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KN4M 09-23-08

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  • Robert Sterling
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com Coming 2009: Blood Bowl For fans of the
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 23, 2008
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      Please send as far and wide as possible.

      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist

      Coming 2009: Blood Bowl

      For fans of the tabletop fantasy football game Blood Bowl (which
      combined football in a D&D setting with ultraviolence) will be happy
      to know a Xbox 360 version will be released next year. To wet your
      appetite, we include the following movie preview:


      For more on the game:




      Meltzer Calls Paulson Plan `Social Democracy at Its Worst'
      By Bob Willis

      Sept. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Federal Reserve historian Allan Meltzer said
      U.S. government efforts to cleanse financial institutions of
      troubled loans shouldn't be financed by taxpayers.

      ``I certainly don't think this is the taxpayers' problem,'' said
      Meltzer, a professor of political economy at Carnegie Mellon
      University in Pittsburgh. ``This is not a place exactly with a great
      big surplus that can afford to do these things. This is social
      democracy at its worst.''

      The 80-year-old economist spoke in an interview after Treasury
      Secretary Henry Paulson said in Washington that proposed measures to
      rid banks of troubled assets and shore up financial institutions
      would cost ``hundreds of billions.''

      ``If they remove financial losses from the financial institution,''
      the government should ensure that ``the financial company will still
      owe the money,'' he said. ``Civilized countries like Chile do

      Paulson told a press conference that economic policy makers would
      meet with congressional leaders over the weekend to prepare a
      program to remove ``illiquid assets'' from banks' books, while
      ``including features that protect the taxpayer to the maximum extent

      The proposal is a recognition that earlier efforts failed to revive
      financial and housing markets. The government took over American
      International Group Inc., Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the past 12
      days, a period when Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed for
      bankruptcy and Americans pulled a record $89 billion from money-
      market funds.

      To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Willis in Washington at



      September 16, 2008
      Is Washington Mutual the Next to Fall?
      The Seattle-based S&L, much exposed by the housing bust, has seen
      its stock plummet. But a new CEO is working to shore up confidence
      by Christopher Palmeri

      Washington Mutual (WM), a company that once considered itself the
      Starbucks (SBUX) of banking, now has a stock price lower than that
      of a latte.

      Shares of the Seattle company, the nation's largest savings and
      loan, fell 27% on Sept. 15, to $2 a share, following news that other
      struggling financial-services giants Lehman Brothers (LEH) and
      Merrill Lynch (MER) had succumbed to the mortgage meltdown. WaMu
      shares rose 16% on Sept. 16 to close at 2.32 as investors responded
      to rumors that banking giant JPMorgan Chase (JPM) may make an offer
      for the company.

      The question on many investors' minds is whether WaMu is more like
      IndyMac, the big bank taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance
      Corp. in July, or Wachovia (WB), a troubled institution that under
      new CEO Robert Steel appears to have won back some investor

      The man in the spotlight at WaMu is Alan Fishman, a banking industry
      veteran who took the job as chief executive on Sept. 8. Fishman
      replaced Kerry Killinger, a 25-year veteran of the bank, who built
      WaMu from a small thrift to a national player in mortgages, only to
      see that business collapse with the housing bust. A WaMu failure
      could cost taxpayers some $24 billion, figures Richard Bove, an
      analyst with the brokerage firm Ladenburg Thalmann (LTS).

      Pep Talk

      In a 12-minute conference call with investors on Sept. 8, Fishman
      offered little in the way of new strategy, opting instead for just
      some words of inspiration for the troops. "I know I need to hit the
      ground running, and I'm prepared to do that," he said.

      Run he did. In Fishman's first week on the job, WaMu announced it
      was cooperating with the federal Office of Thrift Supervision to
      provide more information about its operations and business plans.
      When credit rating agency Moody's (MCO) downgraded the bank to junk-
      bond status citing its limited financial flexibility, WaMu pre-
      announced its earnings for the third quarter in an effort to soothe
      investors. The bank noted that it had $50 billion in "liquidity"
      available and capital ratios "significantly above the levels of well-
      capitalized institutions."

      Even so, Fishman has a tough road ahead. WaMu has $239 billion in
      real estate loans, according to analyst Bove. Some $53 billion of
      those are the dreaded adjustable-rate loans in which the payments
      are optional and losses are as high as 35%. In July, Bove put WaMu
      on a list of several dozen shaky institutions. He figured any bank
      with nonperforming loans greater than 40% of its reserves and equity
      was in trouble. WaMu's was right at that 40% threshold.

      Bove's loss estimates are close to that of other analysts. Fred
      Cannon, a bank analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, put out a
      research note on Sept. 15 that estimated WaMu losses could hit $28
      billion this year and next. If that were the case, the bank would
      need to raise a further $5 billion in capital, Cannon said.

      Where that money would come from is uncertain. The bank has already
      raised some $10 billion in the past year, including $7.2 billion in
      April from a group of private equity investors led by TPG.

      White Knight?

      Many analysts feel Fishman's best bet is to find a merger partner,
      but there are fewer of those around these days. Bank of America's
      (BAC) acquisitive Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis said on Sept. 15
      that he had no interest in WaMu. The most likely candidate remains
      JPMorgan Chase, which allegedly made a $8-per-share offer earlier
      this year. Says Nancy Bush, a banking industry analyst with her own
      firm, NAB Research: "They better hope somebody buys them fast."

      Words of support came oddly enough from Moody's analysts after
      announcing their downgrade last week. David Fanger, a senior vice-
      president at the firm, said that WaMu, by its nature as a federally
      insured institution, had some capital-raising advantages over
      investment banks. Its two main sources of funding are consumer
      deposits, which are largely stable even in tough times, and loans
      from the Federal Home Loan Banks system. In the S&L crisis of the
      late 1980s and early '90s, financial institutions received similarly
      poor credit ratings and were able to survive. Some were later
      acquired by WaMu during its aggressive expansion over the past two

      WaMu has lately been luring retail depositors with interest rates on
      13-month certificates of deposits offering 4.5%, at the very high
      end of the industry. The firm has some strong retail banking
      positions, including top market-share positions in Southern
      California, Miami, and Seattle. In his conference call on Sept. 8,
      Fishman dismissed a question about selling bank branches to raise
      money as "way early." He also said he didn't immediately foresee a
      need for the bank to raise additional capital. Said Fishman: "The
      opportunity to create a great national retail franchise has never
      been better."

      Palmeri is a senior correspondent in BusinessWeek's Los Angeles



      Eoin Colfer to write sixth Hitchhiker's Guide book
      Comic fantasy children's author describes being given the
      opportunity to continue Douglas Adams's legendary series as 'like
      suddenly being offered the superpower of your choice'
      Alison Flood
      Wednesday September 17 2008

      Eoin Colfer: "It is a gift from the gods".

      Douglas Adams's increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker's Guide
      to the Galaxy trilogy is to be extended to six titles, after Adams's
      widow Jane Belson sanctioned a project which will see children's
      author Eoin Colfer taking up the story.

      And Another Thing… by Colfer, whose involvement with the project was
      personally requested by Belson, will be published next October by
      Penguin. No information has yet emerged about the plot of the novel
      but Hitchhiker fans will be hoping for a resurrection of much-loved
      characters Arthur Dent, Trillian and Ford Prefect, who were all
      apparently blown to smithereens at the end of the fifth novel,
      Mostly Harmless.

      Adams himself had plans for a sixth Hitchhiker book, saying in an
      interview: "People have said, quite rightly, that Mostly Harmless is
      a very bleak book. And it was a bleak book. I would love to finish
      Hitchhiker on a slightly more upbeat note, so five seems to be a
      wrong kind of number, six is a better kind of number."

      But his death in 2001, aged 49, meant the book was never written,
      and "legions of Hitchhiker fans were left with their hearts beating
      a little too quickly for all eternity," said Colfer, author of the
      bestselling Artemis Fowl series for children.

      The proposal from the literary agency which manages Adams's estate
      was "quite out of the blue", said Penguin marketing and publicity
      director Joanna Prior. "It was something I guess [Jane Belson] had
      been mulling over for some time, and we jumped the minute we got the
      call – we could immediately see what a fantastic project this would

      Colfer, who has been a fan of Hitchhiker since his schooldays, said
      being given the opportunity to continue the series was "like
      suddenly being offered the superpower of your choice". "For years I
      have been finishing this incredible story in my head and now I have
      the opportunity to do it in the real world," he added. "It is a gift
      from the gods. So, thank you Thor and Odin."

      The book will "make no claims for Eoin being Douglas", according to
      Prior. "It's not Eoin Colfer writing as Douglas Adams, as was the
      case with Sebastian Faulks," she said, pointing to Penguin's
      successful publication of Faulks's new James Bond novel Devil May
      Care earlier this year. "It's absolutely about him being himself –
      Eoin the author, but with the cast of Hitchhiker."

      Colfer himself is currently grappling with nerves over the quality
      of his addition to Adams' oeuvre. "I feel more pressure to perform
      now than I ever have with my own books, and that is why I am bloody
      determined that this will be the best thing I have ever written," he
      said. "For the first time in decades I feel the uncertainty that I
      last felt in my teenage years. There are people out there that
      really want to like this book."

      Penguin hopes that Belson's choice of Colfer will bring a new
      generation of readers to Adams's work. "It's always a challenge when
      we haven't got Douglas any more – how can we introduce his writing
      to the next generation?" asked Prior. "There's a huge fan base out
      there, but this is a really exciting way of creating a new legacy."

      Belson said the project had her full support. "I am delighted that
      Eoin Colfer has agreed to continue the Hitchhiker series. I love his
      books and could not think of a better person to transport Arthur,
      Zaphod and Marvin to pastures new," she added.

      Approximately 16m copies of Hitchhiker books have been sold
      worldwide, according to Penguin. The "trilogy in five parts", which
      started with radio series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in
      1978 and was completed with The Restaurant at the End of the
      Universe; Life, The Universe and Everything; So Long, and Thanks for
      all the Fish; and Mostly Harmless, has been translated into 35


      Ode to the Brown Derby Restaurants

      It's hard to believe that no Brown Derby has been open for over 20
      years in Los Angeles, even though it is still more closely tied to
      Hollywood than any other restaurant. It was a landmark restaurant
      in Los Angeles frequented by celebrities during the Golden Age of
      Hollywood. It was an example of novelty architecture, known for
      being physically shaped like a brown derby hat.

      The first Brown Derby Restaurant (the only one resembling a hat -
      generally referred to as the "Wilshire Brown Derby") was first
      located at 3427 Wilshire Blvd. It opened in February 1926 across
      the street from the Ambassador Hotel. It was inspired by the shape
      of the hat worn by visiting New York governor and presidential
      candidate Al Smith, and it was the only Derby that was actually
      built in the shape of a hat. The Derby was often the site of
      afterparties following bashes at the Ambassador Hotel's Cocoanut
      Grove nightclub. In 1937, it moved one block up the street to 3347
      Wilshire, next to the Gaylord Apartments. (Note: the Gaylord
      Apartments was the final L.A. headquarters for The Konformist.)

      A second Brown Derby opened at 1628 Vine Street, near Hollywood and
      Vine on Valentine's Day, 1929. Other Derbies were later built in
      Beverly Hills (at 9537 Wilshire, across from the Beverly-Wilshire
      Hotel on Wilshire and Rodeo) and in Los Feliz at 4500 Los Feliz
      Boulevard. The Los Feliz Derby had a "car café" which emulated the
      then-new "drive-in" trend.

      Here is a 1970 photo of the Derby:


      (Note the building to its right is the Gaylord.)

      The Wilshire Brown Derby closed in September of 1980 and the
      Hollywood Derby, the last of the restaurants in 1985. The Wilshire
      Brown Derby is now home to the Brown Derby Plaza minimall:


      The most famous recipe of the Brown Derby is the Cobb Salad. In
      1937, Brown Derby owner Robert H. Cobb went into the restaurant's
      kitchen to fix a late-night snack for Sid Grauman, operator of
      Grauman's Chinese Theater. He browsed the refrigerator for
      ingredients, and chopped them up. From then on, Grauman often
      requested that a Cobb salad be prepared for him, word spread about
      this creation throughout Hollywood, and it was eventually added to
      the menu. Here's the original recipe:


      Besides the minimall, the only remnant of the Derbys still remaining
      is The Derby, a nightclub with swing dance (featured in the movie
      Swingers.) It opened in 1992 and is located at the Los Feliz site
      that closed in 1960. Aside from special theme restaurant at
      Orlando's Disney World, though, no Derby's currently exist. (Though
      there are good eatings at the HMS Bounty bar & grill in the Gaylord:


      Which is a shame, for as LATimeMachines.com put it:

      "Isn't it crazy the Hollywood doesn't have a Brown Derby
      recreation? And I'm not talking about the half-way recreations that
      have been attempted (including in Florida of all places.) How hard
      would it be to recreate the Wilshire Brown Derby Hat with its very
      austere interior? Please, if there is an insane Billionaire out
      there, let's make a new one and hire me to make sure it's done
      right! We need a Brown Derby Restaurant in Los Angeles!"






      Meth Epidemic: The New Moonshine

      The period of alcohol prohibition in the 1920's saw the rise of
      Moonshine, a homemade brew that, while very dangerous, would give
      drinkers the buzz they were looking for. Nearly a century later, we
      in America are facing a national epidemic of methamphetamine use.
      Better known as crystal meth, speed, or tweek; it is a synthetic
      drugs that can be cooked up anywhere with items purchased at a
      grocery store. Has drug prohibition created a black market for
      cheaper, more dangerous, and easier to acquire substances?

      Showtime Trailer for American Drug War


      Next showing tonight at 7pm.




      FDA proposes approval process for genetically engineered animals
      The regulations would treat the creatures like drugs. Critics fear
      that environmental concerns aren't being given proper weight.
      By Karen Kaplan and Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times Staff
      September 18, 2008

      The Food and Drug Administration today opened the way for a bevy of
      genetically engineered salmon, cows and other animals to leap from
      the laboratory to the marketplace, unveiling an approval process
      that would treat the modified creatures like drugs.

      The guidelines for the first time make explicit the regulatory hoops
      companies would have to jump through to sell salmon that grow twice
      as fast as wild fish, pigs with high levels of healthy omega-3 fatty
      acids in their meat or goats that produce beneficial proteins in
      their milk.

      "It's about time the federal government has acknowledged that these
      animals are on [the] doorstep and need to be regulated to ensure
      their safety," said Greg Jaffe, director of the project on
      biotechnology at the Center for Science in the Public Interest in

      Many experts, however, fear that the proposed regulations do not go
      far enough to protect and reassure the public. In particular, they
      argue that the approval process would be highly secretive to protect
      the commercial interests of the companies involved and that the new
      rules do not place sufficient weight on the environmental impact of
      what many consider to be Frankenstein animals.

      Animals can't be treated exactly like drugs, said Jaydee Hanson, a
      policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety in Washington. "Drugs
      don't go out and breed with each other. When a drug gets loose, you
      figure you can control it. When a bull gets loose, it would be
      harder to corral."

      The draft guidelines represent an effort to formalize procedures
      that the agency is already following, said Randall Lutter, a deputy
      commissioner for policy at the FDA. They show "how we have been and
      how we will continue to regulate genetically engineered animals," he

      The genetically modified animals have a variety of potential uses.
      Some, like many agricultural crops now in use, are more disease
      resistant. One company, for example, has produced a cow that is not
      susceptible to mad cow disease.

      Others are more nutritious or grow faster, improving the diet and
      enhancing farmers' profits. Some would serve as sources for organs
      for human transplants, expanding the small pool of donor organs now
      available. Others, called biopharm animals, would be used to produce
      drugs such as insulin, which are now manufactured in yeast or

      "There are very compelling and real benefits for humans and animals"
      from genetic engineering, said William Flynn of FDA's Center for
      Veterinary Medicine. "But we must show that they are safe before
      they enter the marketplace."

      The new regulations do not cover cloned animals, most pets and
      research animals. Clones are genetic replicas of existing animals,
      and the FDA has already determined that they are safe. Pets and
      research animals are unlikely to enter the food chain.

      Only one genetically engineered animal is now being sold in the
      United States, a glow-in-the dark aquarium fish called a zebra. The
      FDA approved it because it is not eaten and its need for warm water
      effectively precludes it from escaping confinement.

      Technically, the modified animals are not considered drugs. Instead,
      the segment of DNA that is added to them to change their properties
      is the drug. Realistically, however, the only way to regulate the
      DNA is to regulate the animal, said Eric Flamm, a policy advisor at
      the agency.

      That regulation will entail a series of procedures that demonstrate
      that the modified animal itself is healthy and then that a food or
      drug produced from it is safe for human use. The new rules do not,
      however, envision feeding the products to humans in the equivalent
      of clinical trials for drugs.

      "It's a complex and detailed process" that has been proved for a
      variety of other products, said Larisa Rudenko, a senior advisor for
      biotechnology at the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine.

      Once an animal product has been approved, its labeling may or may
      not reflect its origin, Lutter said. If the composition of meat or
      other food has been changed, such as by increasing its content of
      omega-3 fats, that will be reflected in its labeling. But if the
      animal simply grows faster or is more environmentally friendly
      without changes in composition, that will not.





      Cowboys Lead as NFL Team Values Average $1 Billion, Forbes Says
      By Mason Levinson

      Sept. 10 (Bloomberg) -- The National Football League is the first
      professional sports league to have its franchises average over $1
      billion in value, with the Dallas Cowboys remaining atop Forbes
      magazine's annual rankings.

      The average value for an NFL team this year is $1.04 billion, mostly
      because of revenue from seating and sponsorships at new stadiums,
      Forbes reported in its ranking of the 32 teams. The Cowboys, owned
      by Jerry Jones, are worth $1.61 billion, a 7 percent increase over

      Values have more than tripled from $288 million since Forbes first
      began the ranking 10 years ago.

      Daniel Snyder's Washington Redskins ($1.54 billion) remained second
      after leading the rankings for seven years before being supplanted
      by the Cowboys in 2007.

      With a new shared stadium scheduled to open in 2010, New York's
      Giants and Jets each saw a 21 percent increase in franchise value.

      The Giants ($1.18 billion) are fourth, trailing the New England
      Patriots ($1.32 billion), whose operating income of $58.1 million is
      highest among the top 10 teams. The Jets are fifth, with a value of
      $1.17 billion.

      The Cowboys' value rose 28 percent in 2007, adding about $350
      million, because the team is building a $1 billion stadium in
      Arlington. Scheduled to open in 2009, the arena will seat 80,000
      people, can be expanded to hold 100,000, and will host the 2011
      Super Bowl, the first to be held in the Dallas area.

      The Houston Texans ($1.13 billion), with an operating income of
      $43.9 million, rank sixth, followed by the Eagles ($1.12 billion),
      Colts ($1.08 billion), Bears ($1.06 billion) and Ravens ($1.06

      To contact the reporter on this story: Mason Levinson in New York at



      Sept. 19, 1982: Can't You Take a Joke? :-)
      By Tony Long 09.19.08

      1982: At precisely 11:44 a.m., Scott Fahlman posts the following
      electronic message to a computer-science department bulletin board
      at Carnegie Mellon University:

      19-Sep-82 11:44 Scott E Fahlman :-)
      From: Scott E Fahlman

      I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers:


      Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark
      things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use:


      With that post, Fahlman became the acknowledged originator of the
      ASCII-based emoticon. From those two simple emoticons (a portmanteau
      combining the words emotion and icon) have sprung dozens of others
      that are the joy, or bane, of e-mail, text-message and instant-
      message correspondence the world over.

      Fahlman was not, however, the first person to use typographical
      symbols to convey emotions. The practice goes back at least to the
      mid-19th century, when Morse code symbols were occasionally used for
      the same purpose. Other examples exist as well.

      In 1881, the American satirical magazine Puck published what we
      would now call emoticons, using hand-set type. No less a wordsmith
      than Ambrose Bierce suggested using what he called a "snigger
      point" -- \__/ -- to convey jocularity or irony.

      But the modern emoticon does trace its lineage directly to Fahlman,
      who says he came up with the idea after reading "lengthy diatribes"
      from people on the message board who failed to get the joke or the
      sarcasm in a particular post -- which is probably what "given
      current trends" refers to in his own, now-famous missive.

      To remedy this, Fahlman suggested using :-) and :-( to
      distinguish between posts that should be taken humorously and those
      of a more serious nature.

      Fahlman's original post was lost for a couple of decades and
      believed gone for good, until it was retrieved from an old backup
      tape, thus cementing his claim of priority.
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