Six men were nabbed in Georgia for trying to sell uranium to an unknown buyer—just months after a criminal group was arrested for peddling a radioactive isotope on the black market. “>
Only a few weeks after Georgias president attended the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C., law enforcement nabbed illegal uranium dealers in his own backyard, in the countrys capital of Tbilisi.
The arrests stoked fears of an underground nuclear market, of radiation leakage, and of terrorists working on a dirty bomb. With accounts of local Muslims in Georgia joining up with ISIS, not to mention a brewing conflict between neighboring Armenia and Azerbaijan, Georgians have good reason to be worried.
According to authorities, six menthree Georgians and three Armenianswere trying to sell a few kilos of uranium for $200 million. Four of the six were pensioners and the other two worked as taxi drivers. A Tbilisi court convicted all the smugglers and they face up to 10 years in prison.
The smugglers were arrested in a private apartment in a joint special operation by Georgian counterintelligence and special-ops departments for illegal handling of nuclear materials, according to the State Security Service of Georgia.
Whats worrisome for Georgia is that this is the second known case of nuclear smuggling in less than six months. In January, the State Security Department detained three members of a criminal group for the illegal handling and selling of nuclear material, specifically the radioactive isotope Cesium-137, officials told The Daily Beast.
The Cesium-137 sellers had pocketed $100,000 when authorities caught up with them; the taxi drivers and retirees were looking for $200 million. According to the World Bank, up to 27 percent of the Georgian population and up to 37 percent of Armenians live below the poverty line. The Caucasus are full of men desperate to make money, even if that involves the risk of imprisonment.
Georgian authorities have been struggling to put the end to the underground radioactive market for years. The deals on nuclear materials happen here every year; people regularly smuggle radioactive substances from Russia via Georgia to Turkey or Iran, a political expert, former Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili, told The Daily Beast. Utiashvili pointed out that in 2010, Georgian authorities made two major seizures of highly enriched uranium (HEU). Tests at the time confirmed that the materials, enriched by 89.4 percent, could be used for making a nuclear bomb. The two smugglers, a businessman and a physicist from Armenia, pleaded guilty for smuggling the package with HEU by train from Yerevan to Tbilisi in 2010.
The head of the Nuclear Waste department at the countrys Agency of Nuclear and Radiation Safety, Georgiy Nabaxtiani, insisted that Georgia had been working hard to take control over radioactive deals since early 1990s. We now have much stricter regulationsour borders are very well controlled, we scan both pedestrians and vehicles for radiation, Nabaxtiani told The Daily Beast. This time the dealers did not cross the border, they were trying to sell a few kilos of Uranium-238 inside Georgian territory. The investigators are trying to find out where they had obtained the uranium.
Chief among the concerns of nuclear watchdog agencies is the idea that terrorist groups such as ISIS could be trying to obtain radioactive material via the Georgian black market. If there is a demand for enriched uranium among terrorists trying to build a bomb, this is very concerning, as there are still hundreds of tons of highly radioactive materials stored in Russia and post Soviet States, an independent military expert based in Moscow, Alexander Golts, told The Daily Beast. But in any case they would need complicated industrial technologies to make a nuclear bomb, he added.
So why is Georgia more in the news for radioactive deals than other post-Soviet countries? It is difficult to pinpoint why Georgia continues to be a hot spot for nuclear trafficking, Yelena Sokolova, deputy director for the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, told The Daily Beast. It is due to its geographical location on the pathway from Europe to the Middle East, a long history of illicit trade, and trafficking in other goods in the region.
Sokolova added that so far, all seizures in Georgia have either been the result of police sting operations or accidental discoveries. There have been reports about alleged buyers for nuclear and radioactive materials coming either from the Middle East or North Africa, she said.
Authorities in both the North and South Caucuses regions have registered attempts by criminals to smuggle radioactive materials, but not all of the substances would be worth the risk of going to jail for 10 years. It is a continuing mystery how people can offer a few grams of a common material of no real value as a sample of tons of something they probably do not even have that has no real threat to society, Robert Kelly, a senior research fellow within the SIPRI Nuclear Weapons Project, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Program, noted to The Daily Beast.
Could one really sell a few kilos of Uranium-238 for $200 million? Todays market price for Uranium-238 is about $27 per pound. If Georgian dealers were aware of the real prices, to make $200 million, theyd have to sell 3,700 tons of uranium, which would necessitate a long line of trucks full of the stuff, Kelly said.
The bottom line is that only idiots would pay $200 million for Uranium-238 in any form and evenif they succeeded in buying it, it is barely radioactive and would be of very little health hazard to anyone, except someone who would eat handfuls of it, said Kelly, who is a veteran of over 35 years in the U.S. Department of Energy nuclear weapons complex.
Still, the fact that none of the buyers of the radioactive material have been identified or arrested seems concerning to local observers. The recent arrests have made Georgians feel vulnerable to the threat of international terrorism, especially considering the fact that dozens of their countrymen are joining ISIS each year. I am not surprised that pensioners, who often do not have money for food and medicine, were trying to sell uranium, risking their freedom for the money they were promised, the executive director of Europe House, Maia Nikolaishvili, told The Daily Beast. As a mother, she added, I am very worried of the terrorism threat.
After the success of self-published authors like Andy Weir and EL James, Hollywood is scooping up the rights to books as fast as it can. But why and is it always good for the author?
After watching Quentin Tarantinos Kill Bill, self-published author Mark Dawson was inspired to create his own answer to the films heroine Beatrix Black Mamba Kiddo. And now Dawson and his character government-employed assassin Beatrix Rose are set to take on Hollywood, with his series on the verge of a major television deal, complete with a triple A producer.
Admitting he had a holy shit moment when he was told who the producer was, the Salisbury-based former lawyer said he had initially signed a shopping agreement after an approach through his website. They have attached a writer and an extremely well-known Hollywood figure and director to it, Dawson says. The people linked are all serious players household names and they have pitched it to half a dozen studios and from that they have got an agreement [to develop it] for television.
Dawson wasnt always Hollywood fodder. Sales of his first self-published novel, 2012s Black Mile, only trickled in until he took Amazons advice and offered it to readers for free. In one weekend, his novel was downloaded 50,000 times. Dawson built his audience from there, spending hundreds of pounds a day on Facebook advertising and writing on his commute. After writing 23 books in four years, he says his annual income is now in the high six figures.
Details of Dawsons TV deal are under wraps, and he says it is expected to be finalised in the next few days. But his is just the latest in a line of deals between studios and self-published authors, including AG Riddle and Hugh Howey, who have been targeted by studios after the successes of Andy Weirs The Martian and EL Jamess Fifty Shades franchise. AG Riddles Departure series was scooped up by Fox-based producer Steve Tzirlin in a six-figure deal, while Howeys dystopian sci-fi novel Wool was signed up by Ridley Scott and 20th Century Fox.
Bestselling self-published authors attract producers because they have a proven track record if they stay on Amazon sales charts over time, Howey said. Hollywood is always looking for a built-in audience. They want to know theyll recoup their investment, he says. Modern films easily cost $100m to make, usually more. There isnt much room for risk here.
Another attraction in the litigious world of film, according to producer Doreen Spicer, is that these self-published books provide insurance. Theres a level of security that the story is original and not based on a pitch or idea from a writer in the room, said Spicer, whose credits include US sitcom The Wannabes and animated series The Proud Family. A producer can safeguard themselves from lawsuits by purchasing or licensing copyrights.
One of the most high-profile successes is Andy Weirs The Martian: a sci-fi thriller set on the red planet that the author self-published as a Kindle ebook for 99 cents. The 2015 film adaptation, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon as Weirs leading astronaut Mark Watney, made $630m worldwide.Continue reading
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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Facebook Inc’s Messenger app surpassed 800 million users, the company said on Thursday, making it the fastest-growing app of 2015 according to research firm Nielsen.
The means Messenger, which Facebook created as a standalone app in 2014, has more active monthly users than rivals Snapchat and Viber, but still lags the 900 million using WhatsApp, also owned by Facebook.
WhatsApp was one of the first apps to let people send and receive free text messages on smartphones, bypassing network charges. Messenger users can also exchange messages, but the app also offers free video calling and some business services.
“One of the things we have to work on this year is this perception or mindset that Messenger is only to speak with your Facebook friends,” said Messenger head David Marcus in a phone interview on Wednesday.
Facebook plans to make money from ads on Messenger, but has not said when it will do so. The world’s biggest online social network, which has 1.55 billion users, makes money selling ads that appear on people’s timelines.
Messenger has added features over the past few months, enabling users to sign up without a Facebook account, make payments, video calls and communicate directly with businesses.
It worked with ride-hailing app maker Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] in December so users could request a ride through Messenger.
Facebook has also begun testing a digital assistant, called M, that operates through Messenger and can make restaurant reservations and airline bookings and other tasks. The service is available to only 10,000 people in the San Francisco Bay area, but Marcus said Facebook hopes to offer it to more users later this year.
(Reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb; Editing by Stephen R. Trousdale and Bill Rigby)
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For nearly a decade TNF has helped the NFL hold sway over television executives. But it may have outlived its usefulness
A popular perception is that the NFLs Thursday night games broadcast on the leagues own NFL Network and recently described by the Seattle Seahawks Richard Sherman as a poopfest are a product of greed. This is not entirely true. Thursday Night Football had a lot more to do with power and leverage than a simple sniff at the money.
This week the Giants play the Eagles in what could be the final ever, regular Thursday night telecast. Recently, Profootballtalk.com reported the league is looking hard at cutting back their schedule of Thursday night games, citing a source that said the games dont generate enough money to be worth the overload of prime time football (never mind that the match-ups are often underwhelming and leave little time for players to recover if they have played the previous weekend). The NFL denied the report but it is clear that Thursday Night Football has now served its mercenary purpose and has become a drag on the rest of televised football. At the very least, the broadcast will have significant tweaks if it returns.
Unlike the Sunday and Monday night telecasts, which have a big game aura and feel more like an event, Thursday Night Football was created a decade ago to be ballast against the other networks. At the time NBC, CBS, ESPN and Fox still deemed the NFL to be their path to salvation. And so the league figured that by broadcasting their own games on their own channel they could frighten the networks into believing the NFL might someday take all their games in house, cutting out the networks. The plan worked better than anyone could have imagined. The networks caved. Five years ago NBC, CBS and Fox agreed to spend 63% more to televise games through 2022.
The NFL understands clout like few sports organizations ever will. For 20 years they held open Los Angeles while nearly all their teams negotiated new stadium deals under the implied guise that a move to LA was always possible if the legislatures and voters didnt pay up. Their television network has been a similar kind of hammer. The first Thursday night games in 2006 werent just a weight against the networks, they were an opening to raise their channels cost to customers from 20 cents to 70 cents with a message: Dont deny your customers their football. They even bought the rights to some minor college bowl games with the idea that schools based in the markets of non-compliant cable providers would be irate that their bowl games were blacked out and pressure the cable companies to pay the NFL whatever it wanted.
Im a guy that likes winning, right? Steve Bornstein the NFLs then-executive vice president for media told me not long before the first Thursday night game in 2006. One way you can measure this is: can you make money? Ive found personally thats where I can excel.
Bornstein, who helped build ESPN into a giant, does indeed know how to make money. He made the NFL billions before leaving the league in 2014. His legacy is an NFL Network that has been chiseled into more than 70m homes and an astounding $27bn squeezed from the other networks. Not a bad trade for a few lousy midweek games between teams you dont want to see wearing garish color rush uniforms.
For a long time, NFL executives marveled at the seemingly endless demand for their product. They were surprised ESPN found an audience years ago for a year-round, afternoon football show and dreamed their own network could generate significant revenue. As they pushed more games into lucrative primetime slots they must have wondered how far they could go before the public had enough. Maybe they are reaching that point.
A word people have used lately to describe the NFLs all day Sunday, Monday night, Thursday night schedule is oversaturation. In other words there are too many games billed as events that really arent events. For years, media analysts have wondered if the league was going too far, giving people too much.
But until now, especially with the NFL, that has never happened, Robert Thompson, a professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University told the Guardian this fall.
This year the ratings have tanked. And while a few compelling Thursday match-ups in recent weeks have pushed that evenings numbers back up the overall picture for the NFL on TV is much bleaker than it was a year ago. Some of this undoubtedly is due to an overall drop in the number of people watching television. And yet the NFL has always defied industry declines in the past. A bigger problem appears to be that the league has too many nationally-televised games for a public that no longer wants them.
Sunday and Monday nights have always seemed special as if those games are something youd want to see. Thursday never had that feeling of being special. But maybe thats because Thursday Night Football was never meant to be a big, great presentation of football. It was a weapon designed to bring network executives to their knees. Once the NFL proved they could televise their games in a quality similar to NBC and CBS and all the others, Thursdays games became an ugly warning to the bosses in televisions boardrooms. Pay up or watch the NFL take their ratings monster away.
Thursday Night Football was not created from a love for the game. It was never a celebration of Americas biggest sport. It was a power play that pitted networks against themselves and fans against big cable. For 10 years Thursday Night Football played its role perfectly. The Thursday night hammer pounded out TV deals with amazing efficiency.
But television is slipping now. Whats the point of a Thursday night hammer if there is nothing left to hit?Continue reading
College football finally starts in earnest this weekend with perhaps the most stacked lineup of kickoff matchups the sport has ever seen.
But we’re in this for the long haul, baby. We’ll be watching until the leaves have fallen from the trees and that familiar winter chill nips at the neckline of your sweater.
In other words: This opening weekend sure looks great, but we’re watchin’ foobaw all damn season.
Without further ado, behold the top eight must-see college football match-ups of 2016. The games are presented in chronological order so you can plan your life around them because priorities are important, people.
Houston plays in the small American Athletic Conference. Its name doesn’t ring many bells with casual football fans. But the Cougars ran up a 13-1 record last year and are a trendy pick this season to give big problems to larger programs.
Houston gets an early chance to justify the hype Saturday at 12 p.m. EDT, when coach Tom Herman’s squad hosts third-ranked Oklahoma.
If Houston can knock off the Sooners, the Cougar bandwagon will fill up fast as hopes rise for a major bowl appearance. But nothing will come easy against Oklahoma and quarterback Baker Mayfield, a Heisman Trophy contender.
Is USC ready to climb back into the national title picture? Is Alabama prepared to defend its top pre-season ranking?
Arguably the two most prestigious programs in college football clash this Saturday at 8 p.m. EDT at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. Both ‘Bama and ‘SC are introducing new starters at quarterback this season, further upping the stakes and the unpredictability of this much-hyped match-up.
Oh, and one more question: Will Alabama assistant Lane Kiffin, formerly the headman at USC, make another epic entrance?
Labor Day’s not complete without a cold beverage, a balmy evening and some good old college football. This year’s matchup is a classic.
Florida State is a legit national title contender despite breaking in a new quarterback in redshirt freshman Deondre Francois. Meanwhile, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is challenged with replacing several key players, but his Rebels are still a team with top-10 quality.
Whether you root for Florida State, Ole Miss or are simply an impartial observer, this game is a perfect way to cap Labor Day Weekend. Let us praise the Football Gods.
Two of the nation’s preeminent programs meeting for a juicy non-conference match-up that could have national title implications? Sign us up anytime.
Throw in Mayfield and Ohio State’s own Heisman-hopeful quarterback, J.T. Barrett, and it all gets even better. This is as big-time as college football gets, folks.
Stanford is the Pac-12’s top-ranked team and the favorite to win the Pac-12 North. Washington coach Chris Petersen, meanwhile, is in his third year leading the Huskies after a very high-profile hire away from Boise State.
Petersen is lifting the Washington program to his standards in year three; his Huskies are a pre-season top-15 team nationally, and a trendy West Coast sleeper pick.
But is Washington really ready to challenge Stanford and Oregon, longtime bullies of the Pac-12 North? This late-September showdown in Seattle should be revealing.
Heisman Trophy hopeful and future NFL Draft pick Deshaun Watson leads Clemson into Tallahassee for this Atlantic Coast Conference clash between national title contenders. Both squads were top-five teams in the pre-season Associated Press poll, packing their clash with even more meaning.
Maybe you’re tired of hearing about this match-up every year but you shouldn’t be.
Alabama and LSU routinely pump out great NFL players. Their fans are rabid for football. They play in the Southeastern Conference, where pigskin is religion. So, yes it’s a big deal when they meet.
‘Bama and LSU have delivered some great match-ups in recent years. This season’s edition at Tiger Stadium, better known as Death Valley, should be no exception.
Jim Harbaugh has taken over the Michigan program with characteristic bombast and vigor, leading the Wolverines into this year’s pre-season top 10 while tweaking critics along the way.
Last year’s rivalry game against Ohio State, however, provided a harsh reality check for Harbaugh and company with a 42-13 beatdown in Ann Arbor. This year, Michigan travels to Columbus for what some fans simply refer to as The Game.
Can Harbaugh’s Wolverines fare better against their most hated foes this season? Only time will tell, but we can’t think of a better way to close the college football regular season.Continue reading
It’s not just a junkyard or even a really big junkyard but a living, breathing monument to Los Angeles pop culture. And now it’s headed for the dustbin of history itself.
For 54 years, Aadlen Brothers Auto Wrecking, in a moonscaped, god-forsaken-looking section of the San Fernando Valley, has collected far more than thousands of burned-out, smashed-up, rusted automobiles on its sprawling dirt and asphalt lot.
It’s also taken in just about every type of movie and TV prop imaginable while serving as the site of more than 200 Hollywood film shoots.
The last surviving “Bruce” the shark, made from the mold for the 1975 Steven Spielberg film “Jaws,” resides there, swimming ominously near an entrance. With its huge mouth agape, it appears ready to devour anyone foolish enough to try to sneak off the lot with, say, a pilfered power train from a ’32 Ford.
Nearby is the giant boom box Usher danced on for the 1997 video “My Way.” It’s actually a 53-foot-long big-rig trailer painted to look like the ’80s-era music machine. But viewed from a nearby freeway, it appears eerily authentic.
Now everything must go, says Nathan Adlen, owner of this hybrid junkyard-Hollywood backlot that’s been in his family since 1961, when this part of the valley was mainly a warren of sand-and-gravel quarries and garbage dumps.
By New Year’s Eve, he promises, it will be 26 acres of bare land surrounded largely by warehouses and car-repair places as he contemplates what to do next with the property.
“You need to make money to survive, and it’s gotten harder to make money in the junk business,” the affable 60-year-old says as he walks past thousands of automobiles piled four and five high, each destined for the giant car-crushing machine that will noisily squash them into scrap metal.
The Chinese aren’t buying that scrap like they once did, he explains, causing the price to plummet while his minimum-wage and insurance costs continue to rise.
More than 200 movies, TV shows, commercials, video games and music videos have been filmed at Aadlen Brothers over the years.
But Adlen says that Hollywood cash isn’t enough these days to subsidize a business that for decades was also the go-to place for seemingly every shade-tree mechanic in the San Fernando Valley looking to dress up his ride with a cheap turbocharger, a shiny grill or chrome wheels pulled off everything from wrecked Rolls-Royces to VW bugs.
“My father and I, we would roam around that place forever,” recalls Tommy Gelinas, curator of the San Fernando Valley Relics Museum, who customized his first car, a 1968 Dodge Dart, with used parts from Aadlen Brothers.
“But it wasn’t just a junkyard,” Gelinas continues. “It was an adventure because there was so much stuff, old cars, movie memorabilia.”
The yard began showing up in films in 1967, when a scene shot at its trailer office made it into the movie “In Cold Blood.”
“It’s only six seconds in the movie,” Adlen recalls with a chuckle, but those seconds were enough to make the company’s founding Adlen brothers realize they had a future in show business. (After starting the business, Adlen’s father and uncle added the extra A to the name to get it listed first in the phone book.)
Over the years, the lot has appeared briefly in “The Hangover,” ”The Fall Guy,” ”The A-Team,” ”Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and countless other shows. Just last month a “Supergirl” episode had the Girl of Steel battling the villain Reactron near the car-crushing machine.
Soon there will be nothing left to film.
The “RoboCop 3” car has already headed out the door, followed by two of the armored vehicles from the film “Universal Soldier.” (Up close, they look more like giant trash trucks.)
Adlen, who is selling most pieces and offering some to museums, isn’t sure what he’ll do with the shark, with its famous pedigree.
For years it was known in Hollywood that there were three sharks built for the film, all destroyed afterward. But there was a persistent rumor, apocryphal some thought, that a fourth one made from the same mold resided in a junkyard somewhere. It never appeared in the movie but had been the star of the Universal Studios theme park tour.
Five years ago, National Public Radio senior editor Cory Turner, a “Jaws” fan, dragged the shark’s builder and designer out to Aadlen Brothers, where they confirmed that shark was the real deal.
Adlen still remembers the day it arrived. His late father was buying old cars from Universal Studios to strip for parts when he was asked: “By the way, you interested in this?”Continue reading