Friday, March 6, 2009

Michael Strahan 'Bugs' Ex-Girlfriend...Literally

New York Giant great Michael Strahan was a monster on the gridiron, holding the NFL record for sacks in a single season with 22.5. The defensive end was such a dominating force in the league, he made the Pro Bowl seven times. He may have had complete control over his career on the field, but off is a different story.

The 37-year-old appears to have had little or no control over his love life.

First, he was married to Wanda Hutchins. The pair exchanged vows after having two children. They split soon after, a move that cost Strahan a $163,000 house in Houston and $2,500 a month in child support. In 1999, he married his second wife, Jean Muggli.

In 2007, things went south. Strahan got reamed for $15.3 million, plus hundreds of thousands of dollars in child support for their twin daughters as part of his divorce. It was an ugly battle that left the popular player's stellar reputation battered by numerous allegations of adultery, forgery, lying and perversion.

If that wasn't enough, Strahan is now accused of putting a tracking device in the car of ex-girlfriend Nicole Murphy. She is the ex-wife of comedian Eddie Murphy. Strahan was apparently suspicious of an ongoing relationship between Murphy and Universal Records A&R executive Demetrius Spencer. According to a source, Murphy had been hiding her affections for Spencer for a year.

The situation finally bubbled up when Murphy took her Range Rover in for servicing at a luxury dealer in California. The mechanics there reportedly found a tracking apparatus in the dashboard. Minutes after the discovery, Strahan allegedly barged into the garage yelling and screaming.

Following the incident, Murphy and Strahan called it quits.

Strahan is just the latest example of an athlete-celebrity gone awry. Behind the exterior of the happy gap-toothed guy in the Subway commercials is a man who has many of the same problems as the rest of us. He seems to be jealous and insecure when it comes to relationships.

Yes, he has money, and he clearly has had his share of female friends, but his own issues have reduced this once-shining athlete to a public joke. He still has the glitz and bling, including a Super Bowl ring, but the glamour is gone out of his life and a tarnished image is all that remains.

His opponents on the field were rarely able to stop him or take him down; it's a job he's done all on his own.

Greyhound bus beheading killer found not criminally responsible

Tim McLean, 22, was on his way home to Winnipeg when he was slain on a Greyhound bus last July 30. Tim McLean, 22, was on his way home to Winnipeg when he was slain on a Greyhound bus last July 30. (Family photo)

Vince Li has been found not criminally responsible for the unprovoked killing and beheading of fellow passenger Timothy McLean on a Greyhound bus last summer.

Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench Judge John Scurfield said Thursday that Li, 40, could not be found guilty of murder and is not criminally responsible for the crime because he was mentally ill at the time of the killing.

"These grotesque acts are appalling... but are suggestive of a mental disorder," the judge said.

"He did not appreciate the act he committed was wrong."

Li had pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder. Psychiatric evidence at his trial suggested he is a schizophrenic who suffered a major psychotic episode last July 30 when he fatally stabbed McLean, 22, ate some of the body parts, and cut off McLean's head.

For five hours after the killing, Li wandered around on the bus, defiling the body while an RCMP tactical team waited to subdue him.

Rather than go to prison, Li will be kept in a secure psychiatric facility, most likely in Selkirk, Man.

McLean, a carnival worker, was returning home to Winnipeg on the bus from Edmonton. Listening to his iPod while sitting in the back row of Greyhound bus 1170, he gave Li a friendly greeting as the stranger sat down beside him.

Then, around 8:30 p.m. CT, when the bus was near Portage La Prairie, Man., Li pulled a buck knife from his side and began stabbing McLean — for no apparent reason, witnesses said. After passengers fled the bus, by then on the side of the Trans-Canada Highway, Li was barricaded inside the vehicle.

During the stabbing, Li was heard to say, "get emergency." During the five-hour standoff, he walked around the bus carrying the severed head in one hand, the knife in the other. At one point, he threw McLean's head into the bus's stairwell.

When police finally subdued him, Li repeatedly said he was sorry but could not say what he was sorry for, officers said. He told police he had changed his name to Vince Day. And he said, "I'm guilty, please kill me."

Psychiatrists testified Li was schizophrenic and suffering a major psychotic episode at the time of the killing.

Li heard voices from God telling him that McLean was an evil threat that needed to be eliminated, the psychiatrists said. Even after the killing, Li believed McLean might come back to life and threaten him. The psychiatrists testified Li fit the criteria for someone who was not criminally responsible for their actions due to mental illness.

That means he will be sent to a provincial psychiatric facility rather than to prison. He comes under the jurisdiction of Manitoba's provincial review board, which will decide whether he poses a risk to the public. The review board has the power to keep Li locked up indefinitely or, if he is no longer considered a risk, discharge him.

In his written ruling, the judge said those who are profoundly ill do not have the mental capacity to intentionally commit a crime. "It is clear that since the 19th century the law has distinguished between those persons who commit criminal acts because of a mental disorder and sane persons," Scurfield said.

McLean's family had been lobbying for a change in the Criminal Code to prevent mentally ill killers from eventually being returned to the community. His mother, Carol de Delley, said after the ruling that she would do everything in her power to ensure Li is never released from secure custody.

"I think it's ridiculous that we've not only had to endure this procedure but we get to endure it every year again for the rest of Mr. Li's natural life," de Delley said, describing Li as dangerous. She urged Canadians to lobby politicians for changes to the Criminal Code.

"Bear in mind, this isn't going to be saving any of us, we've already had our loss," she said. "It's to save everybody else. And that's been put on us now. And we sure as hell didn't volunteer for that job, but it is ours now."

Li's lawyer, Gordon Bates, said after the ruling that his client has felt remorse and understands what has occurred. He said Li had no message for the McLean family on Thursday but that he has in the past expressed a wish to make amends and is looking forward to treatment of his illness.

One of the Winners in Today’s Economy: Wal-Mart

Not all is dark and gloomy in today’s economic environment.

Wal-Mart has announced that comparable sales at its US discount stores and Supercenters jumped 5 per cent in February, continuing its dominance of the faltering retail sector.

The world’s largest retailer also raised its annual dividend by 15 per cent to $1.09, as it continues to pile up cash at a time when many other leading US companies are cutting back on dividend payments to conserve liquidity.

The retailer said its February sales were supported by increased customer traffic, with continued strength in its grocery, health and entertainment businesses. It also said that it saw sales growth in home furnishings - a category where it had previously struggled.

Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club discount warehouse stores reported a 5.9 per cent increase in comparable sales excluding fuel, outperforming the 4 per cent US sales increase reported by its rival Costco on Wednesday.

The luxury category in retail sales has fared far differently. Saks and Neiman Marcus, the luxury department stores, reported sharp year on ear declines of 26 per cent and 20.1 per cent respectively. Nordstrom department storess saw its comparable sales fall 15.6 per cent.

Target, Wal-Mart’s more upmarket rival, saw comparable sales fall 4.1 per cent. JC Penney, the department store, reported an 8.8 per cent decline, better than the mid-double digit fall it had forecast, and said it had seen good sales of its own brand women’s clothing and benefited from home furnishings sale.

The Future of Real Estate

Trends in Real Estate Industry and How They Affect Our Lives


More Americans struggled to pay their mortgage bills in the fourth quarter of 2008. A record 5.4 million U.S. homeowners with a mortgage, or nearly 12%, were either behind on payments or in foreclosure at the end of last year, according to an industry survey.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said Thursday the percentage of loans at least a month overdue or in foreclosure was up from 10% in the July-September quarter and up from about 8% a year earlier.

The sharpest increases in loans 90-days past due were in Louisiana, New York, Georgia, Texas and Mississippi, reflecting a spreading recession and massive job losses nationwide.

The report also showed the delinquency rates for fixed-rate mortgages climbed in the fourth quarter, another sign that layoffs are taking a toll on homeowners.

The percentage of loans at least 30 days past due rose to a record 7.88%, up from 6.99% in the third quarter and 5.82% a year earlier -- the biggest quarterly jump for delinquencies since the survey began in 1972.

The rate of mortgages entering the foreclosure process, however, inched up to 1.08%, which matched a record, from 1.07% of all mortgages that started the process in the third quarter. In fact, foreclosure starts have remained essentially flat for the last three quarters of 2008, said Jay Brinkmann, the MBA's chief economist and senior vice president for research and economics, in a news release.

That's happening for a variety of reasons. "Normally servicers would have initiated foreclosure actions on a significant portion of these loans but delayed doing so for a variety of reasons, including working on loan modifications, complying with the guidelines of different investors, and various delays in different locales," he said.

Some servicers are also reporting borrowers who are "running their accounts 90 days delinquent" so that they can qualify for certain loan modifications, Mr. Brinkmann added.

The percentage of loans somewhere in the foreclosure process was 3.30% in the fourth quarter, up from 2.97% in the third quarter, according to the survey.

The recession began having a larger impact on delinquency numbers late last year, as more people lost their jobs and couldn't keep up with payments. That was somewhat of a shift from the factors that fueled the initial uptick in foreclosures, Mr. Brinkmann said.

"The delinquency rates continue to climb across the board for prime fixed-rate and subprime fixed-rate loans, loans whose performance is driven by the loss of jobs or income rather than changes in payments," he said.

Mr. Brinkmann expects a continued shift from delinquencies due to the structure and underwriting quality of loans to delinquencies caused by job and income losses.

NASA searching for Earths with nontoxic economic atmospheres

Sick of hearing about the toils of Wall Street, Bank of America, AIG, General Motors, and the unemployment rate jumping to 8%, this morning I did what our ancient ancestors did when they needed a break — I looked to the stars.

Tonight NASA is launching a spacecraft that will trail the Earth on its orbit around the sun for three to four years. On this celestial tour, the spacecraft’s telescope will focus its attention on 100,000 stars in the Cygnus-Lyra region. Instead of a neighborhood of college fraternities, it turns out the Cygnus-Lyra region is a key district of the Milky Way that NASA is targeting to find Earth-like planets.

The Kepler spacecraft — named after astronomer Johannes Kepler, whom we all remember from high school science class — will focus specifically on a star’s brightness and record if other planets pass in front of it. The mission, which cost $600 million to fund, is to find “Earth-like planets with rocky surfaces, orbiting in their stars’ habitable, or ‘Goldilocks,’ zones — not too hot or too cold, but just right for liquid water to exist.”

Basically they want to take pictures of a small blue dot orbiting a star at the most optimal distance for sustaining life. I can get behind that.

Because taking a break from bailouts and stimulus packages can be awfully refreshing. It gives us a sense of perspective and let’s us ask those age-old questions. Like couldn’t that $600 million be used to rescue another troubled American industry in need of financing? Sigh. Never mind. I guess I’m too jaded after all.

Watchmen.... 03.06.09

Joe and Mika Address How the White House is Addressing the Press

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski close the TVNewser Summit on Tuesday (interviewed by Businessweek's Jon Fine), and will talk about how the Obama administration is dealing with the press so far. Recently, the administration has taken on critics directly. "I'm kind of excited by it," said Brzezinski. "I think it's really smart of them."

Scarborough says the strategy is different than the last White House occupants. "The Bush administration was the past, as far as communication goes. You can tell the Obama administration knows what the future is," he said. See more from the Morning Joe hosts below, including which administration figure makes Scarborough go from giving President Barack Obama an 'A' to an 'F':

D.L. Hughley To End Run

Insiders tell us CNN's "D.L. Hughley Breaks the News" will end its run at the end of the month, and we're told the decision was Hughleys.

From CNN: "D.L. approached CNN about being permanently based in Los Angeles, where his family lives. To accommodate this, we agreed upon a new role where he will be a contributor for the network based in Los Angeles. We are eager to continue our relationship with D.L., who is a tremendous talent and a valued colleague."

Insiders tell TVNewser it would have become cost-prohibitive to produce the show in Los Angeles. The one-hour, Saturday night news/comedy show had been drawing about 200,000 viewers in the A25-54 demo in recent weeks.

It's not known what will happen to the staff of "Hughley" who were made aware of the news in a meeting this afternoon. The show debuted Oct. 25, 2008.

> Update: Hughley's ratings peaked with his debut when he drew 648,000 A25-54 demo viewers. Week #2, the show had its highest Total Viewer draw with 1.51 million. The average for the 18 episodes is 284,000 A25-54 viewers and 751,000 Total Viewers.

The End of the Immigration Boom?

The relatively free movement of labor across borders for the last few decades has generally had a positive impact on many countries because of the large remittances sent home by expatriates. In India, Kerala has been the biggest beneficiary, its relative prosperity sustained by its sons and daughters toiling away in West Asia or in hospitals around the world. But it looks like the global recession is beginning to seriously hurt international migration, and many migrants are forced to go home again.

Immigration is a sensitive issue, and passions run high, often bringing out the worst in people: and racism surely is a part of it. An Indian immigrant named Navtej Singh Sidhu was set on fire while sleeping on a park bench in Italy recently. Racist violence against Roma (or Gypsies) is increasing -- although they have lived in Europe for centuries, they are discriminated against as outsiders and non-whites. Russian skinheads were convicted of killing 20 migrants – mostly non-whites.

Migration is cyclical: in the good times, people want to have outsiders come in and do the dirty, dangerous and difficult jobs they themselves disdain, but then they expect these gastarbeiter to disappear quietly when times get rough. That is easier said than done, as they have set down roots and their children have grown up in the host countries. Europeans, for instance, have had long-standing problems with immigrants from former colonies who live as an alienated underclass.

The Americans hit upon a perfect solution in the nineteenth century. They wanted Chinese labor for their drive westwards towards the pacific, in particular for building the continent-spanning railroads. But they didn’t want these people ‘polluting’ their societies. So they were forced into ghetto Chinatowns. They were not allowed to own property, marry white women, or bring Asian wives. In other words, simple: come, toil, and die. The Asian Exclusion Act was law. Indians too suffered – some found their hard-won US citizenship revoked, and in the Komagata Maru incident, a shipful of immigrants from the Punjab was turned away by the US and Canada. Even more notorious was the shipful of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany that was also turned back. After immigration reform in 1962, though, Americans have been far more liberal.

Immigration has become a world-wide phenomenon in the last few decades. Some 200 million people – that is, 3% of the world’s population, are now migrants. There are 20 million overseas Chinese, and a comparable number of overseas Indians. In several western countries, immigrants account for more than 10% of the population. And they send a lot of money home. According to the World Bank, remittances to home countries was around $283 billion in 2007. Both India and China get around $30 billion each, and for some like the Philippines, Tajikistan, etc. remittances account for a large fraction of national GDP, according to the Economist.

No wonder people still migrate. The saga of Latin American immigration to the US – as in the tragic film El Norte – is well known. Despite the perils of dealing with brutal ‘coyotes’ (smugglers who have been known to rob, rape and murder), sadistic border patrol agents, and the constant fear of being deported, or worse, they still keep coming, wading across the Rio Grande. Or at least they used to, until recently. The Economist reports that emigration to the US from Mexico has slumped by 42% in 2008 as compared to 2006. News of the recession has spread.

Historical data shows that previous recessions have dramatically reduced immigration into the US. After decades of high immigration (from Eastern Europe and Ireland, for instance), post-Depression America allowed practically nobody to migrate legally. There was a notable spike in legal immigration in the 1990s, and levels have continued to be high in the 2000s. But this is likely to change. The welcome mat is getting a little frayed, and, with Democrats in power, protectionism is definitely in the air.

There are at least a couple of provisions in America’s $900 billion stimulus package that are protectionist – one deals with H1-B visa holders, another was the now-diluted ‘buy American’ provision in the Senate version of the bill. The H1-B provisions, which were also diluted, mandate that companies that use such workers will be under far more scrutiny than before. In effect, and coupled with the noises being made in the wake of the Satyam scandal, this means that outsourcing itself is under attack, and that there should be ‘American jobs for American citizens’. In other words, the H1-B techie can take it to mean “welcome to America, now go home”.

Well-paid technology workers will be forced to return to India. This is in conjunction with significant problems in West Asia, specifically Dubai, which doesn’t have any oil. Construction ,finance, trade – they are all taking a beating. Kerala is full of stories of people returning under economic duress. Apparently 40 Indian international schools have shut down; it is said that families are driving to the airport with all they can carry, abandoning their cars (and their car and home loans) and flying back to India. There are reports that 10,000 people have already left for India, and 55,000 construction-related jobs are in jeopardy. The Harvard Business Review said in September that 4 million Keralites are in the Persian Gulf, and in 2007, their remittances accounted for 20% of state GDP.

The story of Kerala migrants been lionized in certain circles as the alleged ‘Kerala model’ of development, but that is an exaggeration. It is just a money-order economy. It may even be a ‘cargo-cult’ where the loss of the remittances and also the security of knowing that, as it were, money would be dropping from the heavens. Will we show severe withdrawal symptom? Furthermore, whatever will the Kerala economy – notoriously lax in creating jobs – do with all these able-bodied returnees?

Jackson eyes $400m comeback plan

Michael Jackson could earn more than $400m (£283m) from a comeback deal involving new music and movies as well as concerts, his promoter has revealed.

The pop superstar has announced 10 gigs at the O2 arena in London this summer.

Randy Phillips, head of AEG Live, which is staging the gigs, said they had a wider deal that could cover a world tour and a 3D film based on Thriller.

He also said: "We're talking to him about helping him figure a new plan for the release of singles, new music."

Last tour

Jackson appeared at the London venue on Thursday to announce his comeback concerts.

He billed them as "the final curtain call" and "my final show performances in London".

Speaking afterwards, Mr Phillips said: "These will be the last shows in London. Whether he will go on from here around the world... this will be his last tour.

"All he's agreed to are the London shows at this point."

He said AEG Live had a "broader relationship" with Jackson.

"We have a film development deal that's part of this to do a film, Thriller 3D," he said.

It would be a new film that could star Jackson himself, he said.

Asked how much Jackson could earn from the ventures, Mr Phillips replied: "If we complete the full three-and-a-half year plan, he could gross over $400m in that time. London could be north of $50m (£35m)."

The star made a five-minute appearance in front of hundreds of screaming fans on Thursday to announce the 10 London dates. I'll be performing the songs my fans want to hear - this is the final curtain call

Michael Jackson

Is the King of Pop still a thriller?

His first words to fans were: "I love you so much.

"This will be it. When I say this is it, it really means this is it," he added.

"I'll be performing the songs my fans want to hear."

Jackson had been expected to appear at the 02 arena at 1600 GMT, but arrived an hour and a half late for the announcement.

The first concert at the 20,000-capacity venue will be on 8 July, with tickets costing between £50 and £75. They go on general sale on 13 March.

Jackson last toured 12 years ago. In 2006, he performed at the World Music Awards in London, but disappointed fans by singing just a few lines of We Are The World.

Rihanna and Chris Brown's Fight Started Over A Text Message

While they are currently in the throes of a successful reconciliation, Rihanna and Chris Brown's relationship will be forever marred by the events that occurred in the early morning of February 8, 2009 which were chronicled in disturbing detail in the search warrant notes of the Los Angeles Police Department. The eight-page document released on Thursday gives a chilling recount of how violent the incident was and how it all started over a text message.

"Robyn F. [Rihanna] picked up Brown's cellular telephone and observed a three page text message from a woman who Brown had a previous sexual relationship with," the document recounts. The couple then started arguing. published the exclusive photos from inside the car, which still carries droplets of the singer's blood.

Below is a shocking summary of the night:

*Brown pushed her head into the window, punched her in the eye, started driving, and then continued to punch her, causing Rihanna's mouth to fill with blood, which eventually splattered on her clothes and the car.
*Brown allegedly told her, "I'm going to beat the ---- out of you when we get home! You wait and see!"

*When Rihanna only got her assistant's voicemail, she pretended to have a conversation saying "I'm on my way home. Make sure the cops are there when I get there."

*Brown threw her cell phone out of the window when she tried to send a text message to her other assistant.

*Brown put her in a headlock when she reached for his phone. He also bit her ear and later bit her fingers. She nearly lost consciousness at one point.

*Residents of the neighborhood where the car finally stopped heard Rihanna's screams and called the police. After Brown fled, he called Rihanna's assistant soon after "as if nothing had happened".

Unemployment rate up to 8.1 percent

A new report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the national unemployment rate rose to 8.1 percent in February, as companies shed 651,000 jobs.

"In February, job losses were large and widespread across nearly all major industry sectors," the report stated.

That means the nation has suffered a decline of 2.6 million jobs during the past four months. A total of 4.4 million jobs have been lost since the recession began in December 2007.

Unemployment rose from 7.6 percent in January. The number of unemployed Americans increased by 851,000 during the month, rising to a total of 12.5 million.

The ranks of the long-term unemployed -- those out of work for 27 weeks or more -- increased by 270,000 in February to a total of 2.9 million.

Particularly hard-hit was manufacturing, which lost 168,000 jobs in February. Professional and business services lost 180,000 jobs, and construction companies cut 104,000. Financial companies cut 44,000 jobs last month.

One bright spot in the report was the health care industry, which added 27,000 jobs in February.

The report also found that the number of "involuntary" part-time workers had increased by 787,000 last month. That figure includes those who would prefer full time but have either had their hours cut or cannot find full-time work.

Doubt cast on $50 billion figure in Madoff case

NEW YORK — Bernard Madoff and $50 billion. His name and that number have become inseparable in describing the enormity of what has been called the largest white-collar fraud in history. It's a figure that has helped demonize Madoff and relegate big-time money managers charged in subsequent securities schemes to mere "mini-Madoff" status.

Investigators claim Madoff himself told them that he stole $50 billion, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the number may be as fictitious as the sprawling fraud that he allegedly ran.

A growing number of people involved in the case and outside observers are saying that the actual loss to investors could be far less than the mind-boggling total often treated as fact. The actual number is not known at this point, but some believe it's less than $20 billion.

"I'd be pulling a number out of the air," Stephen Harbeck, president of the Securities Investor Protection Corp., told The Associated Press this week when asked how much money he thought was swindled.

Harbeck said he believes the $50 billion estimate is unreliable because it "includes entirely fictitious profits" that Madoff said he brought investors over the years. Even the $17.1 billion that the SEC recorded last year as being held by Madoff Investment Securities LLC — once thought to be the legitimate side of his operation — "does not appear to reflect reality," he added.

"I think it's somewhat misleading to say this was a $50 billion scheme because I believe that includes the fictitious profits," he said Thursday. "If that is the case, and I believe it to be the case, then the real dollars lost would be considerably lower."

Madoff, 70, was arrested late last year, a day after meeting with his sons and telling them that his secretive investment advisory business was "basically a giant Ponzi scheme," a criminal complaint said. He "estimated the losses from this fraud to be at least $50 billion," the complaint said.

The disgraced financier remains under house arrest in his Manhattan apartment while the FBI, the Securities and Exchange Commission and a court-appointed trustee labor to measure the true scope of the fraud. The Securities Investor Protection Corp., an industry-funded organization that steps in when a brokerage firm fails, has been helping process hundreds of claims by investors hoping to recoup losses.

"It's an unprecedented Ponzi scheme, but the extent of it we'll know once the claims are filed," Harbeck said.

It remains unclear how much burned investors will ultimately say they're owed. They have until July 2 to file claims with the trustee.

A spokesman for a court-appointed trustee overseeing the liquidation of Madoff's operation said Thursday that so far only about $1 billion in assets have been recovered: $650 million from bank accounts and other financial institutions; $132.3 million securities that have been sold; and $161 million in securities still invested.

In the weeks after Madoff's arrest, various news organizations and other groups began compiling a list of Madoff losses that totaled around $30 billion. Those estimates were based on a list of institutional and individual investors and how much they lost — sometimes in the billions.

But it's likely those estimates were based on monthly statements that investigators say were fabricated, said Alan E. Weiner, a partner in Holtz Rubenstein Reminick LLP, a Long Island accounting firm.

The $50 billion "appears to be a number that (Madoff) just threw out," Weiner said. "It could be the total value on all the fallacious statements. I don't think it represents the cash that people put in."

Former SEC head Harvey Pitt agreed that Madoff "probably inflated the amount of money he had under management." He predicted the actual loss would fall below $17 billion.

"But there's no question the amounts are probably north of $10 billion and that's a lot of money by anyone's reckoning," he said at a recent forum on the case.

Even $10 billion would eclipse other recent fraud cases. They include that of Florida hedge fund manager Arthur Nadel, accused of bilking investors out of up to $350 million, and Mark Dreier, a prominent lawyer charged with stealing $400 million in a hedge fund scam. Authorities believe Texas billionaire R. Allen Stanford perpetrated an $8 billion investment fraud.

The Nadel case demonstrated the ripple effect of the avalanche of publicity around the purported $50 billion scam: Investigators say Nadel's crimes were exposed when his partners, spooked by the Madoff case, asked for an independent audit of the defendant's business.

Similarly, a New Jersey fund manager, James Nicholson, was arrested last week in yet another alleged scheme that fell apart after several leery investors tried to redeem their money. Prosecutors say his fraud could reach $900 million — a size that might have dominated headlines, pre-Madoff.

In Madoff's case, the portrayal of him as a monster-size fraudster has led to enough fears about his safety that it was his lawyers who first sought 24-hour protection for him while he remains under house arrest.

Some of the heat has even fallen on his lawyer, Ira Sorkin, who said he has referred two death threats against himself to the FBI and has been subjected to more than a dozen vicious e-mails and phone calls.

Ron Kuby, a lawyer who in the 1990s once represented a blind Egyptian sheik charged with trying to overthrow the U.S. government, said the threats come with the territory.

"I'm sorry. I'm playing the world's smallest violin," he said. "I used to get hundreds of those. I got actual letters, hundreds of them, and phone calls saying lovely things like, 'I'm sorry Hitler missed you.'"

Rush Limbaugh: Hero, bĂȘte noir, punching bag

Media Matters, the media watchdog group, announced Thursday that it had launched Limbaugh Wire, a site devoted to watchdogging the conservative talk radio host.

The move comes after several prominent Republicans dared to cross Limbaugh, then made hasty public apologies.

According to a Media Matters press release, “The conservative movement is breaking down, and the most influential right-wing voice in the media — Rush Limbaugh — has solidified his role as their de facto leader. His proclamation that he “hope[s]” President Obama “fails” started a firestorm that continues to rage. With conservatives dubbing Limbaugh a leader of the conservative movement, Media Matters has launched a new website dedicated to monitoring his commentary and smears.”

But not everyone is taking Limbaugh so seriously. The ultra-snarky Wonkette will NOT LET UP on the guy, who has lately ranked a spot on the site’s top bar (along with Barack Obama, GOP and “lamers”).

Those of you with a very high tolerance for snark (we warned you!) and a healthy dislike of Limbaugh will appreciate posts like this one:

How do you get what’s left of the Republican Party to destroy itself? It sure helps to have some self-obsessed drug-addicted sociopath like Rush Limbaugh as “leader” of the doomed wingnuts! At some point in January, the same Obama strategists who outmaneuvered the Clinton Machine and American Racism noticed that an AM radio jackass beloved by angry white guys in service trucks — who else listens to AM radio, during the workday? — was publicly wishing failure upon both the new Obama Administration and the U.S. Economy. Maybe this bloated oil bag could bring down the entire GOP! Two months later, the plan seems to be working flawlessly…