Thursday, January 29, 2009

Obama Signs First Piece of Legislation Into Law

Lilly Ledbetter Act Makes It Easier for Workers to Sue for Pay Discrimination

By Debbi Wilgoren, Rich Leiby and DeNeen L. Brown
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, January 29, 2009; 2:49 PM

President Obama this morning signed a law that expands the time frame in which workers can sue for discrimination they have experienced based on gender, race, national origin or religion.

The legislation -- the first Obama has signed since becoming president nine days ago -- makes clear that workers may bring a lawsuit for up to six months after they receive any paycheck that they allege is discriminatory. It is named for Lilly Ledbetter, who after years as a manager at Goodyear Tire & Rubber discovered she was being paid less than her male counterparts. She filed suit and won a jury verdict in 2003. But the lawsuit was deemed invalid because it wasn't filed within six months of when the discrimination -- unknown to Ledbetter at the time -- began.

Ledbetter, now 70, became an icon for Obama during his campaign for the White House and was escorted into the East Room by the president this morning for the signing ceremony. Obama led a prolonged round of applause for her as they stood together at the podium before a room full of legislators and fair-pay advocates.

"We are upholding one of this nation's first principles: that we are all created equal and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness," Obama said before signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which effectively nullifies the 2007 Supreme Court decision.

"While this bill bears her name, Lilly knows this story isn't just about her," Obama said. "It's the story of women across this country still earning just 78 cents for every dollar men earn -- women of color even less --which means that today, in the year 2009, countless women are still losing thousands of dollars in salary, income and retirement savings over the course of a lifetime."

The bill will not allow Ledbetter to claim lost wages or the $360,000 she was awarded by a U.S. District Court. But at a reception in the State Dining Room hosted by first lady Michelle Obama after the signing, Ledbetter said she was "honored and humbled" by her role in its creation and passage.

"Goodyear will never have to pay me what it cheated me out of. In fact, I will never see a cent from my case," she said. "But with the president's signature today, I have an even richer reward" -- that future generations of women will have a better chance at fair pay.

"That's what makes this fight worth fighting," said Ledbetter, of Jacksonville, Ala. "That's what made this fight one we had to win."

Michelle Obama, a Harvard-trained lawyer who has said she will focus on work-family balance as first lady, praised Ledbetter's courage in waging her 10-year legal battle. "She knew unfairness when she saw it, and was willing to do something about it because it was the right thing to do -- plain and simple," Obama said.

The law is an early emblem of the more liberal tilt the federal government is likely to take now that Democrats control both houses of Congress as well as the White House.

Among those enthusiastically looking on as the bill was signed were the first lady; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), whom Obama praised for leading passage of the bill in the House; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose historic bid to become the first U.S. female president ended when Obama secured the Democratic nomination; Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine); and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D).

Snowe, the lead Republican sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said in a statement its passage "recognized an issue that is fundamental to America -- to the way we see ourselves . . . to the standards by which our country abides: equality, fairness, and justice."

Ledbetter endorsed Obama's candidacy and spoke at the Democratic National Convention in August. She was one of 16 guests on the train that carried the president-elect from Philadelphia to Washington before his swearing-in. Hours after becoming president, Obama danced with her at the Neighborhood Ball.

Obama gave her one of the pens he used to sign the bill as a keepsake. "This one's for Lilly," he said.

Ledbetter worked for Goodyear Tire & Rubber in Gadsden, Ala., for 19 years. Several months before she retired in 1998 as an area manager, Ledbetter found an anonymous note in her mailbox at work, tipping her off that she was being paid less than the men who held the same job. That year, she filed an EEOC complaint and received a letter from the commission saying that she had grounds to sue.

She won a jury verdict in U.S. district court in 2003, but Goodyear appealed. Two years later, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in a ruling that departed from those of nine other federal appellate courts, sided with Goodyear, saying Ledbetter's lawsuit was filed years too late.

She took the case to the Supreme Court, which upheld the appellate court's view in a 5 to 4 opinion written by its newest member, Justice Samuel A. Alito, a Bush appointee. At the time, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was appointed by President Clinton, gave a rare oral dissent, saying she hoped Congress would reverse what the court had done.

The House passed a bill that year to do just that. But Senate Republicans blocked the legislation last spring on a close procedural vote.

Obama said he was signing the bill this morning not only in honor of Ledbetter, "but in honor of those who came before her. Women like my grandmother who worked in a bank all her life, and even after she hit that glass ceiling, kept getting up and giving her best every day. . . .

"And I sign this bill for my daughters, and all those who will come after us," Obama added, "because I want them to grow up in a nation that values their contributions, where there are no limits to their dreams and they have opportunities their mothers and grandmothers never could have imagined."

Staff writer Amy Goldstein contributed to this report.

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A Swiss Village Has Peace, Quiet and a Product Endorsed by Marilyn Manson

Kallnach Journal
Roland Schmid for The New York Times

Oliver Matter, a Swiss distiller in Kallnach who makes Mansinthe.

Published: January 28, 2009

KALLNACH, Switzerland — Few people in this quiet village of quaint chalets know the album “Eat Me, Drink Me,” by Marilyn Manson, the shock rocker. But almost everyone knows his taste for absinthe.

Roland Schmid for The New York Times

Mansinthe is an absinthe associated with Marilyn Manson.

The New York Times

Absinthe’s ingredients grow in abundance around Kallnach.

There could hardly be a greater contrast between Mr. Manson, the American bad boy who introduced the golden age of grotesque, and the 1,500 people who live quietly in the squat farmhouses strung out along Kallnach’s main street, their eaves reaching almost to the ground.

“They’re completely different,” said Beat Läderach, 47, who has been the town manager for 17 years. “We live off the land, a very sleepy existence. But it has its advantages: There is little unemployment, no vandalism; life is modest, comfortable, friendly.”

Yet Mr. Manson’s link to the town “is important for us,” Mr. Läderach said. The name Kallnach has become well known, he said, thanks to the success of a superpremium absinthe developed with Mr. Manson.

In a sense, the hills and valleys northwest of Kallnach, otherwise known for clocks, could be called the cradle of absinthe. Wormwood, absinthe’s defining ingredient, as well as the other herbs that go into it, grow in abundance here, deep in Switzerland’s Jura Mountains. In the late 19th century, absinthe was so popular that in Paris it rivaled wine as the drink of choice. French impressionists, like Edgar Degas and Édouard Manet, not only drank it, but featured it in their works.

But absinthe, a liqueur that can have an alcohol content as high as 75 percent, was also known as the Green Fairy, a malicious sprite that was said to twist men’s — and women’s — minds and cause delirium, hallucinations, vertigo and even madness.

By the early 20th century, governments around the world were banning it. Absinthe lovers denied its toxicity, and blamed the wine industry for seeking to sideline a competitor. (Modern analysis has shown that the absinthes produced today have none of these effects.)

So how did the link between the shock rock singer, actor and artist and this drowsy village come about? It began in 2005, after Switzerland, following the example of the United States and many countries in Europe, legalized the production of absinthe.

The man who revived absinthe in Kallnach is Oliver Matter, whose great-grandfather first distilled schnapps here in the 1920s and shipped products to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933 under the brand name Will Tell.

In 2004, just two months before absinthe was legalized by a Swiss national referendum, Mr. Matter turned his stills, big copper spheres in a shed just outside of town, to making the liqueur. “Actually I didn’t want to,” he said, leading a visitor through the still. “But I had a recipe. My great-grandfather was once owed money by a livestock trader who couldn’t pay him, so he gave him a recipe for absinthe instead. I had big mountains of my great-grandfather’s papers, and that’s where I found the recipe.”

After absinthe was banned by the Swiss in 1910, it went underground. “You could find it in every household,” said Mr. Matter, 40, a lanky man with a shaven head. “It was kept as medicine.”

By one guess, more than 20,000 gallons of this moonshine absinthe were produced annually, an estimate made possible because the orderly Swiss were meticulous about paying the alcohol tax.

Obviously, the world was ripe for the return of absinthe. Within days of beginning production, Mr. Matter was contacted by distributors seeking to sell his absinthe in big markets like England, France and the United States, where absinthe was rapidly becoming a craze.

One of the distributors who contacted Mr. Matter was Markus Lion, 41, a compact, lively businessman from southern Germany who was looking for quality absinthe for a particular customer, Marilyn Manson, whose manager was friendly with Mr. Lion. “Absinthe was becoming a topic,” Mr. Lion said. “And Manson was known as a connoisseur of absinthe.”

After a concert in Basel, a Swiss city northeast of here, Mr. Lion met Mr. Manson, a k a Brian Hugh Warner, and discovered they had friends and tastes in common, including absinthe. They agreed to produce a special absinthe, to be called Mansinthe, at Mr. Matter’s distillery.

After several trial distillations, Mansinthe was introduced in the summer of 2006, selling for about $65 for a 24-ounce bottle. Sales soared in the remaining months of 2006, to more than four times the total amount of absinthe Mr. Matter sold the year before. Now absinthe accounts for about half his annual sales of $1.3 million.

Soon the name Manson was on everyone’s tongue in Kallnach. Now Fritz Meyer, 68, stocks Mansinthe on the liquor shelves of his butcher and grocery store along Kallnach’s main road, next to bottles of Jack Daniel’s and Baileys Irish Cream. He sells pork sausages flavored with absinthe. “They’re very popular,” he said.

Mansinthe, Mr. Lion said, “gave a real push to the absinthe world.”

“We didn’t have to do much else,” he continued. “Manson was already a very controversial figure, just like the artists of the 19th century. So for me he was the ideal partner.”

Mr. Matter, who now has a T-shirt with the words “The Manson Gang” and “66.6 percent,” for the alcohol content of Mansinthe, said he was astounded by how well Mr. Manson was accepted locally, though he had never visited the village. “Curiously, no one ever came to us and said, ‘Why are you doing something like this?’ ”

Stefan Johner, 19, said he was not surprised. An apprentice mechanic who fixes tractors, he said he had never tried absinthe, preferring beer or wine, or whiskey or vodka if he wanted stronger drink. But he agreed that absinthe had a “certain tradition” locally.

Did Marilyn Manson fit in that tradition? “A little bit for sure,” he said. “He’s a little bit crazy,” he went on, his hands deep in the pockets of greasy blue overalls. “In Kallnach there are perfectly normal people, but also some who are a little bit crazy.”

A version of this article appeared in print on January 29, 2009, on page A13 of the New York edition.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

RE: No iPhone Nano, No Apple Netbook – Deal With it!

In regards to the PC World article "No iPhone Nano, No Apple Netbook – Deal With it!"

Daniel Ionescu, PC World
Jan 22, 2009 6:23 am
Take the case of the iPhone nano: the rumor started back in 2007 and continued throughout 2008 and still lightly hovers. Thankfully though, Tim Cook stressed yesterday that Apple won't produce low-end phones and that it doesn't want to be the market leader when it comes to the number of unit sold. Crystal clear for me, but let's see how analysts take it.

Apple fanboys (and why not, fangirls) have their own fault in propagating this rumor bonanza also. Their case is the Apple Netbook, which has been rumored all round 2008, and of course, never materialized. And it won't either, as Tim Cook said yesterday, yet again, Apple doesn't know how to build a sub-$500 computer that is not a piece of junk. Oh well, give it a month or two and surely some new mockups will make their way on the web. Can't wait for that!

         I just cringe at how God damn arrogant the higher ups are over at Apple!!! What the hell is their problem!? Have they never heard of the age old phrase "The customer is ALWAYS right"!? Regarding iPhone nanos; Why would Mr. Cook even think for a second that it had anything to even do with units sold!? You dumb shit, have you looked at the economy lately? Seriously? The people want something of reputable high quality at a REASONABLE price. What's wrong with that? Isn't supply and demand the basis of our capitalistic society?

         I believe that the people should have the OPTION to get a product of the same high quality they receive from Apple, BUT still be able to get it without all of the bells and whistles that make the price so high. It's really not asking much to listen to what the the customer would like to see and NOT just what Steve Jobs wants the world to have.

         As far as Netbooks go the statement Mr. Cook gave is pompous and inexcusable.
"...the Apple Netbook, which has been rumored all round 2008, and of course, never materialized. And it won't either, as Tim Cook said yesterday, yet again, Apple doesn't know how to build a sub-$500 computer that is not a piece of junk."

         I am no expert on the matter by any means, but Netbooks seem to be the new thing. People want a reasonably priced product that is very stripped down without all of the extra unnecessary knickknacks that are typically bundled and bog your system down. And I think that it is preposterous to think with all the incredible intelligence and technology that Apple has that they don't "...know how to build a sub-$500 computer that is not a piece of junk." Really sir? That's the best statement you could come up with defending Apple's reasoning NOT to develop an essential piece of technology for world in economic strife. Wow. Brilliant. I am NOT impressed.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bush's Legacy

"Bush's Legacy: Will they put his face on money or just unemployment checks?" - Stephen Colbert

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Porn kings Larry Flint and Joe Francis go begging for a bailout

Original Story

Wednesday, January 7th 2009, 11:51 AM

Is the porn industry up next for a bailout? If porn titans Joe Francis and Larry Flynt have anything to do with it, it will.

Yes, ladies and gentleman, the titans of pornography are begging for a bailout.

Joe Francis, creator of the "Girl's Gone Wild" video series, and Larry Flynt, founder of Hustler, will ask Congress for a $5 billion bailout, according to TMZ.

Why does the porn industry need a bailout? Because apparently even porn is getting smacked by the recession.

XXX DVD sales have taken a hit - about a 22% hit, according the TMZ.

"With all this economic misery and people losing all that money, sex is the farthest thing from their mind," Flynt is quoted as saying on TMZ. "It's time for Congress to rejuvenate the sexual appetite of America."

Francis thinks that the porn industry deserves a bailout just like the auto and financial industries got, and he said he'll go to DC to get it, according to TMZ.

"Congress seems willing to help shore up our nation's most important businesses; we feel we deserve the same consideration," Francis is quoted as saying on TMZ.

Is the porn industry really experiencing a severe downturn? It depends on who you ask.

Francis Koenig's fund AdultVest, which invests in porn-related assets, was up 50% in 2008, according to Tom Johansmeyer's article in next month's Atlantic (as reported by The Huffington Post). But video sales are down.

"The industry's not going anywhere," Koenig says. "You've got 6 billion people on the planet," he laughs, "and they're all horny."

The porn industry generated about $12 billion in 2007, according to the Atlantic article.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Driver warned of jail's sexual gorillas

Tue Jan 6, 2009 11:37am EST
By Michael Perry

SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian court has issued a blunt warning about the sexual predators a young driver faces in jail if he does not stop speeding, as authorities struggle to stop teenagers street racing.

"You'll find big, ugly, hairy strong men (in jail) who've got faces only a mother could love that will pay a lot of attention to you -- and your anatomy," said Magistrate Brian Maloney.

The 19-year-old male appeared in Sydney's Downing Center Court on Monday charged with driving without a license, failing to stop at a police alcohol check point and driving dangerously.

It was his third time before the courts for driving offences, prompting the magistrate's warning he would be jailed next time.

Maloney barred the teenager from driving until 2013, placed him on a 12-month good behavior bond and ordered him to do 150 hours of community work.

Breaching any of these conditions would see the teenager jailed where he would "shower with the gorillas in the mist down at Long Bay jail," said Maloney, his comments confirmed by the court on Tuesday.

"Out of control" was the frontpage headline in Sydney's The Daily Telegraph newspaper on Tuesday for a story on four teenagers either booked for street racing, speeding, driving without a license or crashing their car and killing a passenger.

The newspaper's editorial backed the magistrate's warning of life behind bars, saying his comments were "a vision in clarity" and gave the teenager "a reality check of his future."

"We can only hope this strategy helps. Hope it ends the slaughter of young innocents on the roads through stupidity...," said the Telegraph. "Road safety has become a war zone and any tactics are permissible..."

Police in the southern state of Victoria impounded 42 cars in the past six days after drivers were caught speeding.

One driver, aged 78, was clocked in Melbourne on New Year's Day at 170 kph (105 mph) -- 70 kph (44 mph) over the limit.

The 78-year-old was the "oldest hoon" in Victoria to have his car confiscated for speeding, local media said on Tuesday.

"It is disappointing to see a senior member of our community being so irresponsible," Acting Police Sergeant Carlo Visser told Melbourne's Herald-Sun newspaper.

"What example does this set for younger drivers?" said Visser.

(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

"What are you doing here?": man asks wife at brothel

Wed Jan 9, 2008 10:23am EST

WARSAW (Reuters) - A Polish man got the shock of his life when he visited a brothel and spotted his wife among the establishment's employees.

Polish tabloid Super Express said the woman had been making some extra money on the side while telling her husband she worked at a store in a nearby town.

"I was dumbfounded. I thought I was dreaming," the husband told the newspaper on Wednesday.

The couple, married for 14 years, are now divorcing, the newspaper reported.

(Writing by Chris Borowski, Editing by Matthew Jones)

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