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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Former Panamanian dictator's lawsuit against videogame maker is shot down

Former Panamanian dictator's lawsuit against videogame maker is shot down

General Manuel Antonio Noriega speaking in Panama City in 1988.Photo by AFP—Getty Images

A judge dismissed a lawsuit by former dictator Manuel Noriega that accused Activision Blizzard of violating his privacy rights by including his likeness in the game “Call of Duty: Black Ops II.”

Much like his former militaristic regime, former Panamanian President Manuel Noriega’s lawsuit against video game publisher Activision Blizzard is out of commission.
A Los Angeles judge has tossed out a privacy rights lawsuit filed against Activision Blizzard by Panama’s former leader, the company said in a press release. Noriega, who is currently serving a prison sentence in Panama, filed the suit in July, claiming the company had used his name and likeness without his permission for an installment of its popular “Call of Duty” game franchise.
Judge William Fahey of the Los Angeles Superior Court dismissed the lawsuit on Tuesday, ruling that Activision Blizzard’s right to free expression outweighs Noriega’s right of privacy. The lawsuit sought damages and claimed that Activision Blizzard damaged Noriega’s reputation when it allegedly “engaged in the blatant misuse, unlawful exploitation and misappropriation of [Noriega's] image and likeness for economic gain” by including him as a character in “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” – a game that, within two weeks of its November 2012 release, raked in more than $1 billion in sales.
Fortune wrote about the lawsuit last month, when Activision Blizzard  ATVI 1.26%  announced that it had enlisted former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani to join its defense team. Giuliani – who, interestingly, once denied accusations that his former law firm, White & Case, had done work for Noriega – called Fahey’s dismissal of the lawsuit “an important victory.”
“This was an absurd lawsuit from the very beginning and we’re gratified that in the end, a notorious criminal didn’t win,”Giuliani said in a statement. “This is not just a win for the makers of Call of Duty, but is a victory for works of art across the entertainment and publishing industries throughout the world.”
Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said in a statement that the ruling is “a victory for the 40 million dedicated members of our Call of Duty community and global audiences who enjoy historical fiction across all works of art.” The company’s legal team had previously argued that Noriega’s lawsuit, if successful, could have opened the door for families of historical figures to attempt to block depictions in any number of works of historical fiction, from movies like Forrest Gump to televised sketches on “Saturday Night Live.”
Fahey wrote in his order that Noriega failed to provide actual evidence showing that his reputation had been harmed by the popular video game.
“Indeed, given the world-wide reporting of his actions in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, it is hard to imagine that any such evidence exists,” Fahey wrote in a scathing dismissal that also describes Noriega as “a notorious public figure, perhaps one of the more notable historical figures of the 1980’s.”
A U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989 removed Noriega from his role as that country’s military dictator and led to his eventual conviction on multiple counts of drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering a few years later. Noriega spent two decades in prison in the U.S. and is currently serving a jail sentence in Panama for crimes he committed while in power in that country, including the murder of members of his opposition.

Home automation companies go hub-hunting

Home automation companies go hub-hunting

Photo by Michal Bryc—Getty Images

In the race to conquer the connected home market, companies want hubs that let people avoid having to futz around with multiple apps to turn on the lights and air conditioning.

In homes of the future, you can use your smartphone to unlock your door, turn on the lights and turn up the heat. But it isn’t so convenient if you have to fumble around with different apps to control everything.
Enter the smart home hub, a master control for your home. The idea has turned into a key battleground for companies that are trying to create the home of the future.
On Friday, Nest, which is owned by Google and known for its sleekly designed smart thermostats, bought hub maker, Revolv. Over the summer, Samsung acquired hubmaker SmartThings to help its own efforts.
The smart home industry is still a nascent market that is trying to make inroads with homeowners, many of whom unaware of the technology or unwilling to spend big money on unproven technology. But research firm IHS projects the market will grow to 44.6 million devices installed by 2018, which implies a huge potential market.
A big problem in with current smarthome technology, says IHS analyst, Lisa Arrowsmith, is the confusing array of apps people have to use to turn different devices on and off. It’s as annoying as having a table-full of TV remote controls.
“A consumer has to open three different apps to control their home and then these devices can’t communicate,” she said.
Revolv’s teardrop shaped hub tries to solve this problem. It is essentially a router that connects to all smarthome devices – regardless of their manufacturer – so that homeowners can operate everything from a single app.
However, Nest seems to be more interested in what Revolv’s team can do rather than its product. In the wake of its acquisition, Revolv has said that it will no longer make new products, but will continuing offering support for its existing products. Nest and Revolv declined to comment, but Nest co-founder Matt Rogers told Recode:
“We are not fans of yet another hub that people should have to worry about. It’s a great team, an unbelievable team. There’s a certain amount of expertise in home wireless communications that doesn’t exist outside of these 10 people in the world.”
Nest and Samsung aren’t the only companies on the connectivity bandwagon. In September, Logitech released its Harmony line of products which includes a hub that links smarthome devices along with a remote control that people use instead of their phones.
Meanwhile, a number of start-ups are using crowd-funding sites Kickstarter and Indiegogo to gin up customers for their would-be smarthubs and get the attention of bigger companies, which may be in the market for acquisitions.
While smart home automation owners can thank Nest and Samsung for making their lives slightly easier, the question of how to connect one’s devices has been replaced by a new one. Which hub is better? Unless of course, Nest has a surprise up their sleeves.

Guess what? WhatsApp lost $138 million last year

Guess what? WhatsApp lost $138 million last year

WhatsApp made just $10.2 million in revenues last year.Courtesy of WhatsApp

Facebook’s blockbuster $21.8 billion acquisition burned through cash. Lots of it.

For the first time, Facebook disclosed financial information for WhatsApp, the mobile messaging app it acquired earlier this year in a deal now valued at an eye-popping $21.8 billion.
It wasn’t pretty.
WhatsApp made nearly $16 million in revenues during the first half of 2014, but it lost $232 million in the process, most of which came from stock-related expenses. Last year, it had $10.2 million in revenue, but lost another $138 million, also from stock-related expenses.
WhatApp’s huge losses aren’t exactly shocking. The mobile app, which lets people send and receive calls, video and pictures, and text-based messages, is essentially free. The company asks users to pay $1 annually, but forking the money over is voluntary.
What’sApp is growing rapidly. It added 100 million users between June and August 2014 alone, bringing the total number to more than 600 million.
Ex-Yahoo employees Jan Koum and Brian Acton co-founded the business in 2009. In the years since, WhatsApp developed a huge following, particularly in Europe and parts of Asia. “It just effing works,” Acton said during a rare public appearance in June, explaining in semi-profane terms WhatApp’s appeal. “We don’t have a lot of gimmickry. We don’t collect messages or do anything with them. We respect our users.”
While keeping WhatsApp low on “gimmickry” paid off by attracting users, the approach hasn’t done much for its bottom line. What is clear, however, is that Facebook  FB 0.61%  is banking on WhatsApp to become a profit machine — eventually.
During Facebook’s earnings call, Mark Zuckerberg briefly outlined his five-year vision, which included services like WhatsApp and making them “important businesses in their own right.”

Friday, October 3, 2014


Kathy Sheehan presented her 2015 budget amid booing and hissing from the crowd at city hall in Albany on Wednesday evening, presenting the Albany taxpayers with a 1.4% TAX INCREASE and a closing of a downtown fire house.
Brian Scavo responded saying " Sheehan has failed the struggling home owners and business people of Albany, already overburdened with a heavy tax burden."
Scavo went on to say " Kathy Sheehan has failed to make the tough cuts and passed the buck to the taxpayers of Albany , same old same , this budget is fiscally irresponsible."
Hon. Brian Scavo

Tuesday, September 16, 2014




Today Brian Scavo said" the Kathy Sheehan Administration is desperately looking for money and is fiscally irresponsible and has done another disservice to the Albany taxpayers , after losing 3 casino deals which would have lowered the tax burden for the city of Albany , now Kathy Sheehan is talking reassessment on commercial and residential property's in this recession is just devastating to the retired senior citizen home owners for next year, this tax the rich mentality has left downtown Albany with a sea of for rent and for sale signs and a city population that is  shirking . 


Scavo also said "If Kathy Sheehan  had the guts to make the tough choices  instead of having  the state of New York make the recommended cuts in the 16.5 million dollar budget gap, this to me shows lack of leadership and indecision and why many consider her to be a one term mayor,    the people of Albany new york need tax relief now ." 


Hon.Brian Scavo


Mayor Kathy Sheehan's first budget may ask lawmakers to fund the first citywide reassessment of property values in seven years.
Assessment Commissioner Keith McDonald said his office has requested money in next year's budget for the $437,000 cost of the revaluation, which would take effect in 2016.
The reassessment would be Albany's first since the 2008 financial collapse sparked upheaval in real estate markets across the country.
Currently, the state deems the city's properties overvalued by nearly 9.5 percent, making it difficult for the city to fend off lawsuits by property owners challenging their assessments, Sheehan said.
McDonald cautioned that figure, known as the equalization rate, is an average of all property sales -— commercial and residential — and does not reflect the nuances in individual neighborhoods or specific properties.
"It doesn't tell the entire story of the entire city," he said.
In her January State of the City, Sheehan said the tax base has declined by 7 percent since 2009, with the commercial base dropping 13.3 percent.
In Albany, that matters because commercial properties pay a tax rate 42 percent higher than residential properties. That dual rate depresses residential taxes, but declining commercial values could shift more costs to homeowners.
McDonald declined to speculate on the reassessment's impact.
In the 2007 reassessment, average home assessments increased in every neighborhood.
John MacAffer, an associate commercial real estate broker with CBRE Albany, said that while commercial values dropped, they have been leveling out in the last 12 months.
"That's what you're seeing in that 13.3 percent," McAffer said. "It's a property-by-property basis. ... My guess is you will see values probably hold about the same."
Sheehan said revaluing all properties at once puts homeowners on a level field with commercial property owners who "have the wherewithal and are typically pretty aggressive about challenging their assessed values."
Reassessments are controversial because a property's assessment is part of the formula that dictates how much its owner pays in taxes each year to the city, county, school district and library. The other part is the tax rate.
A revaluation in Bethlehem this year prompted some 1,100 property owners to protest their assessments, which increased on average 7.5 percent. Even so, many are now paying less in taxes, Supervisor John Clarkson said.
McDonald said the goal isn't to boost the tax base, but to ensure the burden is distributed fairly.
"We never do a reassessment to get more taxable assessed value," he said. "The sole purpose of a reassessment is to put the values where they're supposed to be."
If the revaluation plan stays in Sheehan's budget, it's still contingent on Common Councilapproval. Sheehan's budget must be released by Oct. 1.
So far in 2014 the city is running $134,000 under-budget on property tax collections, Treasurer Darius Shahinfar said — a lag he attributed "almost completely" to successful tax lawsuits. Shahinfar said that sum is not out of line with past years.
"It's costing us money not to do it," Sheehan said. "At some point, we're going to have to fix it. And I guess for me I would prefer to do it now because I don't think delay really helps anyone."

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Albany Holds Out 'Casino Hopes, good luck brian scavo

Albany Holds Out 'Casino Hopes'DONATE HERE

Even though the city of Albany is out of the competition to land a casino, the Common Council may soon get to vote on supporting one.

Credit WAMC composite photo by Dave Lucas
You may have thought Albany had washed its hands of the casino issue early in the summer when the E23 plan crumbled and developer David Flaum set sail for Rensselaer. Mayor Kathy Sheehan sent a short letter to Common Council members, asking they not endorse any of the Capital Region casino projects prior to the state's June 30 application deadline. There is one casino license available for the Capital Region.
At the time, none of the local proposals were inside the city or county, so  Albany was not in line for any monetary benefits casinos would pay host communities. That has changed.
The forces behind a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino planned for the city of Rensselaer, undoubtedly mindful of the fact Albany is going through a financial crisis, stepped up to the plate, offering Albany $1 million a year for the next 10 years in exchange for Albany's support for the $280 million riverfront development. Neighboring community support is considered an important part of the gaming commission’s siting process.
According to published reports, once June 30 passed, Albany struck an agreement with the partnerships in Rensselaer and East Greenbush to jointly pay for a consultant Albany would select to analyze the pros and cons of each plan with regard to the capital city.
The reports say the offer includes jobs training programs. The Times Union says Mayor Sheehan has told lawmakers to expect written proposals from both the Rensselaer and East Greenbush teams within days.
"I found out about the million dollars when I read the paper this morning."  Tenth ward Common Council member Leah Golby and her colleagues would have to approve any arrangement.
Rensselaer Mayor Dan Dwyer says he's glad to give the city across the river a boost.  "Albany is a little tight on cash, so we figure a million dollars would help them in the economic condition they're in. But there's more to it than just a million dollalrs. There's job creation, and we're gonna help their hotels over there, because overflow - when the people call into the Hard Rock for a hotel room, it's gonna be upscale and some people aren't gonna be able to afford that price, so what we're gonna do is recommend hotels in Albany."
Golby says Wednesday night, the council talked about casinos for the first time in weeks.  "We were just discussing that we would be hearing from the mayor on what she was seeking support what she thought would be appropriate for the city to seek support from. I think the council as a whole is waiting to see what the mayor brings to us, and then there is of course, the Rensselaer site has been courting the city very proactively."  


Former county legislator Brian Scavo issued a statement saying he believes Hard Rock casino deal maker Flaum is acting in desperation by offering Albany a million dollars. Quoting Scavo: "Sheehan and” Common Council president Carolyn “McLauglin should have had more concern for the taxpayers of Albany when the city of Albany had LOST two chances for two casino deals , which would have meant tax relief for the city of Albany."


Mayor Sheehan's office did not immediately respond to a call for comment.   Flaum's offer dangles the prospect of jobs training programs, but some critics of casino development say the projects rarely results in jobs for people who seem to need them most. The question of whether casinos spur economic development or merely further depress challenged areas has been debated across upstate New York and in neighboring Massachusetts in recent months.
Again, Leah Golby: "The potential positive impact of jobs is very real and hopeful, but there could also be negative impacts of increased crime and traffic."
Golby says she'll wait and see if East Greenbush and its Churchill Downs-Saratoga Racino project comes up with a million-dollar offer of its own. The state has yet to select a casino site from the four applicants, which also include Schenectady and Schoharie County at Howe Caverns. A Montgomery County proposal was disqualified.