December 2, 2008

Silva Method

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The Silva Method is the name given to a self help program developed by José Silva,[1][2] which claims to increase an individual's IQ and sense of personal well-being by developing their higher brain functions.[1][2] Proponents believe that it can improve a person's self image, allow them to think in a clearer manner, and that it can assist people in overcoming conditions such as nicotine addiction.[1][2]

According to notable author Arthur C. Clarke and former stage magician James Randi, the Silva method consists of the application of positive thinking, visualization meditation, and self hypnosis.[2] Some, including Silva himself, believe that it can be used to develop paranormal abilities such as ESP, and that practicing it can allow you to tap into a higher consciousness.[1][2] It has been criticized as pseudoscience.[1]

The Silva Method is one of a number of therapeutic techniques sometimes grouped under the name Human potential movement.

History

Silva began developing the method; formerly known as Silva Mind Control, in the 1940s before launching it commercially in the 1960s.[1][2]

It developed out of Silva's belief that the thoughts and actions of 90% of the world's population were governed by the left hemisphere of their brain; limiting them using only logical, intellectual, objective means of problem resolution. Silva believed that by training people to think with both the right brain hemisphere as well as their left they could access information stored at a subconscious level.[1][2] According to Skeptical author Robert Carroll, the Silva method appears to be based on the work of Roger Wolcott Sperry, but with Silva's own twists in it that make it an inaccurate model.[1]

Technique

The technique aims to reach and sustain a higher state of mental functioning, called alpha state, where brainwave frequency is eight to thirteen Hz.

José Silva, founder of the Silva Method, claimed to have developed a program that trained people to enter certain brain states of enhanced awareness. He also claimed to have developed several systematic mental processes to use while in these states allowing a person to mentally project with a specific intent. According to Silva, once the mind is projected, a person can allegedly view distant objects or locations and connect with higher intelligence for guidance. The information received by the projected mind is then said to be perceived as thoughts, images, feelings, smells, taste and sound by the mind. The information obtained in this manner can be acted upon to solve problems.

In 1953, Silva believed he had trained his daughter to be psychic, and he introduced his training methods to Rhine with his daughter as proof. Over the next ten years, Silva claimed to have trained thirty-nine more subjects to be psychics. Another discovery claimed as successful is remote viewing. Rather than passively waiting for impressions to be perceived, a person projects him- or herself mentally and remotely views what is going on in a process similar to lucid dreaming. Silva became convinced that everyone has such abilities and can be taught to develop them, and that it is not an extra sense at all, but an unneeded—therefore undeveloped—sense. Everything happens first in the mind, he reasoned, then happens in the body. A person mentally decides to pick up a glass of water and drink it, then does it physically. Your life is the manipulation of the set rules of this universe, the trick is learning how to manipulate the rules right.

The Silva Method is now a multi-million dollar business with thousands of Silva Method instructors teaching the system over several days to groups of students in numerous countries worldwide. The system has spawned many books, some of them authored or co-authored by José Silva, with many others based on the basic principles of the method but spreading into other areas of awareness and application whilst in the alpha state.


Source: Wikipedia

Alana Love, Pregnant Bunny Ranch "Employee" on Howard Stern This Morning

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If you’ve ever watched HBO late at night, you’ve probably seen Cathouse which precedes airings of Bikini Girls from the Lost Planet. Well, one of its newest girls, Alana Love, is making headlines today as she goes on The Howard Stern Show. Her “hook” as they say? Well, she’s 7 months pregnant. Yikes. Read an excerpt from her blog here:

Today was my first day at the ranch. I’ve always wanted to do this and when my baby comes, I think I will be able to give her a better life. I was really excited to start today. I know some people will be critical of my choice, but it’s my life. I am an adult. I’m not doing anything to harm my baby — and it’s legal.

[...] So far I think this will be a pretty good life. I wonder all the time what my baby will look like and what she will want to do with her life. I’m not sure how I will feel if she wants to do this kind of work. Obviously if she is over 18, I won’t be able to second guess it. If she is under my own roof, I would have to second guess her. Either way, I am going to support her. If she did it right, it would be ok. I could definitely tell her about all the wrongs and rights! That’s all for now…

Love,


Alana
Yeah I mean, there are definitely other ways to provide for your kid besides being a prostitute, so I don’t buy that line. Those Bunny Ranch girls make OBSCENE amounts of money, so clearly you’re in it for the cash as well. And really, guys are picking the pregnant chick out of the lineup? Well, I suppose I’ve heard of stranger fetishes.

I’ll post whatever she says on Howard Stern once I can find it.


Source: College OTR

Why Rosie Live Died

The Strange Destruction of Rose O'Donnell's Career

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It seemed like a sure thing. Rosie O'Donnell is a talented actress and comedian with a stack of Emmys. Why not give her an old fashioned variety show, in the style of Carol Burnett, with some comedy, some singing, and good wholesome entertainment?

Rosie Live, as the new show was called, should have been called Rosie Still Born. Rosie was broadcast live on NBC Wednesday, November 26th, to an audience of all of five million people. Among the guests on Rose Live were Alanis Morissette, Alec Baldwin, Clay Aiken, Ne-Yo and Liza Minnelli.

The LA Times describedRosie Live thus:

"Two words: Dancing food. "Rosie Live" ended with dancing food. There's nothing else to say, really, except perhaps, Liza Minnelli. "Rosie Live," shot in New York City, opened with a little song and dance from Minnelli, who rose to the stage as if from the grave to sing a duet with O'Donnell, in a luminous white suit, complete with fetching Broadway hat. Liza, we love you, we will always love you, but there is no shame in retirement.

"In between we were treated to Harry Connick Jr. in a Santa hat, Conan O'Brien taking a pie in the face and Jane Krakowski singing about all the free stuff audience members would get. Some of the items were pretty swell, but I'm here to tell you it wasn't enough. Rosie made jokes about the slimming-undergarment Spanx, Alec Baldwin appeared in a jacket two sizes too small with weird Einstein hair -- neither of which were part of a gag. Clay Aiken strolled over from his 'Spamalot' gig on Broadway to participate in the world's most painfully long gay joke ('What was the other thing we have in common?' Rosie mused. 'Oh, yeah, we're both Gaaa . . . briel Byrne fans.'), and Alanis Morissette sang a song referencing the 12-step program in front of, I kid you not, an endless loop of geese flying through a sunset."

It is possible that the time for a Carol Burnett/Sonny and Cher style variety show has passed. They may have gone along with westerns in which the cowboys are the good guys and the Indians the bad guys, war pictures in which the Americans are the good guys, and romantic comedies in which men are men, women are women, and the sex is PG 13 at most.

Or then again maybe the problem was Rosie O'Donnell herself. One cannot help but think that the pre coming out, "Queen of Nice" Rosie might have been able to carry it off . Certainly Rosie's talk show was pretty good, at least until she started doing bizarre things like berating Tom Selleck for owning fire arms. And Ellen DeGeneris, also openly gay and pretty funny, has got a successful talk show. Maybe Ellen could have pulled off a variety show revival.

It's likely, though, that the image of Rosie O'Donnell ranting on The View and being so darned self conscious about her sexual orientation that both had stopped being funny and had become painful to watch was just too much. Rosie could stand up all she wanted and announce how the election of Barack Obama had changed all that, had made her back in fact into a nice person, and it would not matter. She has branded herself into something quite grotesque. Between the conspiracy theories about 9/11 and the third grade feuding with Donald Trump, Rosie O'Donnell has effectively wrecked her career for anything except R rated comedy rants on HBO. And that is why Rosie Live died.


Source: 'Rosie Live': Rosie O'Donnell's variety show makes a lame TV debut,

Britney Beats Obama In Web World Wrestling Combat

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Another year, another demonstration of what's going to doom our species. If 2007 brought us iPhones and Anna Nicole Smith's boobs, global search in 2008 brings us Britney Spears and World Wrestling beating Obama.

Much to Brian Lam's heart content, that's what Yahoo! Search says. Their top 10 searches are:

• Britney Spears
• World Wrestling Entertainment
• Barack Obama
• Miley Cyrus
• RuneScape
• Jessica Alba
• Naruto
• Lindsay Lohan
• Angelina Jolie
• American Idol

While Yahoo! Search is not Google's zeitgeist, statistically is probably very near this. And yes, that sound you hear, dearly beloved, is the sound of the Fourth Trumpet. God saves us all.

Source: Gizmodo

10 Insane Bikes That No One Should Ever Ride

Designers with a deathwish are pushing the boundaries of bicycle design far beyond the realm of practicality into preposterous new worlds. The following 10 bikes are some of the most outrageous concepts to spring forth from this movement, and should only be operated in a controlled environment by stuntmen and circus folk.

Click the images to enlarge!


Source: Gizmodo

Key Coin-Shaped USB

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It’s pretty safe to say we’ve all seen plenty of examples proving that they can make a USB drive inspired by just about anything and make some cash. Well here’s a cute new idea, USB drives inspired by coins. These USB keys were designed specifically to turn a few heads. Luckily, they don’t do so by creating a drive with a cheesy design. This one is quirky and could easily be carried by anyone and still look like a professional.

They come in two different sizes and styles. The smaller drive has a copper finish and the larger a shiny silver finish. They also have printed on them exactly what size they are. One of the best features about this USB drive is that the plug itself retracts to be stored within the coin. Which means no having to worry about losing the cap. The copper coin has 4GB of storage and will cost you $19.99. Then the silver has 8GB of storage and is priced at $29.99. You can pick up them both on LaCie.


Source: ChipChick

Pussycat Dolls

The Pussycat Dolls are an American pop girl group, and dance ensemble founded by choreographer Robin Antin in 1995. The group began as a burlesque troupe based in Los Angeles, before being "re-cast" as a music group in 2003, comprising leader Nicole Scherzinger, Melody Thornton, Ashley Roberts, Jessica Sutta, Kimberly Wyatt, and Carmit Bachar who left the group in March 2008. The Pussycat Doll brand have also diversified into Reality TV programs, a Las Vegas act and venue, and other ventures overseen by Antin and her partners. The music group released their first single in 2004, and have gone on to international commercial success. They recently released their second studio album Doll Domination on September 23, 2008.

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Click to enlarge

History

Burlesque

1995-2003

Robin Antin began exploring the idea of a modern burlesque troupe in 1993 with her friend Christina Applegate.[1][2] The dance troupe's first performance was in 1995. During this period, they performed with numerous guest vocalists, with a repertoire of 1950s and 1960s pop standards while dressed in lingerie or old-fashioned pin-up costumes. They secured a Thursday night residency at Los Angeles nightclub The Viper Room, where they stayed from 1995 - 2001. The troupe received wider press coverage in June 1999, when Playboy ran a Pussycat Dolls pictorial, featuring at least seven contemporary members. Three years later, the Dolls moved to The Roxy. The group became internationally popular and was featured in magazines, television specials for MTV and VH1, ad campaigns, and movies. Some of the Pussycat Dolls appeared in the 2002 film Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, dancing to "The Pink Panther Theme". They were also featured in Pink's "Trouble" music video

Along with Applegate, Christina Aguilera, and Carmen Electra (who was the group's lead performer for many of their shows) the troupe was featured in a Maxim shoot in 2002,[3] which increased public interest in them. Following this wider popularity, and with the involvement of music producers Jimmy Iovine and Ron Fair, the Pussycat Dolls were re-cast, transformed into a pop recording group, and became employees of Iovine's label Interscope Records. The only troupe members who remained after the re-casting process was Carmit Bachar, Cyia Batten, Kasey Campbell, Ashley Roberts, Jessica Sutta, & Kimberly Wyatt. Electra, when asked about her lack of involvement with the group's evolution into a pop group, said: "I was part of the Dolls for over two years and did every show with them... but financially, I couldn't become part of their new music project... It was a sacrifice I couldn't make."[4] She later made a cameo appearance in the music video for "Don't Cha". In late 2003, Electra formed another burlesque troupe called The Bombshell Babies, which included ex-Dolls Staci Flood and Nadine Ellis, and later adding ex-Doll Kasey Campbell.

2005–present

In parallel to Pussycat Dolls as a recording act, in April 2005 a resident live show commenced at the "Pussycat Dolls Lounge" adjacent to Pure Nightclub in Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip. This show contains "cast members" who continue the burlesque-style show which began in Los Angeles in 1995. At least one early member of the L.A. dance troupe, Rachel Sterling, made the move to the Las Vegas show.[5] The cast includes vocalist Jamie Preston,[6] Cindy,[6] Hayley,[6] Amanda Nowak, [6]Ashley Gates,[6]Colby,[7] Bridgy,[7] and Jamie Ruiz from Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious also joined the group.[7] Former dolls include Mallory,[8] Jen,[8] Loreli,[8] Victoria,[8] Rosa,[8] Marcea,[8] Rita,[8] Jessica Lea,[9] Rachel Sterling,[9] Laura Diane,[9] Laurel,[6] and Alicia[6] between others. The venue is operated by Pure Management Group, Robin Antin has some involvement, but it is unclear whether Interscope also has a financial interest. The Pussycat Dolls recording group have made occasional appearances. In February 2007, Caesars Palace opened the Pussycat Dolls Casino located across from the Pussycat Dolls Lounge. It features "Dolls-style" decor and attire for the gaming staff, waitresses and dancers.

Recording group

2005-2007: PCD

In 2003, Nicole Scherzinger, a former member of Popstars winners Eden's Crush, became the group's lead singer. The Pussycat Dolls' musical line-up consisted of Nicole Scherzinger, Carmit Bachar, Kimberly Wyatt, Ashley Roberts, Jessica Sutta, Melody Thornton and Kaya Jones (Kaya later left the group after recording and appearing in both "Sway", and "Don't Cha" music videos). By the time the recording group were launched, their stage costumes were developed to bear various branding and "PCD" logos, which preceded the sales of a branded clothing range and other merchandise (via websites and at performances). Their repertoire was expanded to include new Pop/R&B songs, with hit producers and guest rappers, while still retaining some of the pop standards from their earlier incarnation. They appeared in two soundtracks in 2004 for the films, Shark Tale and Shall We Dance? The newly formed recording group's first single was "Sway" from Shall We Dance?, with a music video inspired by the movie.

On September 13, 2005, they released their debut album, PCD, debuting at number five on the Billboard 200.[10] Their first single, "Don't Cha" was a hit, reaching number one in multiple countries including UK, Australia and Canada and peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100.[10] The song was originally a cover of the Tori Alamaze single featuring rapper Busta Rhymes. The group won a Billboard Music Award for "Don't Cha" (Ralphi Rosario mix) as Hot Dance Music/Club Play Single of the Year.

The album spawned six more singles. The ballad "Stickwitu" was another top five in the U.S.,[10] selling over three million digital downloads and CDs worldwide.[citation needed] The song was the group's second UK number 1 hit.[11] It was later nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Performance By a Duo or Group. Their third single, "Beep", which featured rapper will.i.am, did not perform as successfully as the previous two singles but still went to number one internationally.[12] A subsequent single, "Buttons" (with rapper Snoop Dogg) reached number three on the UK singles chart;[12] the next single, "I Don't Need a Man" was not as successful, although it reached the top 10 in Australia,[13] Ireland,[13] New Zealand[13] and UK.[13] The group's sixth single from the album was "Wait a Minute" featuring Timbaland released in the U.S. in August 2006, becoming a top 40 hit worldwide.[10]

In 2006, San Francisco-based company Doppelganger (along with Interscope Records) launched the PCD Music Lounge, an interactive website. In late 2006, the Pussycat Dolls were also featured in a commercial for Cingular Wireless along with Ludacris and KoRn. The group was selected to perform for the introduction for ABC's coverage of the NBA.[14] In 2007, a version of "Right Now" was used as a theme song for the NBA, though the lyrics had been altered.

An official megamix of all the singles from PCD has been released.[15]

On March 8, 2008, Carmit Bachar left the group, confirming the news by posting a blog on the group's official website.[16] The Pussycat Dolls are said to be continuing as a five-piece. They performed for US troops in Kuwait for Operation Myspace.[17] They sang all of their singles. In the absence of Bachar, her vocal parts are now performed mostly by Jessica Sutta, some of them by Wyatt or Roberts.

2008-present: Doll Domination

After a brief break, the dolls returned in May 2008 with the new single "When I Grow Up" - the first release from their second album, with Timbaland serving as executive producer of the album.[18]

The song was performed live for the first time on May 20, on Jimmy Kimmel Live[19][20] and again at the MTV Movie Awards on June 1.[21] They also performed the song at the first results show of the 2008 season of So You Think You Can Dance. The song was released on May 27 2008.[22] The song charted in the top 40 in most countries. The song charted at number nine on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play. The song charted at number six on the European Singles Chart. Other promotions include hosting the 2008 Maxim Hot 100 on VH1 on the position number seventeen.[23]

The second studio album from the Pussycat Dolls was scheduled for release worldwide on September 20 2008, and in the U.S. on September 23,[24] with tracks produced by Dr. Dre, Timbaland, The Clutch, Sean Garrett, Quiz & Larossi, New Kids On The Block, Scott Storch, Darkchild, Fernando Garibay, Ryan Tedder, Mark Taylor, Taio Cruz,[25] and others.[26] Two other confirmed tracks are "Bottle Pop" and "Away" which were written and produced by Fernando Garibay.[27]

They performed their hit singles "Buttons" and "When I Grow Up" at the MTV Asia Awards 2008 in Genting Highlands, Malaysia and performed in Singapore for Singfest 2008, as part of a line-up of international music acts. They performed the singles "Buttons", "Don't Cha", and "When I Grow Up", including a special solo dance segment "Show Me What You Got".

The second single to be released from Doll Domination was I Hate This Part. The single was originally going to be Whatcha Think About That but was soon scrapped for a worldwide release due to "I Hate This Part" gaining more attention, instead "Whatcha Think About That" was only released on radio in the U.S but has since charted at number 70 on the Billboard Pop 100 and number 66 on the Canadian Hot 100. "I Hate This Part" was released in October and November. The song has yet to be released physically in most countries but has charted in the Top 40. The song first charted in Australia when it debuted at number 45 but has since peaked at number 10.[28] In the U.S. the song is still climbing the U.S. Billboard Pop 100 and is currently at number 67.[29] The song also debuted at number 96 on the European Hot 100 Singles Chart.[30]


The Pussycat Dolls are confirmed to appear as a guest act for the Royal Variety Performance 2008, which will be staged at the London Palladium on Thursday 11th December. The Royal Variety Performance is a gala event held annually at a major British theatre, to raise money for the Entertainment Artistes Benevolent Fund. The show is performed in the presence of senior members of the Royal family and it is considered a great honour to be invited to take part. [31]

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Click to enlarge

Discography

Solo careers

From 2005-2007, Scherzinger prepared her debut solo album Her Name Is Nicole, as of March 2008 there is no confirmed release date for the album. Between July and December 2007 she released four solo singles. Each of these failed to make any impact on the U.S. charts, but "Baby Love" charted well in Europe and Brazil. Scherzinger has also appeared as a guest vocalist on other artists' recordings (see Nicole Scherzinger discography).

In 2007, Melody Thornton appeared on rapper Jibbs third single "Go Too Far". While Thornton is continuing to perform the backgrounds of the Pussycat Dolls, she has revealed that she will be putting out another album called The Beginning.

Ashley Roberts had a supporting role in the dance drama film Make It Happen which was released in 2008.

Kimberly Wyatt appeared on the VH1 reality television show Celebracadabra.

Sutta has also appeared on tracks from Paul Van Dyk ("White Lies" 2007)The track has been a success on the American dance charts, peaking at #3 on Billboard's Hot Dance Airplay chart in August 2007, becoming Paul Van Dyk's highest charting single. and Dave Aude ("Make It Last" 2007).

On March 28, 2008, Carmit Bachar talked to E! about her solo album planned for release in 2009. Her new single called "Carmasutra" was released on her Myspace.

Touring

In 2006, the Pussycat Dolls performed live shows in North America supporting the Black Eyed Peas. As headliners they toured the UK, Europe, Philippines and Malaysia.

On the date August 8, 2006, after a Dolls concert in Kuala Lumpur, their concert promoter, Absolute Entertainment, was charged with flouting Malaysian decency laws. The Malay Mail quoted Culture Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Mohamad Arif Abdul Rahman as saying: "I believe the way the Pussycat Dolls behaved onstage amounted to gross indecency". The charge was settled by paying a fine of RM5000 (US$1358).[32]

From November 2006 to January 2007, the Pussycat Dolls embarked on their European Tour with Rihanna as the opening act.[33] On February 4 2007, the Pussycat Dolls performed at the Manchester Evening News Arena in a concert that was recorded and later streamed via MSN Music.

The Pussycat Dolls also toured North America as a support act for Christina Aguilera's Back to Basics Tour, along with Danity Kane and NLT.[34] They also performed at the Cokelive Festival, In Bucharest, Romania and at the UK leg of Live Earth in Wembley Stadium, London.[35]

The Pussycat Dolls announced that in January 2009 they will embark on a world tour in support of their album.[36][37] In an interview with Capital Radio,[38] Ne-Yo revealed he will be touring with the group. Lady GaGa will also be a support act. The tour will begin 18 January at Aberdeen Exhibition Centre in Scotland, UK. She also stated that the group were already in rehearsals for the tour.

The group will be the opening act for Britney Spears's tour The Circus Starring: Britney Spears.[39]

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Awards

Other endeavours

Television series

In April 2006, The New York Times reported that Interscope executives were working to produce their own reality TV series, overseen by the producers of America's Next Top Model and McG, the director of the Charlie's Angels films. The show, entitled Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll would search for a new member for the recording group.[40] The new member would sing on the next album and tour with the group. The show premiered on The CW, on March 6, 2007. It premiered in Australia and the UK on April 1. The season finale announced the winner of the show to be Asia Nitollano. It was announced in July that Asia Nitollano had "decided to pursue a solo career" instead. Antin and Ron Fair selected finalist Chelsea Korka to join a London-based spin-off group called the Paradiso Girls.

The second season of the show commenced broadcast on February 18, 2008, titled Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious. Unlike the previous series which tried to find a new member to join the Dolls, the second series auditioned women to become part of a new three member all-female group, Girlicious. However, on the show's finale, it was revealed that Girlicious would be a quartet.[41][42]

Members of the recording group appeared on both seasons of the Pussycat Dolls Present: in a video message shown to the contestants each week.

As of February 2008, as part of the promotion for the TV series, The CW have sponsored Stardoll.com, a virtual paperdoll website, to include images of the members of the PCD recording group for interactive "Dress-Up" in PCD logo clothes. This site is aimed at girls aged seven to seventeen.[43]

The CW confirmed that the series would not return for a third season and has been cancelled due to low ratings.

Computer games

The Pussycat Dolls had re-recorded "Don't Cha" in Simlish for inclusion in the computer game The Sims 2 Pets.[44] They also appeared in character form in the computer game Asphalt 2: Urban GT in November 2006.

IGN have reported rumours of a Pussycat Dolls video game for the computer, which involves the player taking control of their chosen Doll and guiding them through love, life and dating in an RPG reminiscent of the The Sims.

Merchandise

In 2006, Interscope engaged the California company BandMerch to distribute a range of merchandise, including clothing and other items, linked through the group's official website.

In a merchandising agreement with Interscope in 2006, toy manufacturer Hasbro had plans for a line of dolls modelled after the Pussycat Dolls, and reportedly aimed at six to nine-year-olds. The groups Dads and Daughters and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood successfully lobbied the company to scrap the plan because they felt that the Pussycat Dolls would have been inappropriate for children, due to the overtly sexual nature of the Pussycat Dolls' songs, videos and live shows.[45]

They also negotiated a deal with Estée Lauder for a Pussycat Dolls line of cosmetics under the Stila brand.[46]

In 2006 vanHaren shoes launched a "Pussycat Dolls Star Collection" in the Netherlands.[47]

In 2008 it was reported that Antin and the La Senza Corporation of Canada were producing a line of Burlesque/Pussycat Dolls-styled lingerie called "Shhh...by Robin Antin".[48][49]

Former members

Burlesque group

Recording group

  • Carmit Bachar (2003-2008) (also in Burlesque period)
  • Cyia Batten (2003-2005) (also in Burlesque period) (appears in "Sway" music video)
  • Kasey Campbell (2003-2005) (also in Burlesque period) (appears in "Sway" music video)
  • Kaya Jones[6] (2003-2004)(joined along with Nicole and Melody) (vocals in "We Went as Far as We Felt Like Going", "Sway", Don't Cha, & "Flirt" on PCD[50].) (appears in "Sway" music video as a main member and Don't Cha music video as a guest member)
  • Asia Nitollano (2007) (left before making any recordings)
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Source: Wikipedia

Automakers rush to finish plans for Congress

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U.S. automakers rushed to submit restructuring plans demanded by Congress before lawmakers reopen debate on a $25 billion bailout the industry says it needs to survive.

Under fire for fighting fuel standards for years, the Detroit-based automakers are expected to present plans that call for them to build more fuel-efficient cars, ax unpopular brands, cap executive compensation and restructure their agreements with the United Auto Workers union.

Critics have charged that many of the Big Three's financial problems are of their own doing due to their stubborn insistence on building gas-guzzling cars that Americans no longer want, and now can no longer afford.

The automakers' proposals come on the same day they are slated to release November sales results, which are expected to be little changed from a dismal October.

General Motors Corp's board began to review the top U.S. automaker's revamped business plan on Sunday and has been asked to endorse steps that include consideration of dropping or selling the Pontiac, Saab and Saturn brands.

Ford Motor Co, considered in a stronger position to survive on its own because of its cash position, said it would review its options for Volvo and could sell off the Swedish luxury brand.

Chrysler LLC, controlled by Cerberus Capital Management, said its board was meeting to review its plan. Chrysler needs to spell out a plan that would allow it to take a share of the federal funding even as it seeks a partnership with other automakers, analysts said.

"Just as General Motors is too big to fail, Chrysler is too small to survive on its own," said IHS Global Insight analyst Aaron Bragman.

For its part, the UAW is likely to be asked to give up job security guarantees for workers at U.S. plants that close and asked to renegotiate how automakers will pay into a trust fund set to take over retiree health care from 2010.

In addition, GM is almost certain to ask its bondholders to swap some portion of its existing $44 billion debt for a deeply discounted payout and some equity interest in the restructured company, analysts say.

GM, Ford and Chrysler have all declined to discuss their restructuring plans before submitting them.

Analysts say Detroit is gambling that plans that show labor, management, creditors and investors sharing in sacrifices at a time of crisis will win the political support that has so far eluded the companies.

"Going in it was pretty clear that the powers that be in Washington were interested in seeing the automakers come back with plans with more concessions," said Dennis Virag of the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Automotive Consulting Group. "I think they will get the funding."

But the complicated plans for the automakers hinge on major changes that could take months to complete.

Partly for that reason, the UAW said it supports a two-step process that would see Congress approve emergency funding for the industry this week with a follow-up review next year after President-elect Barack Obama takes office. Continued...


Source: Reuters

Harold Simmons

Harold Clark Simmons (born 1931, Golden, Wood County, Texas)[1] is an American businessman whose banking expertise helped him develop the acquisition concept known as the leveraged buyout (LBO) to acquire various corporations. He is the owner of Contran Corporation and of Valhi, Inc., (a NYSE traded company about 90% controlled by Contran).[2] As of 2006 he controlled 5 public companies traded on the New York Stock Exchange: NL Industries; Titanium Metals Corporation, the world's largest producer of titanium; Valhi, Inc., a multinational company with operations in the chemicals, component products, wastemanagement, and titanium metals industries; CompX International, manufacturer of ergonomic products, and Kronos Worldwide, leading producer and marketer of titanium dioxide.[3] As of 2007 he has an estimated net worth of around $7.4 billion dollars.[4]

Education and Early Life

Both of Simmons' parents, Leon and Fairess Simmons, were teachers who stressed the value of a good education. Simmons' father was a school superintendent, and his mother was an English teacher.[5] Simmons has BA (1951) and MA (1952) degrees in agricultural economics from the University of Texas at Austin.[6] Simmons hold a Phi Beta Kappa key.[7][8]

Career

  • After completing graduate school in 1952, Simmons worked for the U.S. government as a bank examiner, then for a Dallas-based bank, Republic National Bank.[9]
  • University Pharmacy and Jack Eckerd Corporation: In 1960, using $5,000 of his savings, and a $95,000 loan, he bought a small drugstore,University Pharmacy on Hillcrest Avenue, across from the campus of Southern Methodist University.[10] Before Simmons owned it, University Pharmacy was the site of a racially charged sit-in in January, 1961, when its owner C.K. Bright sprayed insecticide over and around 60 students, only 2 of whom were black seminary students.[11] Simmons purchased the store and parlayed it into a chain of 100 stores. which in 1973 he sold for more than $50 million, to Eckerd Corporation. This launched his career as an investor, when he used the proceeds of that sale to begin speculation in the financial services industry. By 1974, he had been indicted for and acquitted of wire and mail fraud, and involved in a pension-related lawsuit brought against him by the United Auto Workers.[12] [13]
  • Simmons developed his "all debt and no equity" philosophy of capital managment from having observed banks as a bank examiner, realizing that "Small banks in Texas were casual about getting the maximum use of their funds. . . banks were the most highly leveraged thing I saw. They borrowed most of their money and really didn't need much equity except for purposes of public confidence." Understanding that banks could be bought entirely with borrowed money, Simmons theorized that he should "buy a bunch, because one bank could be used dto finance another. All debt and no equity."[14]
  • Simmons conducted a widely publicized but ultimately unsuccessful takeover attempt on the Lockheed Corporation, after having gradully acquired almost 20 per cent of its stock. Lockheed was attractive to Simmons because one of its primary investors was the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), the pension fund of the state of California. At the time, the New York Times said, "Much of Mr. Simmons's interest in Lockheed is believed to stem from its pension plan, which is overfinanced by more than $1.4 billion. Analysts said he might want to liquidate the plan and pay out the excess funds to shareholders, including himself." Citing the "mismanagement" of its chairman, Daniel M. Tellep, Simmons stated a wish to replace its board with a slate of his own choosing, since he was the largest investor. His board nominations included former Texas Senator John Tower, the onetime chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Adm. Elmo Zumwalt Jr., a former chief of Naval Operations.[17] [18] When Simmons had first begun accumulating Lockheed stock in early 1989 when deep Pentagon cuts to the Defense budget had driven down prices of military contractor stocks, analysts had not believed he would attempt the takeover, since he was also at the time pursuing control of Georgia Gulf.[19]
  • In the 1987 stock market crash, Simmons made a significant portion of his fortune. In an interview ten years after that crash Simmons said," The day they had the big stock market crash, I came away with several hundred million dollars in stock. . . over the years, things have worked out so well that I probably made $5 billion out of the deal."[20] Simmons was referring to NL Industries, formerly known as National Lead Industries, which was a titanium company on the books as a worthless discontinued operation. Simmons didn't know he owned it for 2 or 3 years, but it eventually became worth about $6 billion.[21]
  • In 1997 Simmons made a $5 million investment in T. Boone Pickens, Jr.'s first fund BP Capital Energy Commodity Fund; by 2005 this had grown to $150 million.[22]

Capital Gains Tax Opposition & Activism

In 1964, Simmons set up a trust for his daughters, based on a single drugstore worth $33,000.[23] By the 1990s Simmons had placed the bulk of his fortune, including homes, vehicles, a Falcon jet, and controlling stakes in two companies into two trusts to benefit his daughters and their descendants, to shield his assets from creditors, tax collectors, and their mother, his ex-wife.[24] The trusts later were challenged by two of his daughters who brought suit against him in 1997 who accused him of using the trusts illegally for political purposes.[25]

In August 1997, President Bill Clinton used a line-item veto to draw attention to the type of "special benefits" that investors such as Simmons employ to avoid paying capital gains taxes since the early 1980s. Simmons had formed the "Snake River Sugar Cooperative" of 2,000 beet farmers and classified it as a joint-venture, shared ownership co-op, to purchase his Amalgamated Sugar Company, for $260 million. At the time, Charles Schumer, serving as a House Representative from New York, wrote a letter to Clinton stating that the measure before him for consideration would benefit Simmons with a $104 million tax deferral. Simmons stated at the time that his tax deferral was only $80 million.[26]

Political activism

1980s During the Ronald Reagan presidency, Simmons was a contributor to GOPAC, the political action committee originally founded by Newt Gingrich when he was Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Simmons also contributed to the defense funds of Oliver North and John Poindexter, Reagan aides implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal.

1990s In 1993, Simmons was fined $19,000 by the Federal Election Commission for exceeding the legal limit of campaign contributions in 1989 and 1990 elections.[27]

Between 1993 and 1997, Simmons and family members and Contran gave more than $315,000 to Republican candidates, according to FEC records.[28]

Family Trust battle: When the Internal Revenue Service judged in 1996 that one of Simmons' two family trusts was used as his own property and therefore subject to tax law,[29] two of Simmons' four daughters sued him, alleging that he had mismanaged the two trusts he had created for them, valued at that time at one billion dollars, that he had forced them to sign blank letters for political contribution purposes to use for whatever cause he saw fit, that he had contributed money in their names to causes and campaigns that they themselves opposed, and that he had pressured them into making "illegitimate" and "illegal" campaign contributions from the trusts he had established for them.[30] After a publicly acrimonious Dallas probate court battle that lasted eight weeks, Judge Nikki DeShazo declared a mistrial.[31] The suit was settled when Simmons agreed to give each of the two daughters $50 million, if they would reliquish all claim to his remaining wealth, which at that time was estimated to be at $1.2 billion. Simmons other two daughters remained the beneficiaries of his wealth. The FEC launched an investigation into the contributions to political campaigns that he had made in his daughters' names.[32]

2004 presidential election During the 2004 presidential campaign Simmons made a $4 million donation to the controversial and widely discredited group Swift Vets and POWs for Truth, along with Houston homebuilder Bob Perry and Dallas oilman T. Boone Pickens.[33] He also donated $100,000 to George W. Bush's January 2005 inaugural ball.[34]

2008 presidential election Simmons, a longtime Republican donor, gave the maximum $2,300 contributions to Senator John McCain last year, as well as to former Governor Mitt Romney and to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He's listed as a bundler for the McCain campaign on McCain's website, which says he's raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for the Republican candidate. He's also contributed to Rep. Chet Edwards, a Texas Democrat.[35] Simmons has given more than $500,000 to Texas governor Rick Perry, and more than $300,000 to Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Attorney General Greg Abbott.[36] donor to the American Issues Project, an independent political group with 501(c)4 tax status that created and bought airtime for ads accusing 2008 Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama of having ties to William Ayers, who had been a member of the Weather Underground.[37] Obama's political platform had proposed reductions in the capital gains tax codes that would affect investors such as Simmons. AIP's advertisements were so widely discredited that two television networks went so far as to refuse to run the ads on the grounds they implied a connection existed between William Ayers and Barack Obama as well as appearing to be in violation of campaign finance laws. The ads were aired for a short while in the battleground states of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia at a cost of $2.8 million.[38] A complaint against the American Issues Project was filed with the Federal Election Commission on October 10, 2008, by a campaign finance watchdog group, Democracy 21, which alleged that AIP conducted its operations illegally, since 501(c)4 groups must declare that their purpose is not to influence the outcome of elections while their ad was clearly intended to smear Presidential candidate Barack Obama.[39]

Environmental Management

  • NL Industries, originally named National Lead Industries, Inc. has been involved in numerous lawsuits brought by the U.S. Department of Justice to force the company to pay funds into the Superfund to clean up contaminated sites at various sites around the country such as Granite City, Illinois,[40] and Depew, New York.[41]
  • Simmons is also the proponent of a controversial plan to store nuclear waste in Andrews County, which is in far West Texas. which his radioactive waste management company, Waste Control Specialists, would administer.[42] Waste Control Management holds a license for permanenet disposal of uranium mining waste and for storage of low-level waste from medical radiology labs, nuclear power plants and other operations. In May 2008 The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality voted to grant the company a related license for permanenet disposal of radioactive byproduct material, much of it from uranium industry by-products, including a former federal nuclear weapons plant in Ohio. The Texas Sierra Club opposed the site and asked a state district judge to overturn the commission's position, citing the commission's own language in respect to groundwater contamination possible from the proposal. A 30-day period for public comment was then opened.[43]

Philanthropy

  • In 1973, Simmons was a significant contributor to the Dallas Civic Opera.[44]
  • The Harold Simmons Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Simmons financial empire. Two of Simmons' daughters, Serena Simmons Connolly and Lisa Simmons Epstein, are its administrators. The foundation supports the causes of immigration rights, campaign reform, prison reform, handgun control, and reproductive rights.[46] The contributions to the presidential bids of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama made by Serena Connolly were privately made, not funded by the foundation.[47]
  • Simmons donated money to help fund the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment at the University of Texas. He has previously given to UT athletic programs and the McCombs School of Business. By 2005, total donations from his family and foundation to the UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas exceeded $70 million.[13]
  • In 2006, Harold Simmons made a grant to the Young America's Foundation to establish the Harold Simmons Lecture Series, which enabled former U.S. Senator Zell Miller to tour college campuses during the 2006-2007 school year to promote "his message in defense of America from foreign and domestic threats to our freedom."[49]
  • In 2007, Harold and Annette Simmons announced a landmark $20 million gift to Southern Methodist University to provide an endowment for the university's School of Education and Human Development. The gift allocated $10 million for construction of a new facility, to be named the Annette Caldwell Simmons Building; $5 million for graduate student fellowships; and $5 million for faculty support and an endowed deanship.[51]
  • In 2008 the Harold Simmons Foundation made a donation of $5 million to the Dallas Zoo, the largest single private contribution in the zoo's 120 year history.[52]
  • Annette and Harold Simmons have been underwriters for 28 consecutive years to the Dallas Crystal Charity Ball Fashion Show and Luncheon.[53] [54] The Crystal Charity Ball has distributed more than $82 million to children's charities since 1953.
  • The Harold Simmons Foundation is a major donor of over $500,000. to the Dallas Women's Fundation which commissioned a study of women's economic security in the 12-county Dallas-Arlington-Fort Worth metropolitan area.[55]
  • The Harold Simmons Foundation issued a $50 million challenge grant to the Parkland Foundation, to aid in fundraising to build a new public hospital, one of the largest private gifts for a public hospital campaign in the nation.[56]

Awards

  • Charles Cameron Sprague Comunity Service Award
  • Annette G. Strauss Humanitarian Award
  • 2002 Angel of Freedom Award,(Harold Simmons Foundation) Human Rights Initiative


Personal life

  • On February 25, 1961, Harold Simmons married Sandra Katherleen Saliba in Fort Smith, Arkansas.[57] The marriage ended in divorce after he lost his first bank job, when "she was so distressed that he had thrown away a stable and lucrative future that she moved out of their home and left him with their two young daughters."[58]
  • A second wife also left Harold Simmons in the aftermath of 1970s indictment for mail and securities fraud, though he was acquitted.[59] Simmons had two additional daughters from this marriage.
  • Simmons married his third wife, Annette Caldwell, in 1980.[60] She and Simmons became friends of television host and entertainment mogul Oprah Winfrey when they purchased neighboring property in Montecito, California. In October 2004, Mrs. Simmons was featured on the Oprah! television show, giving a tour of Simmons' boyhood town, Golden, Texas, during its sweet potato festival.[61] In another episode, "Annette's Tea Party," Mrs. Simmons entertainment style was a feature.
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Source: Wikipedia