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Month: October 2015 (page 1 of 4)

FDI in Bulgaria in January-August was 944.3M euro

Photo: Edwin Pijpe/

Foreign direct investment in Bulgaria in the eight months of the year stood at 944.3 million euro, the equivalent of 2.2 per cent of the gross domestic product, statistics from the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) showed. In the same period of 2014, FDI was 1.07 billion euro, but the original amount reported by BNB last year was 1.22 billion euro, which was revised downward later.

Investment in equity, including in the real estate sector, stood at 234.7 million euro (compared to 360.4 million euro in January-August 2014) and re-invested earnings accounted for 107.3 million euro (versus 111.6 million euro in the first eight months of last year).

Receipts from real estate investments by foreign companies totalled 29.1 million euro, compared to 90.6 million euro during the same period of 2014.

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(Photo: Edwin Pijpe/



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It?s got an ?unusual? light profile: I?m not saying it?s aliens but?

The buzz is about KIC 8462852:

Astronomers have spotted a strange mess of objects whirling around a distant star. Scientists who search for extraterrestrial civilizations are scrambling to get a closer look.

Source: The Most Mysterious Star in Our Galaxy ? The Atlantic

?It looked like the kind of thing you might expect an alien civilization to build.?

What is going on? A cloud of debris? Space junk?

Do we need to consider aliens? Dyson spheres?

I?d say that?s a bit of premature jump and one that is going to get some attention but it?s just an argument from ignorance. We don?t know?

dyson spheres

Scientists can?t explain what huge object is blocking the light from this distant star 

Have We Detected Megastructures Built By Aliens Around A Distant Star?

Has Kepler Discovered an Alien Megastructure?

The Many, Many Times Astronomers Mistook Mundane Phenomena for Aliens

Let?s not confuse ?unexplained? with unexplainable.

Space stuff is not the editor?s strong hand. I deal with earth. Feel free to add your two cents and additional info on this story in the comments.


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What happens when you #GiveHope15?

If you?re following MNN on social (Facebook, Twitter, Google+), you?ve probably caught a glimpse or two of the hashtag #GiveHope15 with one of our posts. In case you?re wondering, there IS a reason it?s there :)

For starters, ?hope? is a multipurpose theme?

  • Your encouraging feedback gives our team hope
  • Supporting projects & groups that meet physical needs worldwide gives tangible hope to people in need
  • By getting involved in the Great Commission, you?re giving others the ultimate source of hope: Jesus Christ

During the remaining days of 2014, we?ll explore how you can ?give hope? in each of these areas.

Today, we?d like to share some of your remarks that have helped ?give MNN hope? in 2014:


(Graphic cred: MNN)

?It?s my best source of news! I don?t know what I?d do without MNN!! Thank you SO much for all of the stories you send my way. I feel like I?m so much more informed about what is happening within the body of Christ worldwide. I have a heart to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters and MNN helps me pray with current information. It is the best news service I have ever found. So, so thankful.? ?Laura Guarnieri

?Thanks for the [work] being done, we are to be the light & lifeline to a dying world out there.? ?Henry Tavune

?I learned about you for the first time as I was on-air with Greg Bullen waiting to be interviewed this morning. All your information made me want to hang up and pray. Thank you.? ?Jeannie St. John Taylor

?I heard about you through Yes FM 89.3, Lima, Ohio, this morning?If the Church of Jesus would know more about what foreign Christians go through, it enables us to pray more specifically. [Thank] you for your voice :).? ?Bill Cheshire Jr.

?Want to use this opportunity to thank Mission Network News for the update about the religious crisis in my country Nigeria. Thanks to Greg and the entire crew. God bless and protect you all.? ?Name withheld for protection

?It helps me to know how to pray and I know the news I get is the truth!!! Thank you.? ? Lorraine Gardenier

We LOVE all of our friends and ?followers?, whether they?re on email, social media or radio. The encouragement we see on Facebook or website comments and the uplifting call-in?s we get from listeners remind us why we do what we do. Thank you all for reassuring our team of its purpose!!

Our team here at MNN can only accomplish our 2015 goals with your help. Would you consider partnering with us financially?

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Goat-like prop with wings claimed to be Jersey Devil

Today?s ?Most Read? story on page is about a ridiculous so-called sighting of the Jersey Devil. The story is even trending on Facebook now as several more news outlets have picked it up. The original story came through an email to Paranormal Corner columnist Kelly Roncase, a paranormal investigator. Her columns are breezy and pro-belief without much critical thinking, this one is no different. As with the Lizard Man latest sighting, this is another successful attempt to play a prank on the local news outlet and get some attention (and a good laugh).

According to the email Roncase received, Dave Black was driving home when he saw what he thought was a llama near the road in Galloway, New Jersey. Then he said it spread leathery wings and flew over the golf course. He snapped some pictures but only one came out.

Photo: David Black

Photo: Dave Black

He shared the picture with Fakety fake fake goat with wings. Laugh out loud fake. The object is too stiff to be alive and clearly not a real creature. Also we can tell the silly-shaped and small-sized wings aren?t moving since the shutter speed was low in this light and movement would have resulted in a blur. For this alone we can call fake. Besides, there is no animal that looks like this for real, the Jersey Devil is a myth, although popular. But, as such media outlets will do, they play it straight as they can and ask for YOUR opinion. Several people have given their opinion that they can neither believe this is anything more than a stupid hoax and that the gave it any attention.

The story was later updated to include a video. The video came from the Weird NJ site who report THEY received the video from a person named Emily Martin who said she captured it on Old Port Republic Rd in Leeds Point. Leeds Point and Galloway are historic locations associated with the devil legend. So, it?s quite convenient that that?s where they showed up. The creature is still around 200 years later? Uh-uh. This appears to be an orchestrated hoax. I wonder if they watched True Monsters on HISTORY on Friday?

Neither outlet that received these fantastic claims appeared to do ANY investigation. They just posted the crazy stories accompanied by the eyewitnesses baseless assurances that they swear they aren?t lying or hoaxing. OK?

The Jersey Devil: The Real Story ? CSI

The video is HILARIOUS! It appears to be a plush animal with battery operated wings. The wings are clearly not propelling the animal that has stiff and stuffed legs. It does not appear to be the same prop from the still photo, though they look remarkably similar and the setting is exactly the same. The video creature is more stocky and plump. Yes, I have wasted time looking at this nonsense.

Back in the summer, a similar scenario occurred in Bishopville, South Carolina when an email accompanied by a photo was sent to the local news claiming a sighting of the infamous local monster, Lizard Man. A video of the creature then appeared shortly afterwards. The story was a hit. People got a good laugh. Whenever I state how dumb these things are, many people react by saying one of two extremes ? first, that I should lighten up and take a joke. OH I KNOW THIS IS A JOKE. But there REALLY ARE people who think there are biologically impossible mystery monsters that are out there. That?s the second typical response ? from people who say they have experienced it themselves and are convinced. No amount of logical dissection of the claim will matter to them. That?s the way the world is.

Pick up a copy of the upcoming Fortean Times for a new investigative report on the Bishopvill Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp from Benjamin Radford with additional content from yours truly. As for the Jersey Devil, it?s a nice tourist ploy for Halloween. The woods are scary enough these days, I?ll pass on belief in mythical creatures. It?s a shame that the media can?t seem to help promoting such preposterous tales with a straight face.

It?s going to be a long, face-palming October!

Addition?True Jersey? published a stinker of a story on the Jersey Devil | Doubtful

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?Shark attack saved my life? story exaggerated

There are so many unknowns and ?ifs? in this story that it?s hard to know why it was news at all. Regardless, it is a case of coincidence in that he was prompted by a surprise incident to discover cancer very early. Good for him. But it?s not very accurate to bring sharks or outside forces into the equation.

Possible shark attack helps man discover cancerous tumor

Eugene Finney was injured when dealing with a large wave in the ocean with his child in Huntington Beach, CA. ?I was hit in the back hard. Really hard. I?ve never been hit that hard in my life,? Finney said. On return to shore, he found a bleeding gash in his back.

Finney was left with a foot-long gash down his upper back. It caused significant bleeding. He went to one of the bathrooms on the beach to clean the saltwater out of the wound. When he returned to the beach his girlfriend and son both said they saw fins in the area where he had been struck, Finney said.

What caused the injury to Finney?s back isn?t clear to Lt. Claude Panis of the Huntington Beach Marine Safety Division. ?There are a number of things that could have caused the injury: stingrays, debris, another swimmer or a surfboard,? he said. Finney did not seek out lifeguards after his injury and the incident was not reported.

So far we have an injury from an unknown cause. And, possibly unrelated sightings of ?fins?, not sharks, though there are certainly sharks in this area. Fins, however, can also belong to dolphins or porpoises. Nothing is mentioned about finding debris or a surfboard that could have been the cause of the gash. The Washington Post article describes a scene where the beach has been cleared shortly after suggesting that they were sharks.

Next, Finney needs to head to the doctor because he is very sore from the incident and has some internal bruising. According to the story, the doctor who did EKG and chest X-rays (the Washington Post reports it was a CAT scan) also found a small tumor on Finney?s kidney. Later surgery to remove this showed it was cancerous and caught very early so his prognosis is good.

The doctor is quoted to say: ?If he didn?t have the encounter with the shark, and given the fact that he?s a healthy 39-year-old man, the tumor probably would have grown over the next five, six years. The surgery could have been significantly less successful had the tumor not been located early.?

But we don?t know it was a shark. And we are not told if other symptoms would have shown up to indicate a problem with the kidney. So, this is correlation, not causation.

The Washington Post article is even more sensationalized:

And then he felt something else, something massive and menacing, slamming into his back. His vision glittered and went dark. Finney clutched his daughter closer and fought to swim up, too dazed to try and think about what had just happened. All he could do was make it back to shore.

Only the next day did he realize that a shark was probably responsible for his bloodied and bruised back.

This piece really layers on the drama where the others do not. The article adds quotes from Finney such as ?a shark attack saved my life? and ?I got a message from Mother Nature.? That?s a bit of an exaggeration. Circumstances happened so that Mr. Finney got a fortuitous head start on cancer treatment. But to talk about hugging a shark and being grateful to it are a bit much.

Some commenters have noted that the shark might have avoided him because they SENSED the cancer. Now we are really getting ridiculous. That?s just a tall tale but people grab onto it readily ? suspecting animals know more than people about this sort of thing. While it?s not implausible he got hit by a shark, the media and audience has taken this thread too far into dramatic speculation and exaggeration.

News is more like a made-for-TV movie these days. It shouldn?t be. Just the facts, thanks.

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Meet Will Estrada. He’s a Latino Republican Candidate in the Age of Donald Trump.

In the fast-growing exurbs of northern Virginia, Republican Will Estrada has been running on the bread-and-butter issues typical of any local campaign: lower taxes, less traffic, more business development. But even in his campaign for the Leesburg District supervisor, Estrada has found voters talking about Donald Trump.

“I’ll be honest, I’ve knocked on about 4,000 doors here in Leesburg?people love Donald Trump,” said Estrada, a Latino Republican who proudly touts his pro-bono legal work for immigrants, regardless of their legal status. He’s been distressed to see the breadth of Trump’s support among both Democrats and Republicans?”that surprised me and scared me a little bit”?but chalks it up to the changes that have transformed his corner of northern Virginia from a white, rural outpost into a regional hub for immigrant, minorities, and young families. ?I think it?s again a generational thing. They?re looking at it like, ‘Loudoun County isn?t what it was, it doesn?t look like what it was when I first moved here,'” he explained. 

Will Estrada

Candidate Will Estrada.

Estrada, 32, is part of the national GOP?s expanded effort to send a more welcoming message to those new arrivals in key swing-states across the country, building goodwill at the grassroots level even as candidates like Trump bash immigrants in the 2016 arena. The Republican National Committee has used Hispanic Heritage Month, which ran from Sept. 15 to October 15, to pack more than 25 community outreach events in Virginia, Colorado, North Carolina, Florida and four other battleground states. The program dovetails with the RNC’s push to increase voter registration and contacts with young voters, Hispanics, African-American, and women throughout the month of October. The party’s hope is that local Latino candidates and community leaders can help put a friendlier face on a party that Latinos have increasingly rejected since George W. Bush left office. ?It?s not just about one candidate, it?s about all the candidates. Our job is to make sure we?re on the ground,? said Jennifer Sevilla Korn, RNC’s key director of Hispanic Initiatives.

Though Trump has become the new face of the GOP’s difficulty courting Latinos, the problem long preceded his candidacy and could persist well after he exits the national stage. The party’s share reached a high watermark in the 2004 election, when George W. Bush got more than 40 percent of the Latino vote. The GOP’s share of the Latino vote has dropped precipitously since then: In 2008, John McCain got 31 percent of the Latino vote, and in 2012, Mitt Romney drew just 27 percent. About 43 percent of Latinos currently view the Republican Party negatively, and only 24 percent view the party positively, according to a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal survey?nearly the same as in December 2014.

In fact, the party has been trying to revive its Latino outreach ever since the release of RNC’s 2012 autopsy report, which sounded the alarm about the party’s long-term health if it doesn’t make inroads with Latino voters. Korn points out that the RNC now has a year-round Hispanic outreach team to maintain the party’s efforts in between elections. “One of the problems that the GOP had in the past is that we were not there to make the argument,” she said. The political fallout is apparent in Loudoun County itself: As northern Virginia has become diverse, it?s become more Democratic, helping Obama win the critical swing-state in both 2008 and 2012.

Estrada seems tailor-made for the party’s revamped outreach effort.He proudly talks about his father?s Puerto Rican heritage; he has a young son with his wife Rachel, who?s half-Korean. Estrada works for a home-school legal defense organization but is quicker to talk up the immigrant clients he?s served through Good Samaritan Advocates, a faith-based non-profit: There’s the abusive husband who threatened his Bangladeshi wife with deportation; the undocumented teenager who crossed the border to flee gang violence. ?We live in one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, but we still have many neighbors that are new immigrants who are struggling,? he said.

He embodies the kind of compassionate conservatism that’s largely disappeared from the national GOP since the Bush years, echoing the former president’s emphasis on faith, education, and immigration reform. A devout Christian, Estrada stresses that what immigrant students need?regardless of their legal status?is greater support and social services. “Jesus is more important to me than being a Republican. For me, if I ever differ from my party on some of those issues, I’m okay with that because it’s more important for me that I love the people around us, and I serve them,” he said.Estrada argues that he wants a smaller government and lower taxes, unlike his Democratic opponent, Leesburg mayor Kristen Umstattd. But he?s also running to increase county funding for public legal services, and he?d like to see that support flow through non-profit organizations rather than direct government services.

The GOP’s advantage in going local is its ability to showcase candidates like Estrada, whose views lie in stark contrast to the extreme anti-immigrant remarks of its hardliners. But the insulation of local politics from the national arena, while a boost to Estrada?s election chances, is also a barrier to making national progress with minority and immigrant voters. They’re less likely to associate friendlier neighborhood Republicans with the party’s broader image?or pay attention to them at all, given how  national voices dominate the political conversation. So how far can Republicans go in recasting the party at the street level, when the GOP’s reactionary side has the biggest microphone?

On a chilly Sunday in early October, Estrada made his appeal to Loudoun?s newest voters at Leesburg?s annual Latino festival, where scores of young families lined up for face-painting and hot chocolate. After a speaker introduced him to the crowd as “new blood, Latin blood,” Estrada greeted the few hundred people in the audience in Spanish, and then switched to English to explain how his grandfather moved from Puerto Rico to the U.S. in the 1950s. ?I started a free legal clinic, and many of our clients are Latino,? he told them. The Republican National Committee also showed up at the festival to make inroads, deploying canvassers with digital tablets to survey the crowd; one wore a hat that said ?I miss W? in homage to Bush and spoke to potential voters in fluent Spanish. The Democratic Party, for its part, was nowhere to be seen.

The RNC is trying to make its pitch by touting the party’s diversity, hoping that local Hispanic candidates will not only get elected but also become good ambassadors for the GOP going forward. At their Virginia kick-off event in Alexandria last month, the RNC showcased Estrada and four other Latino Republican candidates, all of them running for county or statehouse seats in Virginia’s 2015 elections. ?We help them, and they help us,? said RNC’s Korn. She recently went precinct-walking in northern Virginia with another local Hispanic Republican candidate, John Guevara, who’s running for supervisor in Fairfax County’s Sully District. One of the RNC’s canvassers in Leesburg volunteered to go door-to-door with Estrada in the final weeks of the election.

Courtesy of Will Estrada

Will Estrada’s family.

After Estrada made his brief remarks on stage, he was approached by a man in his 40s who’d recently become a citizen and would be voting in his second election. “I don?t care where you come from, what language you talk?but are you going to help my family? Are you going to make sure we?re not in fear of being deported?” the man asked. Estrada, he later told me, responded by telling him about one of his recent pro-bono clients, a 17-year-old unaccompanied minor who crossed the border to flee gang violence in Honduras; with Estrada’s help, the young man had successfully gotten his deportation proceedings terminated. He hoped the story would help the voter feel reassured. “I told him I will make sure that our county government is friendly towards him, his family, and others who are here just looking for a better life,” he said.

But local candidates have always struggled to have voters tune in, and right now, the loudest voices from the party are all they seem to be hearing. Take Jose Benitez, a 46-year-old construction worker from El Salvador who brought his family to Leesburg?s Latino festival. Benitez told me he’ll be voting for the first time after becoming a U.S. citizen last year but doesn?t know which candidates he?ll support and isn’t registered with either party. I asked Benitez what he thought of Estrada, and he replied: ?He looks like he wants to get good communication with the Spanish people, but I don?t know.? Benitez does know one thing, though: He really doesn’t like Donald Trump, and he doesn’t think he’ll vote for Republicans. “I think he?s a problem for his party too. Spanish people are looking for a way to make it legal for the immigrants. It looks like the Republican people?they don?t try to do that.”

I heard similar sentiments again and again at the festival. Ernesto Lopez, a 35-year-old restaurant manager, moved to northern Virginia from El Salvador thirteen years ago. He doesn’t like either party very much: Republicans, he said, don’t want to give immigrants opportunities; Democrats “just use us for votes.? But he reserved his most vehement attacks for Trump. “My children were born here too,” Lopez said, noting that the GOP frontrunner was also descended from German immigrants. If you believed Trump on immigrants, he continued, “the only ones who deserve to be here are Native Americans.”

Though Republicans like Estrada want a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, the presidential primary has sent the party careening in the other direction; Democrats hope that the 2016 candidates’ comments on deportation, legalization, and birthright citizenship will come back to haunt them, regardless of whether Trump prevails. Part of the RNC project is to appeal to Latinos on anything but immigration in the meantime. At the Leesburg festival, RNC canvassers carrying digital tablets asked people whether they supported “school choice,” then collected their contact information if they agreed. In other states, they’ve tailored their message to focus on Puerto Rican statehood, the Cuban embargo, or even whether Uber should be legal in the local city, according to Buzzfeed.

Even candidates like Estrada, who push an immigrant-friendly message, stress that there are bigger issues at the forefront of voters’ minds, particularly when it comes to local elections. “It’s about taxes, schools, roads,” said Estrada, whose biggest clash with his Democratic opponent has been over business development. Similarly, Danny Vargas, a Hispanic Republican running for a Virginia delegate seat in the Loudoun and Fairfax area, says that voters are most concerned about getting back home on time and being able to support their families. “I?ve spoken to many, many, many neighborhoods?the issues they bring up are around the economy and jobs,” he said.

But the tensions surrounding the national GOP’s rhetoric towards immigrants and other minorities still bleed into the local political arena. Estrada recalls one campaign stop he made last month. “I spoke to the All Dulles Area Muslim Society at their Eid festival, and everyone?s like, ‘That Donald Trump, that Ben Carson?you know what they?ve said about the Islamic community?’ ” Estrada doesn?t believe that local voters saw him as part of the problem. But it can be wearying to have to account for the most incendiary Republicans. And Estrada is adamant that the reactionary wing of the party needs to change. “We talk about tolerance a lot, but sometimes we’re like, ‘We shouldn’t go and talk to the Muslim community.’ And that sort of thing I think puts us back,” he said.

The obstacles to changing the party’s image aren?t just national: Local Republican hardliners have led a backlash against immigration in northern Virginia as well. In 2007, neighboring Prince William County passed a local ordinance ordering police to question residents they suspected to be illegal immigrants, spearheaded by Republican Corey Stewart, chair of the board of supervisors. More recently, in October 2014, the GOP-controlled Loudoun Board of Supervisors ordered an investigation into the financial and health impact of undocumented child immigrants on the local school system, amid the influx of unaccompanied minors crossing the border, and demanded reimbursement from the federal government. And some local Latino Republicans have taken a hard line as well. Guevara, the Fairfax County candidate, believes that unaccompanied minors without documents should be deported and that the recent influx of immigrant children are overtaxing the local school system. “We need the federal government to stop what they?re doing by bringing in children and really ask for some reparations,” he told me.

Candidates like Estrada suggest another direction for the party. But just as he sees neighborhood issues prevailing over national parties, it’s not clear how much neighborhood candidates can do to change the national GOP. Estrada?s own campaign website barely mentions that he’s a Republican. “I?m proud to be a Republican, but I think especially with the local races, people are more concerned with what you?re going to do to serve them, help them, and not necessarily, are you a Republican or a Democrat,” he said. If he’s elected, Estrada believes his party affiliation will come more to forefront, going into a presidential year; Latino surrogates will be particularly prominent if Marco Rubio is the nominee. But for the moment, Rubio is barely on the radar of Latinos in the Leesburg area; many at the festival had never even heard of him. And right now, Estrada’s just trying to get voters to know who he is in the first place.

As the festival was winding down, I asked one of the entertainers who’d been on stage the whole time what he thought of the candidates who spoke at the festival. “The truth is that the candidates of both parties, they promise and speak about what they?re going to do, they?re going to deceive you,” Nelson Alfaro, 59, told me, still dressed in his clown costume and makeup, complete with a Raggedy-Andy wig and floppy shoes. I asked him whether he had any impression of Estrada, who was standing next to him on stage when he delivered his brief remarks.

“Will Estrada? I don?t know Will Estrada,” he said. But he’s already made up his mind for president. ?Señora Hillary?she seems like she could be the governor of the country,” the clown told me.

Suzy Khimm is a senior editor at The New Republic.

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Will ISIS go nuclear?

Debate continues over the probability and likelihood of a nuclear ISIS. While reportedly improbable, Central Asia could be a starting point for the Islamic State?s nuclear ambitions.

ISIS in Central Asia



In March, terrorists handed out hundreds of notices on official ISIS letterhead before and after the bombing of a Shi?ite mosque.

Though officials continue to deny an Islamic State presence in Pakistan, ?they?re operating there,? says Bruce Allen of Forgotten Missionaries International (FMI).

?Their recruiting pamphlets are there across Pakistan; brick-and-mortar office buildings.?

Yet, a bigger concern is the growth of ISIS in neighboring Afghanistan.

Earlier this week, the top commander of U.S. forces in the region called for more troops because ISIS and al-Qaeda were increasing in strength.

?The ISIS influence is stronger in Afghanistan than in Pakistan,? claims this security analyst.

?However, Pakistan would not be able to counter the threat alone if he conflict in Afghanistan worsens and Pakistani and Afghani militants inspired by the ISIS try to capture territory along the Pak-Afghan border for establishing a ?caliphate.??

(Photo cred: FMI)

(Photo cred: FMI)

While clearly present in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Islamic State?s ?hold? on Central Asia as a whole is arguable.

?No Central Asian government has produced much by way of proof that Islamic State is operating in any substantial fashion within the region,? said a blogger on

Meanwhile, indigenous missionaries supported by FMI are pressing forward without fear.

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The Dakota: New York?s First Mega-Luxury Apartment

When a penthouse apartment in One57 sold for over $100 million last year, it broke the record for Manhattan?s most expensive apartment. A steel-and-glass luxury apartment tower rising one thousand feet in Midtown, One57 is one of the most visible additions to the New York skyline. Shortly after it was completed New York magazine?s architecture critic Justin Davidson called it ?clumsily gaudy,? and Curbed deemed it the worst building of 2014. Along with 432 Park Avenue, a super-luxury residential tower taller than the Empire State Building and One World Trade (minus their antennae), One57 has come to symbolize luxury in its crudest form. Who could afford and would want to inhabit such a place? Yet some of my favorite buildings in the city?the Ansonia, the Dorilton, the San Remo, and 299 West 12th Street?once too aspired to be the tallest, grandest, and most expensive.

Of those buildings, the Dakota stands as a high point of antiquated luxury and occupies a particularly vast slice of New York City cultural lore. It?s where Tchaikovsky was entertained during his tour of the US in 1891. Nureyev slept there in a flamboyant Elizabethan bed, and, later, Lauren Bacall could be found chatting with Albert Maysles or Leonard Bernstein in their shared courtyard. The building, adorned with cast-iron dragons and a sentry, has many macabre associations: In Polanski?s Rosemary?s Baby, Mia Farrow was assailed there by a Satanic cult; John Lennon was shot outside on December 8th, 1980; and Boris Karloff, who played Frankenstein, lived there in the 1930s.

Shepp?s New York City Illustrated

Skating outside the Dakota. A colored flag would signal that the ice was thick enough.

Though I take every visiting friend to admire it, I?ve never been inside the Dakota. The lofty stone archway and wrought iron fences make the entrance feel more like a fortress than a residence. Though I browse StreetEasy listings for the building and contemplate posing as a potential buyer, I can?t think of anything more uncomfortable than facing the Dakota?s co-op board, which has turned down applications from Billy Joel, Cher, Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas. 

Andrew Alpern, a lawyer turned architectural historian, has written a book for the outsider who longs to gain access to the marble halls of the inside. His upcoming book The Dakota: A History of the World’s Best-Known Apartment Building spends only one chapter on the building?s famous tenants (a subject better left to Stephen Birmingham?s Life at the Dakota). The rest of its pages are consecrated to details that allow the reader to reconstruct the Dakota from its foundation to its roof terrace in his or her imagination. There are chapters on the building?s floor plans, the architect who designed it, its financier, the construction, which took four years and between $24 and $47 million dollars (in current values), and the impact it had on luxury apartment design. With the help of Christopher Gray, the prolific architectural and urban historian and former ?Streetscapes? columnist, Alpern supplies us with painstakingly acquired details that might have been relegated to the appendix of a different book.


The Dakota, said to have been named so because it was originally so far north and west that it may as well have been in frontier territory, was built between 1880 and 1884. It was designed by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh?who went on to build the Waldorf Astoria, and Plaza Hotels as well as the Con-Ed building?and financed by Edward C. Clark, a businessman who made his fortune in the Singer Sewing Machine Company. At the time of the building?s completion, the Upper West Side was largely barren plots of granite separated by marshes and wandering goats. An 1889 issue of Frank Leslie?s Illustrated Newspaper describes the Dakota as a ?great overshadowing mass of brick and stone? which rises against ?the humble cottage that was built upon the plot when it was all a part of a garden or farm.? Alpern knows that, no matter how often we see it, we are still shocked to see that a little over a century ago Manhattan as we know it is unrecognizable.

The greatest drama of The Dakota comes in the form of a love story. Alpern adores the businessman and real-estate investor Edward C. Clark who planned and financed the building?s construction, but died two years before its completion. His devotion first becomes apparent when he contrasts Clark with Isaac Merritt Singer, his business partner in the Singer Sewing Machine Company: ?where Clark was refined, self-effacing, hard working, and religious; Singer was uncouth, a self-promoter, indolent, and completely amoral.? This statement prefaces his belief that the success of the sewing machine company is entirely Clark?s. In later passages Alpern praises Clark for ?foresight lacking in ordinary people? and for being ?prescient? and a man who ?saw big pictures that lesser men couldn?t even imagine.? He creates value ?outside the box?; a few chapters earlier, Alpern compares him to Steve Jobs.

Nevertheless it is clear that Clark succeeded where many others had failed: he was the first to predict the tastes and needs of an emerging urban bourgeoisie. Edward C. Clark went to great lengths to cater to the sort of people who would otherwise buy a townhouse. Before the Dakota, multi-family residences were either transitory housing where the affluent avoided their families, or crowded accommodations for the working class. By the 20th century apartments were the real estate gems of bankers, brokers, and doctors. Clark allotted the cramped, sultry top floors to servants, and kept all coal, groceries, and deliveries underground, so that they would not be seen from the courtyard. On some floors the ceilings are over 15 feet high, and each apartment is bounded in thick walls (some over a foot of brick) to create a sonically-impenetrable environment. All of this was tailored to the sensibilities of private and family-oriented Americans who entertained lavishly.

A portrait of Edward C. Clark, aged 60

With the help of architect Mia Ho, Alpern supplies one of the most useful resources for the curious outsider who wants to imagine living in the Dakota: detailed floor plans for all ten stories. Unlike photographs, which collapse space and only give the sense of the building room-by-room, a floor plan gives you, in approximate terms, the actual dimensions, arrangement, and use for each room.

They also show how innovative the Dakota was. Pre-Dakota apartments had bedrooms leading awkwardly from double doors to the living room, windows facing brick walls and dim air shafts, and rows of small, poorly lit bedrooms. By contrast, a living room in the Dakota is often followed by a dining room, study, or hallway, then followed by the bedrooms, nearly all of which are arranged to face outwards. It is the less intimate spaces?kitchenettes, dining rooms, and studies?that face the building?s central courtyard. Compared to the intuitive, commodious, elegant layout of the Dakota, the earlier 1876 Osborne (now demolished) and Windermere Apartments (soon to be a hotel) seem charmingly dysfunctional.

Office for Metropolitan History

The west façade of the Dakota circa 1889.

Matthew Peyton / Getty

Traffic passes the Dakota, 2003


Compared to our most recent batch of luxury apartments, Clark?s idea of luxury seems quaint and, in a way, modest. He didn?t build the Dakota for Cornelius Vanderbilt or John D. Rockefeller but for the professionals just beneath them on the social ladder. One57 and 432 Park, on the other hand, cater almost comically to the international super-rich. The units take the same, indiscriminate approach to luxury as a Trump Hotel: floor to ceiling windows, monoliths of marble, cavernous open layouts and the highest possible viewpoint. It seems unlikely that anyone who can afford one of these apartments actually intends to make it a permanent residence the way Yoko Ono did with the Dakota. The design is intended to signal instead just what money can buy?and how frictionlessly large sums of money can move around a globalized world. Likely these units until will change hands about as often as stocks do, merely signifying the handing off of a good investment from one businessman to the next.

It is hard, looking at the luxury buildings that followed it, to return to the Dakota as fondly as I might have before. Where there used to be a sentry box, iron gates, and servants quarters, there are now doormen and separate entrances for the less wealthy residents. In this the Dakota is much like any luxury residence: The only real difference is that I happen to consider the Dakota genuinely beautiful and 432 Park an eyesore. Even Andrew Alpern, perhaps the Dakota?s foremost devotee, has a taste for the new, dispiriting towers: his previous work includes Holdouts!: The Buildings That Got in the Way, a book co-authored with the late Seymour Durst, of the Durst Organization, celebrating the ingenuity of real estate developers over stubborn hold-outs. 

Malcolm Thorndike Nicholson is a writer based in New York City. Follow him on Twitter and Tumblr.

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Sputnik: Poland Considers Dividing Europe Over Russia-Germany Pipeline

October 16th, 2015 2:12pm Posted In: Press Notes

An East-West rivalry over Russian natural gas pipelines could erupt in the European Union as Poland seeks allies against the expanded Russia-Germany energy route.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline has ruffled feathers among Eastern European countries, which believe the new pipeline plans threaten to reduce their own financial resources and political clout.

Read the full article HERE.

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Tabloids totally wrong about Japanese tsunami mystery creature

We are back again to do what we do best, totally bust an inflated story that the tabloids pass off as sensational news. It?s obvious they do NO checking or investigation of the stories, they simply repeat what silly story they make up or are fed from a dubious source.

This time, Marcus Hemmler from Group of Fort determined that the so-called Japanese tsunami ?globster? is not so strange and NOT a result of the 2011 tsunami as reported. The story of a creature found in aftermath of the Japan tsunami was reported in the media by the usual suspects and then went on its merry way across the internet.

From The Mirror: ?Bizarre creature washed up in aftermath of Japanese tsunami goes viral after survivor releases footage? says that the footage was ?shot by a survivor of the devastating natural disaster? and ?shows a huge white whale-like creature washed up among debris left behind after the flood.?

From the Daily Star: ?What the hell is this? Mysterious creature washes up after tsunami: A STRANGE monster-like creature beached by retreating floodwaters after a tsunami has been caught on camera.?

From the Daily Mail: ?Footage of ?mystery creature? found washed up in the aftermath of Japan?s tsunami baffles viewers? but is it even an animal? The mysterious object washed up on a Japanese beach after the tsunami; A clip of the ?whale-like creature? was filmed by a survivor of the disaster?


The ?Blob of Yabuchijima? was actually found in 2010. According to a translation from a Japanese site (so it may not be quite right), in late June 2010, the cultural museum curator heard of a ?floating white object in the sea? from local fishermen in the sea off Yabuchijima. On July 4 the remnants were found in the tidal flats at low tide. It was reported to be 6m in length, smelled putrid, and looked like a rock. Guesses as to what is was included whale, giant squid, even a dugong.

The Blob of Yabushima

The Blob of Yabuchijima from

Screenshot from 2010 video.

Screenshot from 2010 video.

The tabloids link to a video posted on YouTube dated 2015 but the original version has 1.6 million views and is dated 2010.

Typically, globsters (as they are colloquially called) or blobsters (which I prefer) are large masses of organic remains washed on shore. ?Globster? was coined by cryptozoologist Ivan Sanderson to give a name to these unindentifiable blobs that beach around the world. The more fantastical judges of the remains will say they are an unknown animal, possibly a giant octopus of massive proportions or a new species of? something. But in most cases, when samples were taken of the remains, they can be determined to be leftovers of a shark or whale. The collagen or blubber of a whale continues to float long after the rest of the body has decomposed or been lost. What remains is unrecognizable as an animal part to those who aren?t experts in the matters.

So, it?s not a mystery creature, really. Just likely an indeterminate whale. It?s also not related to the tsunami of 2011 at all. It?s a nonstory. The tabloids regularly provide you with unchecked, unverified garbage posing as news. Don?t buy it.

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