"Oprah's Favorite Things" is also getting its own two-hour, prime time special airing Nov. 18 on OWN. The special will surprise unsuspecting military spouses with items from the media mogul's exclusive must-have gift selections for the holiday season, and for the first time, viewers of Oprah's Favorite Things: 2012 will have the opportunity to watch and win select items featured in each segment of the show.

3. Brooke Burke-Charvet Reveals Cancer Diagnosis

Brooke Burke-Charvet released a video online Thursday to announce that she was recently diagnosed with a cancerous growth on her thyroid gland. In the video posted on her Modern Mom blog, the 41-year-old actress and TV host explained that a nodule was discovered on her thyroid and after a series of tests over the last few months, it was eventually determined to be cancerous and her thyroid will have to be removed.

"Which means that I'm going to have a nice big scar right her across my neck," Brooke said. "And I don't get to just walk around and pretend like nothing happened or not follow up or not share it, because it's going to be pretty much dead center."

Brooke said the discovery -- which originated from a regular physical -- came as a complete shock because she's otherwise healthy. "As crazy as it is, my head is in the right place, and it's going to be good," she said, adding that the doctors consider this a form of "good cancer" compared to many others and the prognosis is good. "I'm just going to make a positive out of this negative thing."

She said the surgery has been scheduled and she promised to keep her fans updated through her blog. "Now I'm ready to deal with it and I'm going to be fine. And I feel really, really strong."

Speaking on Thursday's episode of The Talk, Brooke's co-host on Dancing with the Stars, Tom Bergeron, commented on her cancer diagnosis. "My love and support are with you -- we are all there with her," he said. Bergeron added that he personally has a very positive outlook. "I've known about this for a few months. I have had experience with this in my family. You never want to hear the word cancer. But thyroid cancer is one of the most treatable cancers. It has an incredibly high success rate."

4. Kirstie on Secret Relationship with Swayze

Kirstie Alley reveals to ET's Chris Jacobs intimate details about what she says was a powerful attraction and hidden relationship with her North and South co-star, Patrick Swayze. Although both stars were married during filming of the mini-series, Alley tells Jacobs when she first saw Swayze, they had an intense attraction and she tried to avoid "going down that road," but they ultimately fell in love.

"Both of us were married. We did not have an affair. But again, I think what I did was worse. Because I think when you fall in love with someone when you're married, you jeopardize your own marriage and their marriage. It's doubly bad," said Alley.

Alley goes on to say that although she's friends with Patrick's wife, Lisa Niemi, who asked Alley to speak at Swayze's funeral, she is uncertain if Lisa is aware of their relationship.

5. One Direction & Drew Brees Play Catch - Exclusive

One Direction and Drew Brees teamed up last month to film an adorable Pepsi spot and during Thursday night's episode of The X Factor, the band will not only perform their newest singles, Live While We're Young and Little Things, but also reveal an alternate ending to the ad!

For those who missed the spot, the original ended with Drew Brees sacrificing his last can of Pepsi in order to become an unofficial member of One Direction. But, according to Angelique Krembs, VP Marketing for Pepsi, they also wanted to show fans what would happen if Drew won the last can of Pepsi. "Our latest Live For Now spot has received an enormous amount of buzz and online excitement," Krembs said. "And of course everyone wants to see the boys from 1D suit up in football gear and have some fun."

While you have to wait until Thursday to see the entire surprise ending to Pepsi's Live For Now television commercial, ETonline scored an exclusive sneak peek of One Direction tossing the pigskin around with Brees!

Tune in to The X Factor on November 8 at 8 p.m. to see the alternate ending!

Read More..

Home leveled, other houses ablaze in Indianapolis explosion

INDIANAPOLIS — Authorities say a loud explosion has leveled a home in Indianapolis and set four others ablaze in a neighborhood, causing several injuries.

Capt. Rita Burris with the Indiana Fire Department told The Associated Press that firefighters are still working to put out the flames after the explosion around 11 p.m. Saturday.

She told AP early Sunday there were multiple injuries but details remain sketchy and there are no fatalities reported at this point. She says the fire occurred in a south Indianapolis residential area and there's no immediate report on the cause. But she says authorities would be checking if gas was involved in the explosion heard for miles around.

Burris says firefighters will search the area once the fires are under control.

Read More..