Los Angeles (E! Online) –
If it's self-promotion you're after, Paris Hilton is your gal. Any other kind of promotion, you may need to reconsider.
It's a lesson the backers of Hilton's Pledge This! claim to have learned the hard way.
A Miami judge today ruled that he will not throw out a breach-of-contract lawsuit brought against the heiress by the distributors of her 2006 flop. The investors claim Hilton's failure to abide by her contractual obligation to adequately plug the straight-to-DVD sorority flick resulted in a loss of roughly 8.3 million.
Ironically, she's now indirectly doing more to promote the film than any marketing campaign could have hoped for.
U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno said there are plenty of issues to be decided at trial, including whether Hilton's lack of promotion stemmed from her being, as her attorney claimed earlier this month, “the single busiest person on the planet,” or whether she shirked her promotional duties out of dislike for the film.
For her part, Hilton, listed as a producer on the film (thanks to her ability to “get cool people in the cast”), claims she put her all into promoting the National Lampoon-branded flick.
“Any chance I got, any red carpet, any press, if I was doing something for another product…I would just bring it up, 'Oh, my new sorority film, it's going to be sexy, it's going to be really hot girls'—like I really, you know, did my best,” she said in her deposition.
Her lawyers will do their best when her trial begins June 8.
In the meantime, Hilton is unlikely to face the same legal trouble with her new projects.
The one-woman empire has been making the rounds, along with arm candy du jour Doug Reinhardt, to promote the documentary Paris, Not France, appearing earlier this week at the Cannes Film Festival.
She's also already hyping the forthcoming second season of My New BFF on MTV, something that seems to hearken back to her Pledge This! days.
“It was basically Paris' sorority house,” she tells E!'s Daily 10.
“It's about sisterhood—there's pledging, there's crazy challenges. We had the best time. We started out in Las Vegas, and these kids really were up for anything.
“This time I wanted someone who really could be there for me, someone I could trust. And someone who doesn't care about fame.”
The second season kicks off June 2.
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Archive for May 19th, 2009
Los Angeles (E! Online) –
For most Americans, Barack Obama's most vivid presidential moment came on election night. He stepped before a quarter-million jubilant supporters in Chicago's Grant Park and a worldwide television audience and proclaimed that a new era of change had arrived. As the first African-American president, he had made history. As one of the youngest presidents ever elected, at 47, he promised to undertake a generational shift and move the nation from confrontation and polarization to conciliation and compromise. He went on to echo some iconic leaders from America's past–Abraham Lincoln and his mystical belief in the Union, Franklin Roosevelt and his infectious optimism, John F. Kennedy and his call to service. All in all, it was Barack Obama at his charismatic best. [Read Obama's 12 Most Important Decisions]
But now that he has moved past the first months in office, the narrative of Obama's actual presidency, including his policy directions, his strengths, and his weaknesses as a leader, has become more clear. Since that electric Chicago night back in November, he has pivoted from poetry to prose, playing down charisma and emphasizing competence. And he has moved with impressive speed to focus on the nation's No. 1 problem: the recession and the collapsing financial industry, widely considered the worst economic calamity since the Depression. In the process, Obama is pushing the political pendulum from the conservative approach of Ronald Reagan, who said government was the problem, to a more liberal philosophy that holds that only Washington has the wherewithal to provide the answers. More than anything else, he has brought big, activist government back into play. [See photos of Obama abroad]
“I'm pleased with the progress we've made, but I'm not satisfied,” Obama told a town meeting in Arnold, Mo., April 29. “I'm confident in the future, but I'm not content with the present–not when there are workers who are still out of jobs, families who still can't pay their bills; not when there are too many Americans who can't afford their heathcare.” His answer: more action by Washington. [See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes]
Like most of their recent predecessors, Obama and his aides weren't fond of the 100-day yardstick for measuring a new chief executive's success, arguing that it has become artificial and outmoded since it was used to assess the start of Franklin Roosevelt's regime in 1933. Still, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says, “We've had the most productive first 100 days probably since Roosevelt.”
It remains to be seen if Obama's agenda will cure the nation's ills, but there is no doubt that he has thought big and moved fast. Last November and December, before he took office, in a series of meetings in his hometown of Chicago, he concluded that the economy was in such peril that he would have to take drastic action. Relying on key aides, including Larry Summers (now the chief White House economic adviser) and Timothy Geithner (now treasury secretary), he fashioned a massive program involving astronomical government spending to create jobs and dramatic moves to bail out the financial industry and the nation's automakers–and moved decisively starting on Inauguration Day. [See the members of Obama's inner circle]
Ambitious agenda. Working with the Democratic majority in Congress and with negligible Republican support, Obama won congressional approval for a 787 billion stimulus package and persuaded Congress to approve a 3.5 trillion budget outline for 2010 that included a 1.2 trillion deficit. He arranged massive bailouts for failing banks and auto companies and promised much more government intervention and regulation of troubled sectors in the future.
Looking ahead, he will have an opportunity to reshape the Supreme Court by appointing a replacement for retiring Justice David Souter. Obama also is eager to enact an overhaul of the nation's healthcare system that would move toward universal health coverage and, he hopes, lower costs. He is pushing for a similarly historic program to limit use of fossil fuels through a “carbon tax” and other methods. There are signs that he will do this not only through sweeping legislation but by also having the Environmental Protection Agency play a larger role. And Obama wants to reform education, which will entail pouring more money into the system. White House aides say immigration legislation could come later. All this may be facilitated by the sudden party switch of Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania from Republican to Democrat. Specter calculated that this would help him in his 2010 re-election bid. But in the meantime, his move would give the Democrats a filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority in the Senate if Al Franken is seated from Minnesota, as expected, after ongoing legal challenges. [Poll: Has Obama met your expectations?]
On foreign policy, Obama aims to pull all U.S. combat troops out of Iraq next year, although at a slower pace than he promised during the campaign. He is beefing up U.S. forces in Afghanistan, which he considers the central front in the war on terrorism. And he is systematically reaching out to America's allies and adversaries to forge more international partnerships. This make-nice approach was on display during his trip to Port of Spain, Trinidad, in mid-April for a meeting with leaders of 33 other nations in the hemisphere. He sparked intense criticism from opponents at home when he shook hands in a chummy moment with Venezuelan President Hugo Chvez, a virulent critic of the United States. Conservatives said the move showed timidity or a lack of backbone. Many Americans, however, liked his show of humility and outreach.
All the while, Obama's popularity has remained high. Polls show that more than 60 percent of Americans approve of his job performance so far, with overwhelming support from Democrats and strong support from independents. Republicans are solidly opposed to him, but the percentage of self-identified GOP voters is declining. And for the first time in years, more Americans (50 percent) say the country is headed in the right direction than those (48 percent) who say the country is on the wrong track, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll from late April. [Read Why Obama's Approval Rating Stays High]
It's too early to make sweeping judgments, says Rutgers political scientist Ross Baker, but he adds: “It's an auspicious debut.” Baker calls the Obama presidency “ambitious” but not overreaching. “He is directing his energy discriminately. Bismarck once said he who attacks everywhere attacks nowhere. He clearly is following that dictum.”
Matthew Dowd, former strategist and pollster for President George W. Bush, says Obama has shown decisiveness and competence but may be sowing the seeds of serious problems later on, such as the massive yearly deficits and the trillion-dollar debt that Obama is generating. In addition, Obama's social outreach to Republicans has not worked, and GOP leaders are turning more and more against him and what they call his “tax and spend” policies, Dowd says. The administration's economic stimulus bill gained only three Republican votes in the entire Congress.
Despite the problems, Obama will push ever more aggressively for his agenda, his aides say, because he believes that a president is most effective in his first year, when the aura of his electoral victory remains strong.
Good listener. What his fans like is his pragmatism, his willingness to listen to criticism and learn from experience, his team approach to governing, and his flexibility, in contrast to what was perceived as George W. Bush's unilateralism and intransigence, according to pollsters and political analysts of both major parties. Obama is “totally practical, nonideological,” says a White House adviser. “He is an extremely disciplined thinker–very intelligent, very efficient.” But Obama admits that if the economy isn't much better in 2012, he expects that the voters will be looking to replace him. “He feels he should be judged by the success or failure of the economy,” says a senior White House adviser.
One thing that has been learned about Obama is his coolness under pressure and his methodical, disciplined approach to decision making. His confidence seems preternatural. “This is why we thought he'd be good at the job,” says White House spokesman Gibbs. “Calm, steady leadership is what the country is looking for at a time of crisis.” Obama's authorization of a strike by Navy SEALs on pirates who had taken the captain of an American freighter hostage off the coast of Somalia in mid-April showed some of Obama's best qualities, especially his composure under fire and his decisiveness when it counts.
Not that Obama's decision-making process is always easy. White House aides say his toughest decision so far was to release detailed memos on harsh U.S. interrogation methods for suspected terrorists, such as waterboarding, that some have labeled torture. “He struggled with it,” says a senior aide who participated in the deliberations. “There were a lot of competing ideas”–and strong disagreements among his aides. Obama was trying to balance national security with the goal of showing the world that the United States has “nothing to hide” in explaining its antiterrorism policies, and to underscore that torture violates American values. In the end, Obama concluded that the harsh methods had not been more effective than other techniques. “Whether they [the harsh methods] work is unknowable,” says a senior aide, adding that it was clear that al Qaeda was using the U.S. techniques as a “recruitment poster” to mobilize terrorists around the world. Besides, the aide says, most of the details were widely known before the memos were released. Obama is now allowing his Justice Department to consider whether to prosecute officials of the Bush administration who designed and authorized the harsh interrogation techniques.
But fixing the economy remains Job 1, and administration officials say that the severity of the crisis, while bad for the country, has actually propelled Obama's overall agenda. “Big change was called for, and change was the message of the campaign,” the senior official says. “What impresses me is that he wants to play big.”
In addition, White House officials say, the healthcare issue has increased in importance, moving from a moral issue to a moral and practical one. This represents a contrast from the Clinton administration, when overhauling the healthcare system failed under the weight of practical concerns such as whether the version pushed by Bill and Hillary Clinton in 1993 and 1994 would have the government intrude too much into the medical system. There is a deep belief among many experts that the healthcare costs are breaking the national budget and the budgets of millions of businesses, families, and individuals. Reform would be a “moral good since it's an embarrassment to have so many uninsured,” the senior White House official says, “but there's now a fiscal imperative to fix it. There's a whole new momentum behind reform.”
Another advantage for Obama is that the Democratic Party finally has a deep bench for filling the administration with Washington veterans. Obama has access to a pool of aides from the eight-year regime of Bill Clinton, whose policies were popular and whose presidency was widely considered a success. Even these veteran Clinton aides made mistakes at first, such as ineptly vetting some Obama cabinet members whose names had to be withdrawn amid various controversies, but the stumbles were quickly overcome.
One of Obama's biggest concerns is falling out of touch with everyday America, aides say, as he navigates a hectic schedule and deals with the limits imposed by the Secret Service on how he interacts with citizens. But he still talks to close friends via his BlackBerry, and he looks forward to reading letters from everyday citizens given to him each morning by his staff. He reads the correspondence, tucked into a purple folder, when he gets a break in the Oval Office but most frequently goes over it as a stay-in-touch ritual each night in the residence. When letters resonate with him, “he sends them around to all of us,” says a member of his inner circle. He often pens a reply.
Obama also tries to maintain normalcy in a number of ways, working out at 7 a.m. in the third-floor gym of the residence, having breakfast with his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters, Malia and Sasha, and getting home in time for a family dinner. He tries to leave Washington once a week to take soundings “outside the beltway.”
Obama's workday begins at about 9:30 a.m. with national-security and economic briefings followed by a lengthy series of meetings and public appearances, punctuated by lunch–often a cheeseburger and waffle fries. After that, he reads memos on policy and upcoming events, which he sometimes studies until after midnight.
And it's the details of policy that absorb nearly all of his attention. With the pace of change that Obama is setting, there's little doubt that his next 100 days will be just as important as his first.
–Read Obama's 12 Most Important Decisions.
–See photos of Obama abroad.
–See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.
Beating the recession in Taiwan
By Cindy Sui
BBC News, Taiwan
Trying to pay the mortgage and credit card bills? Just got laid off? Time, then, to be inventive.In Taiwan, jobs are scarce and it is hard to qualify for unemployment or welfare benefits. So people are coming up with innovative, and sometimes downright quirky, ways to survive the economic downturn.
Errand runner – Chang You-wu, 35, married with a mortgage
“Mostly, I queue up for people to help them buy limited-supply items, like Levi jeans or concert tickets. Last year I lined up for 1,000 hours. My slogan is ‘You’re busy? I’ll do it for you!’ “One of the strangest cases I’ve had was being a woman’s temporary boyfriend. We went to a park. She just wanted to know what it felt like to have a boyfriend. “I’ve also gone furniture shopping with another single woman. I helped her pick out furniture and pushed the cart for her. “I’m paid NT150 (US4.50; 3) an hour. I make about NT20,000-40,000 (US608-1,216) a month. “The income and the hours are very unstable. But I like the fact I can meet a lot of people. I like the freedom the most. I hope to set up a global errand-running business someday.”
Mosquito controller – Kao Shu-fang, 45, mother of three
“I was feeling depressed about being jobless. Then my friend took me to apply for one of the temporary jobs the government was providing for unemployed people. “We have to knock on people’s doors and ask them to let us into their homes to get rid of sources of standing water and catch mosquitoes. Our city will host the 2009 World Games in July, and we need to eradicate mosquitoes to avoid outbreaks of Dengue fever. “They’re not hard to catch. Once they are in our nets, we suck them into a bottle and freeze them for the laboratory to test. “I have to go to 50 households in the morning and 50 in the afternoon. I make NT800 (US24) a day.”
Eyebrow shaver – Jenny Hsu, 33, single mother-of-one
Jenny Sui says trimmed eyebrows improve a client’s job prospects
“I run a beauty salon out of my home, but business hasn’t been good so I decided to rent a stall at a busy night market and shave people’s eyebrows. “I’m very good at it. My reputation has spread. On weeknights I get about 50 customers, and about 80 at weekends. I charge NT88 each, and another NT12 if they buy their own razor for reuse. After paying the stall rental fees, I earn about NT5,000 (152) a night in extra income. “I get male customers too. They think shaping their eyebrows will bring them good luck. “Having well-shaped eyebrows makes people look better, more alert. No matter how well made-up you are, if you’ve got bushy eyebrows growing over your eyes, you don’t look as good. Customers are shocked when I show them the difference. They wonder why they never bothered before. “It can give people more confidence when they go for a job interview. “Regarding the bad economy, I feel the more anxious you are, the less able you are to find a direction for yourself. Be creative, learn a skill and be good at it. That way you can always make a living.”
Movie extra – Linda Chiu, 31, single with a mortgage
Linda Chiu (left) and her friends worked on a music video shoot
“I have a job, but after paying my mortgage I have almost nothing to live on. My family is helping me out, but I’m trying to make extra income after work and on weekends. “I do odd jobs – anything really. I look for adverts on a website. So far I’ve worked as a movie extra and really enjoyed it. One time I worked on a music video as one of the fans of the artist. “Another time I was asked to be a model to promote a company’s product. “To save money, I don’t really go clothes shopping. If I have spare time, I go to bookstores to read books and magazines for free.”
Prescription deliverer – Cheng Jun, 29, soon-to-be father
Cheng Jun’s job also has an important social side to it
“I used to work in a factory, but it relocated to China. I was unemployed for a year. In March, I began helping a friend with his new business – picking up and delivering drugs for people with chronic or serious illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer or pneumonia. “They can’t get around easily. When I see my customers, I have a warm feeling, like I’m helping my grandfather. Their son or grandson is busy, so they also feel good there’s someone coming by to help them. Sometimes they pay me extra to take them to the park for a stroll. “I also help them make appointments, sometimes staying at hospitals overnight to queue up for appointments with popular doctors.”
Leaflet distributor – Kuo Lu-wen, 39, mother of two
Kuo Lu-wen hands out leaflets to passers-by
“My husband and I used to work almost every night from 1900 to 0400, gluing advertisement posters to buses. But there’s been little work lately, so I’ve started handing out leaflets on streets instead. “Some people are very nice; they encourage us by saying things like ‘Working hard!’ That really touches me. “Between the two of us, we make NT50,000 (US1,500) a month. It’s not enough, because our mortgage payments are high, so we are having to use our credit card. “What pleases me is that my son knows to contribute to the family. He gives us the money he makes helping out in the school canteen.”
BELLEVUE, Wash. – Fire officials in Washington state said a sunny day and a dog’s glass water bowl combined to cause a blaze that charred the back of a home. Bellevue Fire Department Lt. Eric Keenan said investigators determined the glass bowl of water focused sunlight enough to act like a magnifying glass and start the fire on the home’s wood deck Sunday.
Investigators said there was no electrical wiring or other possible cause.
The homeowners were away, but neighbors noticed the smoke and flames. The family dog was rescued. Damage is estimated at 215,000.
With information from:
DETROIT – Some soccer moms will have to give up hulking SUVs. Carpenters will still haul materials around in pickup trucks, but they will cost more. Nearly everybody else will drive smaller cars, and more of them will run on electricity. The higher mileage and emissions standards set by the Obama administration on Tuesday, which begin to take effect in 2012 and are to be achieved by 2016, will transform the American car and truck fleet.
The new rules would bring new cars and trucks sold in the United States to an average of 35.5 miles per gallon, about 10 mpg more than today’s standards. Passenger cars will be required to get 39 mpg, light trucks 30 mpg.
That means cars and trucks on American roads will have to become smaller, lighter and more efficient.
Eric Fedewa, vice president of global powertrain forecasting for the auto consulting firm CSM Worldwide in Northville, Mich., said the changes will make pickup trucks so much more expensive that they will be used almost exclusively for work.
And instead of a minivan or SUV, more parents will haul their families in much smaller vehicles with three rows of seats — something more like the Mazda 5 small van, he said. The Mazda 5 gets about 28 mpg on the highway.
“I think what you’ll see is a lot more creativity in interior packaging,” Fedewa said. “You’ll get more rows of seats where you traditionally had cargo space.”
Already on Tuesday, some drivers were skeptical. Dixie Bishop, who runs a plumbing business in San Antonio that uses vans, worries the new requirements will drive up her costs at a time when customers are cutting back on repairs.
“Are they going to take my horsepower down?” she asked. “I have to be able to carry old water heaters and toilets. It’s not beneficial for me to haul one water heater at a time. We need the power to pull these heavy items.”
The changes will start with smaller cars and trucks, and improvements to the internal combustion engine, Fedewa said. Automakers also already working on new technology, including direct fuel injection and high compression of the air-fuel mixture, that will make cars and trucks more efficient.
Car companies are rewiring vehicles so components such as air conditioners and power steering pumps are powered by electricity rather than by the engine, saving fuel.
And they’re developing computer-controlled transmissions with six or more gears, adding efficiency, and rolling out more gas-electric hybrids — among the few cars sold today that meet the 2016 standards.
Of course, developing the technology will cost money — billions of dollars — and automakers will pass that on to their customers.
The Obama administration says the changes mean the average vehicle would cost about 1,300 more, although some private analysts say the increase will be much heftier. The administration says gas savings will make up the difference in about three years.
Automakers have said they need stable, relatively high gasoline prices to create a market for electric vehicles. General Motors fears rolling out its rechargeable Chevrolet Volt next year with gas at 2 per gallon.
American consumers have already shown their car-buying habits can change rapidly depending on gas prices. When fuel cost 4 a gallon last summer, people flocked to smaller cars. Gas is much cheaper now, and sales of hybrids have plummeted.
“The U.S. consumer has consistently chosen performance over fuel economy given the relatively low cost of fuel,” David Leiker, senior automotive analyst for Robert W. Baird & Co. in Milwaukee, wrote in a note to investors.
The Volt is designed to run 40 miles on battery power when it is fully charged. After that, a small internal combustion engine kicks in to generate electricity and keep the car going. Other automakers are working on similar systems.
But the Volt is expected to sell for 35,000 to 40,000, and buyers may be unwilling to pay that much for a sedan, even if tax credits help ease the burden, unless gas prices soar.
Rechargeable electric vehicles, which under government calculations could get 100 mpg or more, will help automakers meet the standards and offset sales of larger, less-efficient models.
Under Obama’s plan, the sale of of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids could also generate “super credits” that would count as more than one vehicle when an automaker determines its average fuel economy and emissions figures.
The new rules cause manufacturers “to accelerate their technology plans, probably a little more aggressively than they originally thought,” said Tony Posawatz, who heads development of the Volt’s technology. “For us, we feel comfortable that we’ve got choices.”
Just a few years ago, GM and other auto executives were doubtful they could meet even less stringent standards, but Posawatz said the technology has changed since then, especially with new lithium-ion batteries.
GM also is looking at electric trucks, which may bring them even closer to the goals, he said.
Earlier this year, Toyota said it planned to launch as many as 10 new hybrid models worldwide by early 2010, and it plans to bring a new version of the Prius to the U.S. in the coming weeks. Honda’s new Insight hybrid is already on sale in the U.S. Mazda, meanwhile, has said it plans to focus less on hybrid vehicles and more on improvements to its basic internal combustion engine.
AP Auto Writers Kimberly S. Johnson and Dan Strumpf in New York, AP Energy Writer John Porretto in Houston, and Associated Press Writer Ken Thomas in Washington contributed to this report.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Angelina Jolie sat in a courtside booth Tuesday at the International Criminal Court and watched the trial of a Congolese warlord charged with using child soldiers.
In a statement released by the court, Jolie, a mother of six, said the case against Thomas Lubanga is a “landmark trial for children” and paid tribute to the former child soldiers who travel to the court’s seat in The Hague to testify.
“After watching the proceedings from the viewing booth, I stood up and found Thomas Lubanga Dyilo looking at me,” Jolie said. “I imagined how difficult it must be for all the brave young children who have come to testify against him.”
Tuesday’s visit was Jolie’s second to the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal in less than two years. The goodwill ambassador for the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said children deserve special protection during wars.
“Using children in conflict is a heinous crime and destroys the very fabric of a society,” she said.
Jolie also met with the court’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, during her private visit to the court.
Lubanga, founder and former leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots political movement and its armed wing, has pleaded innocent to charges of recruiting and using child soldiers in tribal conflicts in 2002-2003.
His is the first international trial to focus solely on child soldiers. It started in January and is expected to continue throughout this year.
The United Nations estimates up to 250,000 child soldiers still fight in more than a dozen countries.
ATLANTA – DreamWorks plans the first big-screen portrayal of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, the studio announced Tuesday, but two of King’s children immediately threatened legal action because the film deal was brokered without their blessing.
DreamWorks touted the project in a press release as the first theatrical motion picture authorized by the estate using King’s intellectual property, including copyrighted speeches and other works, as the basis for the film. Steven Spielberg was listed as a co-producer. The only other film about King that made it to theaters was a documentary that was shown for one day in 1970.
Dexter King, one of the late civil rights leader’s sons, said in a press release that he hoped the movie would “be the definitive film” on his father’s legacy. Two other King siblings — Bernice King and Martin Luther King III — said they had no input in the deal.
Dexter is the chairman and chief executive officer of King, Inc.
“This is a deal that Mr. Spielberg and his people … have entered into believing that they have the blessing of The King Estate. They don’t have the blessings of Bernice and Martin King,” Bernice King told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Tuesday after finding out about the deal in an e-mail from Dexter King.
A spokesman for Dexter King did not immediately return a phone call Tuesday afternoon.
The three siblings have been involved in several legal disputes regarding their parents’ intellectual property in the past year. Bernice King and Martin Luther King III have accused their brother of tarnishing their parents’ legacy with his business decisions, and say he has been operating The King Estate for years without their input.
Martin Luther King III said the matter was typical of an ongoing pattern of exclusion.
“It’s not that we are against a film,” he said. “It’s very interesting to me that a company would engage in a business arrangement knowing that there’s severe controversy around many issues pertaining to the estate of Martin Luther King Jr.”
DreamWorks spokeswoman Kristin Stark declined to say how much the deal is worth. It is not clear when the movie might be made. Stark said she did not believe the siblings’ legal differences would affect the project.
Although several movies about King’s life have been televised, the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner has only been on the silver screen once. The documentary “King: A Filmed Record … Montgomery to Memphis” was shown once in theaters on March 24, 1970, and featured commentary from Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward and Ruby Dee, among others.
Madison Jones, a longtime friend of Dexter King who has handled intellectual property issues for the estate for several years, is also listed as a producer.
Bernice King said Jones, who is also known as “Phil,” does not represent her and Martin.
“He has always represented Dexter,” she said. “This is about Dexter and Phil and their empire.”
In March, Dexter King brokered a deal with EMI Music Publishing for his father’s words and image. Last month, Bernice King and Martin Luther King III took issue with an 800,000 licensing deal their brother struck with the foundation tasked with building a memorial to their father on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
The siblings still haven’t settled three lawsuits involving their parents’ estates, including one attempting to force Dexter King to open the books of their father’s estate. Another would determine who should control Coretta Scott King’s personal items — some of which were at the center of a 1.4 million book deal about their mother’s life that fell apart last year.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele vowed Tuesday that the GOP will confront President Barack Obama more aggressively and directly, regardless of his popularity in the polls.
“We are going to take the president head-on. The honeymoon is over. The two-party system is making a comeback, and that comeback starts today,” Steele said in remarks to an RNC meeting in Maryland.
“The president is personally popular. Pity the fool who paid for a poll to figure that out,” Steele said. “So…what’s the loyal opposition to do with this popular president? We are going to speak truth to power. We are going to speak directly, and we are going to take him on.”
Steele said that he has heard from many advisors suggesting that he take on less popular Democrats than the president, but the RNC chair said that the party will no longer “avoid confronting” Obama.
“They suggest that instead we should go after Nancy Pelosi, whom nobody likes. Or Harry Reid, whom nobody knows. Or this Tim Geithner fellow, whom nobody believes. Or maybe even Barney Frank, whom nobody understands,” he said.
“We are going to challenge those policies that we believe are wrong, and we are going to do so without apology and without a second thought.”
While promising a more aggressive approach, Steele also insisted that Republicans will show “class” in countering Obama.
“We are going to take this president on with dignity,” he said. “This will be a very sharp and marked contrast to the shabby and classless way that the Democrats and the far left spoke of President Bush.”
Steele also said that the “corner has been turned” for the GOP and predicted a Republican resurgence.
“The Republican comeback has begun. It is underway, and it is not in Washington,” he said.
In traveling the country, Steele said he has seen a stronger party than the one portrayed in Washington. He credited last month’s anti-tax “Tea Party” protests with providing a boost to the party’s grassroots.
“This change comes in atea bag,” Steele declared.
In addition to cheering the grassroots Tea Party movement, Steele urged the party to find fresh ideas and new strategies.
“Our success will not be found in dusting off old campaign manuals from the 70’s and 80’s,” he said. “Our success will be found in speaking directly to the American people about a rebirth of the American Dream for this generation and generations to come.”
“The Republican Party is again going to emerge as the party of new ideas,” he added. “It will take some time, for sure, but it is beginning now.”
LOS ANGELES – Sarah Jessica Parker says she’s concerned for the safety and well-being of the surrogate through whom she and husband Matthew Broderick are expecting twins.
The “Sex and the City” star tells “Access Hollywood” that the attention has led to an invasion of the woman’s privacy. Parker says the stress has taken its toll on her, and she worries about her “and the safe delivery of our children.”
The 44-year-old says in an interview airing Tuesday on NBC that the surrogate’s telephone and computer have been hacked into, and she’s received threats. Parker says it hasn’t ended there: “She’s had friends threatened and family threatened and she’s had family of friends threatened.”
“I care deeply about her and I am incredibly outraged by the sort of extraordinary and unprecedented invasion of her privacy,” says Parker. “I think even given the unfortunate way we live now in this unending appetite for the more salacious information, it has still shocked me, and it has still really disappointed me.”
Parker said a pregnant friend of the surrogate was also chased by the paparazzi.
“She’s had a friend who was thought to be her chased down a highway … This friend is nine months pregnant — chased down a highway by photographers and dare I call them ‘reporters.’ I guess that’s how they identify themselves,” she said. “It’s crossed lines — Pretty much all the lines have been crossed.”
The couple has a 6-year-old son, James Wilkie Broderick.
On the Net:
US Senate rejects Guantanamo fund
The US Senate has rejected a call from the White House for funding to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.The Senate stripped 80m (52m) from a war funding bill, a week after the House of Representatives took a similar decision about the US camp in Cuba. Democrats and Republicans argue that there needs to be a better plan for closing the camp where 240 terrorist suspects are still housed. President Barack Obama has said he wants the camp closed by January 2010. Democratic leaders say they will reconsider providing the requested funds, once the White House has drawn up more detailed plans. Community concernsThe funding issue appears to be a hiccup rather than a major setback for Mr Obama, says the BBC’s James Coomarasamy in Washington. The closure deadline was set in Mr Obama’s first week of office, but since then growing numbers of the president’s own party have become concerned about the release of terrorist suspects into their constituencies. Most democrats support his commitment to close Guantanamo Bay, but realise that agreeing to fund an ill-prepared process would provide fodder for the Republican opposition. This is not the first time that the president has got into a politically difficult situation trying to strike a balance between national security and fulfilling his campaign commitments, adds our correspondent. He revived military trials for some Guantanamo Bay detainees, having previously denounced the Bush-era judicial system. Mr Obama halted them as one of his first acts on taking office, saying the US was entering a new era of respecting human rights. Introducing new safeguards for detainees, he said he had supported their use as one avenue to try detainees, and in 2006 had voted in favour of them. He said he had opposed the tribunals used by George W Bush’s administration because they had failed to establish a legitimate legal framework and undermined swift and certain justice. Under extra safeguards for detainees, there will be: a ban on evidence obtained by harsh interrogation restrictions on hearsay evidence more leeway for detainees to choose their own lawyers
IOWA CITY, Iowa – A man has been arrested in the Iowa City area after police say he tried to eat a bag of marijuana to avoid drug charges. University Heights police said the man was pulled over early Sunday for a traffic violation. Police said the officers noticed a marijuana odor on his breath, and a green, leafy substance on his shirt.
Police Chief Ron Fort said the officers then discovered the man had a partially eaten plastic bag in his mouth.
Fort said the suspect eventually gagged, and a medium sized bag came out of his mouth.
The man was charged with preventing apprehension and obstructing prosecution and third-offense drug possession.
Information from: The Gazette, http://www.gazetteonline.com/
MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – Police investigating the shooting death of a Wesleyan University student found a copy of an infamous anti-Semitic book in her suspected killer’s hotel room, according to newly released court records.
Stephen Morgan, 29, appeared in court Tuesday at a brief hearing attended by several of his relatives, including his parents. Morgan smiled at them and tried to wave, despite shackles that kept his hands behind his back.
He is accused of murdering Johanna Justin-Jinich, of Timnath, Colo., in a college bookstore cafe near Wesleyan. The May 6 shootings and subsequent police warnings that the killer might be targeting Jews sparked fear throughout the region until Morgan surrendered to police two days later at a convenience store in nearby Meriden.
Evidence seized by police from Morgan’s hotel room, his car and his laptop computer is filed at the Middletown courthouse under a temporary seal that expires this week. But police descriptions of the items under seal are available to the public.
The documents note that police recovered a copy of “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” from Morgan’s room at the Best Way Inn in Middlefield.
The book is a widely read text now generally debunked as an anti-Semitic hoax purporting a plot by Jews seeking world domination. It’s considered a pretext for anti-Semitism in the early 20th century and remains influential in those circles today.
Police also confiscated an iPhone, a digital video camera, receipts, clothing, a kiteboard, bullet magazines, a gun case, a portable computer hard drive and receipts from a red Nissan Sentra that was registered to Morgan and found parked near the bookstore after the shooting, court documents show.
The records also detail new writings attributed to Morgan two hours before the death of Justin-Jinich, who was Jewish, that said: “I have to kill Jenn. I think it’s OK to kill Jenn and kill the Jews at this school. … The want and need to kill Jenn and the Jews is there.”
It wasn’t clear whether the newly released anti-Semitic comments were written in papers or on the computer, but they were similar to comments in his journal, previously made public, in which he wrote: “I think it okay to kill Jews and go on a killing spree at this school.”
Authorities have said Morgan and Justin-Jinich knew each other since at least 2007, when they attended a six-week summer program at New York University. Police records show Justin-Jinich filed a harassment complaint against Morgan, accusing him of calling her repeatedly and sending abusive e-mails, but she did not press charges.
Defense attorney Dick Brown said Tuesday that he may ask for a probable cause hearing that would require prosecutors to lay out their case, and was granted a postponement until June 9 so he could discuss the merits of the hearing with Morgan and his family.
Morgan’s relatives declined to comment to reporters.
Connecticut law gives anyone accused of a crime punishable by death or life imprisonment to ask for a probable cause hearing within 60 days. The hearing would allow both sides to introduce evidence and call witnesses.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) –
The new H1N1 influenza virus is now widespread, causing a range of illness, and U.S. health officials said on Tuesday they fear it could mix with drug-resistant versions of seasonal flu.
So far the new strain of swine flu, which has killed seven people in the United States and may have infected more than 100,000, responds well to treatment with antiviral drugs, officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say.
But this year its cousin, a seasonal H1N1 strain, became mostly resistant to the most commonly used antiviral — Roche AG's Tamiflu. GlaxoSmithKline's Relenza, an inhaled drug, still works.
The CDC said more seasonal flu viruses were making people sick than would normally be expected for May, and the reasons were not clear.
“We think that it may be as much as half, or even more, of the viruses that we are testing now … are the new H1N1 or cannot be subtyped,” the CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat told reporters in a telephone briefing.
“The particular risk here … is that co-circulation of this new virus together with the seasonal strains might put us at risk for there to be a reassortment event.”
Reassortment is the viral equivalent of sex — two viruses can meet and swap entire stretches of their genetic material. Flu viruses are especially prone to this and some pandemics have emerged because of this genetic mixing.
Flu viruses also mutate, by making mistakes when replicating.
The seasonal H1N1 that circulated in the United States this season was resistant to Tamiflu — so resistant that the CDC recommended not even treating flu patients with the pills this year. “We would hate to see this novel strain essentially become resist through that mechanism,” Schuchat said.
TIP OF THE ICEBERG
The CDC says there have been 5,469 confirmed cases of the new flu across most of the United States, but Schuchat has said this is only the tip of the iceberg. CDC acting director Dr. Richard Besser estimated last week there were 100,000 cases.
Officials in St. Louis County, Missouri, reported the seventh U.S. death on Tuesday — a 44-year-old man who had no underlying medical problems.
California state health officials released details of 30 of the early serious cases of H1N1 there, including a prematurely born baby who was infected in the hospital and several people with serious medical conditions.
“About two-thirds of the patients … had at least one underlying condition that put them at risk,” Schuchat said.
Five were pregnant women — something the CDC also cautioned about last week. Pregnancy can make a woman likely to have serious complications from any kind of influenza.
Some are still in the hospital with very severe illness, Schuchat said. Although seasonal flu co-infections with bacteria often make for more serious disease, that was not the case in any of the H1N1 cases investigated, Schuchat said.
“We were surprised by the frequency of obesity among the severe cases that we are tracking,” Schuchat said. It is not clear whether being obese makes a patient more vulnerable, or if the numbers reflect how common obesity in now in the U.S. population, she said.
WASHINGTON – Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele likened President Barack Obama’s popularity to that of a celebrity and said Republicans can’t be afraid of criticizing him head-on if they want to regain their relevance.
“He’s young. He’s cool. He’s hip … he’s got all the qualities America likes in a celebrity, so of course he’s going to be popular,” Steele told state party chairmen Tuesday. But “this is not American Idol. This is serious … and we are going to take them on.”
Steele said the GOP has owned up to the mistakes that caused its fall from power and is embarking on a renaissance.
“The era of apologizing for Republican mistakes of the past is now officially over,” he said. “We have turned the corner. No more looking in the rearview mirror. From this point forward, we will focus all of our energies on winning the future.”
The Republican National Committee chief is seeking to re-establish himself as the head of the beleaguered party and set its course. His speech comes after a rocky start to his two-year term that drew criticism from some longtime RNC members as well as a sustained Democratic campaign tagging conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh as the GOP’s titular head.
Even as he called for a unified front, Steele was fending off efforts to strip him of some control over RNC operations from a small band of internal critics who say he is mismanaging the organization. He also was opposing a resolution — whose final wording hadn’t yet been set but was expected for a vote Wednesday — in which Republicans would rename the Democratic Party as a “Nationalist Socialist Democrat” party.
Steele and others said the party should focus its efforts elsewhere.
“I think it’s stupid,” Florida GOP Chairman James Greer said of the name resolution. “These are trying times. We need to be serious.”
Greer and other state chairmen said Steele, who drew a loud standing ovation at Tuesday’s speech, continues to enjoy strong support among most party leaders.
“Obviously there was going to be a learning curve, but I certainly support Chairman Steele. I like the fact that he’s going on offense,” said Alabama Chairman Mike Hubbard. “I think everybody’s willing to give (him) some time.”
Steele is trying to steer a GOP that’s out of power in the White House, Congress and a slew of statehouses across the country. The party also has no natural successor to former President George W. Bush. And the GOP is in the midst of an intense debate over its identity while facing an emboldened Democratic Party that’s grown larger under Obama’s leadership — at the Republicans’ expense.
Steele played down the obstacles and claimed the GOP’s comeback is “well under way” in the states. But he said people in Washington don’t recognize it yet.
“Republicans may be the minority party at the moment, but we represent the ideas and concerns of the majority of Americans,” Steele said. “Candidate Obama was very moderate in his views, but President Obama could not possibly be further to the far left.”
Steele said the GOP will take on Obama with class and dignity, unlike the “shabby and classless way” Democrats took on Bush.
Democratic National Committee spokesman Hari Sevugan said that while Steele talks of moving forward, the party remains bogged down in name-calling and petty politics.
“The test of the sincerity of the chairman’s words will be if he and the other GOP leaders stand up to the fringe elements of their party,” Sevugan said. “Unfortunately, they have shown no willingness to do so.”
Associated Press writer Liz Sidoti contributed to this report.
(This version CORRECTS source’s gender to spokesman in penultimate graf.)
WASHINGTON – A top House Democrat raised new questions Tuesday about the accuracy of the CIA’s account of congressional briefings on severe interrogation techniques. House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey of Wisconsin said a staff aide that the CIA listed as attending a 2006 briefing was instead barred from the session.
The CIA stood behind its version of the briefing.
In a letter Monday to CIA Director Leon Panetta, Obey questioned CIA records that show a committee aide, Paul Juola, attended a Sept. 19, 2006, briefing that included a discussion of 13 harsh interrogation techniques.
According to Obey, Juola accompanied members of Congress to the briefing room, but was told by then-CIA Director Michael Hayden and another CIA official that he could not attend.
CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said Juola was at the September meeting as well as a meeting in October 2007 where enhanced interrogations were discussed.
“As the agency has pointed out more than once, its list compiled in response to congressional requests reflects the records it has. These are notes, memos and recollections, not transcripts and recordings.”
Obey’s spokeswoman, Kirstin Brost, said the CIA was wrong.
“Our records are clear. Our records are detailed. They are mistaken,” she said.
Reps. Bill Young, R-Fla., and John Murtha, D-Pa., are listed by the CIA as attending the briefing, though Murtha left before the discussion of interrogation techniques. Calls to Young’s and Murtha’s offices were not returned.
Panetta acknowledged in a May 6 letter to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, that the CIA’s list detailing the 40 congressional briefings on interrogation techniques held since 2002 may not be accurate.
“In the end, you and the committee will have to determine whether this information is an accurate summary of what actually happened,” Panetta wrote.
Retired Florida Democratic Sen. Bob Graham, the former Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he learned last month that internal CIA records erroneously showed that he had been briefed twice in April 2002 and twice in September 2002 on harsh interrogations.
Graham disputed three of those meetings based on his meticulous daily journals. The CIA’s list of congressional briefings does not contain references to those disputed meetings.
Other House Democratic officials say the CIA list contains more errors but they would not describe them. Those officials claim the attendance information was classified because it was based on secret transcripts of the meetings.
The steady drip of information about CIA briefings to Congress has clouded questions of who in Congress knew what and when about the harsh interrogation techniques used on two dozen CIA prisoners. Three detainees underwent waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning that President Barack Obama has called torture.
The CIA list of 40 congressional briefings for legislators and staffers was turned over to Congress two weeks ago.
The list was made available after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was accused by critics of not speaking out during the briefings against the harsh techniques and then suggested that she never was told about the use of the methods by CIA briefers.
The CIA list has been cited by Pelosi’s critics as evidence that she attended one 2002 briefing where waterboarding and other harsh methods were discussed. Pelosi has said the briefers at that session described waterboarding, and said they had legal opinions approving it but that it had not been used at that time. Last week, she accused the CIA briefers of misleading her, but later issued a statement that shifted the blame to the Bush administration.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio, dismissed Obey’s complaint about the list’s accuracy on Tuesday and criticized Pelosi for saying the CIA misled members of Congress without proof.
Pelosi has been a frequent target of criticism from Republicans who are eager to argue that Democrats knew about waterboarding and did little to stop it.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – New Orleans is a Super Bowl city again.
NFL owners voted Tuesday to play the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans, the first time the championship will be played there since Hurricane Katrina shredded parts of the Louisiana Superdome. The hurricane caused 1,600 deaths and devastated the Gulf Coast four years ago.
New Orleans beat out Miami, which sought a record 11th Super Bowl, and 2008 host Glendale, Ariz. This is the 10th time New Orleans will be the Super Bowl site.
“We’re just thrilled about what’s going on,” Saints owner Tom Benson said. “We’re getting a new Superdome. Now we’re going to get a Super Bowl on top that. It couldn’t be any more exciting than that.”
New Orleans last hosted in 2002, when Adam Viniateri’s 48-yard field goal as time expired lifted New England over St. Louis.
Benson said he was congratulated by the owners, even those who saw Super Bowl bids for their city get voted down.
“All are great Super Bowl cities,” said Rita Benson LeBlanc, a part-owner of the Saints and Tom Benson’s granddaughter. “But no city has been through more than New Orleans. … This is just a true testament to what an entire community can do.”
Still unclear: Where will the 2013 Pro Bowl be played? It’s coming to Miami a week before this coming season’s Super Bowl, then going back to Hawaii in 2011 and 2012. It was not part of the bidding process for the 2013 Super Bowl.
“Where it (the Pro Bowl) goes after 2012 is something we’ll decide later on,” said Frank Supovitz, the NFL’s senior vice president for events.
Louisiana lawmakers are debating plans to spend 85 million in Superdome upgrades, which would be completed in time for the 2013 NFL title game. The upgrades would include additional seating, new suites, wider concourses and other measures for the New Orleans Saints to generate new revenue streams.
“The membership heard from three great cities today and had some terrific alternatives,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. “But I think this is a great statement about the spirit and people of New Orleans and the great relationship the Saints and the NFL have in that community.”
The Superdome played an iconic role during Katrina, which struck the city in August 2005. It was an evacuation center during the storm, housing thousands of people who had nowhere else to go. Within days, the building was tattered, filthy inside from mold, debris and raw sewage.
The Saints needed to leave their home city, then returned to great fanfare in September 2006 — a night many in New Orleans point to as perhaps the most poignant sign that normalcy was slowly returning.
“(That) had an emotional impact on this city that carried the hearts of New Orleanians for the next two years,” said J. Stephen Perry, the president of the New Orleans metropolitan convention and visitors bureau. “And this announcement today, I will tell you, will have jubilation in the streets.”
The stories of suffering are still everywhere. Even now, some who lost nearly everything in 2005 are fighting to keep their federally provided trailers a bit longer.
Still, New Orleans clearly didn’t forget how to host an event. College football’s national championship game was played there in 2008, followed about six weeks later by the NBA All-Star game — and now football’s biggest spectacle.
“This is a huge win for New Orleans, but also the entire state of Louisiana,” Gov. Bobby Jindal said.
Arizona also failed in bids for the 2011 and 2012 Super Bowls, which were awarded to new stadiums in North Texas and Indianapolis.
Cities mentioned as hopefuls for the 2014 Super Bowl include Tampa, Fla., and London, which will host a regular-season game for the third straight season when New England plays Tampa Bay on Oct. 25. London officials have been briefed on the Super Bowl bidding process, but the NFL has repeatedly said no serious talks about an international Super Bowl have taken place.
(This version CORRECTS SUBS 10th graf to correct to lawmakers debating 85 million upgrades to Superdome sted agreed upon those upgrades)
When Santiago Martinez wants to give his friends birthday presents, he buys a cake or flowers or sometimes a teddy bear.
‘Virtual currencies,’ like the hi5 Coin, shown here, are becoming more important on the Internet.
But the 41-year-old, who lives on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, doesn’t spend pesos or dollars. He buys the gifts with an online-only currency called hi5 Coins. He also doesn’t deliver the gifts in the physical world. They appear digitally on his friends’ online profiles on a site called hi5, which is a social network like Facebook or MySpace. “They can’t eat the cake. It is an imagethe thing that it represents,” said Martinez, an accountant with a wife and two kids. “You can send the feeling of that [cake] that you want to send.” In any given month, he spends the equivalent of 40 in this manner. But Martinez is hardly alone. As our identities migrate further onto the Internet, currencies that exist only online are becoming a more significant part of commerce on the Web and in the real world. Some, like the hi5 Coin, operate almost like tokens in an arcade or tickets at a fair: They’re a stand-in for real-world currency.
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Other “virtual currencies,” like Second Life’s Linden Dollars, however, are traded on markets. The currencies also fuel online gaming communities and are becoming an important part of social networks. Several online currencies are competing to be the economic engines for MySpace and Facebook, which don’t have their own unified currencies. Other social networking sites, like hi5 and myYearbook, have created their own units of money for their users to spend. All of this movement leads some experts to see a future in which virtual currencies enter the same trading space as their real-world counterparts. The online monies are not robust enough to trade competitively against real-world currencies, but people underestimate the large amount of cash that is transferred from the real world into virtual currencies, said Edward Castronova, a professor of telecommunications at Indiana University. Castronova says people transfer at least 1 billion into the virtual currencies each year, with most of that money going into online games. The actual amount could be much higher, he said, but the market is hard to quantify. “The question is really one of scale,” he said. “Is this big enough for someone to take their 401(k) [out of real-world currency] and start looking into this? No, absolutely not.” Sometimes, people collect online money simply by purchasing it. In “World of Warcraft,” players earn WoW Gold as they advance through the game. The currency has become so sought-after that it is bought and sold on a black market, experts said. Low-wage workers in China are known to play the game for a living and then sell the virtual currency they earn to avid “World of Warcraft” players in the West. This despite the fact that the game’s maker prohibits such activities. As the market for online-only currency grows, problems that plague real-world economies start leaking in, said Charles Hudson, who runs the Virtual Goods Summit, an annual conference. “Once you get a virtual economy that’s functioning, you run into all the problems that we have with the real economy: taxation, interest rates, inflation. All of the same problems that cause headaches for the Federal Reserve come up in the virtual economyand the stakes are the same,” he said. The solution has been for each social network or game that uses its own currency to appoint a money manager. Hi5, for instance, employs a staff economist for this purpose. The site soon hopes to make as much money through its virtual currency exchange as it does from advertising, which is the primary revenue source for many social networks. Mark Methenitis, a Dallas attorney who writes a blog called “Law of the Game,” said online currencies are “completely unregulated,” which will make trading them against each other dangerous. “There is huge potential for fraud, for what would be the equivalent of insider trading,” he said. “Also, since these economies are completely under the control of the virtual world owner, it’s pretty easy to cause massive hyperinflation.” Social networks and virtual worlds are currently trying to find ways to manage or capitalize on their developing economies. These networks’ successes may hinge on how they are able to manage their economies and currencies may, experts said. Facebook is researching the idea of creating a unified currency but is “very early” in the process and has not committed to it, the site said in a statement to CNN. Currently, applications on the sitewhich allow users to play games with each other and trade giftsare powered by currencies made by the application’s developers, not by Facebook. These developers are making good money on the system, and Facebook is missing out on profits in that area, said Hudson, of the Virtual Goods Summit. Joey Seiler, who writes about virtual worlds, said virtual goods are becoming more popular because people are taking their online identities more seriously. At first, it may seem ridiculous that someone would pay for virtual currency in order to buy a T-shirt icon to put on a social-network profile. But Seiler said more or his friends see the virtual T-shirts on his Facebook page than see any T-shirt he wears in real life. So being able to spice up his online identity has real value, he said.
LONDON, EnglandMichael Martin, forced to resign as Speaker of the British parliament, has become the highest profile victim of the expenses scandal which has dominated public life in Britain now for nearly two weeks.
Michael Martin has resigned after MPs called for his head following the expenses scandal.
Martin has suffered because as Speaker he not only chaired debates in the Commons chamber but was in effect parliament’s chief executive. In that role he was responsible for the Fees Office. The poor policing by that office of the expenses system has led to public outrage, with MPs claiming interest payments on mortgages they had paid off, husband and wife teams claiming for separate second homes and many MPs lavishly outfitting their second homes under the additional costs allowance to the tune of up to 36,000 a yearin some cases before selling them at a handsome profit. Speaker Martin has been forced out also because he was, in the words of Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg, “a dogged defender of the status quo,” resistant to reform. His attempts to keep the details of MPs expenses from the public’s gaze, contesting the provisions of Freedom of Information legislation, also made him a target for the media. Watch more on voters’ anger » There had been questions too about his wife’s 6,000 bill for taxis used on shopping trips. Martin’s fate was sealed by an abject performance in the House of Commons Monday when a number of MPs sought a debate on a motion of no confidence in the Speaker and told him to his face that he must go. A fumbling, badly-read apology from the Speaker to the British public was not enough. It was clear, in the words of one MPs, that “he simply didn’t get it.” A hint that he would stand down at the general election due next year might have saved him. Instead he hid behind procedural niceties and said that it was not appropriate to debate his future. What do you think about the expense scandal? As MPs called angrily for his head and he sought guidance from officials, it was clear that he had lost the confidence of the Commons and had to go. Already the expenses row has forced the resignation of a Labour Justice Minister, Shahid Malik, over housing claims and two Labour lawmakers have been suspended from party membership.
UK Speaker resigns over expenses row
UK lawmakers call for speaker to quit over expense scandal
Comment: Payback time for UK MPs
Comment: Anger at UK MPs’ expenses could change politics
Comment: Advantage to Cameron over MPs’ expenses
The Conservative Opposition leader David Cameron was forced to order eight members of his Shadow Cabinet to get out their check books and pay back the taxpayer for excessive expenses claims. He also suffered the resignation of a top aide, Andrew Mackay, after he admitted he and his wife Julie Kirkbride, also a Conservative member, had for nine years claimed second home allowances on two separate premises. So does the continuing expenses furor, fueled by a flood of detailed reports in the Daily Telegraph, which obtained details of the correspondence between MPs and the Fees Office over their claims, mean that Britain now has a corrupt political establishment and that the ‘Mother of Parliaments,’ as it was once proudly termed, should now be compared with the legislators of tin pot dictatorships across the globe? We are not there yet. What has happened is that British MPs and governments, fearful of facing the likely public outcry if they sought bigger salaries to compete with figures in industry, built themselves a lucrative and poorly supervised system of expenses which allowed them to top up their salaries by other means. Not all MPs did it, but for many an ‘expenses culture’ grew, seemingly encouraged by officials. The claims made by most MPs, even for excavating moats at grand country homes, repairing swimming pools and trimming hedges round helipads, were technically within the rules but a million miles away from the spirit in which they should have been interpreted. No one with experience of the United Nations or the European Parliament would be unfamiliar with the kind of enterprises which developed. But in Britain they have been exposed to public gaze at a time when others are suffering the ravages of recession and the anger is intense. Watch London cabbies speak out against lawmakers » The whole political class is currently being held in disrepute and fringe parties are likely to benefit at the expenses of the mainstream in forthcoming elections. The stables have to be cleaned, and the dumping of an unpopular and clumsy Speaker is the first step in that. Now the parties are conducting their own inquiries and insisting that MPs found to have behaved dishonestly will not be allowed to stand again.
Reforms are now being frantically sought. They are likely to include a ‘cap’ on mortgage payments, a ban on the practice of ‘flipping’ (naming different properties in turn as the second home in order to claim allowances on them) and an independent body to vet MPs expenses. The Speaker’s resignation is not therefore the culmination of the affair, merely the beginning of a necessary clear out in British politics, weeding out the’ parasites’ as one Conservative lawmaker called them from the rest.
The photograph was shocking: a hooded detainee, in U.S. custody, standing on a box with electrical wires hooked up to his fingers.
Images of abuse at Abu Ghraib changed the discourse on the war, says Abdul Rahman al-Rashed of Al-Arabiya TV.
That photo, as well as the others depicting detainee abuse inside Abu Ghraib at the hands of U.S. troops, came to symbolize “America in the eyes of the world at that time,” said CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour. “Those pictures unfortunately became symbolic, emblematic of all the troubles that the U.S. faced in the last four years of the Bush administration, particularly given its war in Iraq,” Amanpour said. “Beyond that, it caused a great deal of outrage around the world.” The photographs first appeared in a report on “60 Minutes 2″ in late April 2004, followed by an extensive story on the abuse by award-winning journalist Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker. “It was a big shock,” said Abdul Rahman al-Rashed, the head of the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television station. “It hurt mostly the ones who were for the fall of the Saddam [Hussein] regime. … It was a heated debate in the Middle East at the timewhether [the invasion] was the right decision and whether the Americans had bad intentions or not.” iReport.com: Did Obama make the right call on photos last week? The fallout was immediate, both overseas and at home. A year into the Iraq war, the American public had grown increasingly uneasy about the direction of the war, and the Abu Ghraib photographs gave anti-war protesters the ammunition they needed to rally around their cause and question Bush administration policies. See Bush administration interrogation tactics » A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll immediately after the photos were released showed that nearly three-quarters of Americans said the mistreatment of the detainees was unjustified under any circumstances. Bush’s overall performance rating sank to what was then the lowest of his presidency, 46 percent. The poll also showed support for the war at its lowest since before it began, with only 44 percent saying they believed it was worthwhile. It was a blow from which the administration, especially then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, never fully recovered. Amanpour said Barack Obama’s presidential victory and big wins by Democrats in the House and Senate were proof of that. “The American people said that they wanted their good name, the name of their country, the influence and credibility of their country’s standing, to be restored in the rest of the world,” she said.
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Commentary: Why Obama should release photos
Abuse photos put U.S. in ‘double Catch-22′
Ex-colonel finds vindication in newly released memos
The photos did what a print report could not do. They showed front-and-center what human rights groups had been saying for months: that the Bush administration was abusing prisoners within U.S. custody. Some photos showed naked prisoners piled on top of each other like a pyramid. Another showed a smiling female U.S. soldier giving a thumbs-up next to a naked, hooded prisoner. As a result of the furor unleashed by the pictures, 11 American soldiers were tried and convicted of Abu Ghraib offenses, and some officers were reprimanded. Al-Rashed said he had expected violations in war, but nothing like “humiliating individuals in those kinds of scenes.” The Middle East has a “bloody, long, bad record about torture of prisoners,” he said, but what happened at Abu Ghraib was even more reprehensible because it undercut America’s democratic values. “You talk about democracy, you talk about the respect of individuality, the freedom. … The prison pictures just really made us speechless.” “It was something completely newsomething that we had not seen before in all the dictionary of prisoners and torture and mistreatment. It just weakened the argument completely about the wisdom of getting rid of a regime like Saddam. It made the argument for the other side stronger.” The photographs had a direct impact within the Iraq insurgency. Just days after the photos became public, American contractor Nicholas Berg was beheadedwith his executioners saying they were retaliating for Abu Ghraib abuses. The insurgents posted video of the killing on the Internet for all to see. It was against this backdrop that Obama reversed course last week, telling government lawyers to object to a court-ordered release of additional images showing alleged abuse of detainees. Military commanders urged him to fight the release of the photos, fearing it would endanger the lives of U.S. soldiers. “The publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals,” Obama said. “In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them would be to further inflame anti-American opinion, and to put our troops in greater danger.” Watch Obama explain reversing course » The court had ordered the release in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU said the Pentagon had agreed to release a “substantial” number of photographs by May 28. Officials at the Pentagon said the photographs are from more than 60 criminal investigations between 2001 and 2006 and show military personnel allegedly abusing detainees. Obama’s decision has sparked a heated debate on what is best for democracy. Marc Thiessen served in the Bush administration from 2001 to 2009, including time as Bush’s chief speechwriter. He has said that the “enhanced interrogations” of detainees worked and has opposed the release of the latest round of prisoner abuse photos. Watch more on the photo debate » “If these photos had been released, within two seconds flat, they would have been up on jihadi Web sites, and al Qaeda would be using them to incite violence,” he said. ACLU attorney Amrit Singh disagrees, saying terrorists already have plenty of information “at their disposal to conduct violence.” “They can conduct all the violence they want without the release of these photographs,” he said. “So to pick on these photographs as the cause of violence, I think, is a grave mistake. There were people who suffered immensely, the victims of torture depicted in these photographs. It’s for their sake and for the sake of future victims of torture that these photographs must be aired.” He added, “It is essential that these photographs be released so that the public can know the full scale and scope of prisoner abuse that took place in its name.” Republican strategist Kevin Madden said Obama sided with national security instead of “the fury of propaganda that would be unleashed against U.S. forces overseas.” He said the liberal left is trying to use the photos “as a vendetta against the Bush administration.” “And in that process, what they’re doing is essentially smearing the country as a country that condones detainee abuse and condones the torture, when in fact we don’t,” he said. To that, Singh shot back, “But what is the limit of that argument? If gross human rights violations have been committed, do you sweep them under the rug because they will cause outrage?” Al-Rashed of Al-Arabiya said Obama’s decision didn’t get much play in the Arab world last week, mostly because the alleged abuse isn’t as “shocking anymore.” “It’s not as big news as it used to be,” he said.
CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, a former adviser to several Republican presidents and one Democrat, said Obama made a wise political decision, even if he upset the left. “I think in these situations, you can’t think about who is going to be pleased and who’s not. I think you have to think about what’s the right decision for the president and assume good policies ultimately make good politics.”
Palestinian government sworn-in
A new Palestinian government based in the West Bank has been sworn-in, dominated by the Fatah faction of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.It is headed by the independent politician Salam Fayyad. There are no members of the rival Hamas movement. Hamas, which won Palestinian elections three years ago and controls Gaza, says the new government is illegal. On Monday, Fatah and Hamas officials ended their latest talks in Cairo without a deal on national unity. Hamas demanded departureSalam Fayyad is a former World Bank economist who was praised for his measures to tackle corruption during a spell as Palestinian finance minister between 2002 and 2005. He became prime minister of the Palestinian Authority in 2007, but resigned in March this year ahead of the power-sharing talks in Egypt. Hamas had been demanding his departure. The divisions between Fatah and Hamas are seen as one of the stumbling blocks to progress towards an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Donor countries recently pledged funds for the reconstruction of Gaza, but many have refused to channel money through Hamas, saying the Palestinian Authority should supervise the spending.
Mafia suspects arrested in Italy
Italian police have arrested 68 suspected members of the Naples mafia, the Camorra, in the latest operation against the organised crime group.Police say those detained are linked to a breakaway faction of the Camorra. They are wanted on suspicion of murder, drug trafficking and money laundering. The raids follow the arrest in Spain at the weekend of the alleged head of the breakaway faction, Raffaele Amato. About 5m euros (7m; 4.4m) are said to have been seized in the latest raids. OutcryIn recent years the Camorra has been blamed for dozens of deaths, as rivals struggle for control of illegal drugs and weapons. Their activities have sparked a public outcry – earlier in the year, 100,000 people staged an anti-mafia march in Naples. Raffaele Amato was detained in a joint operation by Italian and Spanish police in the southern Spanish city of Marbella. He is accused of eight murders between 1991 and 1993, and of being involved in importing cocaine into Italy. He had been living under a false name on the Costa del Sol, police said, and had been on the run since 2006.
Israel: ‘No need to finish’ W Bank barrier
The head of Israel’s security service has said there is no security reason for continuing construction of Israel’s barrier through the West Bank.Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin told a parliamentary committee that Israel had enough capabilities to prevent attacks from the Palestinian territory. Since building began years ago, Israel has maintained that it is a security measure to keep out attackers. Palestinians reject this, seeing it as a land grab. The UN has criticised Israel, citing an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice that parts of the barrier built inside Palestinian territory in the West Bank – 90% of the route – are contrary to international law. Gaza attacksMeanwhile, Israeli police say a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza has landed in the town of Sderot, causing damage but no casualties. Several people were treated for shock after the rocket struck the backyard of a house. It was one of very few rockets launched from Gaza in recent weeks. Israeli security officials have said the Hamas movement, which controls Gaza, is trying to maintain a truce so it can re-arm following Israel’s offensive earlier this year. Later, Israeli forces were reported to have bombed an area on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, hours after the Sderot attack. It was apparently targeted at tunnels which Israel says are used to smuggle weapons into Gaza.
Scientists hailed Tuesday a 47-million-year-old fossil of an ancient “small cat”-sized primate as a possible common ancestor of monkeys, primates and humans.
The fossil is believed to be an ancestor of monkeys, primates and humans.
Scientists say the fossil, dubbed “Ida,” is a transitional species, living around the time the primate lineage split into two groups: A line that would eventually produce humans, primates and monkeys, and another that would give rise to lemurs and other primates. The fossil was formally named Darwinius masillae, in honor of the anniversary of Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday. “This is the most complete primate fossil before human burial,” said Dr. Jorn Hurum, of the Natural History Museum at the University of Oslo, who led the study of the fossil, a young female primate. “And it’s not a few million years old; it’s 47 million years old,” Hurum said, speaking at a news conference at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The fossil was discovered in 1983 in the Messel Pit, Germany, near Frankfurt, and had been until recently in private collections, according to an article published Tuesday in the scientific journal PLoS ONE, a publication of the Public Library of Science. Read the report from PLoS ONE However, because it was split into two parts, its significance was not immediately recognized.
Famous paleontologist to plead guilty to fossil theft
Smallest known North American dinosaur found
An international team of scientists, which Hurum led, conducted a detailed forensic analysis of the fossil for the past two years, the release said. Hurum nicknamed the fossil Ida after his young daughter, he said. The fossil’s body is nearly complete; only part of one leg is missing, according to Hurum. In addition to the bones, the softer features are also preserved, as are the remnants of its last meal: fruits, seeds and leaves, which were found in Ida’s gut, according to the scientists. “It’s such a beautiful specimen,” Hurum said of Ida. He said the fossil is about 2 feet long, “like a small cat in size.” The fossil has both adult and baby teeth, indicating that it was weaned and about 9 months old when it died, the PLoS article said. She would have eventually grown to the size of a lemur, the article said. The young primate fossil does not have two crucial anatomical features found in lemurs: a grooming claw on the second digit of its foot and a fused row of teeth in the middle of its lower jaw, known as a toothcomb, the scientists said. X-rays revealed a broken wrist, which the team of scientists believe may have contributed to Ida’s death, according to a news release from the museum at Oslo. Ida may have been overcome by carbon dioxide gas while drinking from the Messel lake, which was often covered by a low-lying blanket of the gas, the news release said. Hampered by the broken wrist, the young primate may have fallen into unconsciousness and may have slipped into the lake. The primate sunk to the bottom and was preserved for 47 million years, the news release said.