Friday, March 13, 2009

New NBA Ad Ask "Where Will Amzing Happen This Year?"

The above video is the first ad in the NBA's new campaign for the stretch run, asking "Where Will Amazing Happen This Year?" (LeBron versus Boston seems like a good guess.) According to the league, it's the first instance in which all the networks showing NBA postseason games (ABC, ESPN, TNT) will run the same thematic campaign. Later in the postseason, the ads will include some historic plays as well. Can't wait to see what else they pull out. (Also, to be honest, I can't wait to see the parodies.)

NBA Power Rankings

NBA Power Rankings – Cavs finally take top spot from Lakers
There’s a new No.1 team in the NBA, but not by much. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers will probably fight for the top spot for the rest of the year, and NBA betting players will have a tough time deciding which team to go with in their offshore sportsbook.

1. (2) Cleveland Cavaliers (50-13): They really should have beaten the ailing Celtics at home last week, but an 8-2 mark in their last 10 was enough to move them up.

2. (1) Los Angeles Lakers (51-13): They were thoroughly hammered in Portland, and Trevor Ariza’s foul on Rudy Fernandez was one of the dirtiest plays of the season.

3. (5) San Antonio Spurs (43-20): Ginobili’s still hurt, Duncan’s not at 10 per cent, yet they carry a three-game winning streak into Thursday’s showdown with the Lakers.

4. (4) Orlando Magic (47-17): Beating the Celtics in Boston was a solid win, but let’s see how they fare when the defending champions get all their players back.

5. (3) Boston Celtics (49-16): The Celtics are getting pummeled on the injury front and their main goal for the rest of the season is to get KG and Rondo healthy.

6. (8) Utah Jazz (41-24): Their winning streak was snapped at 12 in Atlanta, and they head to Orlando and Miami next. The Jazz need to win on the road to have good sportsbook odds this year.

7. (11) New Orleans Hornets (40-23): Don’t look now, but the Hornets are getting hot at the right time of year. Watching Chris Paul play is like watching a maestro conducting an orchestra.

8. (10) Miami Heat (35-29): 36.0 points, 11.0 assists, 6.0 boards, and a couple of steals in his last five games. It’s safe to say D-Wade just thrust himself into the midst of the MVP race. The Heat couldn’t beat a high school team without him.

9. (9) Houston Rockets (42-24): They even beat a decent team (Denver) on the road, but the teams ahead of them are just hot right now. If they lose in Charlotte on Friday, they could drop.

10. (12) Atlanta Hawks (37-28): After losing in Charlotte, the Hawks rebounded with home wins over Detroit, New Orleans and Utah. A seven-game homestand continues this week, and the Hawks should split it, at the very least.

11. (13) Dallas Mavericks (40-25): Just when you count the Mavs out, they go on a three-game winning streak, including victories at Phoenix and Portland. A game in Golden State and a Sunday showdown with the Lakers loom.

12. (6) Portland Trail Blazers (40-24): Narrowly beating Minnesota, then pounding the Lakers, then losing to Dallas, all at home? Inconsistency is why the Trail Blazers drop six spots, and why NBA betting players should be sketchy on them.

13. (7) Denver Nuggets (41-25): Three straight losses and a win over Oklahoma City gets no love around here. If they lose to the Clippers at home on Saturday, start reaching for the panic button.NBA betting chances?

14. (14) Detroit Pistons (32-31): The Pistons were poised to move up……and then they lost to the Knicks at home on Wednesday. But they’re playing better and will still be a tough first-round out.

15. (16) Philadelphia 76ers (31-31): Back-to-back games against the Lakers and Suns on the road next week could be the difference between the playoffs and, well, no NBA betting odds for the postseason.

16. (17) Milwaukee Bucks (30-37)
17. (15) Phoenix Suns (34-30)
18. (18) Chicago Bulls (29-36)
19. (20) New Jersey Nets (28-36)
20. (19) Charlotte Bobcats (28-36)
21. (22) Oklahoma City Thunder (18-47)
22. (21) Indiana Pacers (28-38)
23. (23) New York Knicks (27-37)
24. (24) Golden State Warriors (22-42)
25. (25) Toronto Raptors (23-42)
26. (26) Memphis Grizzlies (16-47)
27. (27) Minnesota Timberwolves (19-45)
28. (29) Washington Wizards (15-50)
29. (30) Sacramento Kings (14-50)
30. (28) Los Angeles Clippers (15-49)

Not much change near the bottom, but the Thunder keep moving up because they’re the most entertaining bad team in the league. Also…..something needs to be done about the Clippers. New owner, new coach, new GM, new everything. They’re a disgrace, and probably wouldn’t even have good March Madness betting odds.

Obama flunks economics poll

U.S. President Barack Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner received failing grades for their efforts to revive the economy from participants in the latest Wall Street Journal forecasting survey.

The economists' assessment stands in stark contrast with Mr. Obama's popularity with the public, with a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll giving him a 60% approval rating. A majority of the 49 economists polled said they were dissatisfied with the administration's economic policies.

On average, they gave the president a grade of 59 out of 100, and although there was a broad range of marks, 42% of respondents rated Mr. Obama below 60. Mr. Geithner received an average grade of 51. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke scored better, with an average 71.

China’s Premier Wen ‘Worried’ on Safety of Treasuries (Update1)

By Belinda Cao and Judy Chen

March 13 (Bloomberg) -- China, the U.S. government’s largest creditor, is “worried” about its holdings of Treasuries and wants assurances that the investment is safe, Premier Wen Jiabao said.

“We have lent a huge amount of money to the United States,” Wen said at a press briefing in Beijing today after the annual meeting of the legislature. “I request the U.S. to maintain its good credit, to honor its promises and to guarantee the safety of China’s assets.”

U.S. President Barack Obama is relying on China to sustain buying of Treasuries as his administration sells record amounts of debt to fund a $787 billion economic-stimulus package. Chinese investors have lost money on the securities so far this year, after increasing their holdings 46 percent to $696 billion in 2008, according to Treasury Department data.

“China’s purchases of American debt have been one of the few bolts keeping the wheels on the global economy,” said Phil Deans, a professor of international affairs at Temple University in Tokyo. “If China stops buying where does Obama’s borrowing to fund his stimulus come from?”

Bernard Madoff's lawyer Ira Sorkin appeals to spring Bernie from jail

Bernie Madoff's lawyer is trying to spring his thieving client out of jail.

Ira Sorkin is appealing Manhattan Federal Court Judge Denny Chin's decision to immediately imprison the courtly crook after he pleaded guilty to destroying the lives of thousands of people with a $65 billion Ponzi scheme.

Sorkin is seeking to have the 70-year-old Madoff returned to house arrest at his swanky E. 64th St. duplex.
The appeals court was expected to render its decision later Friday.

Now known as federal inmate No. 61727-054, Madoff spent his first night at the Metropolitan Correctional Center.

Barring a successful appeal, Madoff will remain there until June 16, when he is sentenced to a federal prison facility.

His spartan cell is a far cry from his upper East Side pad.

Instead of having his loving wife, Ruth, for company, Madoff is sharing a roof with assorted rapists, murderers - even thieves like him.

Instead of a sumptuously appointed pad with a panoramic view of Manhattan, he has a steel sink and toilet and can see just a sliver of the city through a barred window - if he's lucky.

Madoff might as well get used to the ambiance - he's facing up to 150 years in prison.

Chin wasted no time Thursday in shoving Madoff inside. He didn't even give prosecutors a chance to argue that Madoff deserves to rot in jail.

"I don't want to hear from the government," Denny said. "Mr. Madoff, I will see you at sentencing."

Victims of Madoff's mendacity crowding the courtroom burst into applause and a chapter closed in a case of epic fraud that made Madoff's name synonymous with unbridled greed.

Before he was jailed, Madoff delivered a 12-minute address in which he admitted he was a con man.

"I realized my arrest and this day would inevitably come," Madoff read. "I am ... deeply sorry and ashamed."

Madoff said he never invested any of the money he was entrusted with - and just stuck the loot into an account at Chase Manhattan Bank. He said he began making "bogus" investments in the 1990s.

Asked why he did it, the disgraced Wall Street wizard gave an answer that was long on chutzpah and short on credibility: He did it to survive the 1990s recession.

Madoff insisted his brother and two sons played no part in his wrongdoing. He made no mention of Ruth, who like the rest of his family remains under federal investigation.

When it came time to plead, Madoff uttered the word "guilty" 11 times.

Madoff "is no longer entitled to the presumption of innocence," Chin said. "In light of his age, he has the incentive to flee. He has the means to flee."

Prosecutors also want Madoff to cough up $170 billion in restitution.

U.S. Buddhists, Hindus Back Evolution, Says Study

Despite virtually unanimous support in the scientific community, there is considerable public skepticism in the U.S. about Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, with 39 percent believing in the theory, according to a Gallup poll.

Hindus in the U.S., however, overwhelmingly accept the scientific consensus, with four out of five Hindus agreeing that evolution best explains the origin of human beings, according to a recent study by the Pew Center.

Buddhists, edging Hindus by a slight margin, were the greatest supporters among different religious groups, the survey found.

As the world celebrated the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin Feb. 12, his legacy is a study in contrasts: While there is virtual unanimity among biologists regarding the validity of his theory of natural selection, public opinion continues to show surprising pockets of resistance in some nations.

The resistance has come almost entirely from religious groups, led by Christian groups, who support an alternative theory called intelligent design, which accepts the existence or agency of a supreme being.

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness has recently joined in the fray.

“As an organization that represents the Vaishnava tradition – the largest denomination within the Hindu faith – ISKCON reaffirms the reality that the concept of an intelligent designer is not limited to Christians,” the organization said in a statement. “We join other Hindus, Muslims, people of other faiths, and those who profess no particular faith, in calling for a more balanced and objective exploration of the theory of evolution and its alternatives.”

“The theory of evolution should continue to be taught, because it is a fact that most scientists today accept evolution,” contends Michael Cremo, an ISKCON member and scholar of Hinduism’s response to evolution. “But it is also a fact that other scientists, admittedly in the minority, accept some version of intelligent design. Educational institutions should reflect this reality, by making room for a neutral presentation of the alternatives to the Darwinian theory. Let people make up their own minds.”

However, skepticism among scientists about intelligent design in unanimous.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has stated that "creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science." The U.S. National Science Teachers Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have termed it pseudoscience. Many in the scientific community have been less kind, bluntly calling it junk science.

Public opinion in the U.S., however, continues to be surprisingly resistant to Darwin’s theory. According to an August 2006 survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 63 percent of Americans believe that humans and other animals have either always existed in their present form or have evolved over time under the guidance of a supreme being. Only 26 percent said that life evolved solely through processes such as natural selection.

Hindus in the U.S., however, do not share this view. In advance of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birthday on Feb. 12, the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life released a report exploring the evolution controversy in the U.S. The Pew Forum's U.S. Religious Landscape Survey found that views on evolution differ widely across religious groups.

Buddhists and Hindus led the study with 81 percent of Buddhists and 80 percent of Hindus agreeing that evolution is the best explanation of the origin of human life on earth, followed by Jewish (77 percent) and unaffiliated (72 percent) groups. Muslims (45 percent) were the fifth least enthusiastic about Darwin’s theory in the 12-group study, with Jehovah’s Witnesses (7 percent), Mormons (22 percent) and evangelical Protestants (24 percent) being the least enthusiastic religious groups.

Does High Seas Drama Portend Economic Doom for the U.S.?

The U.S. and Chinese military appeared to be engaged in another round of brinksmanship. Eight years ago, it was over a collision of planes over Hainan Island. This time, it is the near collision of ships on the high seas near Hainan.

In both cases, the American side was engaged in “routine” surveillance while the Chinese side strenuously objected to being spied on. In the latest case involving the USNS Impeccable, the Pentagon admitted that the ship was trolling for data on the new nuclear-powered attack submarine.

The Pentagon said that the crew was made of civilians, as if that would render the mission benign—no doubt on the same logic as hiring mercenaries in Iraq to lessen the appearance of American involvement.

The question is why would the Pentagon provoke an incident at a sensitive time when the Obama Administration is cultivating closer cooperation with Beijing for a host of reasons from international stability to economic recovery?
In late 2006, a Chinese submarine surfaced amidst of a flotilla surrounding the aircraft carrier, Kitty Hawk, to the surprise and embarrassment of the U.S. Navy. Perhaps the Pentagon wished to have no more such surprises by having close surveillance of China. Or another reason may be to reinforce the justification needed for the amount Obama has set aside for defense, which at $663.7 billion is nearly half of the total national budget. Take away $130 billion for the two-front wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the budget still leaves over $530 billion for “advanced weapon systems development.”

The only other budgeted spending that seems remotely comparable to defense is the $633.8 billion Obama has set aside for national health care—but to be spent over 10 years, not one.

As we face a mounting deficit, how can we justify spending such vast sums of money for weapon development, especially now that the former evil empire, USSR, has imploded? Perhaps the Pentagon sees a pumped up China as a potential threat that will convince Congress to continue on military spending.

China in its own ways has been trying to tell the Pentagon that it is not a participant in an arms race, but is merely satisfied to maintain and display a credible second-strike capability to deter any other powers from entertaining funny ideas. Surprising the Kitty Hawk flotilla was one way to tell the U.S. that China has silent running subs. Shooting down one of their old satellites was another way to provide benchmark for the Pentagon.

In the mid 1990’s, Chinese nuclear scientists were delighted to discover Danny Stillman of Los Alamos National Laboratory. He was in charge of gathering intelligence on China’s nuclear weapon development. They invited Stillman to make numerous visits to China’s nuclear test and development centers so that he can accurately report on China’s nuclear capability —a sort of reverse espionage to make sure the other party gets it right.

Unfortunately, the Pentagon failed or did not want to comprehend China’s message. Instead it chooses to consider each of China’s military developments as justification to work on even more deadly offensive weapons—as if Pentagon needs to absolutely overwhelm China’s capability. However, it seems intuitive that the expenditure required to develop a second strike capability is far less expensive than it is to develop the offensive capability necessary to snuff out second strikes.

President Ronald Reagan has been largely credited with introducing the star wars strategy and convincing the USSR that they need to keep up with their American spending for arms until it went bankrupt.

Now there is no one around to drive the Americans to bankruptcy. But we seemed nevertheless determined to spend into bankruptcy. Perhaps the Pentagon believes that they can borrow from the Chinese to cover the over-the-top defense budget?


Dr. George Koo is a retired business consultant and a board member of the New America Media.

Should Hard Times Permit High Times?

Recession Spotlights Rationale for Decriminalizing Marijuana

NEW YORK -- In 1977, President Jimmy Carter asked Congress to decriminalize marijuana possession (it never did). The next year, the Ladies Home Journal described a summer jazz festival on the White House's South Lawn where "a haze of marijuana smoke hung heavy under the low-bending branches of a magnolia tree."

The late 1970's may have been the high-water mark for permissiveness regarding marijuana. But advocates of decriminalized pot believe a confluence of factors, especially the country's economic malaise, are leading to another countrywide reappraisal of the drug.

"There is momentum of the sort I haven't seen since I've been involved in this," says Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, which supports easing marijuana laws.

He says incidents like then-candidate Barack Obama's early admission of pot use or the flap over Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps's bong-smoking may lead to initial public hand-wringing, but in the end they tend to legitimize pot use. So does the growing recognition of medical marijuana.

But, he adds, "the economic crisis is the single most important factor" in this new shift in perceptions.

That's because the ailing economy is triggering a scramble for new government savings or sources of revenue. Nadelmann compares today's marijuana laws to alcohol prohibition, approved during prosperous times in 1920 only to become unpopular during the Great Depression. Prohibition was finally repealed in 1933, in part due to the cost of reining in illegal booze and the need to recoup lost tax revenue in tough economic times.

As he signed a law easing prohibition, President Franklin Roosevelt reportedly quipped, "I think this would be a good time for a beer."

Is our recession-plagued present a good time for a joint? Legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana, would pull the rug out from under pot dealers in urban America, and create a crisis for them, but it would likely prove a boon for state budgets. In an oft-cited 2006 report on U.S. marijuana production, expert Jon Gettman used "conservative price estimates" to peg the value of the annual crop at $36 billion--more valuable than corn and wheat combined.

Three national polls this year showed a surprising number of Americans think marijuana should be legal. Zogby, CBS News and Rasmussen all recorded support for legalization hovering at around 40 percent. Nadelmann of the DPA believes support would have been higher if the question was whether or not marijuana should be taxed and regulated.

California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has proposed a bill to tax and regulate legal marijuana, which he says would generate $1 billion in revenue for the Golden State's anemic budget. Ammiano, who represents areas of San Francisco, says his proposal, unveiled last month, is "simply common sense," considering the unprecedented economic emergency. The measure would also save California an estimated $150 million in enforcement costs.

Rising support for decriminalization has also come from drug war-ravaged Latin America. Former presidents of Colombia, Mexico and Brazil headed the 17-person Latin American Commission on Drugs, which included intellectuals and statesmen. It issued a report last month calling the drug war failed. It called, among other changes, for the personal use of marijuana to be decriminalized.

Currently, marijuana is already decriminalized in some form in 13 U.S. states, including California and New York, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Typically in these states, marijuana possession in small amounts is reduced to a minor offense punishable by a low fine. Alaska has a particularly liberal law, allowing possession of up to an ounce of pot at home without penalty.

Some eight additional state legislatures are currently considering decriminalization, or the expansion of already existing allowances, according to NORML.

No other state has gone as far as the sweeping "tax and regulate" plan Ammiano proposed for California, but all this talk of legalizing pot has Eric Voth, M.D., deeply worried. Voth, chairman of the Institute on Global Drug Policy, believes advocates of legal marijuana are exploiting the country's economic insecurities to advance their agenda, despite evident risks.

Pointing to alcohol and tobacco, which are taxed, he argues the resulting revenue hardly compensates for the social and public health damage wreaked by both substances, including spillover use among youth. In the 1970s, when marijuana use was at its peak, some 11 percent of high school seniors used marijuana daily, whereas today only between two and three percent do so. If marijuana were legal, more kids would smoke it and face health, addiction and learning problems, says Voth, who advised the White House under Republican and Democratic administrations. "I'm not a prohibitionist, I'm a physician and I've seen those problems face-to-face in the trenches."

But, as Voth himself admits, the lobby to decriminalize marijuana is increasingly organized, with a strong presence in state capitols and Washington, D.C. When Ammiano announced his California plan, he enlisted the DPA and the Marijuana Policy Project to back him up. "High Times," the popular pot enthusiasts' magazine, has spearheaded its own "420 campaign" for marijuana legalization. Libertarian organizations, like the Cato Institute, tend to be skeptical of pot prohibition, too.

But there are legal questions over states' efforts to decriminalize. Lenient state laws (not to mention Ammiano's legalization plan) clash with separate federal laws on marijuana, which are strict, calling for up to a year imprisonment and a $1,000 fine for possession of any amount, even if it's a first offense.

Last year, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), sponsored legislation to decriminalize marijuana federally, earning a handful of co-sponsors, but the bill quickly stalled in committee.

Ammiano says his plan isn't radical, since pot would simply be taxed just as tobacco and alcohol are now. But for his opponents that comparison sets off alarm bells.

Both industries have a bad record of facing up to the adverse health effects of their products and its availability to underage users. A legally sanctioned marijuana industry, opponents say, would open the door to another powerful, cynical, corporate dispenser of legal drugs.

Media Falls Flat in Covering Race Relations, New Survey Says

Editor’s Note: Journalists of color say the lack of diversity in the newsroom is affecting how race relations are being covered in the media, according to a new survey by The Loop 21 and UNITY. The coverage of the Obama campaign was a classic case of a missed opportunity, reports NAM contributor Cristina Fernandez-Pereda.

The 2008 elections gave the media a chance to talk about race. But journalists of color think that while the coverage was largely fair, the media is still not effectively covering race relations.

"Black and white people have a different notion of the need to talk about race," noted Clarence Page, former Chicago Tribune reporter who spoke Thursday at the National Press Club in Washington to mark the release of the survey, called Journalism in Color.

The Loop 21 and UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc. conducted the survey.

Page, who took part in the panel discussion, said the Obama camp 'de-racialized' the campaign in its attempt to get votes from different communities and through new media, something that the journalism community followed without doing a deeper analysis. Journalists are by and large still cautious about the effect of the Obama administration on the media's coverage of racial issues.

The survey found that 92 percent responded that when it came to covering race relations, the media was not doing its job effectively. In addition, 45 percent of participants attributed the cause of this ineffective coverage to a lack of diversity in newsrooms, while 33 percent considered it was due to a lack of understanding by editors and producers.

"The problem is that the leading conversations are overlooking diversity in newsrooms and how content needs to be reflecting the new America,” said freelance writer Amy Alexander. “If you don't have a leadership aware of these issues, you can't help to wonder how are we going to fix this."

For Clarence Page, the media coverage of the election responds to what he called the 'gaffe culture': "We only talked about race when a gaffe allowed us to. We talked about gender with Hillary's tears, about race when Joe Biden mentioned Obama was 'articulate' or when Obama himself said he didn't look like other presidents in the dollar bills."

Moderator Ed Gordon asked the panelists if they thought the presence of journalists of color and women on television, during the presidential campaign coverage, has helped to raise awareness of issues previously ignored by mainstream media.

For CNN Political Contributor Leslie Sanchez, "the more richness you can bring, the better you can help." Sanchez described how when it comes to talk about the Latino community, immigration issues are the only ones coming up, leaving aside the fact that Hispanics are a big part of the evangelical community too.

"This only takes us back to who makes the content decisions," she said.

The survey also showed a major consensus among a majority of respondents, who considered the media did a "fair to poor" job covering issues of interest to people of color during the 2008 presidential campaign.

"People are looking at coverage of what affects their lives better than what mainstream media are doing," said Matt Kelley, a USA Today reporter.

That is the reason why local and ethnic media is growing in the United States, even in times of crisis, and mainstream media is struggling, Kelley said.

"We cannot separate the crisis in journalism from the lack of diversity," added Joe Torres, Free Press Director of Government Relations, denouncing how newsrooms' value depends now on profits, and not the diversity of their staff.

More than 60 percent of the respondents “strongly or somewhat disagree” that people of color and female journalists will be promoted to senior positions in the wake of the 2008 campaign, a sentiment shared by Alexander. Not having “true inclusion of minority journalists in management positions” was a large part of the problem.

“The higher folks don't want to give up their power, they only want to talk to the same folks they are comfortable with," Alexander said.

Other panelists agreed, justifying the lack of coverage of race issues during the presidential campaign to reporters and editors' unwillingness to talk about the very same issues affecting their own newsrooms.

For Angie Chuang, assistant professor of journalism at American University, part of the population wants to talk about race, but there's another part that's really uncomfortable with the topic.

Chuang described the difficulty: the media grappled with how to categorize President Obama’s multicultural background.

"We didn't know how to approach Obama, and that drove us crazy," Chuang said.

Kelley of USA Today added: “The Obama campaign did their job about hiding the race issue and I think some people felt relieved about that, but we also missed the opportunity to start a deeper conversation about topics that need to be talked about.”

In order to bring those stories to light, panelists agreed that diversity in newsrooms is necessary to engage the public discussion of race issues, something that could only improve the quality of journalism.

"The more diversity in newsrooms and the more coverage we do, the better it will be both for the health of journalism and for our democracy," Kelley said.

Madoff Explains Details Of Ponzi Scheme

NEW YORK (AP) - Disgraced financier Bernard Madoff was taken to jail after pleading guilty to 11 charges.

A sentencing date of June 16 was set after he pleaded guilty to a worldwide financial swindle. Prosecutors say he robbed investors of billions of dollars.

Madoff told the judge he ``cannot adequately express' how sorry he is.

Madoff told the judge his Ponzi scheme began in the early 1990s in response to a recession.

Two investors who spoke at the hearing said they opposed the guilty plea. One said she wanted it to wait until the lost money is found.

Bernard Madoff's prepared statement, delivered Thursday in U.S. District Court in New York:

Your Honor, for many years up until my arrest on December 11, 2008, I operated a Ponzi scheme through the investment advisory side of my business, Bernard L. Madoff Securities LLC, which was located here in Manhattan, New York at 885 Third Avenue. I am actually grateful for this first opportunity to publicly speak about my crimes, for which I am so deeply sorry and ashamed. As I engaged in my fraud, I knew what I was doing was wrong, indeed criminal. When I began the Ponzi scheme I believed it would end shortly and I would be able to extricate myself and my clients from the scheme. However, this proved difficult, and ultimately impossible, and as the years went by I realized that my arrest and this day would inevitably come. I am painfully aware that I have deeply hurt many, many people, including the members of my family, my closest friends, business associates and the thousands of clients who gave me their money. I cannot adequately express how sorry I am for what I have done. I am here today to accept responsibility for my crimes by pleading guilty and, with this plea allocution, explain the means by which I carried out and concealed my fraud.

The essence of my scheme was that I represented to clients and prospective clients who wished to open investment advisory and individual trading accounts with me that I would invest their money in shares of common stock, options and other securities of large well-known corporations, and upon request, would return to them their profits and principal. Those representations were false because for many years up and until I was arrested on December 11, 2008, I never invested those funds in the securities, as I had promised. Instead, those funds were deposited in a bank account at Chase Manhattan Bank. When clients wished to receive the profits they believed they had earned with me or to redeem their principal, I used the money in the Chase Manhattan bank account that belonged to them or other clients to pay the requested funds. The victims of my scheme included individuals, charitable organizations, trusts, pension funds and hedge funds. Among other means, I obtained their funds through interstate wire transfers they sent from financial institutions located outside New York State to the bank account of my investment advisory business, located here in Manhattan, New York and through mailings delivered by the United States Postal Service and private interstate carriers to my firm here in Manhattan.

I want to emphasize today that while my investment advisory business - the vehicle of my wrongdoing - was part of my firm Bernard L. Madoff Securities, the other businesses my firm engaged in, proprietary trading and market making, were legitimate, profitable and successful in all respects. Those businesses were managed by my brother and two sons.

To the best of my recollection, my fraud began in the early 1990s. At that time, the country was in a recession and this posed a problem for investments in the securities markets. Nevertheless, I had received investment commitments from certain institutional clients and understood that those clients, like all professional investors, expected to see their investments out-perform the market. While I never promised a specific rate of return to any client, I felt compelled to satisfy my clients' expectations, at any cost. I therefore claimed that I employed an investment strategy I had developed, called a 'split strike conversion strategy,' to falsely give the appearance to clients that I had achieved the results I believed they expected.

Through the split-strike conversion strategy, I promised to clients and prospective clients that client funds would be invested in a basket of common stocks within the Standard & Poor's 100 Index, a collection of the 100 largest publicly traded companies in terms of their market capitalization. I promised that I would select a basket of stocks that would closely mimic the price movements of the Standard & Poor's 100 Index. I promised that I would opportunistically time these purchases and would be out of the market intermittently, investing client funds during these periods in United States Government-issued securities such as United States Treasury bills. In addition, I promised that as part of the split strike conversion strategy, I would hedge the investments I made in the basket of common stocks by using client funds to buy and sell option contracts related to those stocks, thereby limiting potential client losses caused by unpredictable changes in stock prices. In fact, I never made the investments I promised clients, who believed they were invested with me in the split strike conversion strategy.

To conceal my fraud, I misrepresented to clients, employees and others, that I purchased securities for clients in overseas markets. Indeed, when the United States Securities and Exchange Commission asked me to testify as part of an investigation they were conducting about my investment advisory business, I knowingly gave false testimony under oath to the staff of the SEC on May 19, 2006 that I executed trades of common stock on behalf of my investment advisory clients and that I purchased and sold the equities that were part of my investment strategy in European markets. In that session with the SEC, which took place here in Manhattan, New York, I also knowingly gave false testimony under oath that I had executed options contracts on behalf of my investment advisory clients and that my firm had custody of the assets managed on behalf of my investment advisory clients.

To further cover-up the fact that I had not executed trades on behalf of my investment advisory clients, I knowingly caused false trading confirmations and client account statements that reflected the bogus transactions and positions to be created and sent to clients purportedly involved in the split strike conversion strategy, as well as other individual clients I defrauded who believed they had invested in securities through me. The clients receiving trade confirmations and account statements had no way of knowing by reviewing these documents that I had never engaged in the transactions represented on the statements and confirmations. I knew those false confirmations and account statements would be and were sent to clients through the U.S. mails from my office here in Manhattan.

Another way that I concealed my fraud was through the filing of false and misleading certified audit reports and financial statements with the SEC. I knew that these audit reports and financial statements were false and that they would also be sent to clients. These reports, which were prepared here in the Southern District of New York, among things, falsely reflected my firm's liabilities as a result of my intentional failure to purchase securities on behalf of my advisory clients.

Similarly, when I recently caused my firm in 2006 to register as an investment advisor with the SEC, I subsequently filed with the SEC a document called a Form ADV Uniform Application for Investment Adviser Registration. On this form, I intentionally and falsely certified under penalty of perjury that Bernard L. Madoff Investment and Securities had custody of my advisory clients' securities. That was not true and I knew it when I completed and filed the form with the SEC, which I did from my office on the 17th floor of 855 Third Avenue, here in Manhattan.

In more recent years, I used yet another method to conceal my fraud. I wired money between the United States and the United Kingdom to make it appear as though there were actual securities transactions executed on behalf of my investment advisory clients. Specifically, I had money transferred from the U.S. bank account of my investment advisory business to the London bank account of Madoff Securities International Ltd., a United Kingdom corporation that was an affiliate of my business in New York. Madoff Securities International Ltd. was principally engaged in proprietary trading and was a legitimate, honestly run and operated business.

Nevertheless, to support my false claim that I purchased and sold securities for my investment advisory clients in European markets, I caused money from the bank account of my fraudulent advisory business, located here in Manhattan, to be wire transferred to the London bank account of Madoff Securities International Limited.

There were also times in recent years when I had money, which had originated in the New York Chase Manhattan bank account of my investment advisory business, transferred from the London bank account of Madoff Securities International Ltd. to the Bank of New York operating bank account of my firm's legitimate proprietary and market making business. That Bank of New York account was located in New York. I did this as a way of ensuring that the expenses associated with the operation of the fraudulent investment advisory business would not be paid from the operations of the legitimate proprietary trading and market making businesses.

In connection with the purported trades, I caused the fraudulent investment advisory side of my business to charge the investment advisory clients $0.04 per share as a commission. At times in the last few years, these commissions were transferred from Chase Manhattan bank account of the fraudulent investment advisory side of my firm to the account at the Bank of New York, which was the operating account for the legitimate side of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities - the proprietary trading and market making side of my firm. I did this to ensure that the expenses associated with the operation of my fraudulent investment advisory business would not be paid from the operations of the legitimate proprietary trading and market making businesses. It is my belief that the salaries and bonuses of the personnel involved in the operation of the legitimate side of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities were funded by the operations of the firm's successful proprietary trading and market making businesses.

Your Honor, I hope I have conveyed with some particularity in my own words, the crimes I committed and the means by which I committed them. Thank you.

Khristine Eroshevich, Sandeep Kapoor & Howard K. Stern Charged With Providing Drugs To Anna Nicole Smith

California Attorney General Jerry Brown has charged Anna Nicole Smith’s former doctors, Khristine Eroshevich and Sandeep Kapoor, and her former lawyer, Howard K. Stern, with “repeatedly and excessively” furnishing drugs to her.

A statement released by Brown’s office said that:

These individuals repeatedly and excessively furnished thousands of prescription pills to Anna Nicole Smith, often for no legitimate medical purpose. There is ample evidence that Dr. Eroshevich and Dr. Kapoor violated their ethical obligations as physicians, while Mr. Stern funneled highly addictive drugs to Ms. Smith.

Over a period of three years, Doctor Khristine Eroshevich, Doctor Sandeep Kapoor, and Howard K. Stern furnished thousands of prescription pills to Ms. Smith, including opiates, benzodiazapines, and other controlled and non-controlled substances.

Doctor Eroshevich and Doctor Kapoor falsified prescriptions and prescribed unwarranted amounts and combinations of highly addictive medications. Howard K. Stern, Ms. Smith’s attorney and confidant, served as a vital link in obtaining, delivering, and administering these prescription drugs to Anna Nicole Smith.

A press conference will be held tomorrow to discuss the case at 10:00 am local time. Eleven counts were filed today and TMZ reports that Stern will turn himself in. Arraignment dates for the defendants have not yet been scheduled. Bail was recommended at $20,000 for each defendant.

Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele Under Fire for Abortion Comments

New national Republican Party chairman Michael Steele has gotten himself in hot water with pro-life advocates for softening his pro-life views and then issuing a statement saying he hasn't backed down on abortion. The misstep is the latest Steele gaffe that has some calling for his resignation.

Steele has taken a pro-life position in the past and has been endorsed by pro-life groups for his various political races -- including running for the U.S. Senate in Maryland.

However, in an interview with GQ, Steele said he thought women have, according to the interviewer, a "right to choose abortion."

"Yeah. I mean, again, I think that’s an individual choice," he said. "Yeah. Absolutely."

Asked if he thought Roe v. Wade should be overturned, Steele said he thinks Roe was poorly decided and that states should have the right to prohibit abortion.

"I think Roe v. Wade—as a legal matter, Roe v. Wade was a wrongly decided matter," he said. "The states should make that choice. That’s what the choice is. The individual choice rests in the states. Let them decide."

The abortion comments quickly drew a reaction from some who feel Steele is compromising his pro-life views or the party's position -- which favors a Constitutional amendment favoring protecting unborn children legally.

In comments to the news web site Politico, Steele reaffirmed his pro-life views, and said his comments to GQ don't take back from his position supporting a Human Life Amendment.

"I am pro-life, always have been, always will be," he said.

Steele said his comments were awkward and that he "tried to present why I am pro life while recognizing that my mother had a 'choice' before deciding to put me up for adoption."

"I thank her every day for supporting life. The strength of the pro life movement lies in choosing life and sharing the wisdom of that choice with those who face difficult circumstances," Steele added. "They did that for my mother and I am here today because they did."

Steele continued in his remarks to Politico about the legality of abortion.

"In my view Roe vs. Wade was wrongly decided and should be repealed. I realize that there are good people in our party who disagree with me on this issue," he said.
"But the Republican Party is and will continue to be the party of life. I support our platform and its call for a Human Life Amendment. It is important that we stand up for the defenseless and that we continue to work to change the hearts and minds of our fellow countrymen so that we can welcome all children and protect them under the law," he added.

Two prominent pro-life advocates have responded to Steele's remarks.

Charmaine Yoest, the president of Americans United for Life, said she was disappointed that Steele had appeared to water down his pro-life views.

"I think it is very troubling for a public figure, of either party, particularly one who presents himself as pro-life, to describe the abortion issue as being a matter of 'individual choice,'" Yoest said, adding that Planned Parenthood normally uses that sort of language.

"There are millions of pro-life Americans, Republican and Democrat, who are looking for leadership on the life issue and they will find Mr. Steele's comments disturbing and demoralizing," she continued.

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins told that he has spoken with Steele about his concerns over the comments.

"I expressed my concerns to the chairman earlier this week about previous statements that were very similar in nature," he said. "He assured me as chairman his views did not matter and that he would be upholding and promoting the Party platform, which is very clear on these issues."

At the same time, Perkins said it "is very difficult to reconcile the GQ interview with the chairman's pledge."

Perkins said he wanted to have another chance to speak with Steele privately before issuing any condemnation of his remarks and status as GOP chairman.

Breaking News: Former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan holds an 8 point lead over incumbent

Former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan holds an 8 point lead over incumbent
Governor Jon Corzine, according to a new Rasmussen Reports poll released this afternoon.

The poll, commissioned by the television station My9, shows the Governor's reelection prospects at their weakest so far with Lonegan leading Corzine by eight points, 43% to 35%.

Corzine's approval ratings are low in the poll, with the largest number of respondents - 42% -- strongly disapproving of his job performance. Twenty-four percent of respondents "somewhat disapprove" of Corzine, while 24% "somewhat approve" and eight percent "strongly approve."

Corzine's favorability ratings are also upside down, with 54% of respondents either having a "very unfavorable" or "somewhat unfavorable" view of the Governor.

Former Morris County Freeholder Chris Christie was seen favorably by 52% of respondents while Lonegan was seen favorably by 45%. Twenty-four percent of those polled weren't sure how they felt about Christie, while 34% weren't sure about Lonegan.
On the budget front, the public does not trust the Governor and state legislature to balance the state budget "in a manner that is good for New Jersey." Only 33% expressed confidence in that prospect, while 64% said they were not confident.Rasmussen surveyed 500 likely voters on March 10 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5%.