Israel Warns Media: Don’t Board Gaza Flotilla | Breaking news and opinion on The Blaze

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel is threatening to bar international journalists from the country for years if they board ships attempting to breach the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

A flotilla of Gaza-bound ships is due to set sail soon, perhaps this week.

On Sunday, Israel’s Government Press Office issued a statement calling the flotilla “a dangerous provocation” and an “international violation of Israeli law.”

It says participation in the flotilla “is liable to lead to participants being denied entry into the state of Israel for 10 years” and to additional sanctions.

Israel imposed the blockade in 2007, after Hamas overran Gaza.

Israel eased a land blockade after a deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla last year. The naval blockade remains intact.



What pilots see as they approach Offutt AFB in Nebraska | Breaking news and opinion on The Blaze

Offutt Air Force Base (home of the 55th Wing – aka ‘The Fighting Fifty-Fifth’) is just south of Omaha, NE on Hwy 75. As pilots approach the landing strip from the north, they are greeted with a special message from a local soybean farmer.

The message is carved into the field.  It may be difficult to read at this distance, but when the plane gets closer to the runway, the words become quite easy to read.

According to several reports, the farmer uses a GPS system to direct him as he cuts the letters for the words.

A quick check of the Internet myth-busting site has confirmed that this is not a scam.

Additionally, Google Maps displays a new message that was snapped some time earlier this year.

So who is the patriot person behind this mile-long Thank You note?  The Air Force found out.

Two fields are used to communicate these thank you notes. One is located at the intersection of US Highway 75 and Nebraska Highway 370 and the other is located at Ft. Crook Road east of Offutt. Both fields belong to local farmers who allow Chris Shotten to show his appreciation to Offutt’s population.

Shotten and about a dozen volunteers from the Superstore where he works, gather in the fields and using 500 stakes and 3,500 pounds of flour, they spell out the message.

How does the Air Force feel about it?

“Team Offutt is grateful to Mr. Shotten for his ‘thank you’ message,” said Brig. Gen. Donald Bacon, 55th Wing commander. “Our aircrews see this every day. This being my family’s third assignment to Offutt, I find this very indicative of how this wonderful Bellevue community makes our military members feel welcome.”

Very cool!!!

GoDaddy Nears Sale to KKR –

Private-equity firms KKR & Co. and Silver Lake Partners, along with a third investor, are nearing a deal to buy GoDaddy Group Inc., a closely-held company that registers Internet domain names, for between $2 billion and $2.5 billion, people familiar with the matter said.

Getty Images

GoDaddy’s ads touted the ‘GoDaddy Girls,’ including racer Danica Patrick.



An announcement of the sale could come as early as next week, although a deal hasn’t been signed yet and the people cautioned that an agreement may not be reached.

Private equity and venture capital firm Technology Crossover Ventures is also a minority investor in the proposed deal for Scottsdale, Ariz.-based GoDaddy, one of the people familiar with the matter said.

The Wall Street Journal reported in September that the company had hired boutique investment bank Qatalyst Partners to shop the company to potential buyers., the company’s flagship web property, is the world’s largest registrar of domain names. The site also sells e-commerce, security and other services to people and businesses looking to manage their online presence. Customers pay GoDaddy monthly fees, which brings the company steady cash flow—an attraction for buyout firms.

GoDaddy was founded in 1997 by Bob Parsons, who continues to be the company’s owner and chief executive. It is known for its edgy advertising, including Super Bowl commercials and ads featuring different “Go Daddy Girls” including race car driver Danica Patrick. Mr. Parsons would continue as CEO, one of the people familiar said.

TPG Capital and General Atlantic, were told the auction was off, people familiar with the matter said at the time.

The New York Post earlier reported the news of KKR’s interest in the company.

KKR, Silver Lake and Technology Crossover Ventures are all savvy tech investors. KKR and Silver Lake were co-investors in chip maker Avago Technologies Ltd., which they took public in 2009, reaping handsome returns for their fund investors. Palo Alto, Calif.-based Technology Crossover Ventures has invested in companies including Groupon Inc.


Daily Wrap-up: Round 2, Travelers Championship – PGATOUR.COM

CROMWELL, Conn. (AP) — Nineteen-year-old UCLA star Patrick Cantlay shot a course-record 10-under 60 — the lowest PGA TOUR round ever by an amateur — to take a four-stroke lead Friday in the Travelers Championship.

The low amateur last week in the U.S. Open, Cantlay tied the tournament record set by Tommy Bolt when the event was played in Wethersfield in 1954.

Cantlay birdied the final two holes at TPC River Highlands to reach 13 under. After shooting a 67 on Friday morrning in the rain-delayed first round, he had eight birdies and an eagle in the afternoon.

D.J. Trahan (62), Webb Simpson (65) and Taylor Vaughn (66) were tied for second.

Cantlay just completed his freshman year at UCLA, and has said he plans to stay until he earns his degree.

Four players have shot 61s at the TPC River Highlands course. The last was Kenny Perry in 2009.

An amateur hasn’t won a PGA TOUR event since Phil Mickelson in the 1991 Northern Telecom Open in Arizona


PayPal Says Mobile Payments To Hit $3 Billion – Digits – WSJ

PayPal says it will process $3 billion in mobile-device payments this year, up from the company’s previous projection of $2 billion.

The online payments service, which is owned by eBay, had projected last fall that it would process $1.5 billion in 2011. It raised that projection by half a billion earlier this year before releasing the latest figure Thursday.

“Every week I look at the numbers, I get a sense of surprise,” said Laura Chambers, PayPal’s head of mobile. She says the increased mobile transactions are due to more smartphone adoption and familiarity with PayPal.

The $3 billion in mobile payments can be broken down into two categories. The first is individuals using PayPal’s mobile app to transfer money to each other. The company doesn’t make any money on this feature, except for cross-border transactions that carry a small fee.

The second category is people completing purchases on mobile online-commerce sites using PayPal. The company collects a fee for each sale through PayPal.

Chambers declined to say how much of the $3 billion estimate came from which category.

The service also says it now has eight million users and is seeing $10 million a day in mobile total payment volume.

PayPal has helped power the growth of eBay, which has struggled to turn around its core marketplace business. The payments service grew 23% in the first quarter and accounted for $992 million, or nearly 40%, of eBay’s revenue. EBay CEO John Donahoe has said PayPal could become the company’s biggest business in a few years.

But PayPal faces challenges from competitors that include Google and Square, as well as credit-card companies. Google last month launched Google Wallet, which is designed to let people pay for items using smartphones.

EBay last month sued Google over its mobile-payments system, alleging that the Internet-search giant used PayPal-developed trade secrets.

Google has also said that it won’t allow outside developers, such as PayPal, to create products for Google Wallet until later.

Chambers said that in the mobile-payments industry, the people that matter “are the customers and merchants” and that any solution from Google “that’s going to be too closed isn’t going to work for them.”


US Opens Reserves to Release 30M Barrels of Oil

The price of oil plummeted by nearly 5 percent on Thursday after Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the U.S. will release 30 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

But Republicans in Congress lined up to slam the move, linking it to the need for more drilling in the U.S.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said, “I am appalled but not surprised that the president views his falling poll numbers as a national crisis.”

And committee chairman, Rep. Fred Upton said, “It’s hard to believe that the Administration would rather tap into our emergency supply than support legislation to produce and develop North American supplies, which will create American jobs.

“Releasing our reserves to calm the market is emblematic of an Administration whose energy policy is irrational and counter-productive.”
Upton said 30 million barrels is exactly what could be produced in a month from Alaska’s Outer Continental Shelf.

The move is part of a worldwide effort aimed at stabilizing prices. The rest of the world will release another 30 million barrels over the next 30 days.

The Obama administration hopes that the move will bring prices down at the pump as the summer vacation season gets into full swing. The immediate effect was to bring the price of a barrel of West Texas intermediate crude down by $4.71 a barrel to $90.89.

The concerted move by 28 countries in the International Energy Agency (IEA) has been prompted by an interruption in the world supply caused by Middle East turmoil, Chu added.

“We are taking this action in response to the ongoing loss of crude oil due to supply disruptions in Libya and other countries and their impact on the global economic recover. As we move forward, we will continue to monitor the situation and stand ready to take additional steps if necessary.”

The Energy Department said fighting in Libya alone has led to a loss of 1.5 million barrels of oil per day from global markets. Most of that is light, sweet crude.

“As the United States enters the months of July and August, when demand is typically highest, prices remain significantly higher than they were prior to the start of the unrest in Libya,” the department said in a statement.

But GOP members said the answer to high gas prices lies in more drilling, not releasing oil from the reserve. Louisiana Sen. David Vitter said, “We need long-term, expansive domestic energy measures.”

And House whip, Kevin McCarthy called the move “pathetic” saying the reserve should be used for national emergencies “not as a political tool when a President is feeling heat over high gas prices.”

“Simply releasing 36 hours-worth of oil does not constitute an energy plan,” McCarthy added.

Even the Democratic Chairman of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee criticized the move. Sen. Jeff Bingaman said the plan would have been “more timely” if it had been put into action when Libyan supplies were first cut off.

Commodity strategist John Licata told Newsmax.TV that the oil release was premature as it is too early to say whether Gulf oil production will be hit by hurricanes this year and because the situation in Libya has not justified such a move.

It is the third time that oil has been released from the Reserve since it was set up in the mid-1970s to give presidents an emergency response to disruptions in supply. George H.W. Bush’s administration released 17 million barrels at the outbreak of the first Persian Gulf War in 1991 and George W. Bush released 21 million barrels after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The IEA said the oil loss has become “more pronounced” as fighting has continued. Executive director Nobuo Tanaka said, “I expect this action will contribute to well-supplied markets and to ensuring a soft landing for the world economy.”

The New York Times said talks on the current release have been going on behind closed doors for weeks. The move comes three weeks after Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., urged the president to make such a move.

“Most presidents don’t want to, and this president doesn’t want to. They want to save it for a true national emergency – like, God forbid, a Middle East war, or whatever it happens to be,” Durbin said at the time. “But I’m worried.”

Prices at the pump had already started to drop before the move. By Wednesday they were down to a nationwide average of $3.61 said the AAA, down 9.75 percent from its $4 mid-May high

The Obama administration said it would consult other countries – both oil consumers and producers – to decide whether more oil should be released later in the year.

The Reserve currently is the world’s largest stockpile of government-owned oil, with a record 727 million barrels stored in caverns along the Gulf of Mexico coast.


Rowling Conjures Up Potter E-Books –

LONDON—After years of refusing to release her boy-wizard books in electronic format, Harry Potter mastermind J.K. Rowling is finally taking the digital plunge, launching an online store that will sell Harry Potter e-books directly to consumers and a social-networking site designed to keep the Potter magic alive.

[potter0623] Chip Somodevilla//Getty Images

British author J.K. Rowling

The free-to-access site, known as Pottermore, launches for the first million users on July 31 and opens to the general public—with the online e-book store—in October. Once the online store opens, the full Harry Potter series will be available as e-books in multiple languages, compatible with any electronic reading device.

Ms. Rowling has made a bold move in going direct to consumers to sell her e-books, instead of relying on online retailers like Inc. and Apple Inc.’s iBookstore. Whereas publishers for other authors often own both the print and digital rights for books, Ms. Rowling owns the rights to the digital versions of the Harry Potter books herself. The digital rights aren’t held by her U.K. publisher Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, or by Scholastic Inc., which owns the U.S. print rights.

Bloomsbury said in a statement Thursday that it would be receiving a share of the revenues derived from e-book sales in Pottermore’s online store.

Pottermore is a full-on Harry Potter online universe that allows readers to join a Hogwarts house and travel through the first Harry Potter book, while collecting points and playing games. Perhaps the biggest draw is the extra material that Ms. Rowling has written and unearthed from her notes, which gives intense Potter fans much-desired background and explanations about key characters, places and plots.


“I’ll be sharing additional information that I’ve been hoarding for years about the world of Harry Potter,” Ms. Rowling said in a Thursday press conference in London. “I can be creative in a medium that didn’t exist back in 1990 when I started writing the books.”

Ms. Rowling has built the Potter franchise into a behemoth since the first of her seven Harry Potter novels was published in 1997. The series—the final installment of which was published in 2007—has sold more than 450 million books world-wide, and spawned an eight-part film franchise for Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. that is about to wrap up. The series is also featured in “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” area at the Universal Orlando theme park. In 2010, Forbes magazine estimated Ms. Rowling’s net worth at $1 billion.

Now, Pottermore is Ms. Rowling’s next step toward keeping the franchise alive and vital beyond the book series.

Users can travel through the first book in the series—”Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”—and Ms. Rowling will then gradually reveal the online ecosystem tied to the subsequent six books over the course of a few years. Digital editions for all seven books, however, will be available in October.

“I’m phenomenally lucky that I had the resources to be able to do it myself,” Ms. Rowling said Thursday. She said she can ensure that everyone is getting the same experience by interacting directly with consumers.

“There was really no other way to do that for the fans or for me than to just do it myself,” she said.

That’s one of the reasons Ms. Rowling warmed slowly to the idea of putting Potter online. But she downloaded an e-book for the first time this year and said she realized their power, ease and usefulness.

“E-books are here, and they are here to stay,” she says. “I still love a print and paper book, but I think you can enjoy both.”

Pottermore has been in the works for two years. Users will have to give their e-mail addresses to register for the Pottermore site, meaning that Ms. Rowling will theoretically be able to contact a millions-strong database of avid Harry Potter readers directly.

The site is supposed to give obsessed fans exactly what they crave: More Potter, straight from Ms. Rowling’s notebooks. Though she says she won’t be writing any more books in the boy-wizard series, Ms. Rowling is emptying her extra material in various places on the site.

For example, she says she had been keeping the back story of Professor McGonagall—headmistress of Hogwarts—for years expecting to use it, but never found a place for it in any of the books. Ms. Rowling has handed over 18,000 words of additional content so far, but says she will write more for the site as well.

Sony Corp. has served as a primary partner in building the site. Once the online store goes live in October, Sony will be selling Pottermore branded products alongside the Harry Potter e-books, a spokeswoman for Sony said. Those could include Pottermore branded Sony e-readers, as well as other Harry Potter-specific electronics or software products.