Saturday, February 28, 2009

NBC's New York Nonstop

Last week's Observer had an interesting piece on how NBC's local newscast is changing, becoming multiplatform, by harnessing the raw ambition at the New York Film school. DJs -- or digital journalists -- are cost-effectively taking the place of traditional old school anchors, reporters, manging editors and tech crew. This has been building for several years now, as the old way of doing things in the tv news world grew increasingly obsolete (read: bleeding ratings) with the advance of the digital age.

Digital operations at the NBC local Media Group, which squandered the intellectual capital of some of the most important bloggers in the city during last year's NBC Blogger's Summit -- which came to naught -- is making up for lost time. Former Daily Newser Greg Gittrich, for example, will be a news editor. Now, from the salmon-colored weekly:

"After several delays, executives at NBC Universal and WNBC-4 are at last on the verge of launching their 24 hour, 7-day-a-week 'hyper-local' digital news channel in New York, The Observer has learned.

"NBC executives first announced their plans to launch the digital, cable channel back in May of 2008. Initially, the plan was to roll out the channel (which, at the time, various news reports described as a potential challenger to Time Warner’s NY1) by the fall of 2008. But the channel’s debut has since been delayed a number of times.

"What exactly the channel will look like has been a hot topic of speculation in recent months among local TV newshounds in New York.

"Now the wait is almost over.

Earlier this week, in an internal email obtained by The Observer, Michael Horowicz, WNBC-4’s News Manager told staffers that the launch of the channel, dubbed "New York Nonstop," is 'imminent.'"

Our guess is that the news pieces will have the look of Current TV's pods -- does that make Al Gore a pioneer? -- and it will enhance the ranks of young documentarians around (imagine in 20 years if "Best Doc" at the Oscars is a bigger draw than, say, film score). If this approach catches fire it is not inconceivable that NBC might repeat the format with affiliates across the country. More here.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"On Monday, Sept. 15, mere hours after Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy in New York City, Sotheby’s was throwing open the doors of its London headquarters for the most extravagant sale in the auction house’s history. The sale, of 223 new artworks by Damien Hirst, brought in more than $200 million — nearly 10 times the total receipts of the previous record-holder for a single artist, a 1993 auction of 88 Picassos that reaped around $20 million. It was a level of consumption that, particularly when viewed against the concurrent collapse of the financial-services industry, almost immediately acquired a nostalgic air, the last gasp of the art boom. In the audience sat the men of the Mugrabi family — the patriarch Jose and his sons, Alberto and David — New York art dealers for whom the evening was not so much a transitional moment as simply another high-stakes day at the office." (NYTimesMagazine)

"I go out for a while and Redstone finally restructures his massive $1.5 billion debt. The announcement came this afternoon that his National Amusements will have a repayment extension to December 31st, 2010 with certain repayments coming in 2009 and 2010. The good news for Sumner is that he won't have to sell more of his controlling interests in CBS or Viacom. The continuing bad news is that the share prices of both those companies are treading water." (DeadlinHollywoodDaily)

"Washington and Jerusalem are bracing for a flare-up on the Syrian and Lebanese borders with Israel as the international tribunal prosecuting Rafiq Hariri's assassins starts sittings next Sunday, March 1. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has engineered a delay by insisting on tight security measures for the court. But Washington has refused to postpone its hearings which Syrian president Bashar Assad sees as a ticking bomb for his regime. He may therefore retaliate. DEBKAfile's military sources report that Israel's armed forces, the four Syrian divisions arrayed along Lebanese and Israeli borders, the Lebanese army, the United Nations peace force and Hizballah are all in a high state of suspense for trouble. On the surface, hectic US diplomatic activity presages a thaw in relations with Damascus. But when it comes down to brass tacks, Barack Obama is not letting the Syrian president off the hook on longstanding bones of contention: Damascus' support for terrorist groups, its acquisition of nuclear and nonconventional weaponry, interference in Lebanon, ties with Iran and worsening human rights." (Debkafile)

"Looking for a sponsor for the Kevin Pollak Chat show. doing a 10 show run with good celebs. need someone to take a $10k flyer on it. anyone?"(JasonCalacanis/Twitter)

(Alexis Clark and Seema Mehta via atyle)

"At Thursday night's Young Fellows Ball, the Frick Collection blossomed into a party space straight out of a Fragonard canvas. From the trellised entrance bursting with citrus fruit to the mock swing, the annual Upper East Side soirée was an homage to rococo fecundity. Done-up guests including Ivanka Trump, Byrdie Bell, and Cecilia Dean sipped Champagne among the topiary and, if they so desired, toured the galleries. No drinks allowed near the art, though, which meant most attendees were found in a rotunda off the atrium getting down to New Order and Justin Timberlake." (Style)

"In an historic visit to one of America’s most entrenched adversaries, a delegation of Hollywood dignitaries led by the president of the motion picture academy Sid Ganis is in Tehran on Saturday and Sunday for a cultural exchange. The delegation was led by Ganis and included Annette Bening, Frank Pierson, the former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, and producer William Horbert. Ganis’s wife, Nancy Hult Ganis, said in an email that the State Department had approved a small delegation from Hollywood “for cultural purposes only.' But AMPAS spokeswoman Leslie Unger told the AFP that the visit was a 'completely private initiative for educational and creative exchange and with no political agenda,' Any visit to Iran would need approval from the State Department because the United States has no diplomatic relations with that country, and maintains sanctions against it." (TheWrap)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Picure Pages, Picture Pages ...

Her relative ease with the panelling suggests a more than passing familiarity at stroking wood. (image via thecobrasnake)

This, dear reader, is how it feels to share Quentin Tarantino's world view. (image via thecobrasnake)

How To Succeed In fashion Without Really Trying, by Kanye West. (image via thecobrasnake)

He is a refined, Old School gentleman who only drinks his Champale from a glass -- never the bottle -- with his pinkie extended, heavenwards. (image via thecobrasnake)

That's not just sweat. Considering the amount of booze in his system, it can only be properly construed as a domestically produced alternative fuel: someone fetch Al Gore. (image via thecobrasnake)

Rusty pipes! (image via thecobrasnake)

"But secretly I've always agreed with Nabokov that Picasso's late erotic work seemed a little sloppy." (image via thecobrasnake)
A Little Of The Old In And Out

In: Andrew Cuomo. Eliot Spitzer (and, to a lesser degree Jerry Brown) made Attorneys General cool, vital, relevant just as Rudy Giuliani, post-September 11th, made Mayors cool (then squandered his political capital ina quixotic run for President). Now, in the hour of the wolf, Attorneys General like Andrew Cuomo are holding the financial bad guys' feet to the fire and becoming the stuff heroic folklore in the American popular imagination.

Cuomo's legendary anger -- in his messy divorce, in his clumsy exit from a Governor's race he had already clearly lost -- almost proved to be his thumotic downfall. Now, aimed at the big banker scumbags who have put the United States it is well served. If only he could be as hard against the real danger of Medicaid fraud, which, in the era of Obama's stimulus package, could approach Wagnerian dimensions. Do your thing, Andrew Cuomo.

(image via nytimes)

Out: GE's Dividend Cut. For the first time since at least the 1940s, GE is cutting its dividend. GE, generally considered the best-run company in the United States, cut its dividend by a startling two thirds allowing them to save $8.7 billion and increase injections into their financial subsidiary. They want to maintain their triple-A rating. GE was -- and in many ways still is -- a bellwether of the American economy just as Missouri before 2008 was the bellwether of the American electoral map. Its suffering, alas, is a microcosm of the state of our financial system. At post time, in reaction, GE shares are selling at under $9 down 1.7%.

(image via abcnews)

In: Dealing With The Syrians. Alright folks: grown up time. We are not fans of Henry Kissinger's reptilian realpolitik -- or, more accurately, his "me-politik." Quite the contrary. But we felt, acutely, his distress in this instance of diplomacy. From Kissinger by Walter Isaacson:

"Kissinger's only failure in bringing the December Geneva Conference together was that he was unable to secure the participation of Syria. President Hafiz al Assad, who had burned into his soul the historic injustices that centuries of foreigners had wrought on his land, was a suspicious man. When Kissinger came to Damascus, he found the Syrian President seated beneath a grand oil painting of Saladdin crushing the last Christian Crusaders."

How does one negotiate with the such a man? By dangling the beloved Golan Heights? Using the leverage of the Harriri tribunal? What? And yet, decades later (and new leadership), we find ourselves in negotiations with Syria. Clearly Obama is trying to attract Syria from out of Iran's orbit, thus lessening Persia's influence in the region, making the Achmadinejad regime more amenable to quitting the fuck out of its not-so-secret nuclear program. That first step is in Damascus, where Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Senator Kerry -- who was on Obama's short list as Secretary of State -- made a curious pitstop.

And with oil prices so low, we cannot fail to note that Achmadinejad ... just doesn't have that flavor to his step anymore. Damascus-Washington relations are the new black.
Fontana, Albrecht To Make The Borgias For HBO

HBO's last foray into episodic historical drama, Rome, was critically successful, but far too expensive to continue (The show's hefty $100 million production cost in season 1 is more akin to a Hollywood blockbuster). Alas, it was a magnificent television experiment, a prequel, if you will, to I, Claudius, the greatest television program ever produced. If the cabler can keep its budgets low and sell the show overseas -- as well as, of course, producing a dramatically excellent show -- then The Borgias might just bring HBO back into the highbrow highlife again. They certainly won't lack for material from that ferocious, brilliant Italian Renaissance family, the House of Borgia.

As much as The Corsair has big love for the tangled intra-family intrigues of Big Love (I do; I do; I do), HBO has fallen -- some might even argue behind the edgier Showtime -- from the days of unquestioned Sunday night dominance with The Sopranos and the still hugely relevant Sex and the City. It's been a while, folks. From Variety:

"Tom Fontana has been tapped to pen a series about the notorious Borgia clan that Chris Albrecht will exec produce for Gallic production shingle Lagardere Entertainment and Canal Plus.

"The series' 12-episode first season will be shot in English to facilitate worldwide sales of the series, most importantly in the U.S. Albrecht, the former HBO chieftain, will shop the series to U.S. outlets. He's partnered with former HBO longform exec Anne Thomopoulos, who will also serve as an exec producer on 'The Borgias.'

"Series is skedded to begin production in the fall in Europe. Casting will be handled out of London with an eye toward assembling a strong international ensemble. Lagardere's Atlantique Prods. banner will co-produce with Germany's EOS and the U.K.'s Helion Pictures."

Corrupt Popes and poisoned chalices rendered a la Fontana? We're so there. One suggestion: bring the Early Music. The rights to early music are dirt cheap, they would lend a medieval authenticity to the period piece and -- oh yeah -- it is goddam magnificent stuff.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The London summit of 1933 marked the moment at which co-operative efforts to manage the Great Depression collapsed. The summit of the Group of 20 countries, in the same city, on April 2, must turn out quite differently. That may seem a simple task. It is not. The usual platitudinous communiqué would be a catastrophe. The world now needs change it can believe in. Only Barack Obama, the US president, can provide the desired leadership: he is untainted, popular and leader of the country that, for good and ill, remains central. The opportunity for Mr Obama is now, as the G20 'sherpas' prepare the draft text. He needs to write urgently to his fellow heads of government. Something like this would be perfect. 'My fellow leaders, Franklin Delano Roosevelt abandoned his London summit. I wish to make ours the moment at which we save ourselves. Let us resolve to bequeath renewed prosperity to posterity, not a collapse of the global economy we inherited.'" (Martin Wolfe/FT)

(images via style)

"Jefferson Hack isn't just a avatar, he may also be London's salonista supreme. The dinner he threw at the Prada-financed Double Club in honor of Tilda Swinton, the cover girl for his magazine Another's latest issue, managed a 'get' even Miuccia herself would be hard-pressed to pull off. Lucian Freud was sandwiched between erstwhile muse Kate Moss and his daughter Bella, and it was enchanting to see the attention Moss lavished on the man who immortalized her on canvas. The supermodel was sporting a golden tan from a recent safari in South Africa .. If Swinton was the woman of the hour, the man was definitely Stephen Jones, whose exhibition opening at the V&A the previous evening was widely judged party of the year. Tonight he could relax, joining Daphne Guinness, Suzy Menkes, Róisín Murphy, Tim Noble and Sue Webster, Jake and Rosemary Chapman, Hussein Chalayan, Jay Jopling, Lily Cole, and, of course, Kanye West as they all tucked into the Congolese family-style dinner." (Style)

"Tiger Woods’ comeback didn’t last too long, but it was long enough for the Golf Channel to rack up record ratings. The cable network averaged 1.7 million total viewers for coverage of the first round of the Accenture Match Play Championship Wednesday, the best in its history for any first round. It averaged a 1.8 household rating, 50 percent better than last year’s first round. Viewers were watching on the web as well. had 468,000 visitors, who generated 3.3 million page views. Traffic to hit its second-best level ever, with 1 million unique visitors watching Woods’ first-round victory over Brendan Jones." (Medialifemagazine)

"However there is another aspect and a powerful one. The other day I had lunch with three women who, to different degrees, have long been active in charity fundraising here in New York. All three are independently wealthy (with husbands or companions). One woman told us that her charity’s annual gala this year was going to change with the times. Black tie was going to be out. A more relaxed atmosphere, possibly a lower ticket price, possibly low enough to draw a larger crowd and in a new venue and a new approach. They were not downsizing; they were improvising and looking at 'community.' This particular charity focuses on the health and welfare of children. These times are even tougher on those children. So the charity will need to raise even more funds, somehow. So they’re improvising. Vamp till ready, as they say in the theatre, to help your brothers. And sisters. Vamp till ready. This will be the challenge. (NYSocialDiary)

"Writing for Foreign Policy's Axis of Upheaval, Jeffrey Gettleman refers to the "ethereal pan-Somali dream": a long-held national desire to grab back Somali-speaking territory in neighboring Ethiopia, Kenya, Eritrea, and Djibouti. 'Pursuit of that goal would internationalize the conflict and surely drag in neighboring countries and their allies,' Gettleman warns. Many fear that the Islamist militia Shabaab, which control an increasingly vast territory in Somalia, might try to live the dream. Today is a very good example of how bad that could turn out. The BBC reported this morning that clashes between a local ethnic group and a Somali one in Ethiopia left 300 dead and as many as 100,000 fleeing the site. This flare-up is just one of Ethiopia's trouble spots -- in fact, it's not even the worst. Miles to the East, an ongoing Somali insurgency by the rebel group Ogaden National Liberation Front has been brutal on both sides. Somalia and Ethiopia have fought civil wars over the territory, and today Ethiopia holds on to it dearly. The State Department's recently released Human Rights report for Ethiopia, for example, describes a campaign to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching civilians in the insurgent region." (ForeignPolicy)

"Yet another person is figuring out how to make decent money off Twitter that isn’t CEO Evan Williams: HarperCollins has commissioned former Valleywag editor Nick Douglas to collect and edit Twitter Wit, a book of ... well, witty tweets. According to Valleywag, Douglas is getting a 'five-figure sum' for the book, which is slated for release this fall; Douglas and HarperCollins editor Kate Hamill set up a submission site that automates the collection of the tweets (from anywhere and everywhere) and gets each user’s permission to republish." (Paidcontent)

"May 18, Hillary's the commencement speaker at Barnard." (Cindy Adams/NYPost)

"Judging from the Emporio Armani show presented only moments ago at Armani HQ on Via Bergognone, Mr. Armani is gloriously continuing last season's winning streak. But enough about the clothes (for now)--let's discuss the front row. As predicted, many top types are arriving on Friday, sparing themselves a few days of Principe and Four Seasons charges in the process. The front-row at Emporio, always a telltale role call, was revealing. The EIC count: Anna Wintour, Glenn O'Brien, Joanna Coles. The rest was filled with the likes of Robin Givhan, Michael Roberts, and Nina Garcia .. Rumor has it that Grace Coddington and André Leon Talley won't be attending Milan this season, while almost every team is downsizing." (Fashionweekdaily)

"Bullion coins used to be bought mainly by collectors and gold bugs, but the financial crisis is leading regular retail investors to embrace them, dealers say. Although the surge in coin demand is a bullish signal for gold prices, the fact that mints cannot match demand means that the potential extra consumption does not push spot prices higher, but just drives premiums above normal levels. The Rand Refinery in Johannesburg, which mints the world’s most popular gold coin, South Africa’s Krugerrand, said demand was above its maximum capacity, even after doubling last month to 20,000 ounces from 10,000 ounces a week. Johan Botha, head of precious metals sales at the Rand Refinery, said there was demand for more from international investors, pointing to strong sales to Switzerland, the UK and Germany. 'If we were able to produce 30,000 ounces, the market would absorb it,' he said." (Examiner)

"What do you think of when you hear 'Dumbo'? .. I was happy to make the Carrot Creative-hosted 2nd ever Digital DUMBO event to investigate the area further .. The L didn't take a millennium to arrive and when I transferred to the F, Andrew Graham appeared across the aisle from me. He's a self proclaimed energy and finance nerd and he too was making the break across the bridge, planning to meet up at the scene with Matt Caldecutt of Trylon PR infamy .. Julia Kaganskiy, Editor at was keeping a corner smart with Andrea Rosen of the L Magazine and Karen Glidden, social media wrangler for Bliss Spa. Couching it towards the back of the room was Billy Parker of" (Medialifemagazine)

"Alloy Media + Marketing is emerging as an unlikely star in the online teen-popularity contest. The New York company behind the 'Gossip Girl' book-turned-TV series and the 'Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants' book-turned-movie series has become a significant force on the Internet. By one reckoning, the company's network is the hottest teen-oriented property on the Web, based on unique visitors. Now, Alloy is moving into Web video. It plans to announce Friday the debut of TV. Over the past few years, Alloy has established a reputation on Madison Avenue, in Hollywood and in the publishing world for its savvy in connecting with young people." (WSJ)

"WWE RAW led the week with 6.4 million average viewers. The Closer is winding down to its series finale and was in second with 5.89 million. I’ve seen some talk about how far down The Closer’s ratings are, but considering it’s competing with The Bachelor (which has been on fire ratings-wise this season), 24, Heroes and Two and a Half Men on the broadcast nets, I think the numbers are impressive. Disney’s Dadnapped put a beat down on Nickelodeon’s Spectacular! , it lead Spectacular by about 1.3 million head-to-head (note, because of the way I received the data, only the first hour of Spectacular! is listed in 'other shows, but for the full airing Spectacular averaged 3.3 million, to Dadnapped’s 4.6 million), but even a rebroadcast of Dadnapped beat the first airing of Spectacular!. Monk’s season finale came in third with 5.54 million." (TVByTheNumbers)

"To be sure, the economic contraction is causing pain just about everywhere. In October, less than a month after the financial markets began to melt down, Moody’s* published an assessment of recent economic activity within 381 U.S. metropolitan areas. Three hundred and two were already in deep recession, and 64 more were at risk. Only 15 areas were still expanding. Notable among them were the oil- and natural-resource-rich regions of Texas and Oklahoma, buoyed by energy prices that have since fallen; and the Greater Washington, D.C., region, where government bailouts, the nationalization of financial companies, and fiscal expansion are creating work for lawyers, lobbyists, political scientists, and government contractors. No place in the United States is likely to escape a long and deep recession. Nonetheless, as the crisis continues to spread outward from New York, through industrial centers like Detroit, and into the Sun Belt, it will undoubtedly settle much more heavily on some places than on others. Some cities and regions will eventually spring back stronger than before. Others may never come back at all. As the crisis deepens, it will permanently and profoundly alter the country’s economic landscape. I believe it marks the end of a chapter in American economic history, and indeed, the end of a whole way of life." (TheAtlantic)

"Warning Pakistan that it would be the 'next target' if jihadists succeded in Kabul, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has proposed an international Afghan working group, including India, to ensure that the region is 'not a safe haven for terrorists'. 'If the jihadists were to prevail in Afghanistan, Pakistan would surely be the next target -- as is observable by activity already taking place along the existing borders and in the Swat Valley close to Islamabad,' Kissinger said, who was Secretary of State from 1973 to 1977. The group proposed by Kissinger includes neighbouring regions of Afghanistan, India and five Permanent Members of UN Security Council. The five Permanent Members of the council are -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China .. 'The precondition for such a policy is cooperation with Russia and Pakistan. With respect to Russia, it requires a clear definition of priorities, especially a choice between partnership or adversarial conduct insofar as it depends on us,' Kissinger said. 'Afghanistan is almost the archetypal international problem requiring a multilateral solution for a political framework to emerge,' Kissinger said." (TheHindu)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rosie O'Donnell Almost Got An MSNBC Show

Rosie O'Donnell closed out the week on the Howard Stern show, discussing blogging, coming out, almost getting an MSNBC talk show and that Tom Cruise thing. It is particularly interesting because Howard Stern and Rosie had a fairly intense media feud. At one point, the Stern show even had as a guest someone that had dug through her trash and reported the contents (not a banner Stern show moment).

Things change. Stern was vocal in praising O'Donnell when she publicly came out. And, from the left coast O'Donnell hinted that the feud was over. And after teasing the appearance all week, Rosie was in the studio with her old enemy. From Marksfriggin:

"After the break Howard came right back and had Rosie O'Donnell come in. He said that he never thought this would happen. He said he started digging Rosie when she came out of the closet. He said that he thought it was very brave when she came out of the closet.

"Rosie came in to promote this show 'In America' that she produced for Lifetime. Howard said that it's on Saturday night.

"Rosie said that she had never seen a studio like that before. She asked why Robin was in the bullet proof booth. Howard said that they started working at a station many years ago where they were separated by glass and they just kept it that way. He said that Robin can work behind the glass and do her thing and not interrupt the show. Robin said that she can observe from there and not interfere and avoid the testosterone.

"Howard said he just found out that Rosie stopped drinking. He said that he was going to go out with her to dinner but now he thinks it won't be fun. Rosie said that she was drinking when she was like 30 or so and just a few months ago she asked her 14 year old to get her a beer. He said no. He told her that she was drinking too much.

"Howard asked Rosie why she was drinking so much. Rosie said that it started when she was on The View and she didn't really have a reason for that.

"... Howard asked Rosie if it's scarier going up on stage doing stand-up the first time or coming out of the closet. Rosie said that she was already in the safe zone when she came out. She said when she first started out in the business it was different.

"... Howard said that maybe network TV doesn't allow her to do what she really wants to do. Howard said that she was thinking about doing something on MSNBC. Rosie said that came close and they were going to do it.

"... Howard talked to Rosie about the Academy Awards and some of the things that surprised him. Howard asked Rosie why she stopped blogging on her web site. Rosie said that when she started no one knew what a blog was. She said that now everyone found out about it and it was no longer exciting. She said that they were taking clips and using them on ET and shows like that. She said it was more of a headache than it was worth. She said that she does do some blogging now but doesn't really give her opinions on the world stuff.

"... Howard said that he was always driven crazy when Rosie wouldn't come out of the closet and she had to pretend that she was into Tom Cruise. Rosie said that things were different back then."

The full recap here.
Top Chef Finale, Part 1

A Little Of The Old In And Out

(image via geographicguide)

In: The Indian Ocean. Did you know that the Indian Ocean region includes all of the Islamic world, from the Sahara Desert to the Indonesian archipelago? Robert D. Kaplan, a Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, is writing a book on the Indian Ocean and some of it is excerpted in one of our favorite journals in the March/April 2009 edition on sale now. From Foreign Affairs:

"For better or worse, phrases such 'the Cold War' and 'the clash of civilizations' matter. In a similar way, so do maps. The right map can stimulate foresight by providing a spatial view of critical trends in world politics. Understanding the map of Europe was essential to understanding the twentieth century. Although recent technological advances and economic integration have encouraged global thinking, some places continue to count more than others. And in some of those, such as Iraq and Pakistan, two countries with inherently artificial contours, politics is still at the mercy of geography.

"So in what quarter of the earth today can one best glimpse the future? Because of their own geographic circumstances, Americans, in particular, continue to concentrate on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. World War II and the Cold War shaped this outlook: Nazi Germany, imperial Japan, the Soviet Union, and communist China were all oriented toward one of these two oceans. The bias is even embedded in mapping conventions: Mercator projections tend to place the Western Hemisphere in the middle of the map, splitting the Indian Ocean at its far edges. And yet, as the pirate activity off the coast of Somalia and the terrorist carnage in Mumbai last fall suggest, the Indian Ocean -- the world's third-largest body of water -- already forms center stage for the challenges of the twenty-first century."

Historians of the future looking backwards may regard, ironically, the the 2004 tsunami as the locus point of the rise of the Indian Ocean World (IOW). More here.

(portrait of the douchebag as a young man via timeinc)

Out: Jeremy Piven. The players are all assembled. Actors’ Equity. The Piv. Alleged mercury poisoning (Exaggerated cough suggesting feigned detachment). It's like surreal theater, or, considering the centrality of sushi -- Kabuki theater. We, and everyone else, calls shenanigans on Pivens' absurd argument that he had to exit Mamet's "Speed the Plow" early because he was felled by some raw fish. Pimp! But even his legendary skills at ad libbing will probably not win him favor with the skeptical cats at Actors' Equity. From The NYTimes:

"Actors’ Equity will hold a hearing Thursday on the grievance filed against the actor Jeremy Piven by the producers of the Broadway play 'Speed-the-Plow,' which Mr. Piven quit suddenly in December because of what his doctor said was mercury poisoning. Both sides are expected to present their cases at the hearing, which is closed to the public. It is not clear if Mr. Piven will attend; his representatives have not responded to phone or e-mail messages seeking comment. A spokeswoman for Mr. Piven has called the grievance 'absurd and outrageous.' A spokeswoman for Actors’ Equity said that its grievance committee could resolve the complaint that day or hold more meetings. The two sides could also pursue arbitration. The production is scheduled to end its limited run on Sunday."

In: The Jonas Brothers. According to the NYTimes, "Over all, multiplexes continued to be jammed, with ticket sales for the weekend 33 percent higher than last year (to $119.8 million) and 23 percent higher in year-to-date results (to $1.65 billion)." And the Jonas Brothers appear to be the beneficiaries of the High School Musical tween boom. Online movie ticket sales, in particular, will benefit from The Jonas Brothers' box office explosion this weekend. From DeadlineHollywoodDaily:

"Films like Disney's Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience are a bonanza for online ticketsellers like MovieTickets and Fandango that cater to younger moviegoers. Here are some stats for you:

"-- Fandango says the movie is scooping up 63% of all online ticket sales today. MovieTickets says 52%.

"-- MovieTickets says the pic sold more tickets yesterday than Monday and Tuesday of last week combined.

"-- Fandango says dozens of show times are already sold out across the country, even though the movie doesn’t open until Thursday night at midnight. MovieTickets is now reporting 700+ sold out performances."

Out: GM. Revenue has collapsed and the scale of GM's losses are just staggering. Will the President once again reaffirm his promise to not let the automotive industry fail on his watch, or have the federal coffers run dry, at least for the world's second largest automaker? From TheStreet:

"General Motors executives were scheduled to talk today with President Barack Obama's auto task force, seeking $22.5 billion in aid after reporting a steep fourth-quarter loss as worldwide vehicle sales collapsed.

"The company needs federal help beyond the $13.4 billion it has already received, CFO Ray Young reiterated Thursday on an earnings conference call. 'The economic situation is having a dramatic impact on our industry,' he said. GM expects domestic vehicle sales of 10.5 million units this year, the lowest since 1982, according to J.D. Power and Associates.

"An auditor's ruling on whether GM remains a 'going concern'[ is also pending, and will be included in the company's 10-K, which will be delayed for 15 days. 'GM and its auditors must determine whether there is substantial doubt about GM's ability to continue as a going concern,' the company said Thursday, underscoring its precarious position while reminding that it requires additional federal funds."
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"A funny thing happened when Val Kilmer started suggesting that he just may run for governor of New Mexico next year. He was serious. At least he’s serious enough to reportedly hire a political strategist, to seek out the advice of lawmakers among the state’s congressional delegation and to push back as the state’s journalists mine celebrity profiles and tabloid coverage. Any other celebrity candidate would have to trudge the same road, but if Kilmer does choose to run, he’ll certainly test the limits of a star seeking elective office. That’s not just because he’s had a colorful — at times crazy — career, playing roles such as Batman and Jim Morrison and even Moses, but there’s also the sheer chutzpah of it all. Arnold Schwarzenegger preceded his run for governor of California with a campaign for after-school programs. Sonny Bono was mayor of Palm Springs before he was elected to Congress. Jesse Ventura was mayor of the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Park before he won the governorship of Minnesota. By contrast, Kilmer, 49, has no comparable political credits. In fact, the idea of Kilmer in elective politics is just as surprising among Hollywood’s political class as it is elsewhere. " (Politico)

"LIKE an elephant, the Chinese government never forgets. Earlier this week, Chinese censors cut Steven Spielberg's appearance at the Academy Awards when it was re-aired in the Far East 12 hours later. The Oscar-winning director announced the nominees for Best Picture, and the winner, 'Slumdog Millionaire.' But Chinese viewers saw their screens suddenly cut to the beaming 'Slumdog' crew without any buildup. Insiders say it was revenge for Spielberg quitting as artistic adviser to the Olympic Games in Beijing because China buys oil from the Sudanese government responsible for the genocide in Darfur. More than 200,000 have been killed and 2.5 million made homeless in the conflict between Arab Janjaweed forces, supported by the government, and Christian villagers in the country's south. Spielberg's office had no comment on the censorship." (PageSix)

"As I've been reporting for weeks, it was SRO at Michael's today as the movers and shakers, undeterred by the unsettling economic news, were out in full force plotting their next big move -- or looking for a safe place to land .. (Table 3) No one puts a lunch together like 'The Mayor': Joe Armstrong, Glamour editrix Cindi Leive, George Stevens and Kerry Kennedy .. (Table 4). An early-arriving Matt Blank who chatted with Joe and I before The New Yorker's David Remnick and Lisa Hughes joined Showtime's head honcho for lunch .. (Table 8) 8. We marveled at New York Social Diary's David Patrick Columbia's graceful moves as he shoehorned himself into his seat at his table with three lovely ladies (All blonde, of course) .. (Table 9) Public relations powerhouse Lisa Linden with the president of WNBC TV, Tom O'Brien." (FishbowlNY)

"The Michael’s Lunch. Crowded with the usual suspects and then some .. producer John Hart with guests; Jill Brooke with Rosanna Scotto, Literary agent Ed Victor with Julie Grau who has her own imprint at Random House .. Jonathan Wald of CNBC and David Carey of Conde Nast; Dr. Gerry Imber, Jerry Della Femina and Andy Bergman; Henry Schlieff. At my table, Joy Ingham, Hilary Califano and Betsy Bartlett. The talk: The Speech the night before. A big hit with a large contingent. The Other Talk: Liz Smith’s seemingly sudden departure from The New York Post." (NYSocialDiary)

"Last night, Pakistani Amb. Husain Haqqani hosted 130 guests for a dinner in honor of a high-level delegation of senior Pakistani officials visiting Washington. Among those invited to dine with Haqqani, Pakistani Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani: U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, NSC war czar Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, NSC homeland security advisor John Brennan, plus members of Congress including Sens. Richard Lugar (R-IN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ben Nelson (D-NE), Reps. Chris van Hollen (D-MD), Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), and Howard Berman (D-CA). Air Force Gen. Norton Schwartz, Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, and Richard Boucher, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, also attended. The dinner was held in a 'big room, 8-10 tables,' one guest told The Cable. The embassy served 'mushroom soup, rice, break, chicken, mutton curry, veggies, gulub jamun' a sweet, syrupy dessert, he said. The dinner was 'short on speeches,' he added. 'Just a welcome from Ambassador Haqqani.' The head table, where Holbrooke, Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi, and members of Congress were seated, 'talked on and on after others started to slip out the sides.'" (ForeignPolicy)

(Jemima Khan, Vanessa Seward and Plum Sykes via fashionweekdaily)

"Paris Fashion Week may be over a week away, but Tuesday evening it certainly felt like Paris in Mount Street as chic guests piled into the newest gem on the block: an Azzaro pop-up shop which will be open for the next month. Guests like Plum Sykes and Mrs. B -- Joan Burstein of Browns -- joined Vanessa Seward and Azzaro collaborator Jemima Khan. " (Fashionweekdaily)

"It's the biggest night in the rock'n'roll calendar, but obviously no-one had told Peaches Geldof. The 19-year-old imposed an alcohol ban on herself, telling organisers and pals to keep any booze away from her. And it was probably just as well, as she had a rather awkward moment when she bumped into her former boyfriend Faris Rotter. Our spy said: 'When she saw Faris they started having a very intense chat. They were very close and ended up hugging in a corner, trying to make sure no-one saw them. 'At one point, he was overheard saying that he only found out she got married when he read the papers.' Faris, frontman of the band The Horrors, was the poor chap who thought he was with Peaches when she shocked the world by marrying Max Drummey." (Thisislondon)

"Think back when YouTube was growing like a weed, and Google snapped it up. Most folks (including me) saw this as Google 'getting into the video business,' and sure, that in fact was one part of the equation. But as we all know, making money from consumer driven video ain't a cakewalk, and hosting that video is really, really expensive. So why did Google really buy YouTube? My answer, which of course looks brilliant given it's 20/20 hindsight: YouTube was a massive search asset. Afterall, YouTube now gets more searches than Yahoo, Google's closest search rival. So think about that. YouTube was the single fastest growing new form of search on the Web, and Google pretty much outflanked (and outspent) everyone to buy it. Not to get into video monetization, per se, but to harvest and control the most important emerging form of search. In short, Google could not afford to NOT own YouTube. So, fast forward to today. What's the most important and quickly growing form of search on the web today? Real time, conversational search. And who's the YouTube of real time search? Yep. Twitter. It's an asset Google cannot afford to not own, and also, one they most likely do not have the ability (or brand permission) to build on their own." (John Battelle via Paidcontent)

"Laurel introduces herself to Fox producers and asks them what a TVNewser Summit should cover. 'What's going on with Joe, Mika?' asks one guest. 'Why isn't the Morning Show doing better ratings?'" (TVNewser)

(Orchid centerpieces. via fashionweekdaily via patrickmcmullen)

"The haute-est of New York society came out last night for the New York Botanical Garden's famed Orchid Dinner, held at the Rainbow Room. The stunning event, which raised somewhere around $600,000 for the gardens, started with cocktails in 30 Rock's Pegasus Suite, which was filled to the hilt with exotic orchids up for sale. 'There's not one plain white orchid there!' exclaimed Gillian Miniter, one of the night's chairs, after browsing the gorgeous buds. But the evening's floral spectacle didn't end there; the twenty-something tables in the Rainbow Room each had a unique orchid centerpiece atop it, by leading florists and designers. Patrick McMullan flitted around snapping shots as one guest took in the lovely scenery .." (Fashionweekdaily)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Corsair Classic

A Little Of The Old In And Out

In: Marvel Comics. Media companies are in the hour of the wolf. Except for Marvel, which is a media company that deals in dreams and fantasy and, apparently, that is an industry that will not be affected by the global economic meltdown. From DeadlineHollywoodDaily:

"Marvel Entertainment announced today operating results for its 4th-quarter ended December 31, 2008 and record net sales, net income and earnings per share for the full year 2008. For Q4 2008, Marvel reported net sales of $224.3 million and net income of $63.0 million, or $0.80 per diluted share, compared to net sales of $109.3 million and net income of $27.6 million, or $0.35 per diluted share, in Q4 2007. 'The improvement reflects recognition of $135.5 million in film production segment revenues principally associated with the DVD performance of Marvel’s Iron Man feature film,' the company said. For the full year 2008, Marvel reported net sales of $676.2 million and net income of $205.5 million, or $2.61 per diluted share, compared to net sales of $485.8 million and net income of $139.8 million, or $1.70 per diluted share, in 2007."

Out: Governor Jindal. The Republican Party is still looking for a standard-bearer. The chattering class yesterday stood rapt at the prospect of Louisiana's Indian-American governor as the possible inheritor of that mantle. But the Governor is not-yet-ready-for-Prime-Time as his response to the President's stimulus package speech to Congress proved. From Politico:

"Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) hoped to step into the national spotlight Tuesday night to sound a hopeful yet defiant note in countering President Barack Obama as the GOP’s fresh and exciting face.

"Instead, he got panned.

"'I think he had a really poor performance tonight, I’m sorry to say,' National Public Radio’s Juan Williams said on a Fox News panel immediately following Jindal’s remarks. Williams went on to call the governor’s remarks 'sing-songy' and said Jindal looked 'childish' compared to Obama.

"'This was not the best from the young man from Louisiana,' he said.

"Fortune Magazine’s Nina Easton added flatly, 'The delivery was not exactly perfect.'

"'The delivery and microphone distracted from him, as did the hurried pace,' noted Erick Erickson on the conservative Red State blog. 'Reading the speech, it was great. Delivery? Not so much.'

"'Jindal will recover, but it’s difficult to imagine him now as Obama’s 2012 opponent,' said University of Virginia political scientist Larry J. Sabato in a post on POLITICO’s Arena forum. 'Jindal not only didn’t live up to his advance billing, he proved that he needs a lot more seasoning before he gets a prime time slot.'"

In: Steve Coll. Steve Coll has broken the facinating story of negotiations between india and Pakistan over Kashmir. From NPR:

"Journalist Steve Coll says that India and Pakistan held secret talks over the disputed region of Kashmir in 2006, but that tentative plans for peace have since been abandoned due in part to the political decline of Pakistan's former president Pervez Musharraf and the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

"In his March 2 article for The New Yorker, entitled 'The Back Channel,' Coll details the violence that still pervades the region and the effect the conflict could have on the U.S. war in Afghanistan."

Coll's fascinating talk with Terry Gross on Fresh Air can be accessed here.

(image via bleachreport)

Out: The WWE. In another sign that the American working class is suffering, WWE attendance is down significantly. From Variety:

"The depressed economy continues to give World Wrestling Entertainment some stiff competition.

"All of the company's core businesses, including live events, pay-per-view broadcasts, merchandise sales and digital, took a hit during the fourth quarter, with net income down nearly 37% to $22 million on revenues of $125 million, which fell 5% over the same year-ago period. Film and traditional TV broadcasts provided sole brightspots.

"The numbers of for all of last year were a little more resilient, pinning down $527 million in revenue, an uptick of 8%, although net income fell to 13% to $45 million.

"Contributing largely to the losses for the quarter, WWE's live events revenues declined 7%, impacted mostly by foreign exchange rates; company hosted 26 events overseas during the period.

However, attendance of matches in North America also fell 3% with the average price of tickets taking a dip, as well."
Liz Snubs Rupert Murdoch

(image via dailymail)

It has not been a good couple of weeks for Rupert Murdoch. He had to issue an apology -- a first? -- for a cartoon that was perceived by many as racist. Then Peter Chernin exits stage right. Now this, from Richard Siklos. From Fortune:

"In the weeks that Rupert Murdoch was locked in unsuccessful negotiations to keep his longtime No. 2 at News Corp., the media baron also had to accept his daughter Elisabeth's decision to turn down a spot on the company's board, sources told Fortune.

"Murdoch's interest in having Elisabeth rejoin the family business adds to the palace intrigue surrounding president Peter Chernin's pending departure and the question of who will eventually run the globe-spanning media conglomerate Murdoch assembled and controls through a 37% voting interest. Indeed, Elisabeth was in New York today as an "observer" at the company's first board meeting since announcing Chernin's departure yesterday, two people said. She could not be reached for comment.

The sources said that Elisabeth, known as Liz, was torn about joining the News Corp. (NWS, Fortune 500) board. On the one hand she has a sense of duty and is one of four grown Murdoch children who will one day inherit the family's controlling votes. But she also has a conflict of interest with Shine, the big U.K. production company she has built up over nearly seven years. Under U.K. broadcast regulations, Liz Murdoch's presence on the News Corp. board would have rendered Shine ineligible for the 25% of programming budgets that big British broadcasters like the BBC and Channel 4 are required to spend on independent production houses that have no links to broadcasters. Two people close to Murdoch said that this pool of funding represents a large proportion of Shine's business, and that there are other advantages to being an independent producer that allow Shine to more easily retain the rights to formats it creates. Being on the News Corp. board would be a conflict for Shine because News controls British Sky Broadcasting, the big U.K. satellite TV business, as well as numerous Sky and Fox TV channels that air there. Liz Murdoch owns 63% of Shine and another big backer is Sony Pictures Entertainment, which has 20%."

The full story here.

(image via shockya)

From the NYPost's Page Six:

"WHICH actor snorted cocaine in the bathroom during an Oscar after-party, while a slimmed-down stoner actor smoked pot outside with his pals?"

And from Jessi Klein in TheDailyBeast:

"Dear Seth Rogen: Please get chubby again. Love, Jessi."
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

(image via vibe)

"Howard (Stern) came back and said that 50 Cent was there. Howard said he read that he earned $150 million last year alone ..Howard asked 50 about banging famous women but 50 said that he's still not doing that. He said that he's still friendly with Madonna but she's never offered herself to him. Howard asked if he would do that if she offered. 50 said that he would do it for all mankind if she made the offer .. Howard asked what it feels like to be shot. 50 said that you don't even feel the bullets going in. He said that the pain comes when the doctor tells you that you're going to be alright. 50 said that he got hit in the face with one bullet and lost some teeth in the back of his mouth. 50 said that you don't feel the pain until after the bullet has gone through. 50 said that the guy who shot him ended up dying a couple of weeks later. Howard asked why the guy did it. 50 said that guy got paid. 50 said that he had a lot of attention on the streets at the time and he may have been selling some cocaine and stuff like that. " (Marksfriggin)

"When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the conventional wisdom is often worth challenging. On Friday, former Israeli Prime Minister and Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu was tapped to try to form the next Israeli government. Netanyahu's ascent and the overall victory of right-wing parties in the Israeli elections have led to dire predictions of the collapse of the peace process and tensions in U.S.-Israel relations. Such predictions have a tendency to be self-fulfilling, however, and the Obama administration should be careful not to heed them. In one sense, this entire discussion is premature. Netanyahu isn't prime minister yet, and must endure a tough slog before he can take up the office. Likud won just 27 seats in the Knesset (Israel's parliament) and needs a coalition of at least 61 seats to form a government. Though a number of political combinations are available, the basic choice before Netanyahu is between a 'national unity' government with Kadima and/or Labor (though the latter won just 13 seats to Kadima's 28) or a right-wing coalition. He has publicly displayed a preference for the national unity option, calling immediately during his acceptance speech for Kadima and Labor to join his government. The outcome of the coalition negotiations will be critical in determining the shape of Netanyahu's tenure. A broad grouping would require him to cede influential positions to his chief rivals but somewhat paradoxically could also provide him greater flexibility in setting policy. During his previous stint as prime minister, Netanyahu's narrow coalition put him in a precarious position to make any significant moves on regional peace, and he doubtless wishes to avoid a repeat of that situation." (ForeignPolicy)

"I went down to the Plaza at noontime for the American Cancer Society’s Youth Against Cancer: Mothers of the Year Award 2009 luncheon .. This year they honored as Mothers of the Year: Ann Curry of the Today Show and Dr. Alexandra Herdt, an associate attending surgeon at Memorial Sloan-Kettering where she specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of all forms of breast cancer. The Today roster was all in attendance, from Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera, Hoda, Al Roker and Kathie Lee Gifford who was also a very amusing Mistress of Ceremonies.. Ann Curry was returning from a trip and because of traffic and logistics was in transit when the luncheon began, and unfortunately still in transit when the luncheon was ending. Her husband provided the introductory remarks, talking about her global reporting assignments to investigate under-reported stories of crises as well as wars. You got the feeling that Ms. Curry was lucky to have partner to cover the mothering aspect when her work took her away from her family." (NYSocialDiary)

(image via fishbowlny)

"Liz Smith is angry but not very surprised that the New York Post fired her. She said she saw it coming: She didn’t drink enough. 'They are going to save the New York Post by firing me,' the 86-year-old columnist deadpanned in an interview with me today. 'They’ll save my salary. It’ll put them right in the black. They’re only losing $30 million a year. So they can economize.' How much? Smith makes $125,000 a year with the Post column, she said. Smith had been butting heads with Post editor Col Allan for a year. Her style – more celebrity back-slapping than back-stabbing – didn’t mesh with his. 'I wasn’t sensational enough,' Smith said. 'I didn’t hang around at the Post and drink.' Smith has been an icon in gossip column lore for more than three decades.The Texas-born social writer has made close friends with the bold face names she writes about, while always tweaking them. But she just ain’t mean .. So, despite the apparent demise of Defamer this week, mean has become the way to go in the world of gossip. Perez Hilton, with his graffiti-laden celebs, rules. The days of genteel party chatter are over." (TheWrap)

"President Barack Obama met with 10 members of the press today over lunch at the White House — two from each network. The guest list consisted of ABC's Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, CBS' Katie Couric and Bob Schieffer, NBC's Brian Williams and David Gregory, CNN's Wolf Blitzer and John King and FNC's Bret Baier and Chris Wallace. Although the lunch was 'on background,' there have been a few reports about the meeting. Stephanopoulos tweeted about it after leaving. 'Terrific sense of what Obama thinking and feeling. Clearly relishes job--esp tough decisions,' he writes. He also gave a glimpse at the menu. 'Lobster bisque w beignets, seared Virginia bass w leeks and pot, pound cake w fruit compote and lemon sorbet,' he writes, clarifying 'bass not served w cannabis! 'Pot' short for potato' in a later tweet." (TVNewser)

"Until this week, the only official disclosure from corporate raider/shareholder activist Carl Icahn has been that he's buying up Lionsgate stock because it's 'undervalued.' But that all changed on Monday. It's not just that he purchased still more Lionsgate stock so that he now has 16,540,849 shares, representing approximately 14.28% of the mini-major. It's that he amended his schedule 13D SEC filing, which is a statement any person owning 5% or more of a publicly traded company must make for certain disclosure reasons, like when their intentions change. What this means is that Icahn may seek to add his nominees to Lionsgate's board of directors and/or potentially remove existing members. This is a declaration he intends to change the way that the company is run." (DeadlineHollywooddaily)

"Has Woody Allen gotten over his weird crush on Scarlett Johansson?The noted director, who in his AARP years had taken to gushing publicly about his 'criminally sexy' twentysomething muse—her smarts, her curves, her (ahem!) 'zaftig humidity'—has signed the new starlet in town to play the ingenue in his as-yet untitled new movie, according to Variety. 'Slumdog Millionaire's' Freida Pinto, fresh from her film's Cinderella night at the Oscars, will join a cast that includes Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin and Anthony Hopkins. The role is a coup for Pinto, considering Allen has directed many actors to the winner's stand on Oscar night, with Penelope Cruz as the most recent example." (ChiTrib)

"On Monday, former SNL star Jimmy Fallon will take over for Conan O’Brien as the new host of NBC’s Late Night. He sat down with The Daily Beast’s Kevin Sessums to talk about his first guest, calling in favors from Tina Fey—and positively IDs Will Ferrell’s package. Jimmy Fallon will take over for Conan O’Brien as the host of NBC’s Late Night on Monday, but his office looks like he’s had the job for years, filled with family photos, wedding pictures of his wife, Nancy Juvonen, three flat-screen TVs, and a giant stained-glass portrait of Buddy Holly. Fallon excitedly pointed out the many city sights below 30 Rock: 'I can even see the hot dog vendor down there now that I’ve had Lasik surgery,' he said. On a tour of Studio 6A, Fallon pointed out the stage where The Roots, his house band, will play." (TheDailyBeast)

"Rep. Mark Kirk’s (R-Ill.) staff pulled an all-nighter Monday night to scour the $410 billion omnibus spending bill introduced earlier that afternoon. And what they found, the aides said, may give them nightmares. Kirk rang the alarm bells on Tuesday because of several 'troubling' provisions tucked in the foreign operations portion of the 1,130-page bill. The centrist, who is eyeing a Senate bid, said that he intended to vote against the massive spending measure in part because it would exclude a provision contained in previous funding bills prohibiting assistance to Saudi Arabia .. In 2007, Congress voted to restrict foreign aid for Saudi Arabia funds because members contended that the U.S. ally was not cooperative enough in the war on terror. The Bush administration opposed the House-measure but signed the foreign operations bill despite the policy change. The administration was able to give money to the Saudis for training however, because Congress added a provision to waive the restriction in light of national security concerns, according to an aide familiar with last year’s foreign operations appropriations bill ..In addition, the 'ominous,' as Kirk refers to the bill that would increase funds for government operations, would also direct as much as $900,000 toward Syria, which the U.S. lists as a state sponsor of terrorism. Yet, the Obama administration has reached out to Syria while Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) visited the country last weekend. 'This bill gives foreign aid to Syria, for the first time. This is a terrorist nation,' Kirk said, pointing out that the money would be spent on democracy-promotion organizations." (TheHill)

"Iraq became the 186th country to become a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention on 14 January. This may assuage regional concerns over unconventional weapons, but developments elsewhere in the Middle East suggest prevention of chemical weapons development is failing. Satellite images from several commercial sources gathered from 2005 to 2008 have shed light on activity at the chemical weapons facility identified as Al Safir in northwest Syria. Imagery obtained by DigitalGlobe's WorldView-1 satellite indicates that the site contains not only a number of the defining features of a chemical weapons facility, but that significant levels of construction have taken place at the facility's production plant and adjacent missile base." (JanesDefense)

"The presidential election may be long over, but partisan politics are still thriving on cable news, and winning. Right-leaning Fox News Channel and left-leaning MSNBC continue to build on last year’s huge ratings increases, a year after their viewership began surging during the presidential primary season. By contrast, CNN, known as the most balanced of the three major cable news networks and the one that saw the biggest increases during the presidential race, has seen ratings decline. This only confirms what Fox News established years ago when it first shot past CNN: When it comes to ratings, taking sides will always trump solid and fair reporting, as much as Americans may say they appreciate it." (Medialifemagazine)

"Chris Brown is taking anger-management classes. The troubled R&B singer, who was arrested two weeks ago on suspicion of making criminal threats against girlfriend Rihanna, attended his first class in Glendale, Calif., on Monday afternoon. According to a source, Brown opted for anger management at the behest of his spin doctor, Michael Sitrick. 'Chris doesn't actually have to go by law,' our insider tells us, "but he believes it will make him look better to the public, and he wants to try to get in a few classes before March 5,' his court date. The Feb. 7 incident - in which Brown allegedly assaulted Rihanna and left her with cuts and bruises to her forehead, lips and cheeks - didn't just stir up controversy. It tarnished Brown's good-guy image so badly that several of his endorsement deals were suspended, including commercials for Wrigley's gum and the Milk Mustache campaign. Brown's songs have also been temporarily taken off the air at a handful of radio stations." (NYDailyNews)