Tag Archives: awesome


Count Down Who Will Be Soshitech’s Three Millionth Visitor and What Will They Win?

We are about to hit a milestone here at Soshitech with our three millionth website visitor for the year 2013. In the new year of 2014 we would like to see this number more than double (Ten Million + visitors) with YOUR help of course.

If you are one of the three million + people who currently visits Soshitech on a regular basis and are reading this right now our team would like to personally say THANK YOU for all of your support. You are AWESOME!

We get a ton of emails through our contact form on our homepage each week from freelance journalists asking if we will publish their work as well as advertising agencies interested in purchasing ad space for their clients. What we do not get enough of is FEEDBACK.

So why not tell us. What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong? What would you like to see more of? What would you like to see less of? And so on and so forth.

“Good things happen when people communicate” – Wells Fargo Billboard In Los Angeles, California.

By the way, our 3,000,000 visitor does not actually win anything. The title was meant to grab our readers attention.

Thanks. :)


North Korea's Only Registered Agent In The US Has Ties To South Korean Spies And Has Repeatedly Lied To The FBI   Read more- http-::tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com:2013:04:north-korean-agent-in-manhattan.php#ixzz2QZ51gab7

North Korea’s Only Registered Agent In The US Has Ties To South Korean Spies And Has Repeatedly Lied To The FBI

Tensions between the United States and the North Korean regime have been approaching dangerous new heights of late, but Kim Jong Un’s government still has a small, official presence in America.

North Korea's Only Registered Agent In The US Has Ties To South Korean Spies And Has Repeatedly Lied To The FBI   Read more- http-::tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com:2013:04:north-korean-agent-in-manhattan.php#ixzz2QZ51gab7

In addition to North Korea’s Mission to the United Nations, the country has one registered agent in the United States, a businessman who lives in Upper Manhattan who has made casino and liquor deals with Pyongyang and was once convicted of lying to FBI agents in a mysterious case that involved spies and officials on both sides of the Korean Peninsula.

Il Woo Park is a 64-year-old South Korean national with legal permanent resident status in the United States. According to court documents, news reports, and filings with the government, Park has had extensive dealings with North Korea, South Korea — and the FBI. His unique relationships with the United States and the two Koreas remain murky and perhaps unprecedented.

Park ran a company called Korea Pyongyang Trading U.S.A., Inc., out of his small apartment in the neighborhood of Inwood, according to court documents. Park’s business was based on what he regularly described as extensive connections to the North Korean government. However, as Park was making deals to bypass strict economic sanctions and import North Korean booze into the United States he was also apparently working with a network of spies from North Korea’s sworn enemy, South Korea.

In 2007, Park ended up in federal court charged with multiple counts of lying to FBI agents who were investigating South Korean spies living covertly in the United States. His case involved secret phone lines that even the FBI was unable to identify, a meeting at Grant’s Tomb in Manhattan — and envelopes of cash. Park eventually pleaded guilty to all of the charges but was sentenced only to probation. The plea agreement remains sealed. After his conviction Park was still allowed to travel back and forth between New York and Pyongyang even while on probation.

North Korea’s response to Park’s alleged work with South Korean spies was perhaps even more unusual than the gentle handling he received from the United States. At his trial, Park admitted to using his business trips to North Korea to obtain information for South Korean intelligence agencies. In spite of this, the reclusive North Korean government continued to allow him into the country and even deepened their relationships with his business. In 2011, North Korea signed an agreement to have Park’s company develop a troubled mountain resort about 40 miles away from Pyongyang and promote it as a tourist destination.

James Person is a historian at the Wilson Center in Washington who runs the think tank’s North Korea International Documentation Project, an archive of official documents detailing the country’s diplomatic and military history. After hearing Park’s story, Person described as unprecedented Park’s apparent ability to maintain relationships with officials in North Korea after his ties to South Korean intelligence were exposed.

“I’ve seen some interesting things in the diplomatic record, especially of North Korea’s former communist allies, but nothing like that before,” said Person.

Park’s company, Korea Pyongyang Trading U.S.A., Inc., was founded in 2004 in Manhattan. That year, Park gave an interview to North Korea’s state-run news agency, KCNA, in which he announced his plans to sell North Korean made soju, a traditional liquor, in the United States.

Park’s “Pyongyang soju” hit American store shelves in mid-2007. Under the U.S. economic sanctions on North Korea, it is prohibited for “goods, services, and technology from North Korea” to “be imported into the United States, directly or indirectly” without a license from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. The Treasury Department would not confirm whether Park received permission to import his North Korean soju, citing a policy of not commenting on “specific license approvals or denials for privacy and trade secret reasons.” However, when he started his soju business Park told media outlets in China and North Korea he had a license to sell his liquor.

A few months after he began selling his soju, on July 18, 2007, Park was arrested by FBI agents. In a criminal complaint and supporting affidavit, FBI Special Agent William Smith described how Park had extensive relationships with suspected South Korean agents and lied to the FBI about these connections on three separate occasions in 2005 and 2007. Smith described one episode in March 2007 when Park was interviewed by FBI agents and shown photographs of four South Koreans whom he denied knowing. Immediately afterwards, Smith said, “Park drove directly from his meeting with me and other FBI personnel in Manhattan to a restaurant in New Jersey” where he met with one of the South Koreans he had just denied knowing. Court documents did not name the South Koreans tied to Park, but identified them as “intelligence officers of the South Korean government.”

Though he wasn’t forthcoming about his ties to South Korea, Smith said Park touted his relationships with North Korean officials when he spoke to the FBI. According to Smith, Park’s first meeting with the FBI occurred on August 22, 2005. Smith said Park chose to meet outside of Grant’s Tomb and brought up his connections to North Korea when asked about his relationships with the South Korean spies.

“Park stated that he did not understand why he was being asked questions about South Korean officials and not about North Korean officials,” said Smith. “Park further stated that a meeting between him and the United States was long overdue, because he could act as a ‘go-between’ between the U.S. and North Korea, that he frequently traveled to North Korea, including to places that no foreign visitors were allowed, and that he had access to high-ranking officials in North Korea.”

In another meeting on January 15, 2007, Smith described Park boasting to FBI agents that he was “important to the North Korean government.”

Park also discussed his North Korean connections in recorded conversations with the South Koreans. In 2005, Smith said Park told one of the South Korean intelligence officers that “North Korean officials” had asked him to “bring to them certain items, including insecticides, anesthetics, and veterinary products on an upcoming trip to North Korea.” On February 12, 2007, Smith said the FBI heard a conversation between Park and an unspecified “individual” and “was asked whether it was a good idea for certain North Korean officials to attend a certain church.”

“Park stated that he did not think it was a good idea, since Park knew that many South Korean consulate personnel and intelligence officers attended that church,” Smith said.

During a bail hearing on July 19, 2007, the day after Park’s arrest, federal prosecutor Edward O’Callaghan described statements he said Park made after being arrested in which he, essentially, confessed to working with South Korean intelligence officers.

“The defendant admitted to meeting with South Korean officials over the course of the last several years, and those officials are known to the FBI to be intelligence officers of the South Korean government,” O’Callaghan said of Park. “The defendant admitted to accepting from those officials taskings to obtain information from North Korean officials, and to deliver that information to the South Korean officials with whom the defendant dealt. This defendant admitted to traveling to North Korea at the behest of South Korean officials to, again, obtain additional information, and to provide that information to South Korean officials.”

O’Callaghan went on to say Park admitted to being paid by South Korean officials for this work and that it represented “almost the totality of his income.” Court documents also described envelopes containing thousands of dollars in cash that were found during the search of Park’s apartment. Despite his payments from the South Koreans and his soju business, at the start of his trial, Park filled out a financial affidavit identifying himself as unemployed and without any “cash on hand or money in savings or checking accounts.”

On Dec. 14, 2007, Park entered a guilty plea. Park’s plea deal was immediately sealed and removed from the court record. The three counts of making false statements carried a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison with maximum fines of about $250,000 and three years of “supervised release.” He was subsequently sentenced to 18 months’ probation and ordered to pay $300 in “criminal monetary penalties,” on April 18, 2008.

During the time Park was on probation, the government joined his attorneys in requesting for him to be allowed to make five trips to North Korea and China. Park was allowed to travel to North Korea while on probation in spite of the fact that at the initial bail hearing O’Callaghan requested he be denied bail “based on both risk of flight and danger to the community.” When characterizing Park as a flight risk, O’Callaghan specifically cited the fact Park made at least “fifty trips to both China and the Korean Peninsula over the last several years.”

Both the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York declined to comment on the treatment Park received or the circumstances of his deal with the U.S. government. North Korea’s mission to the United Nations, in New York City, also declined to comment on Park or his case. “I’m sorry to say that we aren’t receiving the questions from the foreign press,” the man who answered the mission’s phone said before hanging up.

Not only was Park allowed to re-enter North Korea after publicly admitting to working with the South Korean government, he also continued his liquor business. According to Bloomberg, in August 2012, Park visited Pyongyang and extended his soju deal through 2016.

Park also expanded his business relationship with the North Korean regime beyond liquor. According to documents filed with the Department of Justice’s Foreign Agents Registration Unit, Park entered into an agreement in July 2011 with the North Korean government to have his company, Korea Pyongyang Trading U.S.A., Inc., help develop a mountain resort with a unique and violent history.

“The Directorate for Keumgangsan Special international Tourism District … and the Korea Pyongyang Trading U.S.A. Inc. … have agreed to develop the Keumgangsan area, a world-famous mountain, into a special world-class international tourism district,” said an English-language translation of the memorandum of understanding between Park and North Korea that was submitted to the DOJ’s FARA unit. (Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, persons in the United States acting as agents of foreign principals are required to disclose their activities to the Justice Department in publicly available filings.)

Also known as Mount Kumgang, the resort was, for a time, one of the few holes in the iron curtain that normally surrounds North Korea. In 1989, North Korea teamed up with South Korea to develop resort facilities at the mountain, the first business project between the two nations since the 1940s. Eventually, Mount Kumgang welcomed international visitors who used U.S. dollars, providing a rare source of international currency for the isolated North Korean regime. In 2008, the harsher reality of tensions on the Korean Peninsula intruded on the resort when a South Korean housewife visiting Mount Kumgang was shot and killed by North Korean troops after she wandered onto a restricted beach. When North Korea refused to investigate the shooting, South Korea retaliated by banning its citizens from traveling to the resort. North Korea fired back by seizing property at the resort that was owned by South Korean businesses.

Park’s contract with the North Korean government stipulated he would develop plans for a “casino business” and other facilities at Mount Kumgang. He also was tasked with mounting “advertising campaigns” and distributing “informational materials” to promote the resort.

When Park signed the deal for Korea Pyongyang Trading U.S.A., Inc., he also indicated his company’s director of marketing and planning, Simon T. Bai, would be working with him on the project. In an interview with Bloomberg published in December, Bai described the company’s work as an effort to revitalize the resort in the wake of the shooting.

“We’re doing this with hopes that resuming tours to Keumgang could help open North Korea up, and thereby help unite the two Koreas again,” Bai said.

Bai did not respond to calls to his home address to ask about his work with Park. Though the Justice Department said Park is still listed as an active foreign agent, his company is listed as inactive in New York, having been dissolved by state authorities in July 2012 for failure to file returns or to pay taxes or fees.

TPM also attempted to contact Park to have him shed light on his work and his unique relationship with North Korea and the United States. An older woman opened the door halfway when we visited his apartment on a residential block in Inwood Tuesday morning. As a small dog barked in the background, she told us he was not home and would be traveling until later in the week. We asked whether he was in North Korea.

“I can’t tell you,” she said.

The woman asked us to leave a business card so Park could contact us upon his return. As of this writing, he has not responded.

(VIA. Business Insider)

Kobe Bryant likely out 6-9 months 00

Kobe Bryant likely out 6-9 months

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant had surgery on Saturday afternoon to repair the torn Achilles tendon in his left leg and is expected to need six to nine months to recover, the team announced.

Kobe Bryant likely out 6-9 months 11

“When something like this happens, everybody wants to know why and there’s not always a reason why. If you look at our season, it’s been a nightmare,” longtime trainer Gary Vitti said after Lakers practice Saturday. “We had a player come in with a surgery, which was Dwight Howard. Then we had Steve Nash break his leg. Then we had Steve Blake have an abdominal surgery. Then we had Jordan Hill with a hip surgery. Then we had Metta (World Peace) with a knee surgery. We also had Dwight with a (torn) labrum in his shoulder. Antawn Jamison will have surgery after the season is over on his wrist. So, when you try to look at the whys, it’s bad luck.”

Vitti said Bryant would be immobilized for at least a month after surgery. If Bryant were to recover on the short end of the six-to-nine month timetable the team provided, he might be able to play at the start of the 2013-14 season.

“That’s the plan,” Vitti said.

Bryant told Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak as much.

“Speaking to him this morning, that certainly was his goal,” Kupchak said. “I think it would be aggressive to think he could be ready for training camp … (but for the season opener) I think that’s a goal. I think that’s a realistic goal for him.”

Pau Gasol had full confidence in Bryant’s ability to achieve his goal.

Kobe Bryant likely out 6-9 months

“He’s a guy that when you put something in front of him, he will get it done,” said Gasol, who sent Bryant a text message with his support. “He will do it. He will put everything he’s got on the line for it.”

Bryant’s injury was described as a “complete rupture” by Vitti.

“It’s gone,” Vitti said. “So, it has to be sewn back together.”

Kupchak visited with Bryant at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic prior to the surgery and said the 34-year-old guard was in great spirits.

“He actually gave a message to me to pass on to the guys on the team, most of which I can’t share with you right here (laughing), but it was a positive message as you might imagine,” Kupchak said. “Very motivational.”

Howard had a message of his own to impart in Bryant’s absence, addressing the team after practice.

“I just told them that they put this team together for a reason and we all know how to play basketball,” Howard said. “We’ve all done special things in our career before and it’s time to do it again. We’ve all been blessed to play with Kobe but we all have talent, too, and we have to show it.”

Bryant posted several photos to his Instagram account as he prepped for the surgery, including one posing next to Lakers minority owner Patrick Soon-Shiong while he was receiving an MRI.

Bryant fell to the floor with 3:08 remaining in the fourth quarter Friday night while being guarded by the Warriors’ Harrison Barnes. Bryant had played every minute of the game up to that point, scoring 32 points — including back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game with 3:45 remaining.

“I made a move that I make a million times and it just popped,” Bryant said after the game.

Bryant asked Barnes if he had kicked him in the leg. When Barnes said he hadn’t, Bryant said he knew that a major injury had occurred.

“I was just hoping it wasn’t what I knew it was,” Bryant said. “Just trying to walk it off, hoping that the sensation would come back, but no such luck.”

Following a timeout, Bryant went back into the game and hit both of his free throw attempts with the injury to end his night with 34 points, five rebounds and four assists before being subbed out for World Peace and heading to the locker room.

“MRI, surgery and then recovery,” Bryant replied when asked what his next step is. “I was really tired, man. Just tired in the locker room and dejected and thinking about this mountain to overcome. I mean, this is a long process and wasn’t sure I could do it. Then your kids walk in and you’re like, ‘I need to set an example. Daddy is going to be fine.’ I can do it. Work hard and just go from there.”

Recovering from surgery to repair a torn Achilles can take anywhere from three months to a year. The Los Angeles Clippers’ Chauncey Billups recently went through the process. Hall of Famers Charles Barkley’s and Isiah Thomas’ careers came to an end because of it, as did the career of Bryant’s longtime teammate Shaquille O’Neal.

Kobe Bryant likely out 6-9 months 00

“I’ve never really had to deal with something like this,” Bryant said. “It’s a new experience for me. Obviously, there’s been a bunch of players that have had the same injury, so all I can do is look at them and what they’ve done and who had more success coming back quicker and healthier and see what they did and see if I can improve upon it.”

Bryant is set to make $30.4 million next season in the last year of his contract. The Lakers have the amnesty clause available to them and must use it during the July 1-9 window provided by the league. Should they decide to exercise it on Bryant, they would save significant luxury tax penalties north of $60 million.

Kupchak, however, said that is not something that the team has considered for Bryant.

“That’s the furthest thing from our mind right now,” Kupchak said.

The GM told ESPNLosAngeles.com that the Lakers are scanning the available pool of free agents and could add a wing player to the roster to add some depth with Bryant out. The San Antonio Spurs released Stephen Jackson on Friday but he would not be playoff-eligible. NBA rules state waived players have to be on a roster by March 1 to be eligible for the postseason.

Bryant, who played an average of 45.7 minutes in his past seven games (including Friday’s) leading up to the injury, was asked if all the playing time could have left him vulnerable.

“Who knows,” Bryant said. “It was all necessary. It’s just a freak situation, I guess.”

Both the Lakers and Bryant’s longtime trainer, Tim Grover, shot down that overuse theory on Saturday, however.

“I’d be shocked if the minutes had anything to do with it,” Grover said. “An Achilles can happen stepping off a sidewalk.

“This is not Kobe’s fault, because he pushed himself. This is not the coaches’ fault. People get hurt. An Achilles is just one of those things that just happens. You can’t blame anyone on this one.”

Kupchak said he did not consider Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni at fault for playing Bryant so many minutes and added that the same scenario could have occurred if Phil Jackson was the coach.

“I don’t think Mike is at blame here for one bit,” Kupchak said. “Even if you take Kobe out of a game, there’s a lot of times where he’ll just get up and put himself back in the game.”

Kupchak and D’Antoni both said they had separate conversations with Bryant about the workload in recent weeks, however.

“I spoke to Kobe about 10 days ago about the 48-minute thing or the playing a lot of minutes and I said, ‘I have concerns,'” Kupchak said. “His message to me was, ‘Mitch, I hear what you’re saying, but we got to get into the playoffs and I’m playing and there’s nothing you can do about it.'”

D’Antoni said Nash (right hamstring) will be a game-time decision Sunday when the Lakers host the Spurs. Jodie Meeks will start in Bryant’s place, but every player’s role will be adjusted.

“It’s everybody’s time,” D’Antoni said. “That’s why it’s a team, but the ball should automatically go to (Howard) more, because somebody has got to take the shots and obviously with Kobe not out there, it’s got to go to somebody. But, it will go through Pau, it will go through Dwight and as long as we’re playing for each other, we should be fine.”

The Lakers were able to hold on to beat the Warriors without Bryant and have a one-game lead over Utah with two games left to play for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

“Last night’s injury is certainly another setback and devastating in its own way, but I’ve got complete confidence that this group can win the next two games and get into the playoffs,” Kupchak said.


SLY STALLONE Settles Legal Beef With 'Celeb' Contractor  Read more- http-::www.tmz.com:2013:04:13:sylvester-stallone-settles-lawsuit-contractor:#ixzz2QUBzGCXi  Visit the TMZ Store- http-::tmzstore.com

SLY STALLONE Settles Legal Beef With ‘Celeb’ Contractor

Sly Stallone has settled a nuclear battle he was having on the homefront … TMZ has learned.

SLY STALLONE Settles Legal Beef With 'Celeb' Contractor  Read more- http-::www.tmz.com:2013:04:13:sylvester-stallone-settles-lawsuit-contractor:#ixzz2QUBzGCXi  Visit the TMZ Store- http-::tmzstore.com

Sly put an end to his $1.4 million lawsuit against contractor Mohamed Hadid, who allegedly had charged top-of-the-line prices for a job that would have been unbecoming in a double wide.

We don’t know how much money changed hands, but sources connected with the case tell TMZ, “Sly was smiling.”

The actor claimed Hadid — who has appeared on “Shahs of Sunset” — charged him a fortune for a high end kitchen island but installed cheap wood veneer/plywood. And the complaints went on and on.

In Sly’s lawsuit, filed by Marty Singer, he blamed Lisa Vanderpump, who gave Hadid a four-star referral.

Case closed.


Germany's Finance Minister Schaeuble smiles as he addresses a news conference in Berlin

Germany puts brakes on EU bank union with treaty call

Germany's Finance Minister Schaeuble smiles as he addresses a news conference in Berlin

(Reuters) – Germany said European banking union will require changes to EU law, in a call that could slow completion of the plan designed to underpin the euro currency.

Speaking after a meeting of European Union finance ministers on Saturday, Germany Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the EU’s Lisbon treaty had to be changed to allow common rules on shutting troubled banks – a central element of the union.

“Banking union only makes sense … if we also have rules for restructuring and resolving banks. But if we want European institutions for that, we will need a treaty change,” he said.

Designed to ensure vulnerable countries do not have to tackle financial problems alone, the plan for banking union was one of the bloc’s biggest political steps to stabilize the euro and prevent taxpayers from footing bills for bank rescues.

“We will not be able to take any steps on the basis of a doubtful legal basis,” Schaeuble told reporters. “That’s why it’s also crucial that we strengthen the network of national restructuring funds and authorities.”

As a first step towards the union, the European Central Bank is set to start supervising euro zone banks from July 2014.

This should be followed by a so-called bank resolution scheme to close or salvage struggling banks as well as pay for the costs involved. The third and final step would be a coherent framework across Europe for deposit protection.

Worried the supervisory role could compromise ECB monetary policy independence, Germany on Friday persuaded EU countries to sign a political declaration committing to future treaty change.

Schaeuble also made clear legal change would be necessary for the unified scheme for tackling failed banks.

Changing the Lisbon treaty, which underpins the bloc’s law, would be a drawn-out process as it calls for the agreement of all member states – some of which require referenda.

It would raise particular problems for Britain, where eurosceptics have argued that the country should quit the bloc.

Schaeuble has long had reservations about banking union, which would be a step towards allowing the euro zone’s rescue fund to directly assist banks, a move Germany fears might leave it facing the bill for reckless lending by foreign banks.

Schaeuble said the country of a bank in financial difficulty must first inject fresh capital before direct support from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) is possible.

Spain’s Finance Minister Luis de Guindos said member states would pay a minimum 4.5 percent of capital for troubled banks.

“From that point, there would be a burden sharing to converge towards 10 percent paid by the member state,” de Guindos said. “This means the ESM will pay for around 90 percent and the member state for 10 percent.”

Schaeuble also emphasized German opposition to the creation of a joint deposit guarantee scheme.

(Additional reporting By Ilona Wissenbach and Jan Strupczewski in Dublin and Julien Toyer in Madrid; Writing by Annika Breidthardt; Editing by Jason Webb)

(VIA. Reuters)


With music app, can Twitter become key venue for discovering songs?

The social forum Twitter already has a lot of musical discussion going on. Now, an application within Twitter may help people explore up-and-coming bands, and learn which ones match their preferences.


The social network Twitter sees a ripe business opportunity in helping people learn about new music and share it online.

In fact, there’s now a Twitter app for that.

So far, it’s a trial version being used by a privileged few. But because of Twitter’s vast reach, this news is something that has big potential implications for the music industry.

“[I’m] lovin the app…shows what artists are trending, also has up and coming artists,” tweeted Ryan Seacrest, the American Idol host who also happens to have more than 9 million Twitter followers. In a previous tweet Thursday he confirmed the app’s existence with these words: “playing with @twitter’s new music app (yes it’s real!).”

Call that some nice pre-launch buzz.

Already, millions of people use Twitter, with its medium of short-burst posts by users, as a forum for sharing and gathering information. They share ideas, photos, videos, and links to music already.

An application that lets people discover rising bands, and share songs with friends, has the potential to make Twitter an increasingly important venue where musicians and audiences.

Twitter executives seem to be letting people like Mr. Seacrest do the talking for now. For its part, though, the company made official its acquisition of a music-information platform called We Are Hunted, on Thursday.

“There’s no question that Twitter and music go well together,” the company says in a statement on the We Are Hunted website. “Artists turn to Twitter first to connect with fans, and people share and discover new songs and albums every day. We can’t wait to share what we’ve been working on at Twitter.”

So, what are they working on?

Twitter just says “we wish we could say but we’re not yet ready to talk about it. You’ll hear more from us when we are.”

Industry analysts expect a wider rollout to the public soon.

The website Tech Crunch, citing other news accounts, says Twitter’s music app “will suggest tracks based on data gleaned from users’ accounts, including the accounts that they follow. The app will allow users to listen to music using third-party services like iTunes and Soundcloud, or watch music videos provided by Vevo.”

If it ends up not working as great as Seacrest intimated? Don’t expect Twitter to give up and leave the playing field of music sharing to others.

(VIA. CSMonitor)


Manti Te’o visits with New York Giants


Manti Te’o’s pre-draft tour of teams continued Thursday into Friday with a visit to the New York Giants, according to a person informed of the meeting between the Notre Dame linebacker and the team.

The person, who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because the team doesn’t comment publicly on visits with prospects, said Te’o’s visit with the Giants was wrapping up Friday afternoon.

The Giants have the 19th pick in the draft, which puts them at the top of the projected range in which Te’o is to be selected. In fact, that would be higher than most mock drafts have him going. Te’o is projected by many to be taken in the 20s or even in the second round.

The Detroit Lions announced Te’o visited them through their official website. Te’o then flew to Miami to meet with the Dolphins.

The South Bend Tribune, which first reported Te’o’s visit with the Giants, is reporting he’s headed to meet with the San Diego Chargers on Monday, which would wrap up his slate of visits.The paper also reported Te’o visited the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals.

All of these teams that have met with Te’o are surely asking him more questions about his “catfishing” incident in which he was duped into thinking he was having a relationship with a real woman named Lennay Kekua.

In January, Giants general manager Jerry Reese called the Te’o case an “NMI” situation, which means “needs more information.”

At the NFL scouting combine in February, Reese said he and the team would treat Te’o like any other prospect.

“We put it all in the hopper and we come out with, ‘Well, this is what this guy is, this is where we think he should be on the board. Would we take him if he’s at a certain position for us?’ ” Reese said. “It’s like everybody else. His situation is no different than anybody else.”


SimCity Coming to Macs on June 11

SimCity Coming to Macs on June 11

Publisher Electronic Arts said this week that SimCity is coming to Mac OS X on June 11.

SimCity Coming to Macs on June 11

Players who have already purchased the Windows version of the game will be given free access to the Mac version when it launches. Likewise, first-time buyers of the Mac version will get a free Windows copy as well.

Cross-platform multiplayer will be supported, according to SimCity developer Maxis.

The game will also support cross-platform saves and cloud syncing, meaning that if you make changes to your city while on the road with your MacBook, you’ll be able to pick up where you left off when you get home and play the game on a Windows PC.

SimCity‘s always-on digital-rights-management scheme has been a disaster for EA since the game’s March 5 launch on Windows. So many players were unable to access the game that EA temporarily halted its marketing campaign for the game and began giving free copies of other titles to disgruntled gamers in an attempt at damage control.

June 11, which is also the first day of the E3 Expo, will be EA’s chance to prove that it can handle another platform launch without the same issues.

(VIA. Wired)

Actor Tom Riley portrays inventor Leonard Da Vinci in "Da Vinci's Demons" in this undated publicity photograph

Leonardo gets swashbuckling makeover in TV’s “Da Vinci’s Demons”

(Reuters) – Take a 15th century Italian genius, invent his mysterious youth, throw in some superhero action and you’ve got “Da Vinci’s Demons” – a new TV series that portrays the man who painted the “Mona Lisa” like he’s never been seen before.

Actor Tom Riley portrays inventor Leonard Da Vinci in "Da Vinci's Demons" in this undated publicity photograph

Forget the artist seen in his own self-portrait as a wizened, bearded old man.

The Leonardo of “Da Vinci’s Demons” is a fearless, reckless, swashbuckling 25-year-old, who sports 21st century hair gel and an impressive six-pack.

The eight-episode drama, premiering on U.S. cable channel Starz on Friday and around the world later this month, follows the “untold story” of the original Renaissance Man through the eyes of David Goyer, one of the developers of the “Call of Duty” hit videogame franchise.

“I had always had a fascination with da Vinci and I was amazed there had never been a movie specifically about him or a TV show, which strikes me as kind of crazy,” Goyer told Reuters.

“I don’t know anyone who has ever achieved or mastered all the things that he did. And he was a colorful character. His life was filled with a lot of controversy, which is always good,” Goyer said.

And, in a gift for any creative mind, there are few records of what da Vinci was doing, or where he was, between the ages of 28 and 32.

“Those gaps give a creator more permission to invent things. It’s a historical fantasy that has a certain element of magical realism to it.

“I also wanted a very modern graphic novel approach, and that extends into costumes, music, visual effects and the way we photographed it,” added Goyer, who also co-wrote the stories for Batman movies “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises.”

British actor Tom Riley plays da Vinci as a rising artist in 15th century Florence, already designing flying machines, military equipment, flirting with his models, bedding a mistress of the powerful Medici family and embarking on a quest for the mythical “Book of Leaves.”

His adventures are played out against intrigue and tension between the ruling Medicis in Florence and Pope Sixtus IV in Rome, with plenty of male and female nudity, sex, murder, plotting and sword-fighting.

The TV series, co-produced with a unit of BBC Worldwide Productions and filmed mostly among the ancient castles of Wales, will be shown on pay channels in 120 nations in April.

It is also expected to become one of the most successful ventures by Starz into original programming after the channel’s historical gladiator action franchise, “Spartacus,” that began in 2011.

Despite the creative license, Goyer said that many of the events in “Da Vinci’s Demons” are based on historical records and that most of the characters really existed.

But he also wanted to inject enjoyment into the story of the sculptor, architect, inventor and anatomist who gave the world iconic masterpieces like “The Last Supper,” “Vitruvian Man” and the “Virgin of the Rocks.”

“I wanted to make sure it is fun. I hope audiences have a good time. If they decide to learn more about history because of it, that is great as well. I just want TV to be challenging and fun and different,” he said.

Starz is a unit of Starz Entertainment.

(Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Sandra Maler)

(VIA. Reuters)

A PayPal card sits at a cashier station at a Home Depot store in Daly City

Analysis: PayPal hopes to break shoppers’ swipe habit in stores

A PayPal card sits at a cashier station at a Home Depot store in Daly City

(Reuters) – PayPal will soon be ubiquitous in U.S. retail stores, but just being there may not be enough.

The online payment service will take a giant step beyond its Internet roots on April 19, when a partnership with Discover Financial Services officially kicks in. The deal means PayPal will be accepted as a payment option in roughly 2 million retail stores that already take Discover credit cards.

For parent eBay Inc, PayPal’s expansion is crucial. The 13-year-old payment service accounts for about 40 percent of eBay’s revenue and its growth is slowing. A foothold in physical payments, a $10 trillion market roughly 10 times the size of online transactions, could power longer-term growth.

But a nagging question hangs over PayPal’s push to checkout counters: How can it convince consumers to try its new payment method when swiping a credit or debit card is so easy?

“Consumers need to be convinced they need a single digital wallet or card that links to all their other cards,” said Rick Oglesby, a payments industry analyst at Aite Group, which provides research to financial services clients. “That’s a huge mindset shift and the average consumer wonders why they would need it.”

PayPal has been testing its physical payments service at Home Depot Inc stores since early 2012. At the checkout counter, shoppers can use PayPal by typing in a mobile phone number and a four-digit PIN that has to be set up online beforehand. They can also use a PayPal card that links to their account.

PayPal’s uphill battle becomes clear from interviews with employees at the Home Depot store in San Carlos, California, one of the first to test the new service. Cashiers there said very few customers chose to use PayPal – and some who did soon gave up because they found keying in a bunch of numbers was not as convenient as swiping a credit card.

“I ask at my local Home Depot and I get the same response – not many people have used it,” said Brian Kilcourse of RSR Research, a consulting firm focused on retail technology. “Unless there are specific benefits that consumers can touch and feel, they’re unlikely to adopt something new.”

Don Kingsborough, the PayPal executive overseeing the offline push, said the company will soon be releasing an updated smartphone app that makes it easier for consumers to enroll in the program. PayPal will also be sending out new PayPal cards to users who still prefer to swipe.

Kingsborough said he expects the cards to be used a lot at first, but they will be slowly replaced by the app as more stores set up mobile payments and shoppers get comfortable using their smartphones to make purchases.

“An average credit card user uses the card 18 to 20 times a week. For us to get to those kinds of levels will take time,” he said in an interview. “But by Christmas PayPal will start to be a more prevalent way to pay.”


PayPal’s offline initiative is in part a response to stiffening competition in the payments market.

Square, a mobile payments start-up headed by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, is used by more than 300,000 merchants and has struck a partnership with Starbucks. Credit card giants Visa Inc and MasterCard Inc are working on their own digital wallets. These companies declined to comment on PayPal’s expansion.

When people pay with PayPal, the purchases are often funded by credit cards. That means PayPal pays huge amounts of fees to Visa and MasterCard, making it a valuable partner. However, as PayPal expands into physical stores it will be more of a rival because it can forge closer ties to consumers and distance them from the credit card networks and card issuers.

PayPal originally caught on online because it offered users an easy way to pay for goods without having to type in personal information, like credit card numbers and addresses.

In the physical world, this advantage no longer applies. That forces PayPal to attract customers through a mix of financial incentives and small fixes for what it calls “consumer pain points,” or irksome shopping experiences.

For example, Home Depot and PayPal have run several promotions in recent months, offering $5, $10 or $25 rewards to users who spend a certain amount in-store with PayPal. One such promotion was expected to last two weeks but proved so popular that it lasted only 30 minutes before the budgeted reward money ran out, Kingsborough said.

Home Depot is also working with PayPal to improve customer service. One possible solution would help contractors track the money they give plumbers and other specialists to buy equipment for a project.

At Jamba Juice, customers can use PayPal smartphone apps to order and pay for smoothies, then pick them up from a dedicated line. PayPal ran a similar test with McDonald’s in France last year.

The new smartphone app will also let diners order and pay without waiters approaching their table. And another solution PayPal is testing allows users at stadium events to order and pay for food and drinks from their seats.

Retailers are interested in working with PayPal because it may give them leverage to negotiate better terms with the likes of Visa and MasterCard. PayPal is also offering to share more valuable customer data with merchants.

Kingsborough said he hopes to turn PayPal into a kind of digital Swiss Army knife: “It solves so many of your problems that you’re willing to carry it.”


It remains to be seen if these tactics will win over enough customers to give PayPal a significant physical footprint. Wall Street is largely optimistic – shares of eBay are up about 75 percent since mid-2011, when PayPal revealed its offline plans.

Home Depot Treasurer Dwaine Kimmet said he had low expectations about the initial use of PayPal in its stores and the experience so far has confirmed such caution. But when PayPal is more widely available in other stores and enrollment gets easier, adoption should increase, he said.

“The real killer app comes when PayPal rolls all the incremental functionality around the transaction and the shopping experience,” Kimmet told Reuters.

Guitar Center, the world’s largest musical instruments retailer, began to accept PayPal at its stores on October 15 last year and says the service still accounts for less than 1 percent of in-store payments. But that number is growing, said Wes Muddle, vice president of finance at Guitar Center.

Although a February promotion was not successful in boosting PayPal usage, Guitar Center is not giving up because it believes the partnership would help the retailer know its customers and market better to them over the long term.

“Would we have preferred the promotion move the needle more? Yes,” he said. “There’s no silver bullet for switching people from credit cards to PayPal. It will just take some time.”

(Editing by Edwin Chan, Tiffany Wu and Leslie Gevirtz)

(VIa. ReuterS)