Wednesday, April 27, 2011

‘Bargains’ in the luxury home market?


When you think of luxury homes, the last thing that comes to mind is the word ‘bargain.’ But if you have the money to invest in a


luxury home, there are deals to be had in the high-end market.

I chatted with Edward Mermelstein, an international real estate attorney who deals with the luxury market. The New York Observer listed Mermelstein as one of the top ten lawyers you call.

Here are some things he has to say regarding the luxury market, which is very prevalent in our south coast cities.

Dead market: “There is not much happening in that market unless someone absolutely has to have a particular property. What we are seeing more of is if someone is interested in certain areas, we’re seeing a lot of very low bids coming out, one out of several usually gets a bite.”

Opportunity: “The opportunity is they (buyers) really have the pick of the best, which hasn’t happened in a long time. The luxury market now is pretty much dead. Anyone able to go into that market now can take advantage of low pricing and opportunity, the buyer is in the driver seat. It allows them to send out offers on multiple properties. A lot is happening with land as well.”

No financing: “It’s just impossible for the luxury market to compete with the lower market because there is no financing. No financing will continue to drive prices down until it comes back.”

Luxury buyers: “Are a unique individual who expects that they are going to get bargains and close with all cash. Prices being closed on today are expected to maintain if not increase in value. There is such a lack of financing on the higher end, everything that is being purchased is a bargain or one of a kind. The luxury market will get negative before it turns around.”

The Commercial Observer -Lawyers You Call -> Edward A Mermelstein

The Lawyers You Call

Edward Mermelstein, Founder, Edward A. Mermelstein & Associates

A lawyer, broker and developer, Edward Mermelstein is a certified triple threat in the real estate world. With offices in Moscow and Manhattan, and an ability to speak four languages (not to mention helming a staff that can speak 11), Mr. Mermelstein is among the few real estate attorneys to successfully grow and sustain what could fairly be described as a global boutique firm.

Despite his smaller operation, however, Mr. Mermelstein has drawn an eclectic international clientele year after year, most notably among the real estate and commodity elite in Eastern Europe, whom he has represented over and over again at 50 Central Park West. With rents averaging $5,000 a square foot—and a roster of residents that includes Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez and Goldman Sachs’ honcho Lloyd Blankfein—the luxury condo building is among the most profitable residential towers in the country.

And with a frequently updated Twitter account, Mr. Mermelstein, 42, can fairly be described as one of the hippest attorneys in the city. Indeed, with 217 followers, each hanging on his every tweet—“Moscow’s mayor has pledged to stop snow by mobilizing the air force,” anyone?—Mr. Mermelstein has successfully positioned himself as one of New York’s most thoroughly modern real estate lawyers. Podcast #012 – Interviewing Edward Mermelstein Podcast #012 – Interviewing Edward Mermelstein

Play Practical Personal Development Podcast #12

Edward Mermelstein, plays monopoly with properties all over the world, moving $300 million last year alone. With his largest deal to date in excess of $100 million, it’s refreshing to find out how this real-estate juggernaut has reached his success, and maintained a down to earth demeanor at the same time.

Edward Mermelstein’s Three Careers (and Cornering the Market)

Edward Mermelstein is a powerhouse that corners the real-estate market as a triple careerist. All tied under the real-estate umbrella, Edward Mermelstein is a lawyer, broker, and developer. Each specialty can be a full-time and lucrative career on it’s own, but with the combined knowledge his firm is an unstoppable real-estate machine.

With offices in Moscow and New York City, a firm that speaks 11 languages, and the desire to meet and exceed the needs of his clients, Edward Mermelstein, sets the standards on service and quality in the high-end real-estate market.

The Importance of Language

Edward Mermelstein used to speak 4 languages, including English, Russian, Hebrew, and German. While he let the Hebrew and German slide under the rug in the past years, his mastery of English and Russian has helped him tremendously in doing international business.

While English is going to be the primary international language of choice, Edward Mermelstein believes that a couple of the Chinese dialects will make an excellent secondary language for anyone interested in getting the most bang for the buck. Of course, you will want to concentrate your language learning efforts on the geographical areas that are of most interest to you.

High-Profile Clients

Edward Mermelstein doesn’t do $2 transactions, so his client-base involves some of the richest people in the world. A good chunk of his clientelle are the priveleged few of the Russian and Ukrainian origin. Some of them are actually known as Oligarchy, and control much of the power and government in their respective areas.

At their prime, some of these clients commanded billions of dollars. Like everyone invested in the world-financial market, these clients have lost quite a bit of money, and are only worth hundreds of millions for the most part.

Success In This Market

With all the problems that exist globally, you have to look for the gem in all these terrible situations. It’s just finding the opportunity and making the most out of it.
~Edward Mermelstein

This market changes drastically, especially as of late, so flexibility is a key ingredient to success. While many people might be losing their homes and properties, these properties don’t simply vanish, they go somewhere. The key is be ready for these day to day changes, and constantly put yourself in the position to cease these emerging opportunities.

Edward Mermelstein’s Passion For Real-Estate

When everyone around you is into it, you eat, breathe, sleep real-estate, and then it gets into your blood, and becomes a very exciting part of your daily activities.
~Edward Mermelstein

Edward Mermelstein’s real-estate adventure started during his high-school days. His older brother had just started in real-estate rentals and sales, and would occassionally call upon him as an assistant. During the college days, Edward Mermelstein began to invest more time with real-estate people.

During a trip with a college buddy, he became profoundly aware that his personal interests meshed very well with the opportunities available in the real-estate industry. This was even more pronounced by the fact that his wife’s family were also very much into the business of real-estate.

His biggest real-estate mentor would be his father-in-law, whom Edward Mermelstein respects tremendously. His father-in-law has succeeded in the business his whole life by taking the slow-and-steady approach. Unlike many people that we’re currently hearing about, that making millions in real-estate, only to lose it all within a few months.

Successful and Down to Earth (the Outhouse Story)

Edward Mermelstein is able to stay down to earth, as well as fuel the fire for his success, by remembering that he wasn’t always financially successful. Financially speaking, he came from nothing. His family immigrated from Eastern Europe without any solid finances, much like my family, and the families of thousands like us.

One thing that Edward Mermelstein always remembers is the tiny outhouse that his family had to use when he was young. Something like that puts his success into perspective, and I’m sure allows him to appreciate what he has to a much larger degree.

Importance of Dressing For Success

When you’re sitting across the table from someone who is trying to do a deal that is worth a couple hundred million dollars, they don’t want the person sitting across from them to not be on a similar level. You just want to make someone comfortable in knowing that you can play in their circles.
~Edward Mermelstein

In the business world, presentation is obviously very important. Being able to speak well is important, but the first impression isn’t speaking, it’s both your clothes and the way you carry yourself. You want your persona both to not distract, and at the same time present itself well.

Some people in the fashion industry dress in a way that catches attention, but in Edward Mermelstein’s profession it is more important to look put together, instead of loud. I believe that it’s all a matter of building rapport.

Edward Mermelstein: The Day to Day

Glamor, Bentleys, supermodels and exotic vacations are probably some of the ways that you would imagine a person that moves hundreds of millions of dollars per year is liable to live his life. Let’s break that generalization right now. As I once heard in an interview with Shawn Carter (Jay-Z), “I don’t put Cristal in my Coco Puffs™”.

Just like you and I, Edward Mermelstein, wakes up and puts his suit pants on one leg at a time. He then wakes up his two little kids, feeds, clothes, and gets them to school. He then goes to his typical day of work, which occasionally involves meeting clients in other parts of the world, but not something you would classify as jet-setting. Since his world revolves around his children, his typical vacations include Disney Land, or anything child related.

Edward Mermelstein: Recommended Reading

These books allow you to see how things haven’t changed in thousands of years, and how as a person, you are defined by your actions. This is why it is important to create day to day routines that are a good reflection of what we want to be, and be known as.

Friday, April 22, 2011

WSHH Video Eye Candy - Jeimy

Music by Kanye West - Runaway
Directed by Guala

Shout out to my girl Jeimy from Dexter "Mr. Net" Net keep up the great work!


April 22, 2011. WE usually don't recommend going out and buying mags. But this issue of King is likely to be a COLLECTORS EDITION!!!!


April 22, 2011. just got some TERRIFYING news this Good Friday. A TOP video model (who has been FREQUENTLY featured on has reportedly tested POSITIVE for HIV.

The woman, who asked us to WITHHOLD her name so that she can make the announcement on her own time, has been linked to at least 2 NBA players, 3 NFL players and COUNTLESS rappers.

But here's the more FRIGHTENING aspects. WE learned of her recent condition through one of THE MODEL's friends. And according to her, "[NAME REDACTED] wasn't just a dancer she would escort too. And a lot of those guys [celebrities] would pay extra [to have unprotected sex] with her."

Chernobyl nuke cleanup to be costly for decades

The building of Reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant  is seen in Chernobyl,  Ukraine, Wednesday, April 20, 2011. The head of the Interna AP – The building of Reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is seen in Chernobyl, Ukraine, Wednesday, …

KIEV, Ukraine – A quarter-century after the Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion, a week of meetings on the world's worst nuclear accident pressed home the message that the Chernobyl cleanup will remain expensive and anxiety-provoking for decades to come.

Still, differences over the true consequences of the calamity meant that no formal conclusions were issued as the meetings ended Friday.

The Ukrainian government organized four days of conferences in the capital Kiev to mark the 25th anniversary of the April 26, 1986, blast that sent radioactive fallout over much of Europe.

An international donors' conference raised pledges of euro550 million ($802 million) to build a shelter to cover the exploded reactor building for the next century. But that was short of the euro740 million ($1.1 billion) sought for the shelter and a facility for storing spent reactor fuel.

Once the enormous shelter is completed and slid over the reactor building on rails, expected in 2015, workers can begin disassembling the reactor and disposing the hundreds of tons of radioactive material inside. It is still not clear how that will be done or how much it will cost.

"Right now, we don't have the processes, but we are working on developing them," Igor Gramotkin, director of the now-decommissioned power plant, told delegates.

The human and ecological tolls of the explosion are equally difficult to nail down.

More than 6,000 cases of thyroid cancer have been detected in people who were children or adolescents when exposed to high levels of fallout in the period immediately after the blast, and at least 28 people have died of acute radiation sickness from close exposure to the shattered reactor.

But Mikhail Balanov of the U.N. Scientific Committee of the Effects of Atomic Radiation told Friday's conference that other medical effects were difficult to project because the margins of error in various studies are too high to allow reliable assessment.

Balanov did say that radioactive contamination of mushrooms and berries — both popular delicacies in Ukraine — remain high "and we will face elevated levels for decades to come."

Concern is high in Ukraine that contaminated mushrooms and berries are sold in unregulated local markets.

Around 115,000 people were evacuated from the plant's vicinity after the blast. A 30-kilometer (19-mile) area directly around the plant remains largely off-limits and the town of Pripyat, where plant workers once lived, today is a ghostly ruin of deteriorating apartment towers.

In the face of continuing uncertainty about the disaster's effects and debate about future measures, the conference delayed its intention of producing a final document.

"It is clear it is not possible to come up with crystal-clear conclusions," said moderator Volodymyr Holosha, director of the guarded "exclusion zone" around the plant.

Throughout the week, officials drew attention to the ongoing crisis at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, with many declaring that it and Chernobyl show that "radiation does not respect borders."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon used the conference to call for "top-to-bottom" review of nuclear safety standards and for strengthening the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Later Friday, seven employees of the British and French Embassies in Kiev launched a non-stop, 24-hour 110-kilometer (68-mile) charity walk to Chernobyl to raise money for children affected by the disaster.

Japan plans disaster budget, building 100K homes

Akihito, Michiko AP – Japan's Emperor Akihito, center left, and Empress Michiko, center right, tour Otsu fishing port heavily …

TOKYO – Japan's government proposed a special $50 billion (4 trillion yen) budget to help finance reconstruction efforts Friday and plans to build 100,000 temporary homes for survivors of last month's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

The twin disasters destroyed roads, ports, farms and homes and crippled a nuclear power plant that forced tens of thousands of more people to evacuate their houses for at least several months. The government said the damage could cost $309 billion, making it the world's most expensive natural disaster.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he was moved by his conversations with victims during a recent tour of shelters.

"I felt with renewed determination that we must do our best to get them back as soon as possible," he told reporters.

The extra $50 billion (4 trillion yen) the Cabinet approved is expected to be only the first installment of reconstruction funding. About $15 billion (1.2 trillion yen) will go to fixing roads and ports and more than $8.5 billion (700 billion yen) will go to build temporary homes and clearing rubble.

"This is the first step toward rebuilding Japan after the major disasters," Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda said. Parliament is expected to approve the special budget next week.

More than 27,000 people are dead or missing after the earthquake and tsunami hit northern Japan on March 11. About 135,000 survivors are living in 2,500 shelters, and many others have moved into temporary housing or are staying with relatives.

As part of the government's recovery plan, it will build 30,000 temporary homes by the end of May and another 70,000 after that, Kan said.

Japan already was mired in a 20-year economic slowdown, Kan said, and he hoped the disaster recovery effort would help lift Japan economically. He urged Japanese to spend money during the upcoming Golden Week holidays to help spur the economy.

"People are feeling that we all must do something, and that will turn into a big strength," he said. "And it will work to help the recovery, and we will overcome both crises."

Recovery efforts have been complicated by the crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, which lost its power and cooling systems in the earthquake and tsunami, triggering fires, explosions and radiation leaks in the world's second-worst nuclear accident.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., which said it will take six to nine months to bring the plant under full control, has been heavily criticized for its handling of the crisis.

TEPCO President Masataka Shimizu was received harshly when he toured a shelter of 1,600 people in Koriyama.

"We're angry, angry, angry," one man shouted at him, according to television footage.

"How about you spend a month here?" another shouted.

"Take your nuclear energy back to Tokyo with you," a third said.

Shimizu apologized to the governor of Fukushima prefecture, Yuhei Sato, an outspoken critic of the response by the government and company to the nuclear crisis.

Sato bluntly told Shimizu the era of nuclear power plants in Fukushima had ended.

"No way. The resumption of nuclear power plants ... no way," he said.

Meanwhile, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited Kita Ibaraki, a port wrecked by the tsunami about 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Tokyo.

The royal couple surveyed the damage along the waterfront, where blocks of concrete were jumbled by the huge waves. When told that a man died there, they showed their respects with a deep bow toward the sea. They also visited an evacuation center.

An extra 250 police were sent to man roadblocks with flashing "Off Limits" signs Friday to stop some of the 80,000 evacuees from sneaking back to homes inside the now-sealed 12-mile (20-kilometer) evacuation zone around the stricken plant.

Authorities planned to erect fences on side streets, said Fukushima police spokesman Yasunori Okazaki. The order that took effect Friday is meant to limit radiation exposure and theft in the mainly deserted zone.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano appealed for residents of five areas with relatively high levels of radiation outside the sealed zone to prepare for evacuation within a month.

But Norio Kanno, chief of Iitate, a village of 6,200, questioned whether everyone would be able to move in time.

"It is really vexing. Just one nuclear accident is destroying everything," he said.

Good Friday: Pope does televised Q&A on suffering

VATICAN CITY – In an unprecedented move, Pope Benedict XVI held a televised question-and-answer session to mark Good Friday, fielding queries from as far away as Japan, Iraq and the Ivory Coast on topics as wide-ranging as death, violence, intimidation and suffering.

Benedict told a Japanese girl frightened by the devastating quake and tsunami in her homeland that her suffering isn't in vain and assured a Muslim woman in violence-wracked Ivory Coast of the Vatican's peace efforts there.

In a prerecorded appearance on Italian state TV, the pope replied to some of a few thousand questions submitted online by Catholics and non-Catholics alike on the solemn day when Christians reflect on the suffering and crucifixion of Christ.

The unusual TV appearance was broadcast a few hours before Benedict was due at a service of prayer and meditation in St. Peter's Basilica. Later, he was expected at the Colosseum in Rome for the traditional Way of the Cross procession.

Dressed in white robes during the Q&A, Benedict sat at a desk and spoke softly in Italian.

The first question came from Elena, a 7-year-old Japanese girl who told the pope that many children her age were killed in the March 11 disaster and asked why children have to be so sad.

"I also have the same questions: Why is it this way? Why do you have to suffer so much while others live in ease?" Benedict said. "And we do not have the answers but we know that Jesus suffered as you do, an innocent."

Trying for words of comfort, the pope told her that "even if we are still sad, God is by your side."

He said Elena should tell herself: "One day, I will understand that this suffering was not empty, it wasn't in vain, but behind it was a good plan, a plan of love."

A Muslim woman, speaking from Ivory Coast, where months of political standoff have been marked by deadly fighting, asked the pope: "As an ambassador of Jesus, what do you advise for our country?"

Benedict told her the Vatican was doing what it can and said he asked an African cardinal from among his aides to go to Ivory Coast "to try to mediate, to speak with the various groups and various people to encourage a new beginning."

"The only path is to renounce violence, to begin anew with dialogue," the pontiff said.

Another question came from young people in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, where Christians have been fleeing warfare and intense religious persecution.

"We Christians in Baghdad are persecuted like Jesus," came the question, along with a plea for advice on how to help fellow Christians reconsider their desire to emigrate.

Benedict replied that he prays daily for the Christians in Iraq, and urged them to "have faith, to be patient."

One woman whose middle-aged son has been in a vegetative state since Easter 2009 wanted to know if his soul had left his body.

Benedict assured the mother that his soul is "still present in his body," comparing the situation to a guitar with broken strings. "The instrument of the body is fragile like that, it is vulnerable, and the soul cannot play, so to speak, but remains present," the pope told her. "I am also sure that his hidden soul feels your love deep down."

The Vatican's campaign against euthanasia is an important part of Benedict's papacy. It has condemned those who would remove breathing devices or feeding tubes from people in a vegetative state, although Catholic teaching holds that faithful do not have to use extraordinary means to keep people alive.

An Italian Radical party lawmaker complained that state TV had broadcast the apparent reference to euthanasia while the Italian Parliament is considering a law to permit citizens to draw up "living wills," the news agency ANSA reported. Lawmaker Marco Beltrandi called the pope's response "a very grave interference" in a national debate, saying while Benedict had a "perfect right" to espouse his own ideas, the state broadcaster has an obligation to give space to other religions and lay voices.

While the Q&A session departed from the Vatican's usual Good Friday routine, elsewhere in the world, ancient Christian practices marked the solemn day.

In Jerusalem, Christian pilgrims filled the cobblestone alleyways of the walled Old City to commemorate Jesus' crucifixion there two millennia ago. Thousands of international visitors and local Christians retraced Christ's last steps down the Via Dolorosa, which is Latin for the "Way of Suffering." The route ends at the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulcher, revered as the site of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

"All my life I've been waiting for this wish — I've been wishing for one day to come here in Jerusalem to worship. I wanted to step where my lord stepped," said Roshan Futsom, a pilgrim from Toronto, Canada.

The calendars of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches coincide this year, so the sects are marking the holy week together. This has required careful arrangements to avoid conflicts.

Israeli police were deployed in force in the Old City, which contains sites holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Gordon Brown joins World Economic Forum

Gordon Brown joins World Economic Forum AFP/File – Former British prime minister Gordon Brown has been appointed unpaid chairman of a new policy group at …

LONDON (AFP) – Former prime minister Gordon Brown has been appointed unpaid chairman of a new policy group at the World Economic Forum, the organisation announced on Friday.

The WEF, which organises the annual meeting of global business and political elites in Davos, said Brown had "valuable insights into the global agenda" from his ten years as British finance minister and three years as premier.

Brown will chair a new "policy and initiatives coordination board," an informal group of heads of international organisations and government representatives, the WEF said in a statement.

"With the challenges the world faces, it is vital that all stakeholders are engaged in solving them. The World Economic Forum is uniquely placed to bring those stakeholders together and support the global agenda," Brown said.

The 60-year-old had been tipped as a possible leader of the International Monetary Fund but the suggestion was dismissed last week by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Cameron said the former premier may not be an "appropriate" candidate, noting that by the time he left office, Britain had racked up huge amounts of debt.

Announcing Brown's new role, the WEF highlighted his "key role" in coordinating the international response to the financial crisis, including by hosting the Group of 20 summit in London in April 2009.

It also noted his contribution to the Group of 8 agreement struck in Scotland in 2005 to support poor countries, to renegotiate their debts and to tackle climate change. At home, he also oversaw the world's first climate change act.

"Gordon Brown will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the World Economic Forum," said Klaus Schwab, the WEF's founder and executive chairman.

He said Brown "has valuable insights into the global agenda that will complement and inform many of the forum?s initiatives."

The forum said Brown would not be paid for his role but it would provide him with support staff.

U.S. warns of Libya "stalemate" as Misrata battle rages

A rebel fighter looks through bullet holes as he takes cover during a firefight and shelling near Tripoli street in Misrata Reuters – A rebel fighter looks through bullet holes as he takes cover during a firefight and shelling near Tripoli …

MISRATA, Libya (Reuters) – The top U.S. military officer said air strikes had hobbled Libyan forces but the conflict was moving into "stalemate" as Muammar Gaddafi's troops pressed on with their punishing siege of rebel Misrata.

Morocco said it was seeking a political solution to the crisis, after Moroccan officials met representatives of Muammar Gaddafi and rebels this week.

Rebels welcomed U.S. plans to deploy unmanned aircraft, typically operated remotely from the United States. But it emerged that bad weather had forced the first two drones sent to Libya to turn back.

"It's certainly moving toward a stalemate," said Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military's joint chiefs of staff, in Baghdad.

"At the same time we've attrited somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of his main ground forces, his ground force capabilities. Those will continue to go away over time."

In Misrata, the only rebel-held major city in western Libya, rebels wrested control of a downtown office building which had been a base for Gaddafi's snipers and other troops, after a furious two-week-long battle.

Shattered masonry, wrecked tanks and the incinerated corpse of a government soldier lay near the former insurance offices on Friday amid buildings pockmarked by gunfire.

"They shot anything that moved," one fighter said of the Gaddafi men driven out.

Rebels said they had captured several other central buildings from government forces and the state of the battle did not appear to match claims by government officials in Tripoli to control 80 percent of Misrata.

Rebel fighters are fighting a block-by-block war of attrition with an enemy sometimes only yards (meters) away.

"Gaddafi's fighters taunt us. If they are in a nearby building they yell at us at night to scare us. They call us rats," one rebel said.

Ambulance drivers on the rebel side accuse government forces of deliberately shooting at their vehicles. Government officials deny attacking civilians.


Hundreds of fighters and civilians have died in Misrata during the siege. Rebel fighters voice frustration with an international military operation they see as too cautious.

Food and medicine are running out and there are queues for petrol. Residents depend on generators for power and thousands of stranded foreign workers await rescue in the port area.

General James Cartwright, vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the first two Predator drones were sent to Libya on Thursday but had to turn back because of bad weather.

The United States planned to maintain two patrols of armed Predators above Libya at any given time, Cartwright said.

The drones have proven a potent but controversial weapon in Pakistan and other areas where U.S. forces have no troops on the ground. They can fly without being noticed from the ground and hit targets with missiles with no risk to crew. However, they have killed many civilians by mistake in Pakistan.

"There's no doubt that will help protect civilians and we welcome that step from the American administration," rebel spokesman Abdel Hafiz Ghoga said on Al Jazeera television.

The Obama administration has been anxious not to spearhead NATO's Libya campaign. It has instead let British and French planes do the bombing and has not deployed low-flying ground attack aircraft, unique to U.S. forces, which military analysts say would be most effective against Gaddafi's troops.

Analysts said the drones were a way of appeasing French and British calls for more U.S. help but were far from being a "silver bullet" to tilt the conflict against Gaddafi.

Libyan state television said nine people had been killed overnight by NATO bombardment of the city of Sirte, Gaddafi's home town, including employees of the state water utility.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gaddafi's forces were carrying out "vicious attacks" on Misrata and might have used cluster bombs against civilians. The United States, like Libya, has not joined a convention banning such weapons.

Republican U.S. Senator John McCain went to the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi on Friday for talks with rebel leaders. He said they needed more help to overthrow Libyan Gaddafi and "get this thing over with.

An official Moroccan source said Rabat was working for a solution which would "respond to the aspirations of the Libyan people and ensure a return of stability which is extremely important for the Mediterranean and sub-Saharan Africa."


France, Libya and Britain plan to dispatch up to small teams to help rebels improve organization and communications.

Tripoli denounced such moves and some commentators warned of "mission creep" after assurances by Western leaders that they would not put combat troops in Libya.

Russia said the sending of advisers exceeded the U.N. Security Council mandate to protect civilians.

Libya urged rebels on Thursday to sit down to peace talks but said it was arming and training civilians to confront any possible ground attack by NATO forces.

In Tripoli, Ibrahim said the government welcomed ships coming to Misrata to pick up foreign workers. However, it would not accept international humanitarian aid arriving "with military cover."

Coastguard and port officials said only two ships had docked at Tripoli's once-bustling port since mid-March and a NATO-enforced arms embargo was strangling trade and stopping fishermen from putting to sea.

Fighting continued in the rebel-held east of the country. Gaddafi's forces fired shells toward the town of Ajdabiyah on Thursday, seeking to dislodge anti-government fighters from their main outpost before the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

Rebels showed off weapons captured from Muammar Gaddafi's fleeing soldiers on Friday, a day after seizing a remote border crossing near the Tunisian town of Dehiba.

(Additional reporting by Phil Stewart in Baghdad; writing by Andrew Roche; editing by Angus MacSwan)

Syrian security forces open fire; 27 killed


AP – A Syrian protestor shouts slogans as he burns a poster of Syrian President Bashar Assad during a demonstration …

BEIRUT – Witnesses and human rights groups say the death toll has risen to 27 as Syrian security forces fire live bullets and tear gas on protesters.

Protesters flooded into the streets after Muslim prayers in at least five major areas across the country.

It's a sign that President Bashar Assad's attempts to quell the monthlong protests with a deadly crackdown and promises of reform have all but failed.

Witnesses say an 11-year-old boy was among the dead. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

The protest movement has been the gravest challenge against the autocratic regime led by Assad, who inherited power from his father 11 years ago in one of the most rigidly controlled countries in the Middle East.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian security forces fired live bullets and tear gas Friday on pro-democracy demonstrations across the country, killing at least 15 people — including a young boy — as the uprising against President Bashar Assad's authoritarian regime defied a deadly security crackdown, witnesses said.

Protesters flooded into the streets after Muslim prayers in at least five major areas across the country, a sign that Assad's attempts to quell the monthlong protests with a deadly crackdown and promises of reform have all but failed.

Click image to see photos of protests in Syria

Reuters/Mohamed Azakir

"Bullets started flying over our heads like heavy rain," said one witness in Izraa, a southern village in Daraa province, the same region where the uprising kicked off in mid-March.

The protest movement has been the gravest challenge against the autocratic regime led by Assad, who inherited power from his father 11 years ago in one of the most rigidly controlled countries in the Middle East.

Tens of thousands of people were protesting in the Damascus suburb of Douma, the central city of Homs, Banias on the coast, the northeastern Kurdish region and the southern province of Daraa, where the uprising kicked off in mid-March.

Witnesses said they saw at least five corpses at the Hamdan hospital outside the capital. All suffered gunshot wounds.

In the southern province of Daraa, other witnesses said at least 10 people were killed when protesters marched in front of the mayor's office in Izraa. They said an 11-year-old boy was among the dead.

"Among the dead was Anwar Moussa, who was shot in the head. He was 11," said the witness.

The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

The protest movement has crossed a significant threshold in recent days, with increasing numbers now seeking the downfall of the regime, not just reforms. The security crackdown has only emboldened protesters, who are enraged over the deaths of more than 200 people over five weeks.

Friday's witness accounts could not be independently confirmed because Syria has expelled journalists and restricted access to trouble spots. Witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Activists promised that Friday's protests will be the biggest rallies yet against the regime led by Assad, who inherited power from his father 11 years ago in one of the most authoritarian countries in the Middle East.

The president has been trying to defuse the protests by launching a bloody crackdown along with a series of concessions, most recently lifting emergency laws that gave authorities almost boundless powers of surveillance and arrest.

He also has fulfilled a decades-old demand by granting citizenship to thousands among Syria's long-ostracized Kurdish minority, fired local officials, released detainees and formed a new government.

But many protesters said the concessions have come too late — and that Assad does not deserve the credit.

"The state of emergency was brought down, not lifted," prominent Syrian activist Suhair Atassi, who was arrested several times in the past, wrote on her Twitter page. "It is a victory as a result of demonstrations, protests and the blood of martyrs who called for Syria's freedom."

Earlier Friday, witnesses said security forces in uniform and plainclothes set up checkpoints around the Damascus suburb of Douma, checking peoples identity cards and preventing nonresidents from going in.

Syria stands in the middle of the most volatile conflicts in region because of its alliances with militant groups like Lebanon's Hezbollah and with Shiite powerhouse Iran. That has given Damascus a pivotal role in most of the flashpoint issues of the region, from the Arab-Israeli peace process to Iran's widening influence.

If the regime in Syria wobbles, it also throws into disarray the U.S. push for engagement with Damascus, part of Washington's plan to peel the country away from its allegiance to Hamas, Hezbollah and Tehran.

DJ Quik Smokes Out Cali Weed Shop

DJ Quik -- one of the biggest names in hip hop -- took over a marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles yesterday for his album release party ... and in a matter of minutes, the whole place was up in smoke.


We're told Quik was extremely mellow during the party (duh) ... and through the cloud of weed smog, signed autographs, performed a few songs from the new album "Book of David" ... and ate a piece of a special pot-themed cake.

Who knew glaucoma patients like to party so hard?!


'Glory' Screenwriter Kevin Jaffe -- Dead at 56

4/22/2011 4:55 AM PDT by TMZ Staff

Kevin Jaffe -- the GENIUS who wrote "Glory" and "Tombstone" ... two of the GREATEST movies of all time -- has died.


The screenwriter died suddenly of heart failure at his home in Santa Monica ... says his aunt.

Jaffe was a known history buff whose interest in the Civil War lead him to write 'Glory' in 1989. The movie won three Oscars.

His 1993 hit 'Tombstone' depicts the shootout at the O.K. Corral and includes a scene-stealing performance by Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday.

Jaffe also co-wrote "Rambo: First Blood Part II," "The Devil's Own" and "The Mummy."

Bad. Ass.

Lindsay Lohan Could Dodge Felony Bullet Today

There's a way Lindsay Lohan could avoid going to trial for felony grand theft -- and it all hinges on whether her lawyer uses a magic number -- 17 -- during today's preliminary hearing.


TMZ did some digging ... and there's a law that is commonly used to reduce felony charges to misdemeanors -- and it's used every day in court. It's California Penal Code, Section 17(b). Under the law, the judge has the ability to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor at the end of a preliminary hearing if the offense is relatively minor and the defendant is not a hardened criminal with a long record.

Fact is ... it's done everyday, and Lindsay's judge -- Stephanie Sautner -- has routinely exercised this power, according to courthouse sources.

Fact is, in the greater scheme of things, Lindsay's DUI convictions do not make her a serious criminal, and the charge of stealing a necklace is no big whoop.

All Shawn Holley has to do is say the magic words after today's preliminary hearing testimony -- "Your honor, I move that you reduce the felony charge to a misdemeanor under Penal Code 17(B)."

And if the charge is reduced, prison time is off the table and it's likely the whole thing would be settled as a probation violation.

This post is rated NC-17(b).


Filed under: Lindsay Lohan, Celebrity Justice

Mel Gibson: The Tapes Don't Define Me

Mel Gibson has broken his silence over those incendiary audio tapes, saying, "It's one terribly awful moment in time, said to one person in the span of one day, and doesn't represent what I truly believe or how I've treated people my entire life."


In the wide-ranging interview with, Mel says, "I've never treated anyone badly or in a discriminatory way based on their gender, race, religion or sexuality."

Mel shrugs off the torrent of criticism over the tapes, which he claims "have been edited," saying "I don't blame some people for thinking [I'm bigoted] though, from all the garbage they heard on those leaked tapes."

Mel also talks about the TMZ story in 2006, in which we published 4 pages of the arrest report which detail his anti-Semitic rant. As we reported, at the time of the arrest, Mel felt the incident would be the last straw in his marriage. Turns out it was true. Mel tells "Deadline" he and his wife separated the day after the arrest.

Mel is mum on his battle with Oksana Grigorieva, but, as we first reported, says he pled no contest in the criminal case so he wouldn't drag his family through the mud.

The well-done interview also goes into great detail about Mel's new movie, "The Beaver," which some critics say is Mel's best performance ever. The movie opens next month.


Cops Launch Investigation Into Charlie Sheen Escort

Charlie Sheen is no stranger to escorts ... but the one he picked up in D.C. earlier this week has triggered a police investigation.


D.C. police have announced ... an internal investigation is underway to find out who authorized multiple units to use lights and sirens to escort Sheen from the airport to his live show Tuesday night ... when he was running about an hour late.

Sheen tweeted during the incident -- posting a photo of a speedometer right around the 80 mph mark and writing, "in car with Police escort in front and rear! driving like someone's about to deliver a baby!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

J.Lo Stomachs Her Fans

4/20/2011 6:02 AM PDT by Johnny Lopez

With her taut midriff fully exposed, Jennifer Lopez waved to fans as she left a Best Buy in West Hollywood on Tuesday.


"American Idol" does the 41-year-old mother of two's body good.

See also

Willie Nelson -- How I'm Spending My 4/20 ...

4/20/2011 6:15 AM PDT by TMZ Staff

4/20 is an unofficial holiday for pot-smokers across the globe ... but this year, Willie Nelson tells us he's making a MAJOR change to his celebration because of health issues.


Don't worry, it's nothing serious ... Willie says he's just feeling congested from being out in the snow recently -- so instead of smoking a joint this year, he's going to fire up his vaporizer instead.

As you may have heard, Willie canceled some of his shows due to his condition ... but plans to spend the next few days back home in Texas, where he can recover and hang out with his horses.

So, there you have it -- outspoken weed smoker Willie Nelson is going to smoke weed on a marijuana holiday.

Pass the funyuns.


'16 & Pregnant' Mom: Baby Daddy Punched HIMSELF!

59 minutes ago by TMZ Staff

The "16 & Pregnant" mom accused of punching her baby daddy in the face says the guy totally LIED to police ... claiming Josh Smith punched HIMSELF in an effort to set her up.


TMZ spoke with 17-year-old Jennifer Del Rio ... who told us she was driving Josh home from a job interview Monday when he took one of their twins out of the car seat ... and asked if he could take the kid for the night.

Jennifer says she denied his request -- and tried to take back the kid -- when the baby started to cry. Jennifer says she screamed at 19-year-old Josh, "Give me back my kid. You’re hurting him."

Jennifer says a struggle ensued and she was pushed into a fence -- so she called the cops.

Josh went into his house for a few minutes, says Jennifer, and when he returned, he had a bloody nose and his shirt was ripped.

Jennifer says Josh told her that he ALSO called the cops because it was “her turn to go to jail” ... insisting he was out for “payback” from an incident back in November when he was arrested for attacking her.

When cops arrived to the scene, Jennifer says Josh “lied to the cops" when he told them Jennifer attacked him. Neither Jennifer nor Josh was arrested over the incident.

However, Jennifer tells us she plans on pressing charges for child endangerment and wants to obtain a restraining order against Josh as soon as possible.

Jalen Rose 911 -- DON'T Call The Cops!!!

9 minutes ago by TMZ Staff

Former NBA star Jalen Rose begged bystanders to NOT call police after he flipped his car into a ditch during an alleged drunk driving incident last month -- this according to the man who called 911.


TMZ obtained a copy of the 911 call ... made by an off-duty police officer who witnessed Jalen's car "flipped in a ditch" off of a Michigan roadway on March 11.

According to the officer, Jalen and a female passenger were stuck in the car -- and were attempting to "kick out the back glass" -- but still told the bystanders, "You don't have to call police."

The off-duty cop told the 911 operator, "They're trying to get out of the car right now and they keep telling people we don't need the police."

As we first reported, Jalen -- who is currently employed as an ESPN broadcaster -- was eventually arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Jalen has since apologized for the incident -- but insists, "I was confident it was safe for me to drive."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Untitled Star Trek Sequel

Release Date: June 29, 2012
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Director: J.J. Abrams
Screenwriter: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman
Starring: John Cho, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin
Genre: Sci-Fi
MPAA Rating: Not Available
Official Website: | |
Review: Not Available
DVD Review: Not Available
DVD: Not Available
Movie Poster: Not Available
Production Stills: Not Available

Plot Summary: No plot details as this time!

Coming Soon!