Wednesday, October 31, 2012

IMF eases restrictions on Zimbabwe, allows economic monitoring

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday relaxed restrictions on technical assistance to Zimbabwe, opening the way for an IMF staff-monitored economic program.

The move marks a major step toward normalizing relations with the southern African country.

"The executive board has decided to resume IMF technical assistance in certain new areas to support Zimbabwe's formulation and implementation of a comprehensive adjustment and structural reform program that can be monitored by the staff," the IMF said in a statement.

While Zimbabwe is still not able to tap IMF funding, easing the restrictions moves it in that direction. The IMF would want to see a track record of sound policies by the unity government of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai before it agrees to a lending program.

The IMF suspended Zimbabwe's voting rights in 2003 over policy differences with the Mugabe government and payment arrears to the global lender. The voting rights were restored in 2010, allowing Zimbabwe to again participate in IMF decision-making.

In its statement, the IMF said its board of member countries agreed there had been "significant improvement in Zimbabwe's cooperation on economic policies and renewed commitment to address its arrears problems."

IMF technical advice to Zimbabwe will now be extended to cover tax policy and administration, public financial management and expenditure policy, financial sector and central bank reform measures, monetary and exchange policies, and economic statistics.

The country faces a huge debt burden. Its total external debt is estimated at $10.7 billion, or 113.5 percent of GDP, at the end of 2011. More than half of it is in arrears.

Zimbabwe is still emerging from a decade of economic decline and hyperinflation. The economy has slowly been on the mend since the formation of a unity government in 2009, and the government recently projected growth of 8.9 percent in 2013.

However, there are concerns over upcoming elections due next year given Zimbabwe's recent history of violent and disputed elections.


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Mobilicity upgrade to 21Mbps HSPA+ goes live with throttled service to match

Mobilicity upgrade to 21Mbps HSPA goes live with throttled service to match

Sometimes the leaks are uncannily accurate. As we'd seen just days ago, Mobilicity has flicked on its 21Mbps HSPA+ network, giving customers of the alternative Canadian carrier up to three times the speed of before if they're using new $80 Huawei E366 modem or a compatible smartphone. Unfortunately, the other part of the rumor is also true: there's now a curb on that unlimited data. Cross the (admittedly high) 6GB mark and those speeds may be throttled without springing for the 20GB that comes with either a $20 Premium Data Add-On for phones or a data-only $50 Premium Mobile Data Internet Plan. Despite the suddenly lowered ceiling, the higher performance is a welcome kick in the cellular pants for those who want a Galaxy S III without turning to one of the big three providers.

Continue reading Mobilicity upgrade to 21Mbps HSPA+ goes live with throttled service to match

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Monday, October 29, 2012

HI tsunami smaller than feared; advisory canceled

Mike Nakamoto of Honolulu prepare's his client's boat moored at the Ala Wai Harbor to take it to deep water after learning of a tsunami warning Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in Honolulu. A tsunami warning has been issued for Hawaii after a 7.7-magnitude earthquake rocked an island off the west coast of Canada. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center originally said there was no threat to the islands, but a warning was issued later Saturday and remains in effect until 7 p.m. Sunday. A small craft advisory is in effect until Sunday morning.(AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

Mike Nakamoto of Honolulu prepare's his client's boat moored at the Ala Wai Harbor to take it to deep water after learning of a tsunami warning Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in Honolulu. A tsunami warning has been issued for Hawaii after a 7.7-magnitude earthquake rocked an island off the west coast of Canada. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center originally said there was no threat to the islands, but a warning was issued later Saturday and remains in effect until 7 p.m. Sunday. A small craft advisory is in effect until Sunday morning.(AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

Tad Kanski of Newport Beach, Calif unties his family's sailboat moored at the Ala Wai Harbor after learning of a tsunami warning Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in Honolulu. A tsunami warning has been issued for Hawaii after a 7.7-magnitude earthquake rocked an island off the west coast of Canada. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center originally said there was no threat to the islands, but a warning was issued later Saturday and remains in effect until 7 p.m. Sunday. A small craft advisory is in effect until Sunday morning.(AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

Erica Avegalio, center, and her brother Albert Avegalio, right, load up on water and food at the Times Supermarket after learning of a tsunami warning Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in Honolulu. A tsunami warning has been issued for Hawaii after a 7.7-magnitude earthquake rocked an island off the west coast of Canada. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center originally said there was no threat to the islands, but a warning was issued later Saturday and remains in effect until 7 p.m. Sunday. A small craft advisory is in effect until Sunday morning. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

Lyndon Fong of Honolulu fills up his gas tank after learning of a tsunami waring Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in Honolulu. A tsunami warning has been issued for Hawaii after a 7.7-magnitude earthquake rocked an island off the west coast of Canada. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center originally said there was no threat to the islands, but a warning was issued later Saturday and remains in effect until 7 p.m. Sunday. A small craft advisory is in effect until Sunday morning.(AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

Visitors and Oahu residents watch the ocean water surge into the Ala Wai Harbor carrying various debris during a tsunami Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in Honolulu. The water dropped about a foot then came up a foot in about 30 seconds. The first waves of a tsunami hitting Hawaii on Saturday night hit shore smaller than expected roughly three hours after officials ordered evacuations of all coastal areas threatened after a powerful earthquake off the coast of Canada. Gerard Fryer, a geologist tracking the tsunami for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, said the largest wave in the first 45 minutes of the tsunami was measured at 5 feet in Maui. State and local officials warned residents and tourists not to go back to inundation zones until an all-clear is given. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

(AP) ? Officials in Hawaii canceled a tsunami advisory for the state's coastline early Sunday, paving the way for beaches and harbors to reopen after widespread fears of waves generated from a powerful earthquake off the coast of Canada.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center lifted its tsunami advisory Sunday morning just before 4 a.m. local time, three hours after downgrading from a warning and less than six hours after the waves first hit the islands.

Center officials said wave heights were diminishing, though swimmers and boaters should be careful of strong or unusual currents.

The biggest waves ? about 5 feet high ? appeared to hit Maui. A popular triathlon set for the island was expected to go on as planned, with county lifeguards giving the OK for a 1 mile ocean swim.

There were no immediate reports of damage, though one person died in a fatal crash near a road that was closed because of the threat near Oahu's north shore.

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie said the state was lucky to avoid more severe surges.

"We're very, very grateful that we can go home tonight counting our blessings," Abercrombie said.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service canceled tsunami advisories for Canada, Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California.

At first, officials said Hawaii wasn't in any danger of a tsunami after the 7.7-magnitude earthquake, which sparked tsunami warnings for southern Alaska and western Canada.

Later, officials issued a warning for Hawaii as well, saying there had been a change in sea readings. About the same time, a tsunami advisory was issued for a 450-mile stretch of U.S. coast running from north of San Francisco to central Oregon.

A small tsunami created by the quake was barely noticeable in Craig, Alaska, where the first wave or surge was recorded Saturday night.

The warning in Hawaii spurred residents to stock up on essentials at gas stations and grocery stores and sent tourists in beachside hotels to higher floors in their buildings. Bus service into Waikiki was cut off an hour before the first waves, and police in downtown Honolulu shut down a Halloween block party.

Abercrombie proclaimed an emergency, mobilizing extra safety measures.

In Alaska, the initial wave or surge was recorded at 4 inches, much smaller than forecast, said Jeremy Zidek, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The first wave hit Craig about two hours after the earthquake. Surges at other Alaska communities were later recorded at 6 inches, while others were much smaller.

A dispatcher with the Del Norte County Sheriff's said no damage was reported in Crescent City, a tiny fishing community in far Northern California, or in any other locations along the county's coast.

A tsunami warning means an area is likely to be hit by a wave, while an advisory means there may be strong currents, but that widespread inundation is not expected to occur.


Oskar Garcia can be reached on Twitter at .


Associated Press writers Mark Thiessen and Rachel D'Oro in Anchorage, Alaska, Christopher Weber in Los Angeles and John S. Marshall in San Francisco contributed to this report.

Associated Press


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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Video Gaming Arian Foster Jersey Suggestions That Are Quick And ...

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Weekly Security Update | Iraq Business News

Weekly Security Update

By Gary Sandiford, Olive Group?s Dubai based assessments manager.? Olive Group is a leading provider of security and technology solutions and has operated continuously in Iraq since 2003.



Olive Groups Iraq statistics are drawn from multiple sources, including media reporting and direct liaison with in country assets. Included within the statistics are a minority sub-set of serious incidents which may not be purely attributable to insurgent/terrorist groups, such as murder, kidnappings and organised crime activities.

The total number of reported incidents in Iraq for the period 15 ? 21 October 2012 was 144.? This is some way above the 2012 weekly average of 117 and marks a considerable increase in violence following a two week period of relative calm.? The major increases in reporting occurred in Baghdad and the North Central Region, with insurgent violence appearing to be a primary factor.? Given the trend of elevated violence sustained since the end of July, with only brief periods of respite, it now appears more likely that the levels of violence associated with the summer campaign have become the norm, at least in the medium term.?Mosul again featured prominently in national reporting, with both communal and insurgent violence being amongst the most intense across the country. The Tigris and Diyala River Valleys north of Baghdad both saw an appreciable increase in the use of explosive devices ? with a possible campaign to target communications infrastructure occurring across Salah al-Din Province ? while Kirkuk Province and Tuz District, just to its south, both saw surges in the targeting of Iraq Security Forces (ISF), including the use of large car-bombs (VBIEDs).? Overall reporting from Baghdad also increased and in addition to this there were numerous large mass-casualty attacks ? which the capital had been free of during the previous two weeks.? By contrast the southern half of Iraq? meaning here those areas below northern Babil ? remained very quiet with only low level incidents occurring, all of which appear to reflect isolated communal, criminal or political disputes.? This reflects long terms patterns in the Shia majority provinces of southern Iraq.


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Real Estate Investors: Why Hug a Hedge Fund Buyer Today? ? CT ...

Why should real estate investors be out thanking big bulk buyers instead of complaining about the competition?

Some real estate investors have been getting frustrated with an immense amount of competitions from private equity firms and giant bulk buyers scooping up masses of distressed properties, while others are loving it and are still making plenty of money from real estate investing.

4 Reasons to Hug One of These Competitors Today

1. They Are Fun to Play With at Auctions

Few real estate investors make their money at public foreclosure auctions today and the competition has definitely grown stiffer with reps from big buyers showing up armed with bundles of checks and spending millions. Often they will out bid everyone else and wind up far overpaying what they should. While solo real estate investors should avoid being baited into bad habits like these it can be tons of fun to go and make these buyers sweat and overpay. Thank them for the entertainment.

2. Thanks for Pumping up Home Prices

Home prices in markets like Phoenix and Atlanta which are so popular with these big firms are seeing home values shoot up by high double digits. This means boosting profit margins for all and piling on equity to the personal residences of investors too. This deserves a really big bear hug.

3. Thanks for Making Your Returns Look Even Better

Most of the big players are severely encumbered by structure, layers of decision making and ridiculously high overhead. This kills their net returns. This makes the returns wholesalers can offer private mortgage lenders and turnkey real estate investors way more attractive.

4. Thanks for Biting the Bullet on Those Ugly Houses

While it appears some bulk buyers are doing more due diligence they are also certainly eating it big time by acquiring hundreds of dead beat homes which will become dead weight, dragging down over all returns, many of which will have to be turned around and sold, perhaps sometimes even at a loss. This is great for the little guy and every one of these properties rehabbed brings up the value of neighborhoods, increasing the value of the holdings of other investors too.

You don?t need a trunk full of checks to compete. With easy access to transactional funding and hard money lenders making a comeback and begging for investors to borrow you have access to all the cash you need. You don?t even need to go head to head at auctions or over REOs with them either. There are other and today perhaps better ways to find real deals, a lot easier.

So get out and hug one of these private equity firms? reps today ? then go out and make a killing with a smile?


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Vonn against men "great for sport" : Alpine Canada

TORONTO (Reuters) - If Lindsey Vonn is cleared to race the men's World Cup downhill at Lake Louise it would give the sport a huge boost, but the American should reconsider loftier plans to tackle Kitzbuehel, the head of Alpine Canada said on Tuesday.

A four-time overall World Cup champion, Vonn set the ski racing world abuzz earlier this month when she petitioned the International Ski Federation (FIS) to let her race in the men's season-opening downhill on November 24 in the Canadian Rockies.

"It would be great for the sport," Alpine Canada president Max Gartner told Reuters on Tuesday. "That is what the sport needs, stories that are bigger than the sport itself."

But before Vonn can have her name added to the start list there are several technical issues that must be resolved.

Vonn has stated she will only take part in the men's race if she is allowed to compete in the women's downhill season-opener the following weekend on what is essentially the same course.

Under FIS rules, however, no racer is allowed to ski on a race course a week prior to their own competition.

In a compromise, Vonn has reportedly offered to forgo two training runs for the women's race as a way of evening out the playing field if she can compete in both events.

The FIS Council is expected to make a decision at its next meeting on November 3-4 in Switzerland.

"You can work around those things," said Gartner. "There has got to be a bit of give and take."

Vonn has had a long-running love affair with Lake Louise having recorded 11 wins and a staggering 17 podium finishes on the undulating layout tucked away in the wilderness of Banff National Park.

The 28-year-old speed queen claimed her first career World Cup win at the posh Canadian resort in 2004 and had nine of her 26 career downhill wins come on the Olympic course.

Given her familiarity with the track, officials and fellow racers say Vonn will face no added risks, but Lake Louise, like any other downhill, has claimed its share of victims.

Among them is Canada's John Kucera, the 2009 world downhill champion, who suffered a devastating leg injury the following season that sidelined him for the better part of two seasons.

"Her picking Lake Louise wasn't a fluke," Kucera told Reuters. "She's well aware that it is the course she has the best chance on.

"It's longer and it's prepared a little more challenging than the women's course but all-in-all it has a lot of similarities.

"Lindsey is a good skier and it's not like it's way above her ability level but it's definitely going to be a change."

Racing at Lake Louise, rated as one of the most benign layouts on the men's circuit is one thing, but challenging the ferocious Hahnenkamm is another.

Vonn told the Austrian Press Agency recently that she would like to race Kitzbuehel before she retires but some people have suggested that it is one item she might want to remove from her bucket list.

"I admire every athlete that pushes out of that start gate wanting to go as fast as they can because it's scary," said Gartner. "Once you push out there is no more stopping. There is no slowing down, you're going.

"It's expertise, guys who have skied it for many years know this beast and how to manage it."

The treacherous Streif course is routinely the scene of some of ski racing's most terrifying crashes striking respect and fear into even the most seasoned downhiller.

Canadian downhiller Brian Stemmle narrowly survived a near fatal crash that left him in the hospital for months when he lost control and flung into the safety netting.

"I loved how she said about Kitzbuehel that she will race that at the end of her career because it probably will be the end of her career," smiled Stemmle. "I give her credit for laying it out there and wanting to do it and progress her sport.

"Kitzbuehel I think is a little over her head, it's just different"


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Asian Studies Program Hosts Buddhism Scholar From Hawaii -- University of Arkansas Newswire

Tuesday, October 16, 2012 Peter Hershock

Peter Hershock

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. ? The Asian Studies Speakers? Series will host Peter Hershock, director of the Asian studies program at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, as he presents ?Choice or Virtuosity: Buddhist Reflections on the Meaning of Freedom.? The free lecture is sponsored by the Asian studies program and will begin at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 17, in Giffel?s Auditorium.

Hershock?s research considers the philosophical dimensions of Buddhism. His analysis uses Buddhist conceptual resources to address contemporary issues such as technology and development, education, human rights and the role of values in cultural and social change.

The U.S. Congress established the East-West Center in 1960. According to its website, the center ?promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the Unite States, Asia and the Pacific through cooperative study, research and dialog.? As director, Hershock coordinates summer institutes, workshops and field study programs associated with the Asian studies development program.

Hershock earned a bachelor of arts in philosophy from Yale University and a doctorate in Asian and comparative philosophy from the University of Hawaii.


Darinda Sharp, director of communications
J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences


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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

China widens investment options for insurers

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's insurance regulator has widened investment options for the country's insurers, allowing them to trade index futures and financial derivatives at home and expand their investment scope abroad.

The move is the latest in a series of rule changes by the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) this year to help diversify investments by insurers, which are suffering from a wobbly domestic stock market that slumped 22 percent in 2011.

Highlighting the struggles faced by insurers, China Life , the world's largest insurer by market value, issued a profit warning on October 18 signalling its first quarterly loss since 2008.

The CIRC will now allow insurers to trade index futures and derivatives in the domestic market, it said in a statement posted on its website on Tuesday, providing the firms with a much-needed tool to hedge risks.

Chinese insurers can invest up to 20 percent of their assets in stocks, and most of them are highly vulnerable to domestic market volatility.

In a separate statement issued late on Monday, the CIRC also lifted a restriction limiting Chinese insurers to invest only on the mainland or in Hong Kong. They will now be able to invest in 45 countries, including 25 developed economies such as the United States, Australia and Japan, as well as 20 developing economies including Brazil, India and Thailand.

Approved asset classes have also been expanded from equities and bonds to real estate, currency products and non-bond fixed-income products.

However, the quota of year-end total assets that domestic insurers can invest abroad has not been increased, remaining at 15 percent.

Chinese insurers have total assets of 6.6 trillion yuan, meaning they can invest up to about $150 billion in overseas capital markets.

The regulator also widened the scope of investments Chinese insurers can make onshore, increasing the share of total funds they may invest in wealth management products, trust products, real estate and infrastructure projects.

(Reporting by Pete Sweeney and Samuel Shen; Editing by Kazunori Takada and Chris Gallagher)


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Changing Our Information Security Culture: EMC's new collaborative ...

By Doug Graham, Senior Director, Global Security Office ? Risk Management

What do corporate IT security and healthcare have in common these days? Both are undergoing a cultural shift in which customers are being asked to take responsibility for their own well-being.

Just like getting individuals to focus on proper diet, exercise and screening efforts can help prevent health problems and keep everyone?s medical costs down, so can getting IT users to embrace proper security practices help prevent costly security complications for employees and the company they work for.

At EMC, this realization is driving a major transition in our approach to security. We are evolving from a centralized global security team that dictates regulations to the business units that consume IT without their input ? to a dispersed security force that works with the business to understand their needs and create policies and standards that the business can live with.

Last year, our Global Security Office (GSO) began a multi-year effort to transform its security approach.

Changing our security culture

It is a substantial cultural change that will take time. After all, the traditional IT model that has been in place for years allowed the business to expect IT to do everything for them. IT delivered their desktop, delivered the applications at the back end, and basically provided their entire IT environment. Not surprising that business users saw GSO as being totally responsible for IT security. In the process we became a hindrance to the business.

As times are changing?and with the business having more choice of procuring IT services from a sea of public cloud (SaaS) providers?the old security model doesn?t work. Since more and more often, users are making decisions on what type IT services they consume, they also have to be aware of the potential risks those choices are going to bring to the IT environment. If a business unit is going to outsource customer management, for example, it needs to consider the security risks and compliance needs that come with that move.

This shift in user autonomy underscores some longstanding inherent flaws in the old security model to begin with. Among them is the fact that you can?t force the business to comply with policies and standards, which they don?t understand or agree with. In fact, at EMC we found that it had become acceptable to the business to work around some security policies so that they could do business freely?which tells me the policies were wrong.

In the past the engagement between the business units and the security team was pretty much that of mutual mis-understanding. The business would make requests for IT services, the security team would identify risks and send back a series of ?No?s? and the business would often do it anyway because they had revenue or customer satisfaction at stake. From their polarized positions, each saw the other as the root of the problem. The security team thought the business was making bad decisions because it didn?t understand security policies. The business, in turn, thought the risk team was wrong because of their lack of understanding of business needs.

Now I know that people aren?t showing up for work at EMC intending to make bad decisions. The reality is they?re making the best decisions they have with the current information that?s available to them. And if you have two sides that each think the other is making a bad decision, there?s a communications problem.

A new collaboration

Our new approach to security seeks to resolve this by creating a collaborative relationship between GSO and the business. We must to get closer to the business units so we can understand what their needs are. In turn, the business needs to understand our security requirements and to take responsibility for preventing security breaches just as individuals need to understand the value of preventive medicine in the healthcare system.

To do this, we have decentralized our risk team, assigning Business Security Managers (BSM?s) to each business unit to work with them directly on security issues. We have also appointed a Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) Council with representatives from across the businesses and GSO, which meets monthly on security issues. The GRC council reports to the executive-level Management Risk Committee that, in turn, reports to the company Board of Directors.

Among our goals is to create security controls that are ?built-in? and easy to understand and use rather than our previous ?bolted-on? measures that were difficult, sometimes even arbitrary, and disruptive to our customers. Think of anti-lock breaks (ABS) in the automobile industry, for example. All cars these days are required to have them and consumers don?t really notice the built-in safety feature because it doesn?t hinder their driving experience. Going forward, our BSM?s will work with the business to build-in security features as we create new products and services.

In the meantime, representatives from GSO, IT and the business units recently collaborated to update and enhance EMC?s security policies, standards, guidelines and procedures.

We are also enlisting the help of champions throughout the business to help us promote awareness and acceptance of security practices. They will help us spread the word that everybody at EMC truly has some responsibility for securing their environment.

The right amount of security is the minimal amount needed to have an acceptable level of risk. Without IT security, we of course could not do business in the market. EMC?s value is our intellectual property, which must be protected ? that?s paramount. What?s more, our customers require assurance that we are protecting their information.

On the other hand, much like the parent who might want to keep their child in a bubble to keep them absolutely safe, we know that there are some risks inherent in doing business in today?s world.

We want to find this balance through a cooperative relationship between our risk team and the business. Because, ultimately, when IT security is driving the business, the tail is wagging the dog. If our business customers are making security work for them, then they are wagging the tail.

Much like the healthcare industry is enlisting individuals in safeguarding their own health, we hope to inspire everyone at EMC to step up and promote improved security for the enterprise. It?s a collective responsibility and a sign of maturity.

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Operation Christmas Child- My Personal Story

It was a humbling experience that I will never forget. The unit theme was ?Making a Difference? and it was nearing Christmas. ?I invited my 25 fourth and fifth grade E.S.L. students join me in a project that would change many of our hearts forever.

My students were all considered Newcomer students (all within their first year in the United States, speaking little to no English). Students from Mexico, Iraq, Russia, Turkey, Vietnam, and Jordan; many of which were refugees who fled,?from war-torn countries,?to the United States with as few as 1-2 suitcases per family. ?They were students living in small 2 bedrooms apartments, shared by multiple families using even the living room as a family bedroom. All were receiving free breakfast, lunch, and even weekend meals from our public school. Many whom had watched their friends and/or family die during war.

As I began to share with them about Operation Christmas Child and how we as a class were going to set of goal of filling two shoeboxes for children in need, making their Christmas? very special this year. I shared this wishfully, as I knew many of these students were living in very rough conditions themselves. Despite their lack of ideal conditions and lack of finances to purchase new items, I wanted to challenge them to serve others. I admit I was very nervous as I didn?t want our ?project? to fail? I wanted them to experience the joy of serving.

The challenge was simple and straight forward: ?Class, I want to challenge you to find new items around your homes or purchase an inexpensive item that you can give to a child in need this Christmas season. We are going to combine all of our items into two boxes, decorate the boxes, write notes, and send them out on Friday.?

We made a giant list of things we thought they would like to recieve: small toys, bubbles, hair bows, toothpaste, soap, candies, socks, markers, coloring books, stickers, toy cars, gum, small books, washcloth, and more. We also decided that each student would write a note, we would divide them between the 2 boxes, and take a class picture to send with each.

?Teacher!? (as many referred to me with affection.) ?I get this!?

?Great! I?m glad your excited!? I responded with a smile.

?No, teacher! Iraq, when I in camp, I get this!? his face glowed as he shared.

?Me too teacher!!? a sweet young voice shot up from across the room.

Within a few minutes, in broken English, we discovered that 6 of our 25 students had actually been on the receiving end of the Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes! Something I had never dreamed of encountering!

The six students began to share where they were, who gave them the boxes, what they remember in the box, what their favorite part of the box was, some even remembered what their siblings received in their boxes!

In mid-sharing, the bell rang and they all continued to share as they grabbed their backpacks and headed out the door.

?Friday, I yelled, Don?t forget to bring your supply on Friday!?

The next day, my students were waiting outside my door as I arrived at school. They were waiting for me. They had plastic bags filled to the brim. The bags were filled with NEW toys and supplies for our shoeboxes.

Many of the students went home, shared with their families what we were doing, and their parents took their child to the store to buy supplies. The families who brought the most? were those who had been on the receiving end of those boxes! They were grateful and wanted to give back; and so did their parents! Even the parents were impacted by the generosity of complete strangers to their children when they were in extreme need.

As the week concluded, I knew our two boxes were not going to be enough? instead my impoverished class of 25 students filled (get this) 38 shoeboxes!

That my friends is gratitude! The story still today brings tears to my eyes and has deeply impacted my family today as my husband and I were actually able to travel and deliver these shoeboxes to children down in Mexico that Christmas. We took pictures, watched their faces as they received (for most) their only Christmas present of the year. We left Mexico changed that year.

Delivering Christmas Shoeboxes in Mexico?

In our own family, my husband and I?s goal is to raise servants, servants of Christ, but also servants to others. As a family, we have committed to sending shoeboxes and encouraging others to do so as well each year. Last year I shared this story at the private school where my husband and I work, this year is my first year to share on Cheerios and Lattes.

Won?t you and your family join us this year? Making a difference for a child in need this Christmas is an opportunity for ?you to model service, sacrifice, gratitude, and ultimately love!

Visit the Operation Christmas Child website to find all the ways you can participate this year!

  • Host a Packing Party at Your Home (for family, neighbors, and or friends)
  • Get Your School or Class Involved
  • Get Your Church Involved

Will you sacrifice a few dollars? Will you teach your children to serve??Will you join us?

PG Mackenzie is a follower of Jesus, wife, mama of two toddler boys, teacher at heart, and coffee lover. She was a lower school elementary teacher for over 6 years, with a master's degree in Reading, and is a certificated Reading Specialist. She currently works part-time at a private school allowing her more time at home with her little guys.

Mackenzie has blogged 311 posts here.


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Monday, October 22, 2012

High-tech product announcements this fall

It's high season for consumer electronics. Manufacturers of various gadgets are unveiling their holiday lineups. Add to that products surrounding a new version of Windows coming out Friday.

Here's a recap of the announcements so far:

? Sept. 4: Microsoft Corp. releases the first major update to its server operating system since 2009, a prelude to releasing Windows 8 to consumers in October. Microsoft says Windows Server 2012 adds features that make it easier to manage large clusters of servers in data centers remotely.

? Sept. 5: Nokia Corp. unveils its first phones running the next version of Windows. The company didn't reveal prices and says only that the Windows Phone 8 devices will be available in the fourth quarter "in select markets." The two devices are under Nokia's Lumia brand.

Motorola Mobility, under new owner Google Inc., announces three smartphones borrowing the Razr brand, the name of the hit clamshell phone from 2004.

? Sept. 6: Inc. announces four new Kindle Fire tablet computers as it steps up competition with Apple Inc. and its iPad. Two of the models have screens nearly as large as the iPad's, at lower prices. Those will start shipping in November, while the smaller, 7-inch models start selling Sept. 14. Amazon also refreshes its line of stand-alone e-readers.

? Sept. 10: Toys R Us says it plans to launch its own Android tablet computer aimed at children. Called Tabeo, it goes on sale on Oct. 21 for $150. The 7-inch touch-screen tablet will come with 50 apps selected for children, including such games as "Angry Birds" and "Fruit Ninja" and a book app called istorybooks. Toys R Us sells other electronics including the iPad, but this is its first store-brand tablet.

? Sept. 12: Apple unveils a bigger, lighter iPhone, with an ability to connect to faster data networks known as 4G. The iPhone 5 goes on sale in the U.S. on Sept. 21. Apple also refreshes the iPod Nano and the iPod Touch and introduces a new type of headphone called EarPods, which are meant to fit comfortably in more people's ears.

? Sept. 13: Nintendo says its new Wii U game machine will go on sale in the U.S. on Nov. 18, starting at $300. It also announces an entertainment component called Nintendo TVii. The service collects all the ways users have to watch movies, TV shows and sports, such as through cable TV, Hulu and Netflix.

? Sept. 26: Barnes & Noble announces an update to its Nook tablet with sleek new hardware and a sharper high-definition screen. A 7-inch model starts at $199, and a 9-inch one starts at $269. They will go on sale Nov. 1.

? Oct. 16: Microsoft says its first tablet computer, the Surface, will start at $499 when it goes on sale Oct. 26. The signature hardware feature of the tablet, a cover that doubles as a keyboard, will cost another $100. The prices are for the Surface models with the type of chips common in phones and tablet computers. Microsoft plans a heavier version running Intel chips and a full-powered version of Windows. Availability and prices for that model weren't announced.


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adrianpasdara: Sex education, grooming and the nature of liberty ...


Over the years when My Black Cat scouted around the Internet looking for Intertwinglements she came across all sorts of rubbish, unproven ?facts,? and conspiracy theories regarding paedophilia.

In addition she came across some information that seemed to be either plausible or credible. For example, she discovered that Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt were respectively Legal Officer and General Secretary to the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL, now Liberty) at the time when there was an affiliation with the pro-paedophilia groups P.I.E and P.A.L.

The following is from Wiki :

LIBERTY (pressure group)

From 1974-83 the NCCL was headed by Patricia Hewitt, who was later to become prominent in the Labour Party, serving as Health Secretary. A number of other future high profile Labour politicians worked at the organisation at this time, such as Harriet Harman who worked as the legal officer and her husband Jack Dromey.[11][12]

In 1976, the NCCL stated to a parliamentary committee that ?Childhood sexual experiences, willingly engaged in, with an adult result in no identifiable damage? The real need is a change in the attitude which assumes that all cases of paedophilia result in lasting damage?. Organisations such as Paedophile Information Exchange (P.I.E.), a pro-paedophile activist group, and Paedophile Action for Liberation became affiliated to the pressure group. The NCCL stated they supported ?any organisation that seeks to campaign for anything it wants within the law? and that the ?NCCL has no policy on [the Paedophile Information Exchange?s] aims ? other than the evidence that children are harmed if, after a mutual relationship with an adult, they are exposed to the attentions of the police, press and court.? Groups such as P.I.E. were later excluded from the organisation.

Shami Chakrabarti, now the present director of Liberty, criticised the actions of Jimmy Savile on the Andrew Marr show today.

Harriet Harman is also adopting a high profile role.

Patricia Hewitt is saying nothing.

It would be in the public interest to hear the views that these three women held regarding paedophilia immediately before Jimmy Savile?s alleged paedophilia reached the headlines.

It would also be in the public interest to know the views held by Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt at the time that P.I.E and P.A.T were affiliated to NCCL (now Liberty).

Richard Murphy gives an account of a debate in his University in the 1970s and his views on why??.


Here is some more information that My Black Cat collected involving attitudes to paedophilia in Germany in the 1970s.


?Germany?s left has its own tales of abuse. One of the goals of the German 1968 movement was the sexual liberation of children. For some, this meant overcoming all sexual inhibitions, creating a climate in which even pedophilia was considered progressive.?

The above link is probably credible.

But is what comes next credible also? Is it plausible?

A few years ago while hunting Intertwinglements, My Black Cat came across a leaflet that was said to originate from the German Government aimed at parents and schools advising them regarding sex education of their children. Apparently it went much further that even the most liberal sex education in the UK.

Unfortunately, black cats are not multilingual and neither is The Witch Doctor so we couldn?t read what it said. Anyway, we can?t find the document now but it was there to be seen some years ago. There is a reference to it in another blog. The question is:

Follow the link below. Is the post it leads to conspiratorial, plausible or credible?

This is the question The Witch Doctor has to ask herself every time My Black Cat dumps rats on the floor of The Spell Pantry.

Sometimes she is not sure of the answer.


Jimmy Savile may be have been highly intelligent kind of sociopath. Perhaps he even intellectualised child sexual abuse. Who knows? Perhaps his beliefs and actions during his lifetime, will permit us all to question what we regard as paedophilia and form views about it that are moral, sensible, and above all our own, and not dependent on the Creep that might result from the influence of past, present or future pressure groups.

Perhaps we also need to question when sex education becomes grooming.

Perhaps these questions will lead us beyond the UK, beyond the Island of Jersey, and further afield into Europe.

The Witch Doctor ? Link to a random page

redapple.jpga red apple ????????

The Witch Doctor ? Link to a random page





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5 things that could sink Windows 8

6 hrs.

The Windows?8 launch is finally upon us, and I guarantee you there are a lot of nervous people in Redmond right now. How could they not be?

You?re about to launch a new version of your operating system that is such a radical departure from what PC users have come to expect that it should be called "Windows We Hope You?re Ready for Something Really Different." Sheer inertia is certainly a concern. After all, the Live Tiles, panoramic Modern-style interface and new tools like the Charms menu all require a learning curve. But that?s not the biggest challenge Microsoft?faces. These are.

1. Hardware is too pricey
One of the biggest reasons ultrabooks haven?t sold as well as Intel and its partners expected is that prices haven?t come down fast enough. You can finally find some in the $699 range, but that?s still about $200 more than the typical budget laptop.

Now, shoppers will be asked to pony up $1,100 to $1,200 to enjoy touch-based convertibles like the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, Sony VAIO Duo 11 and Dell XPS 12. Intel shared with us recently that its own studies show that consumers are willing to pay $150 to $200 more for touch, but I?m not sure that will fly in a down economy and a holiday season dominated by the cheap iPad mini, Kindle Fire and Nexus 7.

Windows RT devices like Microsoft?s Surface are more affordable at $499, the same as the iPad. But opting for the Touch Cover keyboard (the accessory being touted in Microsoft?s ads) brings the price to $599.

Windows 8-powered hybrids like the $749 Acer Iconia W510 (with keyboard) and Samsung Ativ Smart PC 500T (I swear I?m not making that name up) don?t have the same sexy industrial design as the Surface, but their Atom processors make these devices more versatile because users can run traditional desktop apps. You can get the W510 without a keyboard for a reasonable $499.

[MORE: Top 10 Windows 8 Hybrids]

2. Windows 8 vs. Windows RT confusion
Shoppers will have a tough time telling the difference between the two flavors of new Windows devices on shelves this holiday season, because they both feature the same slick Live Tile interface. But there is a huge difference between the two platforms.

In a nutshell, Windows 8 PCs can run any app downloaded from the Windows Store as well as all desktop applications. Windows RT tablets and hybrids (powered by ARM processors) will be limited to Windows Store apps and Microsoft?s Office 2013, even though you?ll still be able to access the desktop for things like transferring files?off a USB drive.

Sounds like a pretty simple delineation, but as The Verge proved with some undercover testing, Microsoft?s own store employees don?t know the difference between the two operating systems. Microsoft responded to this eye-opening report by saying that all of its sales reps will receive 15 hours of training before launch. The clock is ticking.

[MORE: 8 Windows 8 Annoyances and How to Fix Them]

3. Not enough apps
At last count there were nearly 3,500 apps in the Windows Store. And while there are a handful of compelling options so far, there are a lot more holes in Microsoft?s lineup than I would expect at this late stage. Where is Facebook? Twitter? YouTube? Dropbox? Angry Birds??

The good news: Microsoft will unveil plenty of high-profile apps either at the launch of its OS or shortly thereafter, hopefully filling in a fair number of these holes. But I still have serious concerns about the breadth of options that will be available. After all, Apple has 250,000 apps just for the iPad, thanks to its huge head start.

Microsoft also needs to prove that Windows 8 is a viable gaming platform and not just rest on the Xbox name, as it has done with Windows Phone. Shoppers need to see console-quality eye candy along with casual fare. I?m encouraged by the fact that the Unreal Engine III has been ported to Windows 8, however, which should help lead to Infinity Blade-style titles in the Windows Store. Titles based on the Unity engine will come after launch.

[MORE: Top 20 Windows 8 Apps]

4. Crappy touchpads
Sure, Windows 8 works best with touch, but the sweet spot for most shoppers right now is $500 clamshell designs that rely on touchpads. Based on previous experience, I?m very worried that these pointing devices won?t deliver the smooth gesture support that will add up to a good user experience. On a lot of pre-production samples I?ve tried the touchpad didn?t always respond when I swiped in from the left to switch apps. And most of them didn?t support the gesture to move in from the left and quickly back to the right to see all of your open apps.

If notebook vendors can?t make pinch-to- zoom work well or two-finger scrolling, they?ll have an even harder time getting Windows 8 gestures to work reliably. I?m really hoping Synaptics, Microsoft and OEMs get it right, but it will probably take a while.

[MORE: Crappy Touchpads Could Kill the Ultrabook]

5. Macs on the rise
Microsoft shouldn?t just be concerned about the iPad and the rumored "iPad Mini." It should take note that Apple is now No. 1 in notebook sales in the U.S. The 13-inch MacBook Pro is consistently the top seller at retail, and all you need to do is peek inside any coffee shop to see a sea of MacBook Airs. I?ve said this before, but the Mac's?OS X?Mountain Lion could prove more attractive than Windows 8?to those looking for a more traditional operating system this holiday, especially for those who own other Apple devices and like the idea of having iCloud keeping everything in sync.

[MORE:?10 Reasons to Drop Windows for Mountain Lion]

Bottom line
Microsoft is reportedly spending $1.5 billion to launch and promote Windows 8, and the company has never been under more pressure to make sure that shoppers get the message. But what is that message? Is it that you can have your cake and eat it too with a Windows 8 PC that runs mobile and ?legacy? apps? That you can get all-day battery life, iPad-like portability and Office productivity with a Windows RT device? It?s actually all of the above, which is a big part of the challenge.

Although Microsoft?having a hero device like the Surface tablet?helps, Windows 8 will succeed or fail not based on how well the Surface fares. Just as with every other Windows launch, Microsoft will once again rely on an ecosystem of app developers and hardware?makers to make its software sing. All of the above five obstacles are not insurmountable, but they?re very real.

LAPTOP?editor-in-chief Mark Spoonauer directs?online and print editorial content and has been covering mobile and wireless technology for over a decade. Each week Mark?s SpoonFed column provides his insights and analysis of the biggest mobile trends and news. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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Yahoo Faces Mayer Dilemma: Stay A Media ... - The Next Web

A drastic turn in Yahoo?s future could be announced tomorrow as the search engine company releases its first quarterly earnings report since it brought on Marissa Mayer as CEO. The former executive at Google has made some moves during her short tenure as the leader, but Reuters is reporting that the next announcement on the revival of the struggling search engine will be on Monday when it reports its quarterly results.

For years, the company has become enamored with content creation, signing deals with ABC News,?CNBC, and DailyMotion?to share content, among others. But with the hiring of Mayer, the company is changing things up in order to restore the company to its former glory. And that means that it?s faced with its most complex decision in recent history: does it abandon media-sharing and content creation in favor of building out a more social product?

Yahoo needs to find something that will bring people back to its network of sites and engage with the content more. Reuters says that?Yahoo has been criticized for allowing these sites to ?stagnate? ? there?s not much appeal to them and nothing will drive people back to it. Its CEO wants to make it more interactive, adaptable, and useful on the myriad of devices out there, including tablets and mobile devices.

To that end, is abandoning its content sharing partnerships entirely the smart move for Yahoo? In its 2011 annual report, Yahoo recognized that its stiffest competition is going to come from Facebook, Microsoft, AOL, and, naturally, Google, all of whom offer a variety of Internet products that rival the search engine. Not only that, but advertising networks are helping to make it difficult for the company to compete for a share of advertiser dollars.

With Mayer?s product-oriented background, Yahoo could find itself going after Facebook and Google to reclaim its honor. The company has acquired a lot of companies over the past 18 years, but has yet to fully integrate them into the fold. This new direction presents a 180-degree shift in direction set forth by Mayer?s predecessors and, as Reuters notes, could pose some risks, specifically abandoning media partnerships that have given the company incredible traffic, something championed by former CEO Ross Levinsohn.

Earlier this year, there was an inkling about Mayer potentially taking the payment from the company?s sale of its Alibaba stake?and using it to go after acquisitions of smaller companies, something that Google has been doing over the years. That plan never happened and the money went back to investors. Nevertheless, the opportunity for Yahoo to move and start acquiring small startups to build out its Yahoo social network is ripe for the taking.

Just making improvements to Flickr to compete with the capability of Facebook and Picasa could be a great start to shift the company to a more social business. Other Yahoo-owned companies that could be folded into a potential social play include IntoNow, Dapper,, and many others. And with Yahoo suing Facebook alleging patent infringement (and who ultimately settled), this could be?the company firing its opening salvo across the bow of Facebook letting it know it?s here to compete.

But with more advertising and media startups that it acquired over the years such as BlueLithium, Interclick, Associated Content, and others, it?s going to be interesting to see how Yahoo can move past its traditional monetization strategy of being all about content, not to mention search and email.

We?ll find out more tomorrow as the company releases its quarterly earnings.

Image credit:?Justin Sullivan/Getty Images


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Box Office Guru Wrapup: Paranormal Activity 4 Scares Up Top Spot

Just like its two predecessors, Paranormal Activity 4 opened at number one in its pre-Halloween launch but showed signs of audience erosion too. The weekend's only other new wide release was the cop thriller Alex Cross starring Tyler Perry which did not impress and barely made the top five. Most holdovers enjoyed small declines as the overall marketplace remained healthy with the top ten films collecting over $100M in ticket sales for the fourth consecutive weekend.

Paramount took over the top spot with its horror sequel Paranormal Activity 4 which bowed to an estimated $30.2M including grosses from its first shows which started on Thursday night at 9pm. The R-rated franchise film debuted in 3,412 theaters including 286 IMAX venues and averaged a solid $8,851. The opening fell a steep 43% from the $52.6M of last year's third part which broke the record for the biggest October debut. It was also down 26% from the $40.7M of Paranormal Activity 2 from the previous year. Fright franchises usually see fans disappear as they age, especially with a fourth chapter, so the new film was never expected to reach the heights of part 3. But it still shows that many fans who liked the home video scares of previous films did not find the new chapter worthy of seeing.

Studio research showed that the audience was split evenly between males and females while 60% were under 25. The CinemaScore grade was a C which was slightly worse than the C+ of its predecessor. For Paramount, Paranormal Activity 4 represented the studio's first live-action film to open at number one since the horror pic The Devil Inside from the first weekend of this year.

Overseas results were better with some markets showing growth over previous installments. The new film grossed $26.5M from international markets this weekend making for a global debut of $56.7M led by the U.K., Russia, and Australia. With a low $5M production cost, the latest Activity will once again become a very profitable project despite the loss of interest from consumers. It would not be surprising to see more chapters.

Oscar hopeful Argo enjoyed a terrific hold in its second weekend dropping only 15% to an estimated $16.6M putting the Ben Affleck film at $43.2M after ten days. Warner Bros. may just go on to break the $100M mark if it continues to see legs like these. With glowing reviews, incredibly high exit scores from audiences, no new direct competition, an older-skewing audience, and plenty of Oscar talk, Argo managed to hold up remarkably well and will try to keep staying relevant in the weeks ahead.

The 3D toon Hotel Transylvania followed with an estimated $13.5M for a slim 22% decline and $119M total for Sony. Liam Neeson's hit sequel Taken 2 joined the century club this weekend after grossing an estimated $13.4M in its third round, down 39%, for a $106M cume for Fox. It's already the studio's second highest-grossing live-action film of the year after Prometheus.

Anchoring his first film not based on his own material, Tyler Perry generated a lackluster debut for his detective thriller Alex Cross with an estimated $11.8M. The PG-13 film averaged a moderate $4,628 from 2,539 locations and failed to beat out the openings of the previous two films based on the same character which were released many years ago when ticket prices were much less. 1997's Kiss the Girls bowed to $13.2M while 2001's Along Came a Spider debuted to $16.7M. Both starred Morgan Freeman in the main role. Comparing admissions, Cross brought out roughly half as many people on opening weekend as Girls did.

Studio research showed that the Summit film played much like a Tyler Perry film. 60% of the audience was female, 68% was over 35, and 74% was African American. The CinemaScore grade was an encouraging A. But only a portion of his loyal audience came out as almost all of Perry's previous films have opened bigger, and in fewer theaters.

The horror film Sinister fared well despite the arrival of the latest chapter from today's most popular fright franchise. The Summit pic fell 50% to an estimated $9M for a solid $32M in ten days. Kevin James took seventh place with his latest offering, the PG-rated comedy Here Comes the Boom, which dropped 28% to an estimated $8.5M. Sony has collected a disappointing $23.2M after ten days. Universal's a cappella comedy Pitch Perfect was next with an estimated $7M, down 25%, and a $45.8M sum.

Struggling to keep up, Disney's Frankenweenie finished in ninth place with an estimated $4.4M falling by 37% to a total of only $28.3M. Rounding out the top ten was the sci-fi hit Looper with an estimated $4.2M in its fourth weekend. Sony has banked $57.8M to date.

The indie comedy The Sessions got off to a potent start platforming in New York and Los Angeles to an estimated $121,000 from only four sites for a sturdy $30,250 average. The sex surrogate pic starring Helen Hunt and William H. Macy scored sensational reviews across the board and is hoping to become a contender this winter during awards season. Fox Searchlight certainly got off to a great start and will expand on Friday to five additional markets including San Francisco, Toronto, and Chicago.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $118.6M which was up 13% from last year when Paranormal Activity 3 debuted at number one with $52.6M; and up a scant 1% from 2010 when Paranormal Activity 2 opened on top with $40.7M.

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

When Life Gives you Lemons

When Life Gives you Lemons

A Little Girl and the family who grives for her.


Game Masters:

This topic is an Out Of Character part of the roleplay, ?When Life Gives you Lemons?. Anything posted here will also show up there.

Topic Tags:

Forum for completely Out of Character (OOC) discussion, based around whatever is happening In Character (IC). Discuss plans, storylines, and events; Recruit for your roleplaying game, or find a GM for your playergroup.
When Life Gives you Lemons"

A lemonade stand sits on the corner abandoned and unused, ants cover its counter searching for remains of the sweet nectar that once flowed so sweet here. Spiders make their homes below the sign that reads ?Lemonade 25 Cents?. The little occupant of this stand is nowhere to be found, nor is anyone else for that matter. The Suburban Street it sits on is full echoes of a happier time, a time when a little girl would sit on the corner selling her lemonade to neighbors and would hardly ever ask for the twenty-five cents.

Amelia Peterson was six years and two months old, she loved swinging from the lemonade tree in her front yard in the spring and picking the lemons in the fall. She always made fresh lemonade with her mother every weekend in the fall, and was very proud of the stand her father built for her. The past year Amelia started first grade, she thought she was too old for training wheels anymore and begged her father to take them off her beloved bike.

After a long Struggle with himself her father at last gave in and promised to take of the training wheels after work that day. Little did he know it would be too late?

Amelia wanted to ride to a friend?s house, but she didn?t want to ride there with the little training wheels still attached, so she snuck her sister?s bike out and tried to ride it. Her little feet barely touching the peddle she made it to the rode where ?Crash!? the sound of car brake echoed across the neighborhood.

The Rim of the bike spun on the pavement, and a small lemon rolled of the stand in front of the house as Amelia lay in the street. The Driver fled the scene before anyone could read his plates, and Amelia?s mother clutched her baby girl till the ambience arrived, but it was all too late to do anything else for little Amelia.

That was nearly a year ago, and nothing has been the same since. Amelia?s mother never leaves the house anymore, and her father never comes home. Rumors have started that he is having an affair, and that she hardly eats. As for Amelia?s sister, people are starting to notice the once happy popular girl is growing invisible. Can this family overcome this guilt or will it take over their lives.

Any infomation give about backstory can be changed to fit a person's own vews.

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