NEW YORK – Hundreds of New York City public school teachers accused of offenses ranging from insubordination to sexual misconduct are being paid their full salaries to sit around all day playing Scrabble, surfing the Internet or just staring at the wall, if that’s what they want to do.
Because their union contract makes it extremely difficult to fire them, the teachers have been banished by the school system to its “rubber rooms” — off-campus office space where they wait months, even years, for their disciplinary hearings.
The 700 or so teachers can practice yoga, work on their novels, paint portraits of their colleagues — pretty much anything but school work. They have summer vacation just like their classroom colleagues and enjoy weekends and holidays through the school year.
“You just basically sit there for eight hours,” said Orlando Ramos, who spent seven months in a rubber room, officially known as a temporary reassignment center, in 2004-05. “I saw several near-fights. `This is my seat.’ `I’ve been sitting here for six months.’ That sort of thing.”
Ramos was an assistant principal in East Harlem when he was accused of lying at a hearing on whether to suspend a student. Ramos denied the allegation but quit before his case was resolved and took a job in California.
Because the teachers collect their full salaries of 70,000 or more, the city Department of Education estimates the practice costs the taxpayers 65 million a year. The department blames union rules.
“It is extremely difficult to fire a tenured teacher because of the protections afforded to them in their contract,” spokeswoman Ann Forte said.
City officials said that they make teachers report to a rubber room instead of sending they home because the union contract requires that they be allowed to continue in their jobs in some fashion while their cases are being heard. The contract does not permit them to be given other work.
Ron Davis, a spokesman for the United Federation of Teachers, said the union and the Department of Education reached an agreement last year to try to reduce the amount of time educators spend in reassignment centers, but progress has been slow.
“No one wants teachers who don’t belong in the classroom. However, we cannot neglect the teachers’ rights to due process,” Davis said. The union represents more than 228,000 employees, including nearly 90,000 teachers.
Many teachers say they are being punished because they ran afoul of a vindictive boss or because they blew the whistle when somebody fudged test scores.
“The principal wants you out, you’re gone,” said Michael Thomas, a high school math teacher who has been in a reassignment center for 14 months after accusing an assistant principal of tinkering with test results.
City education officials deny teachers are unfairly targeted but say there has been an effort under Mayor Michael Bloomberg to get incompetents out of the classroom. “There’s been a push to report anything that you see wrong,” Forte said.
Some other school systems likewise pay teachers to do nothing.
The Los Angeles district, the nation’s second-largest school system with 620,000 students, behind New York’s 1.1 million, said it has 178 teachers and other staff members who are being “housed” while they wait for misconduct charges to be resolved.
Similarly, Mimi Shapiro, who is now retired, said she was assigned to sit in what Philadelphia calls a “cluster office.” “They just sit you in a room in a hard chair,” she said, “and you just sit.”
Teacher advocates say New York’s rubber rooms are more extensive than anything that exists elsewhere.
Teachers awaiting disciplinary hearings around the nation typically are sent home, with or without pay, Karen Horwitz, a former Chicago-area teacher who founded the National Association for the Prevention of Teacher Abuse. Some districts find non-classroom work — office duties, for example — for teachers accused of misconduct.
New York City’s reassignment centers have existed since the late 1990s, Forte said. But the number of employees assigned to them has ballooned since Bloomberg won more control over the schools in 2002. Most of those sent to rubber rooms are teachers; others are assistant principals, social workers, psychologists and secretaries.
Once their hearings are over, they are either sent back to the classroom or fired. But because their cases are heard by 23 arbitrators who work only five days a month, stints of two or three years in a rubber room are common, and some teachers have been there for five or six.
The nickname refers to the padded cells of old insane asylums. Some teachers say that is fitting, since some of the inhabitants are unstable and don’t belong in the classroom. They add that being in a rubber room itself is bad for your mental health.
“Most people in that room are depressed,” said Jennifer Saunders, a high school teacher who was in a reassignment center from 2005 to 2008. Saunders said she was charged with petty infractions in an effort to get rid of her: “I was charged with having a student sit in my class with a hat on, singing.”
The rubber rooms are monitored, some more strictly than others, teachers said.
“There was a bar across the street,” Saunders said. “Teachers would sneak out and hang out there for hours.”
Judith Cohen, an art teacher who has been in a rubber room near Madison Square Garden for three years, said she passes the time by painting watercolors of her fellow detainees.
“The day just seemed to crawl by until I started painting,” Cohen said, adding that others read, play dominoes or sleep. Cohen said she was charged with using abusive language when a girl cut her with scissors.
Some sell real estate, earn graduate degrees or teach each other yoga and tai chi.
David Suker, who has been in a Brooklyn reassignment center for three months, said he has used the time to plan summer trips to Alaska, Cape Cod and Costa Rica. Suker said he was falsely accused of throwing a girl’s test sign-up form in the garbage during an argument.
“It’s sort of peaceful knowing that you’re going to work to do nothing,” he said.
Philip Nobile is a journalist who has written for New York Magazine and the Village Voice and is known for his scathing criticism of public figures. A teacher at Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill School of American Studies, Nobile was assigned to a rubber room in 2007, “supposedly for pushing a boy while I was breaking up a fight.” He contends the school system is retaliating against him for exposing wrongdoing.
He is spending his time working on his case and writing magazine articles and a novel.
“This is what happens to political prisoners throughout history,” he said, alluding to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. “They put us in prison and we write our `Letter From the Birmingham Jail.’”
Archive for June 22nd, 2009
NEW YORK – Hundreds of New York City public school teachers accused of offenses ranging from insubordination to sexual misconduct are being paid their full salaries to sit around all day playing Scrabble, surfing the Internet or just staring at the wall, if that’s what they want to do.
WASHINGTON – Drinking during pregnancy can seriously harm a baby’s brain, yet thousands of mothers-to-be still do. Now scientists have begun testing whether a prenatal nutrient might offer those babies a little protection, part of a growing quest for ways to reverse the damage.
The only help today: intense behavioral or educational therapies once children with fetal alcohol-caused disabilities reach preschool or school age, says new research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency is spending 1.5 million this year to start spreading those programs so more youngsters can find care.
Better would be discovering a way to short-circuit what scientists now know is a complex chain reaction of toxicity that even moderate drinking during pregnancy — and especially a binge — can trigger in a baby’s developing brain.
Don’t misunderstand: This is not a hunt for a pill to allow women to drink. Even if scientists eventually find a treatment, one medication could never cover all the ways that alcohol harms.
“There’s not going to be a single treatment that’s going to be a panacea,” cautions Dr. Jennifer Thomas of San Diego State University, whose animal research sparked interest in the nutrient choline, found in such foods as eggs and liver.
But, “there’s heightened interest now since despite our best efforts, we haven’t eliminated drinking in pregnancy and haven’t made a huge dent in it,” adds Dr. Christina Chambers of the University of California, San Diego. She is overseeing the first clinical trial — aiming to test 600 pregnant women in Ukraine — to see if prenatal choline might help.
About 12 percent of U.S. women drink at least some during pregnancy and 2 percent binge-drink. A CDC study last month concluded those numbers haven’t substantially changed since 1991.
With 4 million annual births, that adds up. Full-blown fetal alcohol syndrome — a combination of brain, facial and growth abnormalities — is considered a leading preventable cause of mental retardation. There isn’t a good count, but the CDC estimates that anywhere from 1,000 to 6,000 U.S. babies a year are born with it. CDC says at least three times as many have less severe alcohol-related neurodevelopmental problems, such as learning disabilities and speech delays.
In parts of the world like Ukraine, fetal alcohol syndrome is far more prevalent.
Chambers stresses that no one thinks the mom who has a glass of wine the week before learning she’s pregnant needs to worry. But because doctors don’t yet know the safe limit, health officials say to abstain during pregnancy. How much damage alcohol causes depends on how much the mother consumes, and at what point in gestation.
Nutrition plays a powerful role in proper development of the brain and nervous system: Getting enough folate during pregnancy, for example, can prevent spina bifida and related birth defects. And significant alcohol consumption interferes with mom’s ability to absorb various nutrients, in turn affecting whether her fetus gets enough.
So Thomas’ group tested choline, a precursor to a brain chemical that plays a key role in learning. She exposed pregnant rats to alcohol during a third-trimester spurt of brain growth. Giving the mother rats extra choline — or, importantly, giving newborn pups the nutrient — significantly improved the pups’ later ability to learn.
On to humans: The study in Ukraine is recruiting women who acknowledge drinking while pregnant. They’ll be counseled to stop, and then randomly assigned to take either a standard Ukrainian vitamin supplement every day, or that vitamin plus 750 milligrams of choline — more than the 450 mg pregnant women are advised to get from food. About 120 women have been enrolled so far, and researchers expect preliminary results within a year.
“Whether you’ll be able to intervene when the woman’s drinking is highly questionable,” acknowledges Thomas, who says future work may need to examine newborn treatment.
The choline pathway isn’t the only possible target:
_Northwestern University researchers gave alcohol to rats in the equivalent of the second trimester and recorded a stunning alteration in the gene activity of their pups’ brains — an alteration that in turn led to markedly lower levels of thyroid hormones in brain regions that control learning, memory and emotional behaviors. Children with fetal alcohol disorders also display abnormalities in thyroid hormones, which play a role in brain development, lead researcher Laura Sittig told a recent meeting of the nation’s endocrinologists. The question is whether thyroid hormones might offer a treatment.
_Australian researchers recently found dietary zinc played a role in protecting fetal mice exposed to alcohol even earlier in pregnancy.
This is very early stage science. For already affected children, the CDC advises families to seek behavioral training specifically targeted to fetal alcohol disorders — from the math trouble these youngsters frequently have to the common inability to learn through social experiences. Check CDC’s Web site — http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fas/intervening.htm — for a description of proven approaches.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Lauran Neergaard covers health and medical issues for The Associated Press in Washington.
GHAR-I-HIRA CAMP, Pakistan – Deep in the tunnel, a small wooden cabinet is the only piece of furniture, a syringe still in its plastic wrapper and a disposable razor scattered on the shelves. A pair of sky-blue pants lies on the rocky ground by the remnants of a threadbare sleeping mat.
“This was their safest haven,” said Waseem Shafique, a Pakistani army major whose men stumbled onto this hand-hewn cave and the militant camp around it this month. “Nothing can touch them in here, it is safe from shelling, they cannot be seen — everything.”
The hillside camp offers rare insight into conditions, tools and tactics being used by insurgents against government troops in the picturesque, northwestern Swat Valley for about the past two years.
It may also be a foreboding sign of the much tougher fight to come as the military moves into the grotto- and tunnel-ridden tribal region on the Afghan border, the scene of the next anti-Taliban operation and where battle-hardened militants have had much longer to dig in.
In another worrying sign, commanders and experts warn that some of the most formidable Taliban leaders and fighters who have escaped from Swat may be heading for the tribal zone of South Waziristan.
The Obama administration is an enthusiastic supporter of Pakistan’s apparent determination to confront the militants this time, after years of striking peace deals that have collapsed and launching offensives that have failed to complete the job.
Less than three months after the Taliban advanced from Swat to a neighboring area just 60 miles from the capital, Islamabad, the army now says it has the militants on the run, helped by tips from residents fed up with their brutality.
The military took a small media group on Saturday to view the Ghar-i-Hira camp, a facility spread over three tiers cut into a pine-forested hillside in the upper reaches of the Swat Valley.
A simple tunnel system formed the militants’ living quarters — a 120-foot-deep corridor chipped into the rock hillside, with two antechambers branching off in a rough T-shape. Shreds of clothes lay scattered on the ground along with the scraps of sleeping mats. The battered cabinet leaned precariously, charred by a kerosene fire set in the tunnel by troops.
Outside, soldiers displayed items found in the tunnel and a smaller cave they said was an ammunition store: a machine gun and ammo belts, a pistol, mortar rounds, and an empty box of rocket-propelled grenades stamped “government explosive” in English. The government was not identified, and soldiers said they could not identify the box as Pakistani or otherwise.
There were bags of gunpowder, two small pipe bombs, a half-dozen alarm clocks and television remote controls — the makings of improvised explosive devices that are often used to attack security forces convoys in Pakistan’s northwest. Also on hand was a book in Urdu the soldiers said was about the glory of jihad, or holy struggle.
In the kitchen area nearby, a pot of sweetened rice sat rotting — evidence of the soldiers’ account that the camp was discovered on June 11 as the militants were preparing breakfast. The militants spotted a patrol on a nearby ridge and dropped what they were doing to open fire.
In the 13-hour gunbattle that followed, seven soldiers and about 40 militants were killed and about the same number escaped along narrow paths through the pine forest, Shafique said.
Elsewhere in the camp was a makeshift mosque, a hole-ridden metal plate hanging from a tree used for target practice, and an area strewn with coils of barbed wire and wooden structures soldiers said were used for training.
Access to the region has been strictly controlled, and no independent confirmation of the military’s account of the battle was available.
Maj. Gen. Sajjad Ghani, the Swat offensive’s northern commander, said foreigners were among the roughly 100 fighters at the camp, and that some were killed.
Officials showed journalists a grainy photograph of several corpses, but their ethnicity was not discernible. Ghani said it was easy to spot foreigners by their different appearance from Pakistanis, and named Afghans, Chechens, Uzbeks and Tajiks as among those believed to be in the camp.
“These are the hard-core, the trainers,” Ghani said. “They are like guerrillas. They move around from place to place.”
After almost two months of fighting, the military says the Taliban has been cleared out of almost all the Swat Valley and surrounding regions. Nearly 1,600 militants and about 100 soldiers have been killed, military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said Monday.
Pressed at a media briefing whether any of the top militant leaders have been captured or killed, Abbas said the military has reports that some leaders may have been wounded, or killed and quickly buried. But there is no confirmation, he said.
Ghani said the military has cleared insurgents from 95 percent of the roughly 4,000 square miles of territory for which he is responsible, but he estimated that up to 3,000 militants may remain. The vast bulk of these, he said, are local men either paid or forced to join the Taliban and who will return to peaceful lives once the government’s authority is restored.
The whereabouts of a hard-core group of up to 500 are unknown.
“Some of them might have been incapacitated or seriously injured; however, as of now there are no bodies to show,” Ghani told The Associated Press. “The possibility is they are going to Waziristan and also to Afghanistan — they are the two relief zones that I see.”
The leaders may want to go into hiding in Waziristan to reorganize, he said. They may not get that chance.
South Waziristan, a 4,400-square-mile chunk of Pakistan along the Afghan border, has for a week been softened up with airstrikes and artillery fire as the military prepares its next major anti-Taliban operation.
The government says it is about to go after Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in his South Waziristan base. Authorities blame Mehsud for suicide bombings that have killed more than 100 people in the past two months and for masterminding last year’s assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto as part of an insurgency to destabilize the government.
A hardscrabble, mountainous area where well-armed tribes hold sway and the government’s influence is minimal, South Waziristan is a possible hiding place of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri.
Since militants began seeking it out as a safe haven after the 2001 U.S.-backed invasion of Afghanistan, the region is said to have become riddled with militant bolt-holes including tunnels and concrete bunkers. It is used as a base for militants operating in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Asad Munir, a former intelligence chief with responsibility for the tribal zone, said fighters there would welcome fellow militants from Swat who volunteer for a fresh battle in South Waziristan.
“Foot soldiers, the remnants from the Taliban side in Swat, they would be coming to South Waziristan to reinforce Baitullah’s forces,” he said. “Fighters would also be coming from the Afghan side.”
Ghani said there was only one way to deal with the most determined fighters.
“The hard-core, there is only one thing. You have to kill them,” he said. “They are like a mad dog, and what can you do with a mad dog? You must kill it.”
While President Obama has chosen a deliberately measured response to the contested Iranian election, European leaders have been far less restrained in their comments. On June 16, four days after the presidential election, French President Nicolas Sarkozy called the contested poll a “tragedy” and added that “the extent of the fraud is proportional to the violent reaction.” That same day, the Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, said the violence in the streets and the deaths of protesters were “unacceptable.” Three days later, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown referred to “the repression and the brutality” in Iran. Over the weekend, German Chancellor Angela Merkel went further, calling on Iran’s leaders to “allow peaceful demonstrations, allow free reporting of events, stop the use of violence against demonstrators and free imprisoned people.”
Commentators and some Republicans in the U.S. have contrasted these strongly worded condemnations with Obama’s more tepid comments. “The President of the United States is supposed to lead the free world, not follow it,” South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said on Sunday. So why has Europe, so often cast as the more timid side of the transatlantic partnership, responded more vigorously this time? The answer, according to Robin Niblett, director of the London-based international-relations think tank Chatham House, lies in the low-rumbling crisis in the background of the disputed election: Iran’s nuclear program. (See five reasons to suspect Iran’s election results.)
“The United States is the only country that can convince Iran that it is not as threatened as it thinks it is, and that’s crucial to the negotiations [over Iran’s disputed enrichment program],” Niblett says. “The Obama Administration is playing it absolutely right: it is determined to convince the Iranians that its goal is not regime change. Any public denunciations could damage Obama’s efforts to coax Iran out of its defensive posture.” (See pictures of Iran’s presidential elections and their turbulent aftermath.)
Obama and his aides have repeatedly said they want to avoid becoming a scapegoat for Iran’s leadership. “The last thing that I want to do is to have the United States be a foil for those forces inside Iran who would love nothing better than to make this an argument about the United States,” the President said in an interview broadcast on Monday morning. “We shouldn’t be playing into that.” Domestic politics is also playing into the strong rhetoric on the part of European leaders like Sarkozy and Merkel, according to Niblett. “It is in Sarkozy’s nature to be plain-speaking and tough, and that’s played well domestically. His popularity has dropped recently, so his stance on the importance of free elections plays well. It does for Merkel too, as it distinguishes her from [Social Democrat Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor] Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has been more measured in his response.”
In recent days, the Islamic Republic has become increasingly vocal in its complaints of interference on the part of Western politicians and journalists. On Monday, it accused BBC’s Persian-language station and the Voice of America (VOA) of being “officially the spiritual children of [Benjamin] Netanyahu,” the Prime Minister of Israel. “Their aim is to weaken the national solidarity, threaten territorial integrity and disintegrate Iran,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi told reporters. “This is the agenda given to VOA and BBC Persian after their budgets were approved by the U.S. Congress and the British Parliament.”
Lawrence Freedman, a professor of war studies at King’s College London, says such rhetoric from Iran may force Obama to move closer to the European leaders in toughening his public stance on Iran. “It will become more likely that the U.S. and Europe will find a consensus if the Iranian regime becomes more oppressive, or as their pronunciations of Western interference become more extreme. You can’t give credence to those accusations, and you’ll need strong rebuttals from both European and American leaders.” (See what Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s win means for other world leaders.)
In fact, while there have been real splits between the U.S. and Europe in other international crises – most divisive, Europe’s reluctance to send combat troops to Afghanistan – the allies are hardly at odds in their basic response to the Iranian election. “There isn’t a deep underlying difference – both sides would like to see free and fair elections in Iran,” says Niblett. “But there are various factors that have prevented a unified response. And that’s O.K. In this regard, Obama should play it differently.”
See pictures of Iranian society.
See pictures of the lasting influence of Ayatullah Khomeini.
View this article on Time.comRelated articles on Time.com: How Iran Sees the US Primaries Ahmadinejad to Obama: Get Lost! What Iraqis Think About Iran’s Election Turmoil Obama’s Touchy-Feely Middle East How Obama’s Victory Will Affect Middle East Elections
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama , who still struggles with his own addiction to cigarettes, on Monday signed into law the most sweeping federal anti-tobacco legislation to pass Congress in decades.
The law gives the Food and Drug Administration broad authority to regulate the marketing and manufacture of tobacco products. It bans fruit- and spice-flavored cigarettes, slaps expansive new warnings on packages and gets rid of the monikers “light” and “low-tar.”
It also allows the FDA to order manufacturers to reduce — though not eliminate — the amount of the addictive chemical nicotine that's in cigarettes.
With children onstage and sprinkled in the audience at the Rose Garden ceremony, and with the new playground for the presidential daughters in the distance, Obama said that the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act would curtail the “constant, insidious” advertising that tobacco companies targeted at children.
He pointed out that nearly 90 percent of smokers start before age 18.
“I know; I was one of those teenagers,” Obama said in his speech. “I know how hard it is to break the habit once you've started.”
Tobacco-related diseases cost an estimated 100 billion a year to treat and kill nearly 400,000 Americans annually.
” FDA oversight over tobacco products will fundamentally change the entire tobacco industry and will save countless lives in the decades to come,” said Stephen J. Nolan , the chairman of the American Lung Association's board of directors.
Among those at the White House on Monday was Rep. G.K. Butterfield , a Democrat from Wilson, N.C. , where auctioneers used to rattle off leaf prices after harvest each fall. He represents one of the heaviest tobacco-farming districts in the nation.
“This has been a very difficult issue for me,” Butterfield said. “But when I take a step back and look at it objectively, there's no question we need to reduce smoking. . . . We need to be realistic about the issue.”
Also present was Rep. Henry Waxman , D- Calif. , one of the measure's primary proponents, but another prominent backer, Sen. Edward Kennedy , D- Mass. , who's undergoing treatment for brain cancer, was not.
“Decade after decade, Big Tobacco has seduced millions of teenagers into lifetimes of addiction and premature death,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Enactment of this legislation will finally put a stop to that. It is truly a lifesaving act, and a welcome demonstration that this Congress is capable of enacting major health reform.”
Tobacco companies spent millions opposing the bill, though the country's top tobacco company, Altria , the owner of Philip Morris of Virginia , supported it in what opponents labeled a cynical move to use the measure's restrictions on advertising to maintain the market dominance of Philip Morris' leading brand, Marlboro .
In a sign of tobacco's waning power, however, the legislation passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, even as a Gallup Poll released Monday found that 52 percent opposed the law, while 46 percent approved. The telephone survey was conducted June 14-17 and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
Sens. Richard Burr , a Republican, and Kay Hagan , a Democrat, both of North Carolina , fought the legislation fiercely.
Burr, whose hometown of Winston-Salem is the headquarters for the Reynolds American tobacco company, stretched debate on the Senate floor to nearly two weeks in an effort to slow the bill. He argued that the FDA was ill-equipped to handle new regulatory duties.
Hagan, whose hometown of Greensboro is home to the Lorillard tobacco company, was the only Democrat in the Senate who voted against the bill. She argued that it would cost manufacturing jobs and hurt tobacco farmers.
Obama and other supporters said that the law was a victory over the deceit and power of tobacco companies' lobby on Capitol Hill .
“Since at least the middle of the last century, we've known about the harmful and often deadly effects of tobacco products,” the president said.
Earlier this month, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs acknowledged that the president continues his personal fight against cigarettes. However, Obama ignored a question from the press gallery Monday as he was shaking visitors' hands after the ceremony.
“Mr. President, how difficult has your struggle been with smoking?” CNN's Dan Lothian asked.
Obama glanced up, then turned away.
MORE FROM MCCLATCHY
House gives final congressional approval to FDA regulation of tobacco
Senators who opposed tobacco bill received top dollar from industry
Senate approves FDA regulation of tobacco products
Follow the latest politics news at McClatchy's Planet Washington
Bay slams Transformers promotion
Director Michael Bay has criticised the marketing efforts of the studio behind the Transformers sequel, reports say.In a memo sent to Paramount Pictures last month and leaked to gossip site TMZ, the director called the film’s US print campaign an “abject failure”. “You talk so glowingly about Transformers being the movie of the summer, but unfortunately this has not got to the public,” he wrote. Revenge of the Fallen is out in the UK and is released in the US on 24 June. “I have been waiting and waiting for the anticipation of an ‘event movie’ to make it into the ‘public zeitgeist’,” Bay wrote in the e-mail to Paramount executives on 4 May. ‘Really weak”Right now, we are not an event, we are just a sequel, which is very different. There is no anticipation. Remember back to Spider-Man 2 – it was everywhere.” He added that summer previews in publications like Entertainment Weekly were “really weak” and the film had a “pathetic presence” in the Los Angeles Times.
Bay also complained that, for the first Transformers film in 2007, there was a 30-minute segment at the MTV Movie Awards, but this year the sequel’s presence was only in the form of lead actors Shia LeBeouf and Megan Fox presenting an award. But in a second e-mail sent to Paramount on 6 June and also leaked to TMZ, Bay compared Paramount to a family and thanked executives for “busting your butts and bringing your ‘A Game’ for the release of Transformers.” ‘More lifelike’A Paramount spokeswoman declined to comment other than to point out that the latter e-mail “clearly speaks to a differing stance than the former.” Transformers earned 708m (431m) worldwide when it was released in 2007. Reviews for Revenge of the Fallen have been mixed, with Hollywood Reporter saying: “For the uninitiated it’s loud, tedious and, at 147 minutes, way too long.” Trade magazine Variety said: “With machines that are impressively more lifelike, and characters that are more and more like machines, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen takes the franchise to a vastly superior level of artificial intelligence.”
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Far below the Black Hills of South Dakota, crews are building the world’s deepest underground science lab at a depth equivalent to more than six Empire State buildings — a place uniquely suited to scientists’ quest for mysterious particles known as dark matter.
Scientists, politicians and other officials gathered Monday for a groundbreaking of sorts at a lab 4,850 foot below the surface of an old gold mine that was once the site of Nobel Prize-winning physics research.
The site is ideal for experiments because its location is largely shielded from cosmic rays that could interfere with efforts to prove the existence of dark matter, which is thought to make up nearly a quarter of the mass of the universe.
The deepest reaches of the mine plunge to 8,000 feet below the surface. Some early geology and hydrology experiments are already under way at 4,850 feet. Researchers also hope to build two deeper labs that are still awaiting funding from Congress.
“The fact that we’re going to be in the Davis Cavern just tickles us pink,” said Tom Shutt of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, referring to a portion of the mine named after scientist Ray Davis Jr., who used it in the 1960s to demonstrate the existence of particles called solar neutrinos.
Davis and a colleague named John Bahcall won a share of the 2002 Nobel Prize for physics for their work.
The old Homestake Gold Mine in a community called Lead (pronounced LEED) was shut down in 2001 after 125 years. Pumps that kept the mine dry were turned off years ago, so workers have been drying it out to prepare for the new research.
Before the labs are built, crews must also stabilize the tunnels and install new infrastructure. The lab at 4,850 feet is not much to look at yet. A rusty orange film covers the walls, floors, ceilings and debris left behind by miners.
The first dark matter experiment will be the Large Underground Xenon detector experiment — or LUX — a project to detect weakly interacting particles that could give scientists greater insight into the Big Bang explosion believed to have formed the universe.
Shutt, along with Brown University’s Rick Gaitskell and nearly a dozen collaborators will work at the site to search for dark matter, which does not emit detectable light or radiation. But scientists say its presence can be inferred from gravitational effects on visible matter.
Scientists believe most of the dark matter in the universe contains no atoms and does not interact with ordinary matter through electromagnetic forces. They are trying to discover exactly what it is, how much exists and what effect it may have on the future of the universe.
Physicists have said that without dark matter, galaxies might never have formed. By learning more about dark matter, they hope to understand better whether the universe is expanding or contracting.
The research team will try to catch the ghostly particles in a 300-kilogram tank of liquid xenon, a cold substance that is three times heavier than water. If they tried to detect dark matter above ground, the highly sensitive detector would be bombarded by cosmic radiation.
Scientists hope to start construction on the two deepest labs by 2012 and open them by 2016. The projects are expected to cost 550 million.
On the Net:
Sanford Underground Lab http://sanfordlaboratoryathomestake.org/
Homestake DUSEL: http://www.lbl.gov/nsd/homestake/
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) –
“Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” star Matthew McConaughey and his Brazilian girlfriend are expecting the birth of their second child, the actor has said on his website.
McConaughey announced the pending birth on Sunday, as he and girlfriend Camila Alves celebrated their first Father's Day since the birth of their son, Levi, in July 2008.
“We have more blessed news to celebrate this Father's Day that makes this time next year double the fun,” McConaughey wrote on his website. “Levi is going to be a big brother.”
McConaughey, 39, starred in the recent romantic comedy “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” and has made numerous other movies such as “We Are Marshall” and “Fool's Gold” in a career spanning nearly two decades. Alves is a model from Brazil.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Bob Tourtellotte.)
‘No proof’ for filling baby teeth
Filling rotten baby teeth may be an unnecessary trial for children to endure, experts say.Some 40% of five-year-olds in the UK have tooth decay and at least one in 10 of these are treated with fillings. But anecdotal evidence from 50 dentists gathered by Manchester University researchers suggests filling baby teeth may not offer significant benefits. Advisers to the NHS are now beginning a study on treatment options to provide dentists with clear guidelines. Experts already know there is wide variation in care which means that a young child with signs of tooth decay could have no treatment, a filling or the tooth pulled out depending on which dentist they attend.
Without any clear guidelines, dentists currently have to rely on their experience and judgement to decide whether or not to intervene. If the child is in severe pain and having sleepless nights, and the parent is confident that their child will cope with and benefit from the treatment, then the choice may be clear. But when the decay is not causing symptoms, it can be difficult to decide what is in the child’s best interests given that their tooth will ultimately fall out by the time they are 11 anyway. Indeed, anecdotal evidence gathered from the case notes of 50 dentists suggests filling baby teeth may achieve nothing but expose children to the discomfort of an injection and the sound of the drill. Dental phobiaProfessor Martin Tickle, of the University of Manchester, found no difference in the numbers of extractions for pain or infection whether baby teeth had been filled or not. And when he surveyed the parents of all five-year-olds living in Ellesmere Port and Chester in 2003, he found only 6% would want their child to have a filling if they had symptomless decay in a baby tooth.
In comparison, a third would want the dentist to monitor the tooth but provide no treatment. Experts working for the Health Technology Assessment Programme plan to recruit over 1,000 children from across the UK to take part a study that will compare the outcomes of three treatment options. They are conventional drilling and filling, no fillings or a painless paint-on tooth treatment that merely seals and contains the decay. Lead investigator Dr Gail Topping, of the University of Dundee, said: “This is a really big question to answer. “At the moment there is no clear winner and we do not know which is best to recommend. There is no guidance or mandate. “At the moment, dentists are doing what they believe is the right option for the child on a case by case basis.” She said dentists would welcome evidence-based guidelines because the treatment decision can be a difficult one to make. Softly, softlyKamini Shah, dentist and honorary secretary of the British Association for the Study of Community Dentistry, said: “There are two schools of thought, one being that baby teeth can cause pain and sleepless nights and so dentists should fill. “The other is that actually the evidence around filling baby teeth is questionable. “Sometimes you need to adopt a pragmatic approach rather than go in with all guns blazing. “If a child is very uncooperative but has a mouthful of non-symptomatic holes you might decide to apply a fluoride varnish to stabilise the disease rather than to do conventional fillings.” Painted on with a small brush, the banana-flavoured varnish is totally painless and can slow or even stop the decay if applied often enough.
Dr Shah said: “That way you gain the child’s confidence and can work on prevention. You do not want to upset the child and make them phobic of future treatments. “The problem arises when children come in aged three or four and it is their first experience of the dentist and it is because they are in pain. “In that scenario you can well imagine that they might not be most cooperative.” She said in extreme cases, and when the decay was so bad it necessitated treatment, a child might be referred for anxiety management or have the teeth removed under general anaesthetic. Recently, an eight-year-old girl starved to death because of an apparently severe dental phobia. Sophie Waller, from St Dennis in Cornwall, is thought to have been so traumatised by her phobia that she refused to open her mouth after having eight teeth removed under general anaesthetic. The full trial will run for four years from 2011 across England, Scotland and Wales, with a feasibility study starting in the coming months.
R&B singer admits Rihanna assault
Singer Chris Brown has pleaded guilty in the US to one count of assault on his former girlfriend and fellow R&B star, Rihanna.Brown, 19, was sentenced to five years’ probation and ordered to do six months of community service. Brown had faced charges of assaulting and threatening Rihanna, 21, after a row earlier this year. The last-minute plea deal came before a hearing at which Rihanna was due to give evidence at the Los Angeles court. Brown had been facing a potential jail sentence of four years. His sentence involves five years of supervised probation and six months of community labour, such as picking up litter or removing graffiti. The Los Angeles County Superior Court judge also ordered Brown and Rihanna to stay at least 50 yards from each other except at entertainment industry events when the distance is reduced to 10 yards. Rihanna’s lawyer said she believed it was a fair and just resolution. Brown had been questioned by police on 8 February over a complaint of assault. Police said he had been in an argument with an unidentified woman in a parked car in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles, which escalated after they left the vehicle. Both Brown and Rihanna pulled out of that night’s Grammy awards, where they had been due to perform. He has since said he was “sorry and saddened” by the incident and was seeking counselling.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) –
At least two people were killed and others were injured when a Washington D.C. subway train derailed and smashed into another train on tracks on the outskirts of the city during Monday's afternoon rush hour.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which runs the “Metro” subway system, said a six-car Red Line train headed out of town derailed and collided with another train at 5 p.m. EST on Monday.
“At this point right now we can confirm that there are two fatalities,” the authority said in a statement.
The accident trapped passengers in one or more of the subway cars. Emergency rescue personnel were seeking to free the passengers, while others carried injured people off the trains on stretchers.
“We are working to first get everyone outside of the train and everyone who needs medical attention will get (it),” the general manager of metro system, John Catoe, told reporters.
Catoe said that up to 70 people “walked off” the trains, but had no immediate estimate of the number of injured.
Fox television's local news affiliate showed passengers being escorted from a Metro train outside the Fort Totten station. The station said power to the station was shut off.
A reporter with the tv station said he saw what appeared to be a body covered with a sheet, and several injured passengers including one wearing a neck brace.
“One train was on top of another… I can confirm one fatality from having seen the victim,” a CNN reporter at the scene said.
Witnesses said fire department vehicles and ambulances were also at the scene, while television pictures showed rescue officials taking injured people off the tracks.
Metro is a heavily used subway system in and around the U.S. capital.
(Reporting by Washington Bureau, Writing by Andrew Quinn, Editing by Frances Kerry)
Los Angeles (E! Online) –
Could Paul Giamatti be a contender to replace Sean Penn in The Three Stooges movie?
Just last week, Penn announced that he was dropping out of the comedy, along with the drama Cartel, to take time off to focus on his family.
Penn was to have played Larry Fine opposite Benicio Del Toro and Jim Carrey as brothers Moe and Curly Howard.
So how does Giamatti fit into all of this?
While Giamatti was at last week's Nantucket Film Festival, a reporter from the Boston Herald suggested he replace Penn.
It just so happens that Bobby and Peter Farrelly, who will codirect the Stooges flick from a script they wrote, were also at the festival.
Bobby told the newspaper that Giamatti would be a “sensational Larry.”
However, Peter noted that they already have an offer out to somebody else.
For the record, Giamatti's rep tells me there have been no talks between the actor and the Farrellys.
The flick isn't a bio pic but a slapstick comedy based on the short films the trio made for Columbia Pictures in the 1930s and '40s. Production on the new movie is set to begin this fall with a release planned for 2010.
Get More Marc on Twitter @marcmalkin
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NEW YORK – Now that’s Italian! A Staten Island restaurant is relying on a group of Italian-born grandmothers for its menus. The women take turns cooking at 35-seat Enoteca Maria, using recipes from the different parts of Italy they come from.
They decide what to cook based on whatever ingredients owner Joe Scaravella brings in. A crew of cooks and staff help them feed the daily crowds.
Information from: Daily News, http://www.nydailynews.com
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) –
Six years after she became a breakout reality TV star with MTV's “Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica,” Jessica Simpson is returning to MTV Networks for a VH1 series targeted for a 2010 launch.
“The Price of Beauty” will feature Simpson traveling the world to meet regular women as well as some local pop culture icons. Simpson will study local fashions, dietary fads and beauty regimes and even participate in some of the extreme practices she discovers.
“I have always believed that beauty comes from within and confidence will always make a woman beautiful, but I know how much pressure some women put on themselves to look perfect,” said Simpson, who has gotten a lot of attention for her new full figure which she has fully embraced.
Shooting is set to begin in mid-July.
(Editing by Dean Gooodman at Reuters)
WASHINGTONA rush-hour collision Monday between two Metro trains north of downtown Washington, D.C., killed at least two people, a Metro official said.
At least two people were killed when two subway trains collided near Washington, a Metro representative said.
The crash occurred just before 5 p.m. on an above-ground track on the Red Line near Takoma Park, Maryland, according to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Two people were killed as a result of the crash, said Carlotta Tyler, a Metro spokeswoman. At least nine people have been hurt, a Metro representative said, according to CNN affiliate WJLA. “Metro reports massive injuries at this time,” said a District of Columbia emergency alert. Officials at two area hospitals said they were told to expect injured patients. Video from WJLA showed much of one Metro car on top of another. Both trains were on the same track, said John Catoe, Metro general manager.
A number of passengers were limping from at least one of the trains, many helping each other exit, video from CNN affiliate WUSA showed. Watch report from the scene » Fire department personnel were cutting through the trains and were still in the process of getting individuals from the wreckage, officials said at a press briefing.
NEW YORK (Reuters) –
Stocks suffered their worst one-day loss in two months, dropping the S&P 500 back into negative territory for the year on Monday in a broad-based sell-off, as investors reconsidered the health of the economy.
Shares of economically sensitive sectors such as financials, energy and materials led the S&P 500's (.SPX) decline. A sharp drop in U.S. crude oil futures and other commodities hit shares of companies sensitive to those prices, including Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N), which lost 3.1 percent to $68.84.
Analysts said investors were keen to sell shares that led the market up in its rally since early March. Major averages have largely been trading sideways in recent weeks and many investors have speculated that more obstacles were in store for stocks.
“The recovery is likely to be anemic by post-war standards,” said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer of Johnson Illington Advisors, in Albany, New York. “The recovery in the economy and earnings is unlikely to be as strong as the rise in stock prices since early March has implied.”
Underscoring worries about the economy's outlook, the World Bank said prospects for the global economy remain “unusually uncertain” as it cut 2009 growth forecasts for most economies.
The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI) dropped 200.72 points, or 2.35 percent, to end at 8,339.01. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index (.SPX) was down 28.19 points, or 3.06 percent, at 893.04. The Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC) was down 61.28 points, or 3.35 percent, at 1,766.19.
European shares also slid, with the FTSEurofirst 300 (.FTEU3) index of top European shares hitting its lowest closing level since mid-May.
WORST DAY SINCE LATE APRIL
It was the worst day for the three indexes since April 20 when results from Bank of America (BAC.N) reignited concerns about the banking industry.
The S&P financial index (.GSPF) fell 6.2 percent, while the energy index (.GSPE) dropped 4.6 percent. The financial sector saw the biggest gains since the S&P 500 hit a 12-year closing low in early March, and the sector is still up more than 80 for that period. The S&P, meanwhile, is up 32 percent from its March closing low.
“Some people are skeptical of how the summer is going to play out and may be taking some profits,” said John O'Brien, senior vice president at MKM Partners LLC in Cleveland.
While lower crude oil prices tend to be a positive for the broader stock market, they often hurt shares of energy companies by giving investors a reason to unload some holdings in that sector.
Crude oil prices fell $2.62, or almost 4 percent, to settle at $66.93 a barrel. Chevron Corp (CVX.N) sank 3.4 percent to $65.76.
Metal prices also slid, dragging down shares of resource companies. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc (FCX.N) dropped 11.3 percent to $45.18.
On the Nasdaq, big-cap technology stocks led the decline.
Apple's stock fell 1.5 percent to $137.37 even as it said it had sold more than 1 million of its newest iPhone in the first three days of its launch, beating expectations.
Adding to a glum economic outlook, Walgreen Co (WAG.N) posted weak quarterly results as U.S. shoppers focused on buying only necessities. The drugstore chain's stock fell 5.7 percent to $29.64.
Trading volume was moderate on the New York Stock Exchange, where about 1.40 billion shares changed hands, slightly below last year's estimated daily average of 1.49 billion. On the Nasdaq, about 2.35 billion shares traded, above last year's daily average of 2.28 billion.
Decliners far outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 2,703 to 345, while on the Nasdaq, there were 2,264 declining shares and only 415 stocks that rose.
(Additional reporting by Edward Krudy; Editing by Kenneth Barry)
PARIS – French police arrested 25 suspects Monday in connection with last year’s multimillion-dollar robbery at Harry Winston jewelers and recovered some of the stolen rings, necklaces and watches.
The robbers, some dressed as women and wearing wigs, had grabbed euro85 million (118 million) worth of loot Dec. 5 at the store on a fashionable street off the Champs-Elysees. It was one of France’s largest jewelry thefts.
French investigators and police had been watching suspects in and around Paris for months. On Sunday, they learned foreigners were on their way to collect some of the booty, police said Monday on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about current cases.
Police decided to swoop in the suspects and arrested them Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, police said.
The robbery had taken place several weeks before Christmas when thieves, some of them dressed as women and wearing wigs, had nabbed the jewels at the store on a fashionable Paris avenue that is lined with fashion shops, a luxury hotel and fancy cafes.
The suspects range in age from 22 to 67 and include some women. Police also recovered shoulder weapons, as well as euro250,000 (345,000) in cash.
Members of the Pink Panthers gang that operates out of the Balkans and have been involved in some other high-profile jewel thefts were originally suspects, but they appear to have been ruled out, police said.
Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie congratulated the police involved in the operation.
The theft lasted just a few minutes, when the armed robbers entered Harry Winston through the front door before scooping up rings, necklaces, earrings among other jewels and escaping down the Avenue Montaigne. The store, on the same street as Dior, Armani, Prada and other boutiques, has been the target of thieves on several other occasions.
WASHINGTON (AFP) –
Two subway trains slammed into each other Monday killing two people as one train crashed onto the top of the other at the start of Washington's busy evening rush hour, officials said.
Television images showed at least two carriages of one train had been mounted onto the top of the other one, partially crushing at least one carriage below, as reports said there were also massive injuries.
“We have two confirmed fatalities,” communications official Carlotta Tyler told AFP, adding that “there have been some serious injuries.”
The collision occurred at 5:00 pm (2100 GMT) near the Fort Totten Metro station close to the District of Colombia's borderline with the state of Maryland.
“A six-car Red Line train… was involved in a collision with another train at 5:00 pm (2100 GMT) today,” the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) said in a statement.
Emergency workers were seen battling to lever up the raised carriages to get to the one below where commuters were believed to be trapped inside.
Dozens of passengers, safely evacuated from the train, were standing by the train tracks close to the collision site.
Washington Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department spokesman Alan Etter told a local ABC television news station the incident was “developing into a mass casualty event.”
Trains were being turned back at Brookland, Takoma, Rhode Island Avenue and Silver Spring stations “due to a train experiencing mechanical difficulties outside of Fort Totten station,” WMATA said, adding shuttle bus service had been requested.
The last major crash in the United States was in September, when 25 people were killed when the conductor of a train in Los Angeles was sending text messages on his mobile phone during working hours when he was driving a commuter train.
The deadly collision Friday in Chatsworth, north of Los Angeles, also injured 134 people and was the worst train accident in the United States in some 15 years.
ATLANTA – Four books that have been long out of print by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. will be published again under a deal with Beacon Press brokered by King’s youngest son.
In a statement, Dexter King called the deal “an historic partnership.”
“Beacon Press will be a dedicated public outlet for his work and will help bring his urgently needed teachings of nonviolence and human dignity, and his dream of freedom and equality to a new global audience,” said Dexter King, chairman of his father’s estate.
Beacon, a department of the Unitarian Universalist Association, publishes books on social justice, human rights and racial equality. Among the authors it has published are James Baldwin, Derrick Bell, Cornel West, Howard Thurman, Marian Wright Edelman and Roger Wilkins.
On Jan. 18, 2010 — the federal holiday observing what would have been King’s 80th birthday — the Boston-based publisher will release new editions of several of King’s most important works, which have been unavailable for nearly two decades, including:
• “Stride Toward Freedom,” first published in 1958, King’s memoir of the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 and 1956;
• “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?,” first published in 1967, King’s last book and an analysis of the state of American race relations and the movement after a decade of U.S. civil rights struggles;
• “Trumpet of Conscience,” first published in 1968, containing five lectures King gave in 1967;
_”Strength to Love,” first published in 1963, a volume of his most well-known homilies and the book in the civil rights leader’s briefcase when he was killed on April 4, 1968.
Under the agreement — called “The King Legacy” — Beacon will also compile King’s writings, sermons, lectures and prayers into new editions with introductions by leading scholars. The financial details of the deal were not disclosed.
On the Net:
Beacon Press: http://www.beacon.org
CHICAGO – No news isn’t necessarily good news for patients waiting for the results of medical tests. The first study of its kind finds doctors failed to inform patients of abnormal cancer screenings and other test results 1 out of 14 times.
The failure rate was higher at some doctors’ offices, as high as 26 percent at one office. Few medical practices had explicit methods for how to tell patients, leaving each doctor to come up with a system. In some offices, patients were told if they didn’t hear anything, they could assume their test results were normal.
“It really does happen all too often,” said lead author Dr. Lawrence Casalino of Weill Cornell Medical College. The findings are published in Monday’s Archives of Internal Medicine.
“If you’ve had a test, whether it be blood test or some kind of X-ray or ultrasound, don’t assume because you haven’t heard from your physician that the result is normal,” Casalino said.
Practices with electronic medical records systems did worse or no better than those with paper systems in the study of more than 5,000 patients.
“If you have bad processes in place, electronic medical records are not going to solve your problems,” said study co-author Dr. Daniel Dunham of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
Dr. Harvey Murff, a patient safety researcher at Vanderbilt University Medical Center who wasn’t involved in the study, said the researchers gave doctors “the benefit of the doubt” and still found a significant problem.
The researchers chose tests findings in which any doctor would agree patients should be informed. And they gave doctors a chance to explain when they found nothing in medical charts showing patients had been notified of bad test results.
The tests included cholesterol blood work, mammograms, Pap smears and screening tests for colon cancer.
Failing to inform patients can lead to malpractice lawsuits and increased medical costs, the researchers said.
“If bad things happen to patients that could have been prevented, that will lead to higher costs and in some cases considerably higher costs,” Casalino said.
Researchers reviewed the medical records of more than 5,000 randomly selected patients, ages 50 to 69, in 23 primary care practices in the Midwest and on the West coast. They excluded dying patients and others with severe medical conditions where informing a patient would be redundant.
They surveyed doctors about how their offices manage test results. The offices that followed certain processes — including asking patients to call if they don’t hear any news — were less likely to have high failure rates.
The study was funded by the California HealthCare Foundation.
“Our goal is not to indict physicians,” Dunham said. “It’s about working smarter and getting processes in place.”
On the Net:
NEW YORK – Another celebrity has bailed out of the Costa Rican jungle set of “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!”
Stephen Baldwin says he exited the NBC show over the weekend because he received more than 125 insect bites in eight days.
In a statement, he says the bites were so bad he had an extreme allergic reaction that caused him to lose sleep and 22 pounds.
The actor says he will continue to work on behalf of his chosen charity LOVE 146, which fights child sex slavery and exploitation.
“I’m a Celebrity” ends on Wednesday.
On the Net:
LOS ANGELES – Chris Brown has pleaded guilty to one count of felony assault on pop star Rihanna. Brown entered his plea before a preliminary hearing was scheduled to start in Los Angeles on Monday.
Rihanna had been on standby to testify.
After Brown left the courtroom, Rihanna entered and was addressed by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg, who explained to the Barbados-born singer that she had issued a stay-away order.
Rihanna had not been seeking a stay-away order, but the judge imposed one. The order requires that Brown and Rihanna stay at least 50 yards from each, except at industry events when the distance is reduced to 10 yards.
The judge also told Rihanna it’s not a one-way order and she will be in violation if she gets closer to Brown than the order allows.
Brown’s lawyer, Mark Geragos, said the plea deal includes five years of supervised probation and six months of community labor. Brown will be formally sentenced on Aug. 5.
Schnegg accepted Brown’s plea, but expressed some concerns because Brown is not a California resident. She said Brown likely will be allowed to do his community service in his home state of Virginia. He’ll have to return to California for updates every three months. He’ll also be required to attend domestic violence classes.
Brown spoke softly throughout the hearing as he waived his rights and told the judge he understood the gravity of his plea.
“I think it’s commendable you took responsibility for your conduct,” Schnegg told Brown.
She said she hoped “the terms and conditions of your probation will have some meaning.”
The deal provides an end to a case that sparked intense media interest and severe backlash against Brown. Sponsors and radio stations dropped him, and the singer had to cancel several high-profile appearances, including a performance at the Grammys.
The singer once known for his squeaky-clean image now has a substantial blemish on his record. He must now also remain out of trouble for the foreseeable future.
Lawyers for Brown and Rihanna have refused to discuss the status of the pair’s relationship.
Brown was arrested Feb. 8, hours after police say he hit and threatened Rihanna after leaving a pre-Grammy party in Los Angeles. He was later charged with felony assault likely to produce great bodily harm and making criminal threats.
If convicted, the singer faced sentences ranging up to nearly five years in prison.
Brown, 20, rose to fame after the 2005 hit “Run It!” and his popularity has only grown. He was nominated for a Grammy for “No Air” with Jordin Sparks and named Billboard’s top artist in 2008.
In the months since the incident, both musicians have gradually appeared in public more frequently. Lately they have been photographed separately, including at a National Basketball Association finals game between the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers.
Rihanna, 21, recorded one of 2007′s most popular songs with “Umbrella” and has numerous other hits. Her looks have made her a cover girl for magazines, as well as a pitchwoman for Cover Girl cosmetics.