Thursday, August 25, 2011

AP IMPACT: THE QUILT THAT ISN'T

Kevin Held was earning a living as a self-employed handyman in Peoria, Ariz., when he formed Stage 1 Productions in 2003 to promote the American Quilt Memorial honoring the lives lost on Sept. 11. He said thousands of individual pieces would be crafted together on white, king-sized sheets that, when sewn together, would stretch 1 1/2 miles across an eight-lane highway.
That never happened.
The $713,000 that Held raised from students, school fundraising campaigns, T-shirt sales and other donations is gone. More than $270,000 of that went to Held and family members, records show.
In a July interview, Held said he hoped to finish the quilt in a few months. But he changed his mind a few weeks after the AP began asking questions, abruptly shutting the project because of "tough economic times."
Held has done an impressive job raising money, persuading students to hold "penny drives" and police officers to buy T-shirts promoting the quilt for $20 or more. But he's spent a lot in doing so.
Since 2004, Held paid himself $175,000 in salary, health insurance, other benefits and a weekly car allowance he received for most of that time. He's owed another $63,820 in deferred salary, according to the charity's most recent tax filing. Held argues that he's actually owed closer to $420,000, because he was supposed to receive $60,000 annually since 2003, and has received far less.
He told the AP in July that more than $50,000 paid in 2005 to satisfy a loan never reported by the charity went to his mother to repay "an accumulation of a bunch of small loans." But when pressed last week — after the AP pointed out that his mother died that year — Held said he paid himself more than $45,000 to repay the loan. He said he couldn't explain the other $5,000 without researching it.
He said he paid another $12,000 to his brothers, Dave and John, as consulting fees.
Held also charged the charity more than $37,000 for office rent, utilities and other related expenses, according to the group's tax forms. But the addresses reported by the charity for most years were Held's home and private mail boxes at PostNet and UPS stores in Arizona and south Texas.
Held said he received much of the office payments to cover the cost of working out of his home.
Held spent more than $170,000 on travel since 2004 to promote the quilt. He rarely traveled without his two Alaskan Malamute dogs, one at 120 pounds and the other 200 pounds. He also listed $36,691 in credit card and bank charges since 2005 and $10,460 for an expense listed as "petty" in 2009.
"I loved going out and traveling," he said. "I loved going to the police departments."
Held acknowledges he struggled managing the charity's finances, but he said he didn't live off the nonprofit. "If I made a mistake, I made a mistake. If I did, then crucify me. I never said I was a professional at this."
Still, he's come a long way since serving a few days in a Tampa jail in 1993 for misdemeanor theft and battery. With his wife, he's moving into a $660,000, five-bedroom house overlooking a lake in Chandler, Ariz.
The charity's finances surprised the Rev. Jude Duffy, identified in the charity's tax filings as board chairman. He said he had no idea that Held had collected more than $713,000 for the charity until the AP showed him the documents.
Duffy, who lives in St. Lawrence Friary in Beacon, N.Y., said he became suspicious several years ago after Held created a new fundraising project without finishing the quilt. The latest project — Operation Adopt-a-Soldier — promises students postcards and posters that they can send to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan if each class will send Held up to $40.
"Is this some kind of scam?" Duffy said he asked Held in an email. "Are you playing on the emotion of the people with this?"
Held responded that he was insulted by the suggestion and assured Duffy that he would finish the quilt project.
"As we look at it today," Duffy said, "certainly it seems to be that we were duped entirely by whatever he had in mind. I don't know what that is. But I would call it a scam or a clever scheme."
Even Held's story of how the quilt project started is suspect.
For years, he claimed he had come up with the idea for a student-led national tribute after hearing that Dominique Deal, a family friend's high school daughter, crafted her own memorial on a bed sheet.
But she says that story isn't true.
"I think he wanted people to think I came up with it. But I just helped," said the woman, now Dominique Greer, 25, and married in Peoria, Ariz. "I guess he thought it would be weird to say he started it."
Held now admits he made up the story because he didn't want to receive credit.
He insists he has accounted for every dime spent by the charity, even if he can't justify all the expenses.
"It doesn't mean I'm a bad person," Held said. "It just means I made a mistake."

AP IMPACT: Some 9/11 charities failed miserably

In this Sept. 11, 2007 photo, American Quilt Memorial organizer Kevin Held holds up a photo of several quilts next to members of the Philadelphia PoliNEW YORK – Americans eager to give after the 9/11 terrorist attacks poured $1.5 billion into hundreds of charities established to serve the victims, their families and their memories. But a decade later, an Associated Press investigation shows that many of those nonprofits have failed miserably.
There are those that spent huge sums on themselves, those that cannot account for the money they received, those that have few results to show for their spending and those that have yet to file required income tax returns. Yet many of the charities continue to raise money in the name of Sept. 11.
One charity raised more than $700,000 for a giant memorial quilt, but there is no quilt. Another raised more than $4 million to help victims, but didn't account publicly for how it spent all of the money. A third helps support a 9/11 flag sold by the founder's for-profit company.
There are other charities that can account for practically every penny raised — except that all the money went to pay for fundraising, and not the intended mission.
To be sure, most of the 325 charities identified by the AP followed the rules, accounted fully for their expenditures and closed after fulfilling identified goals.
There have been charities to assist ill and dying first responders, to help families of the dead, to help survivors and to honor the memory of victims. And there are charities that revolve around the flag, patriotism, motorcycle rallies and memorials of all sizes and shapes.
But in virtually every category of 9/11 nonprofit, an AP analysis of tax documents and other official records uncovered schemes beset with shady dealings, questionable expenses and dubious intentions. Many of those still raising money are small, founded by people with no experience running a nonprofit.
• The Arizona-based charity that raised $713,000 for a 9/11 memorial quilt promised it would be big enough to cover 25 football fields, but there are only several hundred decorated sheets packed in boxes at a storage unit.
One-third of the money raised went to the charity's founder and relatives, according to tax records and interviews. The chairman of the board, an 84-year-old Roman Catholic priest, says he didn't know he was chairman and thought that only small amounts of money had been raised. He says he was unaware that the founder had given himself a $200 per week car allowance, rent reimbursement and a $45,000 payment for an unreported loan.
• There's a charity for a 9/11 Garden of Forgiveness at the World Trade Center site — only there's no Garden of Forgiveness. The Rev. Lyndon Harris, who founded the Sacred City nonprofit in 2005, spent the months following 9/11 at ground zero helping victims, relatives and first responders. He said he formed the charity to fulfill "our sacred oath" to build the garden. Tax records show the charity has raised $200,000, and that the Episcopal priest paid himself $126,530 in salary and used another $3,562 for dining expenses between 2005 and 2007.
Harris said he sees his charity's work as a success even if there is no garden at the site. "I saw our mission as teaching about forgiveness," he said.
• Another Manhattan 9/11 charity, Urban Life Ministries, raised more than $4 million to help victims and first responders. But the group only accounted for about $670,000 on its tax forms. Along with almost four dozen other 9/11 charities, Urban Life lost its IRS tax-exempt status this year because it failed to show how money was collected and spent.
• The Flag of Honor Fund, a Connecticut charity, raised nearly $140,000 to promote a memorial flag honoring 9/11 victims. The flag, which contains the name of every person killed on Sept. 11, 2001, is on sale today at Wal-Mart and other retail stores. But only a tiny fraction of the money from those sales goes to 9/11 charities, with most going to retail stores, the flag maker and a for-profit business — run by the man who created the flag charity.
The AP examined charities that received tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service by promising to serve victims of the 9/11 tragedy, build memorials or do other charitable works in honor of the dead. The charities were identified using data maintained by Guidestar, a private database of nonprofits that the IRS recommends.
The $1.5 billion donated to these charities was in addition to the billions spent by Congress and states and established nonprofits like the Red Cross.
Most of the 9/11 charities fulfilled their missions, but the AP analysis found dozens that struggled, fell short of their promises or did more to help their founders than those affected by the terrorist attacks.

East Coast checks bridges, readies plans for Irene

Tourist Neil Marcella of Yorktown Va. rides his bike in an empty ferry parking at Cape Hatteras, N.C. as evacuations from Ocracoke Island have begun WBUXTON, N.C. – From North Carolina islands connected to the mainland by just a handful of bridges to the waterlogged shores of New England, officials are calculating what they need to do if Irene becomes the first major hurricane to strike the East Coast in seven years.
They're scrambling to inspect bridges, dusting off evacuation plans and getting sandbags ready for potential floods. And considering where and when to move people out of harm's way.
"You have to recognize that you're living here on an island, and island living represents certain risks," said Edward Mangano, county executive in Long Island's Nassau County, where school buses were being moved to higher ground in case they're needed to evacuate residents to storm shelters. "And those risks appear now, at least, to be tracking toward us."
Irene could hit North Carolina's Outer Banks on Saturday afternoon with winds around 115 mph (185 kph). It's predicted to chug up the East Coast, dumping rain from Virginia to New York City before a much-weakened form reaches land in Connecticut. Finally, it should peter out in Maine by Monday afternoon.
Even without hurricane-force winds, northeastern states already drenched from a rainy August could see flooding and fallen trees.
"You want to go into a hurricane threat with dry soil, low rivers, a half moon," New Jersey state climatologist David Robinson said.
That is not the case. The Garden State has gotten twice as much rain this month as in a normal August, and high tide happens at 8 a.m. EDT on Sunday, when Irene might be passing by.
Early Thursday, the storm was thrashing the Bahamas with widespread damage reported on at least two southern islands. It was a powerful Category 3 hurricane with winds at 115 mph (185 kph). Forecasters said the winds will ramp up quickly over the next day and Irene was expected to blow into a monstrous Category 4 with winds at least 131 mph (210 mph).
Hurricane and tropical storm watches would likely be issued for parts of the Carolinas later Thursday.
While the storm's path isn't definite, officials are taking nothing for granted.
In Maryland, inspections of bridges looking for cracks in the support piers and other structural features found no damage, according to state transportation agency spokeswoman Teri Moss. In Virginia, with a southeastern corner that could be in Irene's way, cities along the coast are reviewing their evacuation plans, said Laura Southard, spokeswoman for the state Department of Emergency Management.
"If there is an evacuation, people don't have to go to Richmond or Williamsburg," she said. "They just have to get to higher ground. There are multiple routes out. Cities and localities work hard year-round on their plans."
North Carolina's Outer Banks, which look the likeliest to get a serious hit from Irene, have a long history of hurricanes, and building codes and emergency plans reflect that. Structures in the region are designed to withstand up to 110 mph sustained winds and gusts of up to 130 mph for three minutes. Evacuation routes are meticulously planned, down to the order in which counties hit the road.
Ocracoke Island, a tiny Outer Banks community, has already ordered visitors off, but it has special challenges since it's only accessible to the mainland by boat. Dare County ordered evacuations to start Thursday and Currituck County was weighing its decision.
Some of the region's most popular destinations rely on the ailing Bonner Bridge, which was built in 1963 and intended to last 30 years, to connect Hatteras Island to the northern Outer Banks. There's no other way to reach Hatteras except by boat.
The bridge handles about 2 million cars a year and the state DOT ranks it a 2 on its safety meter, with 100 being the highest, or most safe, designation.
"We're going to shift people and resources around to do what we need to do and keep the roads open," said North Carolina Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nicole Meister. The 2.7-mile bridge won't stay open if it's deemed unsafe — which happened during Hurricane Earl last year — but the state has an emergency ferry terminal ready in that case to get people off the island, Meister said.
Farther north, precautions so far were mainly wait-and-see as officials watched for developments in the forecast.
New York City officials had begun preparations to evacuate residents from low-lying areas of the city if necessary. The city's subway stations and tunnels would likely be flooded in places, and officials plan to shut the system down ahead of time to reduce damage to the infrastructure.
"The sense is that we're going to be facing a strong tropical storm" with winds of 40 to 60 mph, said Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph F. Bruno.
But Bruno added that the city's agencies were preparing for a Category 1 hurricane with winds surpassing 74 mph and waters surging dangerously in low-lying areas. With five hospitals and nursing homes in the area, officials were readying to possibly evacuate the most frail and needy.
Roads and bridges in Massachusetts are likely to bear the weather in good condition, said Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. But the agency is planning for flooding and is keeping an eye on the 3,000 public and private dams throughout the state.
The Office of Dam Safety regulates about half the dams in Massachusetts and earlier this year a state audit rated 100 of those owned by 62 cities and towns as unsafe or in poor condition.
For longtime residents of the Outer Banks, getting off the island isn't always the biggest problem.
"The problem is getting back on," said Mary Morgan, who works at the Lighthouse View Motel in Buxton.
Inland flooding can close roads for days in severe situations, making it impossible to get back on the island until the water level falls. That makes people who live here far more reluctant to leave than tourists visiting for a week.
"I am prepared to evacuate," said Jen Ray, owner of The Space Between, a boutique and espresso bar in Frisco. "I'm not sure I'm going to."

AP-GfK poll: Views on economy, Obama role sour

Barack ObamaWASHINGTON – Americans' views on the economy have dimmed this summer. But so far, the growing pessimism doesn't seem to be taking a toll on President Barack Obama's re-election prospects.
More people now believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows, and confidence in Obama's handling of the economy has slipped from just a few months ago, notably among fellow Democrats.
The survey found that 86 percent of adults see the economy as "poor," up from 80 percent in June. About half — 49 percent — said it worsened just in the past month. Only 27 percent responded that way in the June survey.
That can't be good news for a president revving up his re-election campaign. Yet there are several hopeful signs for Obama.
Despite the perception of a weakening recovery, there has been no significant change in the number of people who say he deserves re-election: 47 percent as opposed to 48 percent two months ago. That's a statistical dead heat with those who favor a change in the White House.

And more Americans still blame former President George W. Bush rather than Obama for the economic distress. Some 31 percent put the bulk of the blame on Obama, while 51 percent point to his Republican predecessor.
"I think Bush had a hand in it, too. Obama's not totally responsible," said Mary Parish, 68, of Troy, Tenn. An independent who voted for Republican John McCain in 2008, she said she doesn't believe Obama has what it takes to heal the economy. "He's a smooth-talking man. But he does not know what he's doing."
Obama also fares better than Congress in the blame department. Some 44 percent put "a lot" or "most" of the blame on Republicans while 36 percent point to congressional Democrats.
The gloomy economic outlook reflected in the poll, which was taken Aug. 18-22, follows a round of bleak government economic reports — on unemployment, the housing market and economic growth that fell below 1 percent for the first six months of the year. It was taken amid heightened worries of a new U.S. recession, fallout from a downgrade of the country's credit rating and a spreading European debt crisis.
As the public's outlook on the economy dips, so has approval for the president's economic stewardship.
More than 6 in 10 — 63 percent — disapprove of Obama's handling of the economy. Nearly half, or 48 percent, "strongly" disapproved. Approval of his economic performance now stands at just 36 percent, his worst approval rating on the issue in AP-GfK polling.
Among Democrats, 58 percent approve of the president's handling of the economy, down from 65 percent in June. Among Republicans, approval dipped to 9 percent from 15 percent.
Just 51 percent consider Obama a strong leader, down from 60 percent in June and 65 percent following the capture and death of Osama bin Laden in May. In June, 85 percent of Democrats in the poll called him a strong leader. Now, the number is down to 76 percent.
Of course, there are limits to what a president can do.
"I think he can nudge it along, but really, it boils down to the private sector," said Dan Elliott, 42, of Hillsboro, Ill., an independent who voted for Obama in 2008 and says he'll probably vote for him again.
Judith Lee, 63, a retired teacher from Great Diamond Island, Maine, said she's a Republican who voted for Obama in 2008 but has been disappointed by his leadership style.
"I don't think he is a very forceful leader," Lee said. "His style of leadership seems to be to look for consensus and ideas from other people, and it seems to have been ineffective. And Congress seems to be deadlocked on problems."
Some 75 percent in the poll said the country is heading in the wrong direction, up from 63 percent in June. Among Democrats, 61 percent chose "wrong direction" — up from 46 percent in June.
And for the first time for Obama in the poll, a majority of all adults said they disapprove of his overall performance — 52 percent, up from 47 percent in June. Among Democrats, approval fell 8 points, to 74 percent from 82 percent in June. Among Republicans, it fell to 11 percent from 22 percent.
Politically, the poll underscores the difficult time ahead for Obama as he seeks re-election in a shaky economy.
Unemployment increased to 9.2 percent in July, up from 9.1 percent in June. And most economists don't expect it to decline much below 8.5 percent by the November 2012 presidential election. No president has won re-election with a jobless rate that high since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936.
So why hasn't the rise in pessimism taken more of a toll?
Despite the general rise in gloom, it seems unlikely that liberal Democrats will flock away from Obama even if they have rising doubts about his agenda or economic leadership, analysts suggest. And independents, who helped elect Obama in 2008 and are now being actively wooed by both parties, did not exhibit significant changes in their approval levels.
It was at 44 percent, statistically no different from the 43 percent approval rating among independents in June.
"A lot is out of his hands," said Penny Johansen, 65, a retired legal secretary from Tempe, Ariz. "There is only so much one person can do, and one person cannot be blamed for the acts of others." Politically unaligned, she voted for Obama in 2008 and says she'll probably do so again.
On related economic issues, 59 percent said they disapproved of Obama's handling of tax issues, up from 53 percent in June. And 64 percent said they disapproved of his handling of the annual budget deficit, compared with 63 percent in June.
Sixty percent described the financial situation in their own households as "good," about even with the level in June. Asked if they expected their financial situation to change over the next 12 months, 31 percent said they expected it to get better, 12 percent expected it to get worse and a majority — 56 percent — said they expected it to "stay about the same."
As to creating jobs, some 44 percent said they would trust Democrats to do a better job, while 42 percent said Republicans would.
The AP-GfK poll was conducted Aug. 18-22 by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cellphone interviews with 1,000 adults nationwide and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

With Jobs Out As CEO, Apple Looks To The Future

FILE - In this file photo taken Jan. 11, 2011, Tim Cook, Chief Operating Officer of Apple, announces that Verizon Wireless will carry Apple's iPhone, SAN FRANCISCO – Since Steve Jobs' return to Apple Inc. in 1997 as CEO, the company has been on an unparalleled upswin g, highlighted by the immense popularity of the iPad and iPhone.
Now, with Jobs no longer leading, Apple will have to prove it can keep its momentum. If the recent past is any indication, the company will continue to move forward.
Apple said late Wednesday that Jobs, 56, resigned from the CEO post, in a move that seems motivated by his ongoing, yet still unspecified health issues. Jobs had taken an indefinite medical leave in January, marking his third such leave in seven years. Jobs, who co-founded Apple in 1976, previously survived pancreatic cancer and received a liver transplant.
Taking on the role of board chairman, Jobs now passes the CEO role Tim Cook, 50, the company's chief operating officer. Cook had been acting CEO since January. For years, he has been running Apple's day-to-day operations, and has long been seen as the natural successor. He also served as Apple's leader for two months in 2004 while Jobs battled cancer, and again for five-and-a-half months in 2009 when Jobs received a liver transplant. The company has thrived under Cook's leadership, briefly becoming the most valuable company in America earlier this month.
Cook is not nearly as recognizable as Jobs, who after returning from a 12-year hiatus in 1997 became the very public face of Apple, clad in his signature blue jeans, black turtleneck and wire-rimmed glasses when trotting out the company's iPhones, iPads, iPods at immensely popular and anticipated media events. Though Jobs has looked increasingly frail, he emerged from his leave twice this year to tout products at such events: First, he unveiled the second version of Apple's iPad tablet computer in March. Then, in June, he resurfaced to show off Apple's iCloud music synching service.
But while Jobs is the most recognized person at Apple, he is not the only one responsible for the company's success. Many industry watchers believe that despite his importance, Apple will continue to innovate and not just survive, but thrive.
Says Cross Research analyst Shannon Cross: "Steve Jobs put in place at Apple a culture of innovation."
And its innovation has translated to sales. With Cook running the company, Apple sold 9.25 million iPads during the most recent quarter, which ended in June, bringing sales to nearly 29 million iPads since they first began selling in April 2010. Apple also sold 20.3 million iPhones in the same period, which was millions more than analysts expected. The company's stock has risen 8 percent since Jobs announced his most recent medical leave.
Cook's track record at Apple is strong. The first time he was in charge back in 2004, things went so well that Apple promoted him from executive vice president to chief operating officer in 2005.
During the second time, which lasted from mid-January to the end of June 2009, Apple released a new version of the iPhone and updated laptop computers on schedule. The company also announced that its iTunes app store hit a major milestone: More than one billion apps were downloaded within the first nine months of its existence.
Apple's stock rose 62 percent during that time, satisfying investors' concerns over Jobs' absence.
Cook, an Alabaman with short, gray hair and a broad, thin-lipped smile, has been an asset to Apple since his arrival in 1998. He is credited with tuning Apple's manufacturing process to solve chronic product delays and supply problems. His inventory management skills helped Apple build up its $72.6 billion hoard of cash and marketable securities — funds that it can use to keep its lead in the portable electronics market.
Like IBM, McDonald's or Ford, all of which lost visionary CEOs, Apple is not necessarily dependent on the immortality of the genius behind it, says Terry Connelly, dean of the Ageno School of Business at Golden Gate University in San Francisco.
"A company is dependent on its ability to institutionalize that genius in the corporate DNA," he says. "Apple shows every sign of having done that. We will see that when we see how Cook responds to competitive pressure."
And, as Cross points out, Cook won't be leading Apple alone. His supporting team includes Jonathan Ive, who oversees the elegant, minimalist design of Apple's products; Ron Johnson, who runs Apple's stores; Philip Schiller, the marketing chief; and Scott Forstall, who supervises the iPhone software.
"The bench at Apple is extremely strong," Cross says. "He has a good group of executives behind him."
And consumers — the group Apple really depends on to make its products popular — may not be that affected by the change.
Apple customers don't buy the company's products because of Steve Jobs, Gartner Research analyst Michael Gartenberg says, they buy Apple products because they're Apple products. Without Jobs, he believes the company's challenge will be the same as it was with him: continuing to find ways to raise the bar with its consumer electronics.
"Yes, this is quite some transition at the end of Steve's role and his time at Apple, but it doesn't mean Apple itself will fundamentally change," he says. "Certainly Apple's competition would be foolish to think this is a situation they could somehow capitalize on."

Steve Jobs, Apple CEO and creative force, resigns

Steve JobsSAN FRANCISCO – Steve Jobs, the mind behind the iPhone, iPad and other devices that turned Apple Inc. into one of the world's most powerful companies, resigned as CEO on Wednesday, saying he can no longer handle the job but will continue to play a leadership role.
The move appears to be the result of an unspecified medical condition for which Jobs took a leave from his post in January. Apple's chief operating officer, Tim Cook, was quickly named CEO of the company Jobs co-founded 35 years ago in his garage.
In a letter addressed to Apple's board and the "Apple community," Jobs said he "always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come."
The company said Jobs gave the board his resignation Wednesday and suggested Cook be named the company's new leader. Apple said Jobs was elected board chairman and Cook is becoming a member of its board.
Genentech Inc. Chairman Art Levinson, in a statement issued on behalf of Apple's board, said Jobs' "extraordinary vision and leadership saved Apple and guided it to its position as the world's most innovative and valuable technology company."
He said that Jobs will continue to provide "his unique insights, creativity and inspiration," and that the board has "complete confidence" that Cook is the right person to replace him.
""Tim's 13 years of service to Apple have been marked by outstanding performance, and he has demonstrated remarkable talent and sound judgment in everything he does," Levinson said.
Jobs' health has long been a concern for Apple investors who see him as an industry oracle who seems to know what consumers want long before they do. After his announcement, Apple stock quickly fell 5.4 percent in after-hours trading.
Jeff Gamet, managing editor of The Mac Observer online news site focused on Apple, said Jobs' departure has more sentimental than practical significance, and that he has been telegraphing the change for several years.
"All Apple really has done is made official what they've been doing administratively for a while now, which is Tim runs the show and Steve gets to do his part to make sure the products come out to meet the Apple standard," he said.
"I expect that even though there are a lot of people that right now are sad or scared because Steve is stepping back from the CEO role, that ultimately they'll be OK," Gamet said.
But Trip Chowdhry, an analyst with Global Equities Research, said Jobs' maniacal attention to detail is what set Apple apart. He said Apple's product pipeline might be secure for another few years, but predicted that the company will eventually struggle to come up with market-changing ideas.
"Apple is Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs is Apple, and Steve Jobs is innovation," Chowdhry said. "You can teach people how to be operationally efficient, you can hire consultants to tell you how to do that, but God creates innovation. ... Apple without Steve Jobs is nothing."
Earlier this month Apple became the most valuable company in America, briefly surpassing Exxon Mobil. At the market close Wednesday its market value was $349 billion, just behind Exxon Mobil's $358 billion.
Jobs' hits seemed to grow bigger as the years went on: After the colorful iMac computer and the now-ubiquitous iPod, the iPhone redefined the category of smart phones and the iPad all but created the market for tablet computers.
His own aura seemed part of the attraction. On stage at trade shows and company events in his uniform of jeans, sneakers and black mock-turtlenecks, he'd entrance audiences with new devices, new colors, new software features, building up to a grand finale he'd predictably preface by saying, "One more thing."
Jobs, 56, shepherded Apple from a two-man startup to Silicon Valley darling when the Apple II, the first computer for regular people to really catch on, sent IBM Corp. and others scrambling to get their own PCs to market.
After Apple suffered a slump in the mid-1980s, he was forced out of the company. He was CEO at Next, another computer company, and Pixar, the computer-animation company that produced "Toy Story" on his watch, over the following 10 years.
Apple was foundering as he returned as an adviser in 1996 — a year it lost $900 million as Microsoft Windows-based PCs dominated the computer market. The company's fortunes began to turn around with its first new product under Jobs' direction, the iMac, which launched in 1998 and sold about 2 million in its first 12 months.
Jobs eventually became interim CEO, then took the job permanently. Apple's popularity grew in the U.S. throughout the 2000s as the ever-sleeker line of iPods introduced many lifelong Windows users to their first Apple gadget. Apple created another sensation in 2007 with the iPhone, the stark-looking but powerful smart phone that quickly dominated the industry.
The iPad was introduced less than a year and a half ago but has already sold nearly 29 million units as it inspired myriad rivals in a tablet computer market that scarcely existed before Apple stepped in.
There have been some setbacks. Apple was swept up in a massive Securities and Exchange Commission inquiry into stock options backdating in the mid-2000s, a practice that artificially boosted the value of options grants. But Jobs and Apple emerged unscathed after two former executives took the fall and eventually settled with the SEC.
As Jobs was praised for his vision, concerns about his health persisted. The January leave was Jobs' third medical leave over several years. He had previously survived pancreatic cancer and received a liver transplant.
Shannon Cross, an analyst at Cross Research, said Cook is a good choice to replace Jobs.
"He has taken over for Jobs twice in two medical leaves and the company has functioned extremely well," she said, adding that Cook has been Jobs' "right hand guy" for many years.
Cross also said Jobs put in place a "culture of innovation" that will help Apple remain a creative force in the industry.
"Steve Jobs is an extremely strong leader and clearly has made Apple a leading consumer electronics company and one of the most innovative companies in the world," she said. "However, he didn't do it alone."

With CIA help, NYPD moves covertly in Muslim


In this photo made Aug. 18, 2011, people pass below a New York Police security camera, upper left, situated above a mosque on Fulton St., in the Brook
NEW YORK – Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the New York Police Department has become one of the nation's most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies, targeting ethnic communities in ways that would run afoul of civil liberties rules if practiced by the federal government, an Associated Press investigation has found.
These operations have benefited from unprecedented help from the CIA, a partnership that has blurred the line between foreign and domestic spying.
The department has dispatched undercover officers, known as "rakers," into minority neighborhoods as part of a human mapping program, according to officials directly involved in the program. They've monitored daily life in bookstores, bars, cafes and nightclubs. Police have also used informants, known as "mosque crawlers," to monitor sermons, even when there's no evidence of wrongdoing.
Neither the city council, which finances the department, nor the federal government, which has given NYPD more than $1.6 billion since 9/11, is told exactly what's going on.
Many of these operations were built with help from the CIA, which is prohibited from spying on Americans but was instrumental in transforming the NYPD's intelligence unit.

Evacuations begin on tiny NC island ahead

HATTERAS, N.C. – Tourists began evacuating from a tiny barrier island off North Carolina on Wednesday as Hurricane Irene strengthened to a major Category 3 storm over the Bahamas with the East Coast in its sights.
Hurricane IreneSo far, things were going smo othly, said Tommy Hutcherson, owner of the Ocracoke Variety Store on Ocracoke Island. Cars had lined up at gas pumps to top off before leaving ahead of Irene, which had winds near 120 mph (193 kph) as of Wednesday afternoon. Irene is expected to get stronger over warm ocean waters and could become a Category 4 storm with winds of at least 131 mph (211 kph) by Thursday.
The evacuation was a test of whether people in the crosshairs of the first major hurricane along the East Coast in years would heed orders to get out of the way. As Irene churned in the Caribbean, tourists scurried from hotels in the Bahamian capital of Nassau to catch flights off the island before the airport's expected afternoon closure. Officials as far north as Rhode Island and Massachusetts in the U.S. also were getting ready for Irene.
The first ferry to leave Ocracoke Island in North Carolina arrived just before 5:30 a.m. in nearby Hatteras with around a dozen cars on board.
The 16-mile-long barrier island is accessible only by boats that can carry no more than 50 cars at a time. It is home to about 800 year-round residents and a tourist population that swells into the thousands when vacationers rent rooms and cottages. Tourists were told to evacuate Wednesday. Island residents were told to get out on Thursday.
It wasn't clear how many people on the first arriving ferry Wednesday morning were tourists, but the first two cars to drive off had New York and New Jersey plates.
Getting off the next ferry about an hour later was a family that included newlywed Jennifer Zaharek, 23, of Torrington, Conn. She and her husband, Andrew, were married Monday and planned to spend their honeymoon on the island.
"We just got to spend one day on the beach and then we went to bed early to get up for the evacuation," she said.
State workers questioned people who tried taking the ferry to the island and turned a few cars around. In addition to the ferry line to Hatteras, there were two other ferry lines that went to and from the island.
Federal officials have warned Irene could cause flooding, power outages or worse all along the East Coast as far north as Maine, even if it stays offshore. The projected path has gradually shifted to the east, and Irene could make landfall anywhere from South Carolina to Massachusetts over the weekend.
As of 2 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Irene was centered about 250 miles (402 kilometers) southeast of Nassau in the Bahamas and was moving northwest near 12 mph (19 kph).
Speaking Wednesday on ABC's "Good Morning America," Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said people as far north as New England should be ready for the storm. When asked about concerns preparing the Northeast for a hurricane, which is uncommon in that part of the country, Fugate cited Tuesday's earthquake that rattled the East Coast.
"It's a reminder that we don't always get to pick the next disaster," Fugate said.
Ocracoke is part of North Carolina's Outer Banks, a roughly 200-mile stretch of fragile barrier islands off the state's coast. Pristine beaches and wild mustangs attract thousands of tourists each year. Aside from Ocracoke, the other islands are accessible by bridges to the mainland and ferries. The limited access can make the evacuation particularly tense. Officials in counties covering the rest of the Outer Banks were to decide later Wednesday or Thursday whether to evacuate.
All the barrier islands have the geographic weakness of jutting out into the Atlantic like the side-view mirror of a car, a location that's frequently been in the path of destructive storms over the decades. In 1999, Hurricane Floyd made landfall as a Category 2 storm and caused a storm surge that wiped out scores of houses and other properties on the Outer Banks.
Irene had already wrought destruction across the Caribbean, giving a glimpse of what the storm might bring to the Eastern Seaboard. In Puerto Rico, tens of thousands were without power, and one woman died after trying to cross a swollen river in her car. Thousands were evacuated because of flooding in the Dominican Republic. In Cuba, the storm sent waves crashing over a seawall in Baracoa, causing ankle-deep flooding in parts and damaging some sidewalks.
Hurricane conditions were already present in the southeastern Bahamas, forecasters said. The capital of Nassau buzzed with preparations Wednesday, as the government and some resorts set up emergency shelters. Many visitors scrambled to get off the island, waiting in long lines to catch planes before the airport closed.
"I've been through one hurricane and I don't want to see another," said Susan Hooper of Paris, Illinois, who was cutting short a trip with her husband, Marvin, to celebrate their 23rd wedding anniversary.
It's been more than seven years since a major hurricane, considered a Category 3 with winds of at least 111 mph (179 kph), hit the East Coast. Hurricane Jeanne came ashore on Florida's east coast in 2004.
People were keeping an eye on the storm farther north. At the Breakers Resort Inn in Virginia Beach, Va., manager Jimmy Capps said some customers have canceled, but he's urging most to wait until Thursday, when the storm's path will be more certain than it is now. He said the 56-room inn is still about 80 percent booked for the weekend.
In Massachusetts, country music star Kenny Chesney bumped a concert ahead two days to miss Irene, and state officials were making sure communications systems were working and sandbags were stocked. In Rhode Island, officials stockpiled sandbags and cleared storm drains to prepare for possible flooding.
Tourist enclaves in Georgia and South Carolina, though, were not expecting as much of a hit. Managers at Georgia's Cumberland and Sapelo islands said they planned to remain open as Irene approaches. In South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley said she didn't anticipate evacuations.
"What we can say is tourists can comfortably stay on the coast. If something changes, we'll have another news conference," she said.
North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue urged coastal residents to be prepared and fill up their gas tanks, collect their prescription drugs and have cash in case the region is without power or other basics. Hurricane kits also should include water, canned food and other supplies.
Still, Perdue tried not to discourage vacationers from visiting North Carolina's coast, saying at this point the state's southern beaches would avoid the brunt of the storm and predicted Irene would pass the state by Sunday morning — leaving intact the week leading up to the Labor Day holiday.
Perdue defended comments she made Tuesday asking the media not to scare away tourists and urging vacationers to keep visiting North Carolina.
"You will never endanger your tourists, but you also don't want to overinflate the sense of urgency about the storm. And so let's just hang on," she said
Cheryl Tuverson of Drexel Hill, Pa., was staying on Hatteras Island with a large group, including her two children, and had no plans to hang on. She recalled staying through a storm during a previous visit to the area and said she wouldn't do it again.
"This time, we'll leave," she said. "We're supposed to leave Saturday, but we'll leave Friday."

Libyan rebels hunt Gadhafi, try to secure Tripoli

Libyan rebels patrol to try and find Moammar Gadhafi's relatives as they got rumors that one of his son was hiding inside the building, in Tripoli, Li TRIPOLI, Libya – Libyans hunting Moammar Gadhafi offered a $2 million bounty on the fallen dictator's head and amnesty for anyone who kills or captures him as rebels battled Wednesday to clear the last pockets of resistance from the capital Tripoli.
While some die-hard loyalists kept up the fight to defend Gadhafi, his support was crumbling by the hour. His deputy intelligence chief defected, and even his foreign minister said his 42-year rule was over.
A defiant Gadhafi vowed from hiding to fight on "until victory or martyrdom," in an audio message early Wednesday.
He may have little choice. Asked by the British broadcaster Channel 4 if a negotiated settlement or safe passage for Gadhafi from Libya was still possible, Foreign Minister Abdul Ati al-Obeidi said: "It looks like things have passed this kind of solution."
Rebel leaders were beginning to set up a new government in the capital. Their interim administration, the National Transitional Council, has been based in the eastern city of Benghazi, which fell under rebel control shortly after the outbreak of widespread protests in February.
"Members of the council are now moving one by one from Benghazi to Tripoli," said Mansour Seyf al-Nasr, the Libyan opposition's new ambassador to France.
Rebel officials are eager to prove they can bring a stable political future to Libya, and that their movement is more than an often-fractious collection of tribes, ethnicities and semiautonomous militias. Mahmoud Jibril, the head of the opposition government, outlined plans for a new constitution and elections and said officials were talking to the U.N. about sending up to 200 monitors to help ensure security in Tripoli.
But the capital was far from pacified. A day after rebels captured Gadhafi's vast Bab al-Aziziya compound, the symbolic center of his regime, loyalists were firing into the compound from an adjacent neighborhood where intense clashes broke out. Pro-regime snipers cut off the road to the airport. Four Italian journalists were kidnapped on the highway to Tripoli around the city of Zawiya, 30 miles west of the capital.
Tripoli's streets were largely empty of civilians. Rebels manned checkpoints every few hundred yards, but little could be seen beyond the debris of days of fighting and weeks of accumulated garbage.
Rebels found no sign of Gadhafi after storming his compound Tuesday, but rumors churned of his possible whereabouts. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said there was no evidence he had left Libya, but rebel officials acknowledged they could not find him.
"He might be in Sirte or any other place," Jibril said in Paris, where he met French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Sirte, a coastal city 250 miles from Tripoli, is Gadhafi's hometown and a bastion of regime support.
Khaled al-Zintani, spokesman for the rebel military council for the western mountains, said it has set up an operations room with intelligence officers, military defectors and security officers who are trying to find Gadhafi, his family, regime members and his forces. They are collecting information on the location, size and direction of any convoys.
The operations center is in the western mountains, the staging base for the rebels who marched on Tripoli.
Mohammed al-Herizi, an opposition official, said a group of Tripoli businessmen has offered a $2 million reward for the arrest or killing of Gadhafi. The rebels themselves are offering amnesty for anyone who kills him or hands him over.
"The biggest prize is to offer amnesty, not to give money," rebel spokesman Col. Ahmed Bani said.
Gadhafi vowed not to surrender. Speaking to a local television channel, apparently by phone, he called on residents of the Libyan capital and loyal tribesmen to free Tripoli from the "devils and traitors" who have overrun it.
Al-Sadeq al-Kabir, a rebel spokesman, denied media reports that Gadhafi had offered a cease-fire.
The rebels have taken control of much of Libya with the help of a relentless NATO air campaign that included about 7,500 strike attacks against Gadhafi's forces. His defenses around Tripoli melted away as the rebels rapidly advanced and entered the capital Sunday.
Jibril said a commission created with members from around Libya would write a new constitution, which would be put up for a referendum. He didn't specify a timetable but said that once a constitution is adopted, elections for parliament would be held within the next four months, and its president would be Libya's interim leader until a presidential election sometime later.
"The mission of protecting civilians is not over," Jibril said. "The other bigger and more fierce battle has not started yet. It is the rebuilding of Libya."
In the postwar period, a new army will be created, he said, and the National Transitional Council planned "to call on all those who took up arms to join either the new army or the new police force that we will constitute in coming days."
The rebels said they also have an environment team that tries to detect bodies of combatants and clean the city of rotting animals.
Fighting continued, however, and not just in Tripoli. Jibril said pro-government forces were shelling a number of southern cities.
Residents of the port town of Zwara, about 70 miles west of the capital, said they had suffered through four days of shelling. All roads to the city had been cut off, and rebels said they were running low on supplies.
As they are routed elsewhere, Gadhafi's forces "take their revenge by shelling our town," Sefask al-Azaabi, a rebel, said by telephone. "We are appealing to the (rebel) military council to send us reinforcements or this town will be finished in no time."
In Tripoli, rebel fighters were using Gadhafi's captured compound as a staging area, loading huge trucks with ammunition and discussing deployments, but they had yet to control all of Bab al-Aziziya.
Pro-Gadhafi snipers repeatedly fired on the fighters from tall buildings in the Abu Salim neighborhood, a regime stronghold, rebel Mohammed Amin said.
He said the rebels had surrounded Abu Salim, home to the country's most notorious prison and scene of a 1996 massacre of protesting political prisoners, but had been unable to push into it. But late Wednesday night, al-Kabir, the rebel spokesman, said rebels released thousands of inmates from Abu Salim, many of them political prisoners who had been held there for years.
Matthew VanDyke, a writer from Baltimore missing since March in Libya, was among those who escaped, his mother said. VanDyke called her and said he had been held in solitary confinement, but fellow prisoners helped him escape to a compound where he borrowed a phone. He had traveled to Libya to write about the uprising against Gadhafi.
The rebels claim they control the Tripoli airport but were still clashing with Gadhafi forces around it. Associated Press reporters said the road leading to the airport was closed because of heavy fire by pro-regime snipers.
Rebels said pro-Gadhafi forces to the south and northeast were firing rockets and shelling rebel positions inside the airport and had set a plane on fire.
Inside Gadhafi's compound, two young rebel fighters searched through a heap of pill packages in a building they said had served as a pharmacy. A broken TV, its screen shattered, lay on the ground in the courtyard. A dozen young fighters posed for pictures next to a gold-colored statue of a clenched fist squeezing a plane — a memorial to the 1986 U.S. airstrikes on the compound in retaliation for a bombing at a German disco frequented by U.S. servicemen.
The rebels also targeted other symbols of the regime, including the homes of some of Gadhafi's children.
About 200 people ransacked the beachfront villa of Gadhafi's son Saadi, driving off with four of his cars — a Lamborghini, a BMW, an Audi and a Toyota station wagon, said Seif Allah, a rebel fighter who joined in the looting, taking a bottle of gin and a pair of Diesel jeans.
After a five-hour gunbattle with guards, rebels also ransacked the mansion of Gadhafi's daughter Aisha.
Clothes and DVDs were strewn on the floor of the master bedroom, including a DVD about getting in shape after childbirth. In a sitting area, a gold-colored statue of a mermaid — a mermaid with Aisha's face — framed a sofa.
At the once-luxurious Rixos Hotel near Abu Salim and Bab al-Aziziya, dozens of foreign journalists were freed after being held captive for days by pro-government gunmen.
The hotel was where rotating tours of journalists had lived for the past six months, closely watched by government minders and taken on approved tours. But it became a de facto prison after the rebels swept into the city because a team of gunmen refused to let the journalists leave.
Heavy gunbattles had raged all around the hotel since Sunday, and a gunman even ran through the lobby at one point. Near-constant power outages left reporters without air conditioning in the sweltering summer heat, and in their final days at the Rixos they had to scrounge the hotel to find food and water.
As the rebels drew closer, most of the guards left, leaving just a pair of increasingly nervous gunmen. The journalists were suddenly freed Wednesday after the International Committee of the Red Cross stepped in to negotiate their release.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mall of America: Western consumerism at its best

Located on either side of the Mississippi River, lies the vibrant city of Minneapolis, the largest metropolis in the state of Minnesota. Located just north of the great Mississippi’s confluence and adjoining the urban mass of St Paul the Central Business District is known as Twin Cities where the two towns meet.
The combined urban expanse is the 13th largest in the United States. Minneapolis is famous for its natural beauty with a vast network of lakes and lush vegetation. During the early years of the city’s foundation it was renowned for its flour milling and timber industries.
Originally the grounds of the famous Sioux Indians the French were the first Western Colonisers in the region.
As with all great American cities Minneapolis benefited from the industrial revolution by supplying raw materials for the hungry factories churning out products for the increasingly independently wealthy populace.
Thus consumerism was born; a staple of American tradition, the United States is considered one of the biggest consumerist societies in the world. No other country advocates the megamall concept quite like America.
The Mall of America opened its numerous doors to the public in 1992. It is still considered one of the largest malls ever built in America. Rivalled only by the megamalls in the Middle East and Asia it is home to over 500 stores arranged across three floors of walkways and elevators.
Despite the sub zero temperatures frequently experienced by Minnesota, only the entrances and key communal areas are heated. Due to the regular high influx of shoppers and the level of heat generated by lights, machinery and the natural skylight, air conditioners need to be run in the height of winter to ensure the atmosphere inside is kept at acceptable levels. This is a true testament to the popularity of the retail industry in America.
Visitors will find just about anything under the sun at the Mall of America from international brands such as Levis and Nike, to department stores such as Macy’s including local niche retailers.
A visit to this sprawling retail hub is considered an outing for the family what with their being a massive amusement park within its huge enclosure. The Nickelodeon indoor theme park features roller coasters and other fun and exciting rides within its premises. It is the largest indoor amusement park in America. Its clever use of natural foliage lends an outdoorsy atmosphere without making customers feel enclosed within the walls of the mall.
Other prominent attractions to note include the Lego imagination land, a 14 screen movie theatre and the famous anatomically inspired “Bodies… the Exhibition”.
Visitors hoping to experience the retail explosion the Mall of America has to offer will find many a Minneapolis hotel to reside in during their visit. The Millennium hotel Minneapolis for example is an elegant and luxurious downtown Minneapolis hotel within easy reach of popular entertainment and business hubs.

Seventeen Magazine Event at Mall of America

Seventeen Magazine Event at Mall of America

MINNEAPOLIS (August 8, 2011) - Editor-in-chief of Seventeen magazine, Ann Shoket, will visit Mall of America® to celebrate the release of the magazine’s new book, “Seventeen Ultimate Guide to Style.” Named by Forbes as one of the most powerful U.S. fashion magazine editors, Shoket will sign autographs and give trend and career advice to event attendees.

Young women also have the chance to be featured on the Seventeen Style blog. Teen girls are invited to come dressed as one of the six styles highlighted in the book – girly, boho, classic, edgy, glam and indie – and Shoket will choose the six girls that represent each style best.

Written by Shoket and the editors of Seventeen, “Seventeen Ultimate Guide to Style” provides tips on cultivating your own unique style and how to maximize wardrobe options while stretching the dollar. Tips from celebrity fashion icons like Taylor Swift, Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez are also revealed in the book.


Mall of America marks 19 years in Bloomington

Written by:KARE 11

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- It has been 19 years since Bloomington has been home to the largest shopping mall in the United States.
It was on August 11, 1992 that the Mall of America first opened its doors at the site of the old home of the Minnesota Vikings and Twins, Metropolitan Stadium.
Construction on the 4.2 million square foot mall cost about $650 million.
When the mall opened it had more than 500 stores, 50 restaurants and the nation's largest indoor theme park.
According to MOA's website, more than 5,500 couples from around the world have exchanged vows at the wedding chapel there.

Mayo Clinic to Open Wellness Center at Mall of America

This week a healthier take on retail therapy is coming to Mall of America as Mayo Clinic opens a wellness center there.

Meant to help consumers manage their own health, the "Create your own Mayo Clinic Health Experience," will open its doors at 10 a.m. Thursday morning.

"What we are trying to create is an opportunity for people to engage in their health and wellness at a level they are comfortable with," said James Yolch, Mayo Clinic Administrator.

Mayo Clinic is also hoping to learn from the shoppers who stop in at the center, which contains cutting edge technology.

"This space, as far as we're concerned, it's a laboratory," said Dr. David Hayes, Medical Director for the Mall of America Project.

Mayo Clinic will do its research by talking to shoppers about their health needs.

They will use that information to form a more clinical area at the mall this fall where they will offer medical services like women's preventive health care, dermatology screening and sports medicine.

"These are services that based on our homework, people have told us that they think they would be interested in in this environment. Where they can do it conveniently, and get the information they need for a busy lifestyle," Hayes said.

Mayo Clinic Outpost Mall of America Welcomes

By IBTimes Staff Reporter 

The Mayo Clinic opened its "health laboratory" in the Mall of America Thursday. The famous cancer and research hospital cut the ribbon on the "Create Your Mayo Clinic Health Experience," which is an educational venture meant to inform, and occasionally diagnose, mall patrons.
  • (Photo: RenĂ© Sinn)<br>The Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Shoppers can speak with trained healthcare staff, as well as complete wellness assessments at the Minneapolis, Minn. super-mall. Staff will guide customers through future health plans, and the first-floor clinic features interactive booths and kiosks.
“What differentiates this space is that it’s totally customized, allowing you to do as much or as little as you want. Whether stopping in to buy a book and leave, registering to further personalize your experience, or even meeting privately with a health experience navigator, this is truly a customized experience,” Dr. David Hayes, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, who is leading the Mall of America project, noted in a press release.