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Drew Brees breaks NFL single-season passing record!

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As AP reported :
Drew Brees has broken the NFL record for yards passing in a season, surpassing a mark that had stood since Dan Marino set it in 1984.

Drew Brees set the NFL record for yards passing in a season, breaking a mark that Dan Marino had held for 27 years, as New Orleans clinched the NFC South title with a 45-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night. (Dec. 27)

Drew Brees set the NFL record for yards passing in a season, breaking a mark that Dan Marino had held for 27 years, as New Orleans clinched the NFC South title with a 45-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night. (Dec. 27)

Brees topped Marino’s record of 5,084 yards with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles on Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons.

Brees entered the game with 4,780 yards, needing 305 to set the record. He has passed for 300 yards or more an NFL-record 12 times this season — with one game still to play.

Brees threatened Marino’s record once before in 2008, when he finished with 5,069 yards, making him and Marino the only quarterbacks to pass for 5,000 yards in a season.

Brees and the Saints dismantled their divisional rivals from Atlanta 45-16 with a strong offensive performance and a defense which held the Falcons to one touchdown. As AP explained:

The Atlanta Falcons might have beaten the New Orleans Saints if not for a failed fourth-and-1 in their own territory in overtime when they met earlier this season.

Now the gap seems much wider.

Falcons coach Mike Smith was quick to congratulate Brees and also to criticize his own squad, which came in hoping to remain in the hunt to repeat as division champions.

“We didn’t really play well enough in any phase of the game to give ourselves a chance to win,” Smith said. “There were some opportunities early on, and then it kind of got out of hand there at the end. ... It’s not the type of effort that you want to have with so much on the line with what the outcome could have meant to our team.”

Matt Ryan had 373 yards passing and one TD, including a 21-yard scoring strike to Julio Jones that gave the Falcons (9-6) a 10-7 lead late in the first quarter. But that turned out to be Atlanta’s only touchdown and the Saints (12-3) took the lead for good on their next drive when Brees hit Marques Colston for an 8-yard score.

“We have to get a lot better in the red zone,” Ryan said. “We needed a lot more touchdowns than the field goals we got out there.”

Atlanta finished with 469 total yards, six more yards than New Orleans, only to lose by more than four touchdowns. However, a lot of the Falcons’ yards came through the air after they were behind and had to abandon the running game, which accounted for only 35 yards.

Jones had eight catches for 128 yards and Roddy White had 11 catches for 127 yards.

Brees broke Marino’s record on his final throw of the game and it gave him 5,087 yards passing — with one game still to play. Marino finished with 5,084 yards for the Miami Dolphins in 1984.

Minutes after Brees broke the record, Marino offered congratulations on his Twitter account.

“Great job by such a special player,” Marino wrote.

In an NFL season with several quarterbacks close to breaking the 5,000 yard mark in passing, will Drew Brees ’ record be considered as significant as Dan Marino’s? As Cindy Boren reported :

It’s pretty easy to add an “est” to every word used to describe the season Drew Brees is having, now that he has broken Dan Marino’s 27-year-old single-season record for passing yardage Monday night.

Brees completed 23 of 39 passes for four touchdowns (along with two interceptions) and 307 yards — a record 12th 300-yard passing game — as the Saints beat the Falcons 45-16. With 5,087 yards, he is the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for more than 5,000 twice — he had 5,069 in 2008.

But does Brees’ achievement pale next to Marino’s, which was accomplished at a time when NFL rules didn’t empower and protect quarterbacks and receivers?

“His throws were unbelievably accurate and he did this during a ferocious era of NFL defense,” CBS’s Mike Freeman wrote a few weeks ago, suggesting the new record deserves an asterisk. “The 1980s were one of the more violent in football when athleticism on the defensive side of the ball, in many ways, was better than the offense. Players like Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White and Ronnie Lott, among many others — head hunters and rib breakers — were allowed great latitude to do massive damage to wide receivers and quarterbacks. Receivers weren't protected and quarterbacks were brutalized. Though Marino's quick release helped to protect him from many major hits (though far from all of them) his receivers were hammered.”

As great as Marino’s record looks now, just a wait a few years. As Ross Tucker points out, it won’t be long until it will be the only pre-2010 figure in the top 10.

Sean Collins: Surfline.com founder dies of a heart attack

Sean Collins, founder of surfline.com, has died

Sean Collins, a hall of fame surfer whose online company revolutionized the way surfers tracked waves, has died at the age of 59.

Collins, the founder, president and chief forecaster of Surfline.com, suffered a heart attack while playing tennis Monday in Orange County and died at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian shortly afterward.

Surfer magazine named Collins one of the 25 most influential surfers of the century in 1999, and he was inducted into the Surfers' Hall of Fame in Huntington Beach in 2008. But he attained equal fame, if not greater, as an entrepreneur, the Huntington Beach Independent reported.

In 1995, Collins founded Surfline.com, a website that features free surf reports from around the country. The Huntington Beach-based company became an essential online destination not only for surfers but for lifeguards, the National Weather Service and even branches of the military, who used it to predict ocean conditions.

"Sean's many accomplishments in surf science and forecasting made him one of the most influential surfers of our time," the company declared in a statement. "Surfline's entire staff -- as well as countless surfers worldwide -- are in a state of shock at the news."
Surfline installed live webcams at seaside locations around the world to provide online viewers with a real-time look at conditions. In an interview with the Independent earlier this year, Collins said he initially created the site because he personally wanted to know where the best waves were, but it quickly became apparent that he wasn't the only interested party.

"Most young people today have grown up in the Internet age," Collins said. "They don't realize what it was like in the '70s and '80s. Before we had Surfline, it was really like the Dark Ages. It was hard to find data to forecast storms, let alone swells. Basically, you had to rely on satellite information and usually half the satellites were down."

A Southern California native and Seal Beach resident, Collins began surfing at the age of 8. After graduating from Wilson High School in Long Beach, he attended Long Beach City College and worked as a professional photographer, waiter and bartender.

Along the way, he developed a passion to complement his surfing: poring through the National Weather Service library and studying faxes from around the world to predict swells. In 1984, he joined a fledgling company called Surfline, which offered surf forecasts by phone, then left to start a rival company called Wavetrak.

Collins bought out Surfline in 1990 and, five years later, launched its online version. According to the website, nearly 1.5 million people visit it every month.

Aaron Pai, the owner of Huntington Surf & Sport, said Collins had a revolutionary effect on the surfing world.

"He was a great person, a great family man and a great friend of ours," he said. "We're truly going to miss him. He changed the way surfers chased waves over the last few decades and really influenced a whole entire generation of surfers on being able to track swells and plan their work schedules and holidays and trips."

Collins is survived by his wife, Daren, and sons, Tyler and A.J.

War Horse is Not Just a War Horse

By Rex Reed
Steven Spielberg at the top of his powers as one of the most successful and creative film directors of the past century is the best reason I can think of to get off your duff and head for the cinema on Christmas Day. You will not believe the epic splendor, sweeping drama and heart-stopping passion he brings to War Horse. It’s a rare and genuine movie masterpiece that deserves the label in a thousand ways.

Turning a beloved play into a movie is a job for either a fool or a daredevil. Mr. Spielberg is neither, but he is a visionary with unflinching faith in his own instincts. He must have known going in that he couldn’t satisfy the myriad fans of the London and Broadway hit about the cruel things the British did to their horses in World War I. On the stage, the familiar theme of a boy’s unshakable love for his horse was innovative in its use of life-size puppets with real feelings and expressions that moved like Tinker Toys. The film uses actual horses to tell the story of a colt named Joey, sold to the cavalry to lug the cannons of war through the German trenches, and a farmboy named Albert Narracott, who enlisted to travel halfway across Europe to rescue him from the front lines. On screen, Albert is played by impossibly handsome newcomer Jeremy Irvine, whose career is already reaching rocket force (he follows War Horse as Pip in the new production of Dickens’s Great Expectations). Instead of puppets, Joey is played by 15 different horses, but the one featured most prominently is American equine Finder, who starred in Seabiscuit. Finder is a four-legged superstar who can do everything but talk, even though he has a way of communicating with Albert that is awesome. What he goes through in War Horse is so rending that never before has the disclaimer “No animals were harmed in the filming of this motion picture” carried so much badly needed reassurance. Finder deserves an Oscar for—well, for being the best and most beautiful horse on the screen.

Based on the 1982 children’s novel by Michael Morpurgo, War Horse is an elegiac film that clocks in at two hours and 20 minutes, but I treasured every single second. Mr. Spielberg brings so much decency and integrity to the familiar theme of a boy in love with a horse that I didn’t miss the puppets at all. The humor and spirit that had such a profound impact on audiences young and old are not only preserved, but enhanced by the personalities of real animals. The careful result is a personalized experience that inspires the same kind of love audiences used to have for Lassie.

The vast and sprawling screenplay by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis respects the story enough to leave it unchanged, without embellishment. A hardscrabble sharecropper named Ted Narracott goes to auction to buy a plow horse, but instead he arrogantly outbids his greedy, mean-spirited landlord (David Thewlis) for a magnificent animal of no real value to a crop planter, bringing down the wrath of his pragmatic, long-suffering wife, Rose (Emily Watson). Their besotted son, Albie, names the horse Joey and vows to teach him how to pull his weight and till the soil. Joey is stubborn and willful with a mind of his own, and when the crops fail, the only way to pay the rent is to sell Joey to the military. The next hour is told from the horse’s point of view as the camera follows him through the French battlefields in 1914, where he is cared for by a kind British officer, to enemy lines, where he bonds with a headstrong black stallion, a German deserter and a Dutch girl who protects him by hiding him in a windmill. Captured by the enemy, Joey finally ends up in the Somme where Albie sees combat at last. In one particularly sensational sequence, Joey is trapped in barbed wife and rescued by two soldiers, one German and one British, who momentarily put aside their differences through a mutual compassion for an injured animal, use wire cutters to save the horse’s life, and take a minute to share memories of their homes on opposite sides of the conflict. If you are not moved to tears by that scene, or by Albie’s eventual reunion with his horse, then you need to see a doctor.

The logistics are overwhelming. According to the Imperial War Museum, more than four million horses perished in the so-called Great War, and Mr. Spielberg puts you right into the middle of their pain and terror in sequences using as many as 5,800 extras and 280 horses without computer-generated images. What an accomplishment. Like the play, the emotional high point of the film is when Albie finally finds Joey. By this time, you’re so weary from the gas masks, the grenades, the rats and the cannon fire that you can hardly summon the strength for tears, but when Albie, blinded by mortar, and Joey, lame and half-dead, reach the green pastures and rose gardens of Devon, the tears are evident without coaxing.  Will Rogers always said, “Horses are smarter than humans. You never heard of a horse going broke betting on people.” True, but when Albie and Joey reunite, two wounded soldiers of war going home together, you feel the values horses and humans can share through love, loyalty, persistence and understanding. It left me emotionally wrecked.

War Horse is a don’t-miss Spielberg classic that reaches true perfection. It’s as good as movies can get, and one of the greatest triumphs of this or any other year. For maximum enjoyment, I recommend both a box of tissues and a box of popcorn.

rreed@observer.com

WAR HORSE

Running Time 146 minutes

Written by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Starring Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson and David Thewlis

Finland 'finds Patriot missiles' on China-bound ship

The Thor Liberty docked in Kotka, Finland, 21 December The Thor Liberty is docked in Kotka

The Finnish authorities have impounded an Isle of Man-flagged ship bound for China with undeclared missiles and explosives, officials say.

Police are questioning the crew of the MS Thor Liberty after what were described as 69 Patriot anti-missile missiles were found aboard.

Interior Minister Paivi Rasanen said the missiles were marked "fireworks".

The MS Thor Liberty had docked in the Finnish port of Kotka after leaving Germany last week.

Dock workers became suspicious after finding explosives poorly stored on open pallets, and the missiles were then found in containers marked "fireworks".

The managing director of the ship's owner, Thorco Shipping, expressed surprise. Thomas Mikkelsen told AFP news agency from Denmark that he was unaware of the matter.

Another company official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the ship had been detained in Finland and said the missiles could have been loaded on to the vessel by mistake, AFP adds.

Police did not confirm Finnish media reports that the ship had also been scheduled to stop in South Korea, Reuters news agency reports.
'Quite unusual'

The MS Thor Liberty left port in Emden, northern Germany, on 13 December and docked two days later in Kotka, southern Finland, to pick up a cargo of anchor chains, said Finnish Customs spokesman Petri Lounatmaa.
A Patriot missile launcher deployed at Tatoi air base, near Athens, Greece (archive image) Patriot missile systems are supplied to US allies

It was bound for the Chinese port of Shanghai but there was no indication for whom the military cargo was destined.

Routine checks by Finland's traffic safety authority revealed a load of up to 160 tonnes of improperly packed nitroguanidine, a low-sensitivity explosive with a high detonation speed.

"Actually in our investigation at the moment, we have got the information that we found 69 Patriot missiles on the ship and around 160 tonnes of explosives," said Detective Superintendent Timo Virtanen from the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation.

Interior Minister Rasanen said she had not heard of a similar case.

"Of course, there are legal transports of weapons or defence material [through Finland] but in this case the cargo was marked as containing fireworks," she told Finnish media. "That is quite unusual."
BBC map

Mr Lounatmaa said customs officials and police had launched a joint investigation into a possible breach of Finnish export and weapons trading laws.

He said that the crew of about 32 were being questioned.

Patriot missiles, designed by the US company Raytheon, are supplied to "US and allied forces", according to the company's website. South Korea is among states which deploy them.

Dictator's Death Stokes Fears

U.S. officials aggressively lobbied China, Russia and Japan and suspended a food-aid plan for North Korea following the death of the country's leader, aiming to gain a diplomatic foothold as control over the authoritarian, nuclear-armed country appeared to pass to Kim Jong Il's untested young son.
North Korea officially returned to its customary silence on Monday after announcing the death of its supreme leader early in the day, underscoring the world's anxiety over its trajectory under Kim Jong Eun, the former ruler's youngest son, whom state media says will now lead the isolated country.
The U.S. doesn't have a clear picture of what may happen next there, said a senior defense official in Washington. "A 27-year-old running a repressive regime with nuclear weapons: It's kind of hard to say you don't have some concerns," the official said.
The White House's stance on North Korea pointed to a brewing policy debate over the proper approach to a ruling family that has troubled U.S. administrations for more than 60 years.
Giving North Korea breathing room may produce stability at the expense of long-term reform. But a greater risk may lie in prodding for fundamental reform: Kim Jong Il's surviving family members and the North's ruling elite will likely face more difficulty maintaining power than when Mr. Kim himself took over after his father's death in 1994, and the prospect for the regime's collapse is now higher.
Underscoring those jitters, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported that North Korea had fired a short-range missile into the Sea of Japan early Monday. The agency said the action appeared to be a routine test, unrelated to Kim Jong Il's death. South Korea's Defense Ministry declined to confirm the report.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said the level of alert for U.S. forces in South Korea was unchanged. Mr. Little said the U.S. has detected "no unusual North Korean military movements" since Mr. Kim's death.
The U.S. is closely monitoring events in North Korea and coordinating with allies, particularly South Korea, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney saidMonday.
President Barack Obama spoke with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak late Sunday, and senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, have spoken with their counterparts in Seoul.
Administration officials also devoted much of the day to closed talks with counterparts in China, Russia and Japan, then pledged to back a "peaceful and stable transition" in North Korea. Similar calls were issued by the other world leaders.
In a sign of the potential for the North Korean transition to become a subject of political debate in the U.S., Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney called on President Obama to take advantage of the opening for change.
"Cancel your Christmas vacation," Mr. Romney said he would counsel the president. "This is one of the great opportunities of the last 25 years as relates to that part of the world. And the president should be actively engaged with China, South Korea, Japan and potentially even trying to establish dialogue with North Korea," he said in an interview.
For the past three years, the U.S. and North Korea had little contact following the collapse of six-nation aid-for-disarmament talks. But in recent months, they made progress on deals for the U.S. to resume searches in the North next year for the remains of missing Americans from the Korean War of the 1950s. Talks were also moving quickly to resume U.S. provision of food aid to North Korea.
Mr. Carney said the White House hadn't ruled out food aid but that it was putting the plan on hold until safeguards for allocation were in place, a demand it had made before Mr. Kim died.

The prospect of pushing or pressuring the North Korean regime is unsettling to many. Instability, or even civil war in the North, would create economic and other difficulties for South Korea, a key U.S. ally, as well for China and Japan.
The North's ruling regime had little time to prepare to transfer power. The succession plan that Kim Jong Il designed for his son, Kim Jong Eun, is little more than a year old. By contrast, Mr. Kim had more than a decade in the public eye in North Korea at the time his father took charge.
Kim Jong Eun, born in 1983 or 1984, isn't as well known among the elite or the people as his father at the same juncture, nor as accomplished in the government and military.
A group of elder North Koreans is believed positioned to help. At the time of the younger Mr. Kim's public debut in September 2010, his father announced appointments for three of his contemporaries—his sister Kim Kyong Hui, her husband, Jang Song Thaek, and a trusted general Ri Yong Ho—as a kind of protectorate around the son.
They will be squaring off against some of the same forces, such as freer flow of information, that earlier this year drove sweeping changes in places like Egypt, Libya and Myanmar. In particular, North Korea's economy has become far more complex than it was in 1994, creating incentives in certain parts of the population to challenge the regime, though with some limits.
One clear difference from the 1994 transition has emerged as crucial for the Kim family: China now serves a far greater role as political and economic benefactor. It is in Beijing's interests to maintain a functioning government in North Korea, to avoid scenarios of refugees flooding into China, or of a regime friendly to Seoul and Washington taking over along its border.
"If China were a credit ratings agency, they'll see it as their duty to make sure Kim Jong Eun has triple-A status," said John Park, a specialist on northeast Asia at the U.S. Institute for Peace in Washington. "They're likely to provide more political and economic capital to show legitimacy for the next North Korean government."
Early Monday in Asia, North Korea announced that Mr. Kim had died Saturday morning of a heart attack while on a train away from his home in the capital city of Pyongyang.
Mr. Kim, who according to varying accounts was 69 or 70 years old, suffered a stroke-like illness in 2008, recovered and, for the past two years, maintained a busy schedule of public appearances. His last such outing occurred on Thursday at a music information center and at a supermarket in Pyongyang.
On Monday afternoon, state media issued TV footage of citizens weeping at the news of the leader's death.
Some Seoul-based North Korea-oriented news sites, citing anonymous sources reached by cellphone inside the country, reported that the military deployed large numbers of soldiers along the North's border with China on Sunday, in an apparent attempt to thwart a rise of potential defectors.
The North's official news agency said Mr. Kim's funeral will be held on Dec. 28 but that foreign delegations won't be invited. That relieves diplomats in the U.S., South Korea and Japan—the countries that the North Korea government portrays as its mortal enemies—of potentially awkward decisions about who to send to Pyongyang.
"That confirms my suspicion that the regime will be inward-looking for some time," said Peter Beck of the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. "They're going to be jockeying for position...I'm not expecting a lashing out or a reaching out."
North Korea waited more than two days to announce Mr. Kim's death, a bit longer than the 36 hours it took to announce the death of Mr. Kim's father, Kim Il Sung, who started North Korea in 1948 and presided over it until his death in 1994.
The delay, in both instances, was seen as a sign of the need for the Kim regime to coordinate and solidify both the messages it wanted to send to its citizens and the outside world.
"It's particularly sobering because what the U.S., South Korea, China and all of us want to know is how is this guy doing. Are people lining up in favor of him? Does the government seem to be functioning?" said Jennifer Lind, a government professor at Dartmouth College.
Mr. Kim's funeral next week will likely provide the first visible signs of how the younger Mr. Kim is faring, and outsiders will watch carefully to see if he speaks and who is seated near him. "The funeral will show who's in and who's out," Mr. Beck said.
Much of the younger Mr. Kim's success depends on his ability to maintain economic stability. A two-track system developed under his father, in which the elite and military took over the remnants of the centralized economy, while most North Koreans subsisted with what food they could grow and what business they could do in informal markets that are technically considered illegal.
Mr. Park said the two-track economy has started to reinforce itself because each group has leverage over the other. "Lower-rung officials can sell their rations into the general markets," he said. "And those getting more wealthy in the informal markets have the ability to bribe officials."
—Adam Entous, Laura Meckler and Alex Frangos

40 fun facts for Disney World's 40th anniversary


WRLTHD Entertainment news

By Carlos Frías


It's been 40 years since Disney World opened and turned Orlando into one of the world's most visited destinations. Sure, the long lines are a punch line. And all Disney magic comes with a price tag. But all 17.2 million people who pass annually through the Magic Kingdom can't be wrong.
So we tip our mouse ears to Disney with one fact for each year of its existence.

1. Walt Disney bought the 43 square miles of Central Florida swampland for Disney World for $5 million, or about $185 an acre.

2. Walt Disney died of complications of lung cancer on Dec. 15, 1966, before the first shovel of dirt was moved on construction of Disney World.

3. 10,000. That was the number of people in attendance for Disney World's soft opening on Oct. 1, 1971. But the grand opening later that month — which included performances by Julie Andrews, Bob Hope and Glen Campbell — was televised nationally. Today, the Magic Kingdom alone averages about 47,000 visitors a day.

4. Disney World has closed three times, all in anticipation of hurricanes: Sept. 15, 1999, for Floyd; Sept. 4-5, 2004, for Frances; and Sept. 26 of that same year for Jeanne.

5. It took less than 30 minutes to evacuate thousands of guests from the theme parks on Sept. 11, 2001.

6. After the Sept. 11 attacks, the Federal Aviation Administration put a flight restriction over the Disney World resort. It extends out in a three-mile radius from Cinderella's Castle and up to 3,000 feet.

7. An estimated 1.65 million pairs of eyeglasses have made their way to Disney World's lost-and-found bins since 1971. Every year, the park finds an average of 6,000 cellphones, 3,500 digital cameras and 18,000 hats.

8. Wondering about the weirdest things ever found? How about a glass eye, a prosthetic leg and a potty trainer — all of which were claimed.

9. A married couple from Boynton Beach, Fla., Alex and Donna Voutsinas, realized years later that they were coincidentally photographed together at Disney as children.

10. The Walt Disney World resort is about the size of San Francisco, and only about 35 percent of its more than 27,000 acres has been developed.

11. Mickey has more than 290 outfits, from a scuba suit to a lighted tuxedo. Minnie? She has more than 200, from cheerleading attire to evening gowns.

12. Stretched end-to-end, the hats with Mickey ears sold at Disney World would span about 175 miles.

13. Cinderella's Castle is made out of fiberglass, and it stands 189 feet tall.


14. Disney World's biggest theme park, Animal Kingdom, encompasses 403 acres.

15. The latest creatures at the Animal Kingdom are the blue people of "Avatar." A new section, with interactive 3-D rides, is planned to open between 2015 and 2016 at a cost of about $400 million.

16. The Animal Kingdom features more than 3,000 species in its 4 million trees and plants.

17. Inside the upper levels of Cinderella's Castle is an apartment that Walt Disney intended to use when he and his family were in Florida. It was left unfinished when he died, until Disney announced in 2006 that it would be turned into a deluxe suite, which is awarded randomly to a family every day. It comes complete with 24-karat gold tile floors and a "magic mirror" that turns into a television.

18. The Land ride at Epcot isn't just for entertainment. More than 30 tons of fruit and vegetables are grown there every year for Disney restaurants.


19. If you were to stay in a different room every night at the Disney World resorts, to sleep in them all would take you 68 years.

20. More than 500 of the young trees around Disney World properties started out as acorns from the "Liberty Oak," the focal point in Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom.

21. Disney World employs more than 62,000 as part of its "cast," making Walt Disney World the largest single-site employer in the United States.

22. What does Epcot mean? Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.

23. How did Epcot work out? As envisioned, it would be a working community of about 20,000 people, who would live with futuristic "push-button" technology in their daily lives. But after Walt Disney's death in 1966, brother Roy O. Disney scaled back the social experiment into a world's fair with a vision into "tomorrow."

24. The original idea for Epcot did come to fruition, in a way. Disney built the town of Celebration, which at the 2010 census housed about 7,500 people. The town, which was constructed beginning in 1996, used to be operated by Disney but is now mostly autonomous.


Vaclav Havel, hero of anti-communist revolution, dies


WRLTHD World News

By KAREL JANICEK, Associated Press

PRAGUE – The end of Czechoslovakia's totalitarian regime was called the Velvet Revolution because of how smooth the transition seemed: Communism dead in a matter of weeks, without a shot fired. But for Vaclav Havel, it was a moment he helped pay for with decades of suffering and struggle.

The dissident playwright spent years in jail but never lost his defiance, or his eloquence, and the government's attempts to crush his will ended up expanding his influence. He became a source of inspiration to Czechs, and to all of Eastern Europe. He went from prisoner to president in 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell and communism crumbled across the region.

Havel died Sunday morning at his weekend home in the northern Czech Republic. The 75-year-old former chain-smoker had a history of chronic respiratory problems dating back to his time in prison.

Shy and bookish, with a wispy mustache and unkempt hair, Havel helped draw the world's attention to the anger and frustration spilling over behind the Iron Curtain. While he was president, the Czech Republic split from Slovakia, but it also made dramatic gains in economic might.

"His peaceful resistance shook the foundations of an empire, exposed the emptiness of a repressive ideology, and proved that moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon," said President Barack Obama. "He also embodied the aspirations of half a continent that had been cut off by the Iron Curtain, and helped unleash tides of history that led to a united and democratic Europe."

Mourners laid flowers and lit candles at Havel's villa in Prague. A black flag of mourning flew over Prague Castle, the presidential seat, and Havel was also remembered at a monument to the revolution in the capital's downtown. "Mr. President, thank you for democracy," one note read.

Lech Walesa, former Polish president and the Nobel Peace Prize-winning founder of the country's anti-communist Solidarity movement, called Havel "a great fighter for the freedom of nations and for democracy."

"Amid the turbulence of modern Europe, his voice was the most consistent and compelling — endlessly searching for the best in himself and in each of us," said former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, who is of Czech origin.

Havel was his country's first democratically elected president, leading it through the early challenges of democracy and its peaceful 1993 breakup into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, though his image suffered as his people discovered the difficulties of transforming their society.

He was an avowed peacenik who was close friends with members of the Plastic People of the Universe, a nonconformist rock band banned by the communist regime, and whose heroes included rockers such as Frank Zappa. He never quite shed his flower-child past and often signed his name with a small heart as a flourish.

"Truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred," Havel famously said. It became his revolutionary motto, which he said he always strove to live by.

"It's interesting that I had an adventurous life, even though I am not an adventurer by nature. It was fate and history that caused my life to be adventurous rather than me as someone who seeks adventure," he once told Czech radio.

Havel first made a name for himself after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion that crushed the Prague Spring reforms of Alexander Dubcek and other liberally minded communists in what was then Czechoslovakia.

Havel's plays were banned as hard-liners installed by Moscow snuffed out every whiff of rebellion. But he continued to write, producing a series of underground essays that stand with the work of Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov as the most incisive and eloquent analyses of what communism did to society and the individual.

One of his best-known essays, "The Power of the Powerless," was written in 1978. It borrowed slyly from the opening line of the mid-19th century Communist Manifesto, writing: "A specter is haunting eastern Europe: the specter of what in the West is called 'dissent.'"

In the essay, he dissected what he called the "dictatorship of ritual" — the ossified Soviet bloc system under Leonid Brezhnev — and imagined what happens when an ordinary greengrocer stops displaying communist slogans and begins "living in truth," rediscovering "his suppressed identity and dignity."

Havel knew that suppression firsthand.

He was born Oct. 5, 1936, in Prague, the child of a wealthy family that lost extensive property to communist nationalization in 1948. Havel was denied a formal education, eventually earning a degree at night school and starting out in theater as a stagehand.

His political activism began in earnest in January 1977, when he co-authored the human rights manifesto Charter 77, and the cause drew widening attention in the West.

Havel was detained countless times and spent four years in communist jails. His letters from prison to his wife were among his best-known works. "Letters to Olga" blended deep philosophy with a stream of stern advice to the spouse he saw as his mentor and best friend, and who tolerated his reputed philandering and other foibles.

The events of August 1988 — the 20th anniversary of the Warsaw Pact invasion — first suggested that Havel and his friends might one day replace the apparatchiks who jailed them.

Thousands of mostly young people marched through central Prague, yelling Havel's name and that of the playwright's hero, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the philosopher who was Czechoslovakia's first president after it was founded in 1918.

Havel's arrest in January 1989 at another street protest and his subsequent trial generated anger at home and abroad. Pressure for change was so strong that the communists released him in May.

That fall, communism began to collapse across Eastern Europe, and in November the Berlin Wall fell. Eight days later, police brutally broke up a demonstration by thousands of Prague students.

It was the signal that Havel and his countrymen had awaited. Within 48 hours, a broad new opposition movement was founded, and a day later, hundreds of thousands of Czechs and Slovaks took to the streets.

In three heady weeks, communist rule was broken. Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones arrived just as the Soviet army was leaving. Posters in Prague proclaimed: "The tanks are rolling out — the Stones are rolling in."

On Dec. 29, 1989, Havel was elected Czechoslovakia's president by the country's still-communist parliament. Three days later, he told the nation in a televised New Year's address: "Out of gifted and sovereign people, the regime made us little screws in a monstrously big, rattling and stinking machine."

He continued to be regarded a moral voice as he decried the shortcomings of his society under democracy, but eventually bent to the dictates of convention and power. His watchwords — "what the heart thinks, the tongue speaks" — had to be modified for day-to-day politics.

In July 1992, it became clear that the Czechoslovak federation was heading for a split. He considered the breakup a personal failure, though years later he would conclude that it was for the best. Havel resigned as president, but he remained popular and was elected president of the new Czech Republic uncontested.

The job held great immense prestige but little power. The Czech Republic underwent major promarket reforms while Havel was president, but those have been credited mainly to his political archrival Vaclav Klaus, who was prime minister at the time and is the current president.

Havel's attempts to reconcile rival politicians were considered by many as unconstitutional intrusions, and his pleas for political leaders to build a "civic society" based on respect, tolerance and individual responsibility went largely unanswered.

Media criticism, once unthinkable, became unrelenting. Serious newspapers questioned his political visions; tabloids focused mainly on his private life.

Havel left office in 2003, months before the Czech Republic and Slovakia joined the European Union. He was credited with laying the groundwork that brought his country into the 27-nation bloc in 2004, and was president when it joined NATO in 1999 — a moment of pride for him.

"I can't stop rejoicing that I live in this time and can participate in it," Havel exulted.

Havel was small, but his presence and wit could fill a room. Even late in life, he retained a certain impishness and boyish grin, shifting easily from philosophy to jokes or plain old Prague gossip.

In December 1996, just 11 months after his first wife, Olga Havlova, died of cancer, he lost a third of his right lung during surgery to remove a malignant tumor.

He gave up smoking and married Dagmar Veskrnova, a dashing actress almost 20 years his junior. She, and a nun who had been caring for him the last few months of his life, were by his side when he died, his assistant Sabina Tancevova said.

Even out of office, Havel remained a world figure. Among his many honors were Sweden's prestigious Olof Palme Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian award, bestowed on him by President George W. Bush for being "one of liberty's great heroes."

Havel was nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize, and collected dozens of other accolades worldwide for his efforts as a global ambassador of conscience, defending the downtrodden from Darfur to Myanmar.

In recent years, Havel saw the global economic crisis as a warning not to abandon basic human values in the scramble to prosper.

"It's a warning against the idea that we understand the world, that we know how everything works," he told The Associated Press in his office in Prague in 2008. The cramped work space was packed with his books, plays and rock memorabilia.

By then Havel had returned to his first love: the stage. He published a new play, "Leaving," about the struggles of a leader on his way out of office, and the work gained critical acclaim.

Screen Actors Guild Awards Nominations: what the star's think




Labels: WRLTHD Entertainment news


LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- Betty White attends her 89th birthday party at Le Cirque in New York City on January 18, 2011 Caption The 18th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations were announced on Wednesday morning, and this year’s nominees are over the moon with excitement!


“This is incredible to be recognized by my fellow members of the Screen Actors Guild for two of my favorite projects. I couldn’t do the work I do on TV Land’s ‘Hot in Cleveland’ without the support and love of my fellow cast mates Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick, the amazing writers, and of course the show’s creator, Suzanne Martin. Also, I have always wanted to do a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie and “The Lost Valentine” was an amazing experience due mostly to Jennifer Love Hewitt, Darnell Martin(the director), the producers and the wonderful folks at Hallmark Hall of Fame. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.” - Betty White, nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries for “Hallmark Hall of Fame: The Lost Valentine,” and Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series for “Hot In Cleveland”


** “I am incredibly moved and so grateful to my fellow actors for recognizing my role in ‘Moneyball’ with this nomination. I feel so lucky to be an actor today as I do everyday. I owe a huge thanks and much credit to our entire cast and crew, our writers, and especially to our fearless leader and director Bennett Miller and to Brad Pitt, the most generous onscreen partner anyone could hope for. Having my work honored today by my peers pushes me to work even harder.” - Jonah Hill, nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role, “Moneyball”


**


“It’s an honor to be recognized by your peers and I thank my fellow SAG members for this nomination and am proud to have been a part of such an incredible ensemble, as well as Woody Allen’s vision.” - Owen Wilson, nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, “Midnight in Paris”


** “I am enormously touched by this nomination from the SAG membership. I’ve been at this for a long time, and it is always gratifying to be recognized for a performance. “Warrior” was a little film but it has a big heart, and it was a real labor of love for Gavin O’Connor who directed the movie. More than anything I hope that this nomination creates some renewed interest in the picture.” - Nick Nolte, Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role, “Warrior”


**


“We’re so grateful for the nominations from the Screen Actors Guild. Our cast was a close-knit group lead by George Clooney and Alexander Payne. Aside from a career best performance, George was a generous actor who allowed everyone an opportunity to shine. We are so happy and proud of this sensational ensemble.”


- Jim Burke, Producer of “The Descendants,” nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

Man Learns to Read at 92, Now An Author at 98

By ALYSSA NEWCOMB
Dec. 13, 2011


Clever tricks carried Jim Arruda Henry through 92 years of his life without even his closest family suspecting the career fisherman with a third grade education was illiterate.

"He would wait for someone else to order and say, 'That sounds good, I'll have that,'" Henry's granddaughter, Marlisa McLaughlin said. "Or if he had a bill, he'd just requestion the guy and say, 'So how much do I owe you?'"

Henry's late wife only learned his secret after he sent her to secretary's school so she could handle the family's bookkeeping.

But six years ago, at 92, the Mystic, Conn., man was pulled by two forces, dejection and inspiration, toward one goal: He wanted to learn how to read.

"His illiteracy cost him more despair than anyone can bargain at that age," McLaughlin said, adding: "He signed a document he could not read about where he was going to go live."

McLaughlin did not want to go into more detail about the painful situation that caused a lot of "hurt feelings and animosity" in the family, she said.

But through the hurt, Henry was also uplifted.

He heard about George Dawson, the son of slaves, who learned to read at 98 and wrote a book called "Life Is So Good" at the age of 101.

"I said if he can do it, I'm going to try. I can do it," Henry told ABC affiliate WTNH.

With his characteristic motivation, Henry started to learn.

Man Begins To Read At 92

"He sat at the kitchen table by himself and practiced his signature," McLaughlin said. "Then he moved on to the ABC's."

But the death of his wife put a damper on his drive, and Henry pushed the stack of children's books he was learning to read aside and didn't touch them for four years, his granddaughter said.

When he turned 96, he dove back into reading, meticulously looking up words he did not know in the dictionary. One word would sometimes take hours.

And with the help of his tutor, retired English teacher Mark Hogan, he began to write about what he knew: his life.

"He started remembering things and wanted to get them down," Hogan said.

He wrote about his youth in Portugal, his time as a professional boxer and the time he lost another fisherman who had fallen overboard.

And soon, Henry had a handwritten manuscript he called "In A Fisherman's Language."

Nearly 800 copies were sold during the first two weeks of the book's November release and one thousand more were printed soon after to keep up with a demand that has spanned from California to as far away as Greece.

The 98-year-old celebrity is stepping into even newer territory. He now has a Facebook account he's learning to navigate with the help of his granddaughter.

Producers have expressed interest in optioning the rights to his life story for a movie. The interest has been so high, McLaughlin said she just hired an agent to help handle all of the requests.

"Everyone has a story, and this one is so timely," she said. "It teaches that when you're down and out, never give up."

Tharaldson Motel Inc. building Quantico Corporate Center in North Stafford


A 96-room Courtyard by Marriott will be built near the entrance of the Quantico Corporate Center in North Stafford. North Dakota-based Tharaldson Motels Inc. recently bought a 2.7-acre parcel from QCC developer the Silver Cos. for $1,416,000. Construction is expected to start this coming spring or summer, said David Newman, a Silver vice president handling leasing at the QCC off U.S. 1 near the Quantico Marine Corps Base. He said the hotel “will provide a tremendous benefit to the Quantico community and supporting businesses in the area.” A Fairfield Inn is now under construction a few miles south of the QCC on U.S. 1.

In addition, The Columbia Group defense contracting firm recently signed a lease for 6,415 square feet of space in the under-construction 140,000-square-foot office building at the QCC, the third of that size at the development. The first two office buildings are fully leased by defense contractors. QinetiQ North America will lease about half of the new office building. Another defense contractor, Patricio Enterprises, is now building a 30,000-square-foot office building at the QCC. Stafford County’s Board of Supervisors recently allocated $237,000 from its Opportunity Fund toward a roughly 3,500-square-foot lease in one of the two new buildings. That could be used for classroom space geared toward the defense and intelligence communities and be the first step toward a research and technology park at the QCC.

Steve Burman with Jones Lang LaSalle represented Columbia on the recent lease, and Silver Commercial Brokerage represented the landlord.

'M-A-S-H' star Harry Morgan dies at 96

 By GREG RISLING Associated Press
LOS ANGELES -- Emmy-winning character actor Harry Morgan, whose portrayal of the fatherly Col. Potter on television's "M-A-S-H" highlighted a show business career that included nine other TV series, 50 films and the Broadway stage, died Wednesday. He was 96.

His daughter-in-law, Beth Morgan, told The Associated Press the actor died at his home in Brentwood after having pneumonia.

"He was side-splittingly funny, a very gent and loving father-in-law," Beth Morgan said. "He was very humble about having such a successful career."

Morgan appeared in mostly supporting roles on the big screen, playing opposite such stars as Henry Fonda, John Wayne, James Garner, Elvis Presley and Dan Aykroyd.

On television, he was more the comedic co-star, including roles on "December Bride," its spin-off "Pete and Gladys," as Sgt. Joe Friday's loyal partner in later "Dragnet" episodes and on CBS-TV's long-running "M-A-S-H" series, for which he earned an Emmy award in 1980.

Yet acting wasn't Morgan's first career choice.

Born in Detroit in 1915, Morgan was studying pre-law at the University of Chicago when public speaking classes sparked his interest in the stage. Before long, he was working with a little-theater group in Washington, D.C., followed by a two-year stint on Broadway in the original production of "Golden Boy," with Karl Malden and Lee J. Cobb.

Morgan made his way to Hollywood in 1942 "without any assurance that I would find work," he said in a 1976 interview with The Associated Press.

"I didn't have enough money to go back East, so I stayed around finding jobs mainly out of friendships."

He signed a contract with 20th Century Fox after a talent scout spotted him in the one-act play, "Hello, Out There."

One of his earliest films was "The Ox Bow Incident" in 1943 with Fonda. Other films included: "High Noon," "What Price Glory," "Support Your Local Sheriff," "The Apple Dumpling Gang" and "The Shootist."

Morgan began his television career in 1954 when the medium was in its infancy.

"Television allowed me to kick the Hollywood habit of typing an actor in certain roles," Morgan said, referring to his typical sidekick or sheriff portrayals on the big screen

In "December Bride," his first TV series, Morgan played Pete Porter, a perpetually henpecked neighbor. The CBS series lasted from 1954-1959, when he went on to star in his own series, "Pete and Gladys," a spinoff of "December Bride."

Demonstrating his diversity as a character actor and comedian, Morgan also starred in "The Richard Boone Show," "Kentucky Jones" and "Dragnet."

But it was his role as Col. Sherman Porter on "M-A-S-H" for which Morgan became best known.

"M-A-S-H was so damned good," Morgan told the AP. "I didn't think they could keep the level so high."

His acting career didn't stop after the popular series left the air in 1983 after 11 years - one of television's most successful prime-time runs. Morgan went on to appear in several made-for-TV movies and other television series, such as "AfterMASH" and "Blacke's Magic."

When he was not on the set, Morgan enjoyed reading books about the legal profession and poetry. He also liked horses, which he once raised on his Northern California ranch.

Morgan is survived by three sons, Charles, Paul and Christopher; eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

No services have yet been planned.

Blues Legend Hubert Sumlin dies at age of 80


Labels: WRLTHD Music News
Blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin, who played with Howlin' Wolf and inspired the likes of Eric Clapton, has died at the age of 80.
He was with Howlin' Wolf for the best part of 20 years - his guitar can be heard on tracks such as the 1956 hit, Smokestack Lightnin'.
Clapton and Rolling Stone Keith Richards appeared on one of Sumlin's solo albums, About Them Shoes, in 2004.
Richards called him "a gentleman of the first order".
He said in a statement: "With sorrow I received the news of Hubert's passing. He put up a long hard fight. To me he was an uncle and a teacher and all the guitar players must feel the same as myself.
"Warm, humorous and always encouraging, he was a gentleman of the first order."
Stones frontman Mick Jagger called him an "incisive yet delicate blues player".
Sumlin was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 2008.

He was recently included in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.
Sumlin was born in 1931 in Mississippi but was raised in Arkansas.
He met Howlin' Wolf as a teenager after sneaking into one of the blues legends gigs. They first recorded together in 1953.
Three tracks written and arranged by Chicago blues musician Willie Dixon appeared on Howlin' Wolf's self-titled 1962 album.
Back Door Man, Spoonful and The Red Rooster became more famous later on when they were covered by The Doors, Cream and the Rolling Stones respectively.

Sumlin played at a New York concert in Central Park in 2005
Critic Greil Marcus described the Howlin' Wolf album as "the finest of all Chicago blues albums".

Sumlin and Howlin' Wolf collaborated until the singer's death in 1976.
In a 1989 magazine interview, Sumlin said: "Hubert was Wolf, Wolf was Hubert. I got to where I knew what he wanted before he asked for it, because I could feel the man."
Jimi Hendrix was reportedly an admirer of Sumlin - he was said to have been influenced by Sumlin's use of distortion on recordings from the late 1950s.

The news of Sumlin's death was announced on his official website by his manager and friend, Toni Ann Mamary.
"Our dear friends… it is with a heavy heart that the worse has come to fruition. My little Hubert is living the life of a real angel. I'm overwhelmed with grief and so I really need to pull myself together," she wrote.
"I'll spend the rest of my days loving and cherishing all you are and were to me."