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Thursday, 26 April 2012

1 Google Sells SketchUp

SketchUp, the 3D modeling tool owned by Google--which started its life as a software product of Boulder-based @Last Software--has been sold.

Google Sells SketchUp

Google said Thursday that it is selling off the SketchUp team and technology to Trimble, a maker of GPS, geospatial, and other software and hardware. Financial details of the move were not disclosed. The SketchUp team said the move would help it better focus on its "core communities", including those in the architecture, engineering and construction industries. The move brings SketchUp back to its origins at @Last, where it had originally been targeted at those industries before becoming part of Google's move to bolster 3D modeling in Google Earth. @Last was acquired by Google in March of 2006.

0 Sachin's Rajya Sabha nomination doesn't get popular support

The reactions varied to batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar's nomination to the Rajya Sabha, with some welcoming the move and others critical of his new role, which will deprive him from playing. Social activist Anna Hazare, who is in Mumbai for a two-day trip for consultations on the Lokayukta bill, welcomed the move. However, he mentioned that he is more interested in a corruption-free nation more than anything else at this point.

Sachin's Rajya Sabha nomination

Information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni in New Delhi on Thursday hailed the nomination of Sachin Tendulkar for Rajya Sabha saying it was a "very good step"

She appreciated UPA's initiative in nominating Tendulkar as a member of RS saying, "Whenever Congress is in government, it has always nominated such personalities, which leads to an enviornment of energy and encouragement in the country."

Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray also reserved his comments. “Whether or not the Congress gives Tendulkar a Rajya Sabha seat or not, it is between them. I do not want to say anything about this,” he said.

However, Congress MP from north Mumbai Sanjay Nirupam welcomed the move. “Sachin deserves every bit and more. He also deserves a Bharat Ratna. I whole heartedly welcome this decision,” he said.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Madhav Bhandari, however, said: “As a fan of Tendulkar, I will welcome this move, but as an observer of politics, it will be like keeping him away from his biggest passion - cricket. I also see this as a trick to keep Tendulkar from a Bharat Ratna.”

Commoners, on the other hand, were baffled even at the possibility of Tendulkar as a Rajya Sabha member.

“I am perplexed. Who recommended him? What were they thinking? And tell me what will he do on that position? Sachin is a good cricketer and let them stay in the field of cricket and achieve greater heights,” said Deep Vora, a software professional.

Agreed another Mumbaikar Raghavendra BR, a musician. “Sachin is an achiever in his own right. But I don't quite agree with him being nominated for Rajya Sabha, especially, with his busy schedule,” he said.

“Sachin never seemed to have any inclination towards politics or working of the parliament. I wonder if he has the time to get political, given that his passion for Cricket is so strong. However knowing the personality that he is, I am sure he could do a lot of good to cricketing in India,” said Ajinkya Raut, a dentist and a cricket fan.

Majority of tweets on the social networking website, Twitter, trashed the player's nomination for the RS seat.

Hashtags like #UnfollowSachin, If Sachin and RS MP trended thoroughout the night criticising the idea of the nomination. However there were also those who welcomed Congress party's decision.

0 Conservative group puts millions into Obama energy attack

An independent conservative group launched its latest round of ads Thursday that are set to air in eight presidential battleground states backed by $6.1 million, according to the organization.

The president of Americans for Prosperity said the ad will begin running on Friday on cable and broadcast television stations for two weeks in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio and Virginia.

Obama energy attack

The 60-second spot criticizes the Obama administration's energy policies and its failure to provide clean energy jobs in the United States.

"You cannot allow or it does not work when an administration is using our tax dollars in pursuit of an ideology, in this case global warming," AFP president Tim Phillips said during a press conference in Washington, D.C.

The White House has promoted what it calls an "all-of-the-above energy strategy" that will decrease American dependency on foreign oil, expand U.S.-based jobs and reduce emissions that it says contribute to climate change and pollution.

But Phillips said President Barack Obama's "almost obsessive focus on global warming" speaks to "this administration's focus on an ideology as opposed to genuinely trying to get this economy moving again."

"American tax payers are paying to send their own jobs to foreign countries," the narrator in the spot said. "Tell President Obama: American tax dollars should help American taxpayers."

Phillips said the ad buy would be accompanied by "hundreds of thousands of dollars" toward grass roots efforts in the targeted states, all of which are expected to be competitive in the next presidential election. AFP Spokesman Levi Russell said there will be two to three events in each state over the next few weeks, a mixture of rallies and town halls.

The Obama re-election campaign responded to the announcement, which it said was backed by "secretive oil billionaires."

"While the President fights everyday to build an economy where everybody gets a fair shot and does their fair share, special interests across the country are mobilizing to buy the election for Governor Romney to try to promote their interests over the interests of the American people," Obama National Press Secretary Ben LaBolt said in a statement.

AFP is a nonprofit group backed by conservative oil billionaires David and Charles Koch, among others, which has donated significant funds toward advertising and advocacy ahead of the November election. Nonprofits like AFP are able to accept unlimited corporate and individual contributions but are not required to disclose their donors.

Thursday's announcement marks the third round of ads from AFP in recent months. The two previous endeavors centered on the failed energy company Solyndra that went bankrupt after receiving government funding.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

0 Indian rocket successfully launches Risat-1 satellite

On an early Thursday morning, an Indian rocket successfully launched into orbit a microwave Radar Imaging Satellite (Risat-1) from the spaceport here in Andhra Pradesh, around 80 km from Chennai.

Indian rocket successfully launches Risat-1 satellite

The indigenous Risat-1, with a life span of five years, would be used for disaster prediction and agriculture forestry and the high resolution pictures and microwave imaging could also be used for defence purposes as it can look through the clouds and fog.

At exactly 5.47 a.m., the rocket - Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C19 (PSLV-C19) - standing 44.5 metres tall and weighing 321 tons and with a one-way ticket, hurtled towards the skies ferrying the 1,858 kg Risat-1 after unshackling itself from launch pad No.1.

With a rich orange flame at its tail and a plume of white smoke, the rocket ascended towards the blue sky amidst the resounding cheers of Isro scientists and media team assembled at the launch centre.

People perched atop nearby buildings too happily clapped as PSLV-C19 went up.

Space scientists at the new rocket mission control room of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) were glued to their computer screens watching the rocket escaping the earth's gravitational pull.

The Isro-made Risat-1 is the heaviest luggage so far ferried by a PSLV since 1993.

At around 17 minutes into the flight, PSLV-C19 delivered Risat-1 into a polar circular orbit at an altitude of 480 km and an orbital inclination of 97.552 degrees.

Isro, with its network of ground stations, monitored its health.

"PSLV-C19 mission is a grand success. This is the 20th successive successful flight of PSLV. India's (indigenously built) first radar imaging satellite was injected precisely into orbit," Isro chairman K. Radhakrishnan said after the launch.

For Isro, this is the first launch this fiscal as well as in the calendar year.

Remote sensing satellites send back pictures and other data for use. India has the largest constellation of remote sensing satellites in the world providing imagery in a variety of spatial resolutions, from more than a metre ranging up to 500 metres, and is a major player in vending such data in the global market.

With 11 remote sensing/earth observation satellites orbiting in the space, India is a world leader in the remote sensing data market. The 11 satellites are TES, Resourcesat-1, Cartosat-1, 2, 2A and 2B, IMS-1, Risat-2, Oceansat-2, Resourcesat-2 and Megha-Tropiques.

Risat-1's synthetic aperture radar (SAR) can acquire data in C-band and would orbit the earth 14 times a day.

In 2009, Isro had launched 300 kg Risat-2 with an Israeli built SAR enabling earth observation in all weather, day and night conditions.

With Thursday's launch the PSLV rocket has launched successfully 53 satellites out of 54 it carried - majorly remote sensing/earth observation satellites both Indian and foreign - and has been a major revenue earner for Isro.

The one failure happened in 1993 when the satellite was not able reach the orbit.

The rocket that delivered Risat-1 in the space is Isro's four stage PSLV's upgraded variant called PSLV-XL.

The letters XL stand for extra large as the six strap-on motors hugging the rocket at the bottom can carry 12 tonnes of solid fuel as against the base version that has a fuel capacity of nine tonnes.

The PSLV's four stages are fuelled with solid and liquid propellants. The first and third stages are fuelled by solid fuel while the second and fourth stages are powered by liquid fuel.

Isro had used the PSLV-XL variant for its Chandrayaan-1 moon mission in 2008 and for launching the GSAT-12 communications satellite in 2011.


0 Google launches Google DriveThanks Google, It Only Took You Six Years

Today’s launch of Google Drive, official at last, is kind of a relief. Internet rumors and reports have seen the industry discussing the possibility of a consumer-facing cloud storage service called “GDrive,” since as far back as 2006. Of course, then, the product in development was an internal-only tool used by Google employees – not the Dropbox-like competitor Google launched today.

Google Drive Logo

Still, to say that we’ve been waiting for GDrive for a long, long, long time would be the understatement of the year.

For those of you with shorter memories, a trip down memory lane:

The first time we ever casually referred to something as “GDrive,” was when detailing an internal application that placed an icon on Googlers’ computers, giving them a mere 500 MB of storage. There was no evidence that the program was being prepared for public launch any time soon back then, despite user interest…not to mention obsessive blog coverage about the possibilities.

Back then, the cloud storage race was just beginning. Box was founded in 2005 and there were even reports that Microsoft would be launching its own GDrive-like service, code-named “Live Drive,” beating Google to the punch. As it turns out, Microsoft (with what we now know as SkyDrive) did beat Google to launch, as did many other cloud storage services, including notably, Box and Dropbox (founded 2007), both of which have been busy building successful businesses in the cloud storage and collaboration space.

Box.net CEO Aaron Levie even recently told TechCrunch TV, how his company is not afraid of Google Drive. Without discrediting the service – after all, Google is a big name – Levie said his company believes enterprise customers are looking to platform-agnostic players these days to help them manage information at scale, and especially to those focused exclusively on business and enterprise security needs.

Google had the opportunity to take the lead in the cloud storage space, but passed. Several months before Dropbox raised its $7.2 million A round in late 2009, consumers were still clamoring for a cloud dropbox of sorts from Google. A TechCrunch poll in 2008, had some 77% of respondents voting, “yes, I’ve been waiting like forever!” when asked if they would use GDrive.

And yet, no GDrive ever appeared.

By 2010, the world had practically given up on an “official” GDrive product. When Google added the ability to upload any file type to Google Docs, that was enough for Mike Arrington to proclaim “GDrive Launches” – after all, if you could put any file in the cloud, isn’t that GDrive enough for you?

But Google wasn’t having it. “This is not GDrive,” Google Docs product manager Vijay Bangaru told Arrington at the time. When asked why not, he replied, “…because GDrive doesn’t exist.”

Party-pooper.

Meanwhile, other startups came in to the fill the void left by our drag-and-drop to the cloud needs. Besides early players Box and Dropbox, one company, Memeo even went so far as to name its virtual drive feature “GDrive” back in 2010, if you can believe it.

Then for awhile, all was quiet on the GDrive front. It wasn’t until mid-2011 that GDrive’s rebirth really made the news once again. The internal project from 2006 (code-named “Platypus”) had been killed off back in 2008 – it never became a public-facing service. The concept for a Google-backed cloud service remained, however.

In August 2011, the URL drive.google.com appeared in Chromium code reviews. It’s alive!, the blogosphere proclaimed. And in September, more language was discovered inside Google Docs, pointing to Google Drive.

It was coming. For real this time.

The new version was said to be nothing like the wonky Platypus, but more of a way to enhance Google Docs. The hope? That users would finally get it: Docs can, indeed, host more than Office-type files (i.e., word documents, spreadsheets, presentations). More importantly, it would allow for syncing files between your PC and mobile devices and cloud.

And now here it is, April 2012, and Google has finally gotten around to revealing GDrive. But does anyone still care? Users who really needed such a service have since migrated elsewhere. When Dropbox raised its $250M Series B in October, it was boasting over 45 million users. Now it has over 50 million. Box.net, meanwhile, raised $50M in September, touting 7 million users.  Today, that’s 10 million.

Google says there are 40 million Google Apps users, including 4 million businesses, to give you an idea of the size of Google’s customer base.

Today’s Google Drive is GDocs+ – it has OCR, it has an API for apps! – but it’s no longer tapping into the pent-up, unsatisfied demand for a decent cloud storage and sync service. People who use Google Docs might try it, but if they’re already satisfied with the alternatives – the platform-agnostic, popular alternatives – they may just skip it.

After six years of waiting, though, some of us have to take a quick peek.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

0 'Fiscal cliff' makes US Fed queasy

Federal Reserve policymakers are sounding the alarm over a "fiscal cliff" at the end of this year, when scheduled US tax hikes and spending cuts could pose a big threat to the fragile economic recovery.

Along with its official mandate of watching unemployment and inflation, the US central bank is keeping a close eye on a potentially debilitating political fight over how to fix the budget deficit.(Aol)

'Fiscal cliff' makes US Fed queasy

If lawmakers in Washington do not get rid of the tax hikes and spending cuts due to take effect in early 2013, the country could easily careen into another recession. Any moves by Congress, however, aren't expected until after the November 6 presidential election.

The Fed is worried that individuals and companies could hunker down and curb spending, making markets antsy as the country awaits the outcome of an election that could pave the way for new tax and spending policies.

Though few expect Washington to do nothing while fiscal policies push the economy into another downturn, partisan politics could undermine the Fed's unprecedented actions to revive the economy.

"I have been disappointed that the president and Congress are not taking action until after the election," St. Louis Fed President James Bullard told reporters in Utah last week.(Bing)

"I'm also worried that markets will react badly to the fiscal cliff at the end of this year. Markets might start to speculate about what might or might not happen ... after the election," he said.

Asked what the Fed can do, however, Bullard seemed to dismiss the possibility of resorting to new bond buying to counter the effects of political gridlock over the budget deficit and economic policy.

"It's up to the Congress," he said.

Lawmakers pushed the United States close to a debt default in a bruising 2011 debate over raising the debt ceiling, roiling markets and costing the US its top credit rating from Standard & Poor's.(Yahoo)

This time, even more is at stake, and time is running out.

'Massive' cliff

The so-called Bush tax cuts expire at the end of 2012 -- which means nearly all US taxpayers would have to pay more taxes unless the cuts are extended.

At the same time, $1.2 trillion in across-the-board reductions in federal programs would kick in as a result of Congress's failure last year to find a comprehensive deal to cut the budget deficit.(Google)

The US is expected to again hit its debt ceiling, or legal borrowing limit, by year end, which means Congress will need to agree to increase the ceiling or parts of government could ground to a halt.

On top of that, US President Barack Obama's payroll tax cut to 4.2% from 6.2% also expires December 31, and another patch is needed to prevent the alternative minimum tax (AMT) from affecting more middle-class families. The AMT was originally aimed at just the wealthy but now establishes a minimum tax rate for an increasing number of middle-class taxpayers.

The issues are likely to be dealt with in the "lame duck" Congressional session between Election Day and the new year, leading to a frenzied few weeks. But the uncertain backdrop of who will occupy the White House and Congress in 2013 has created even more worry.

"We're naive if we think that doesn't play into the Fed's thinking about monetary policy," said Tom Porcelli, chief US economist at RBC Capital Markets in New York.

"But the way that the Fed would want to present it is a minor consideration at best, because they don't want to be supplementing fiscal policy," Porcelli said.

Fed officials gathered for a policy meeting on Tuesday, and Chairman Ben Bernanke could use a Wednesday press conference to warn lawmakers just how dangerous the situation could be.

In February, Bernanke told Congress the US recovery could derail if lawmakers failed to address the "massive" fiscal cliff.

"I hope that Congress will look at that and figure out ways to achieve the same long-run fiscal improvement without having it all happen at one date," he said.

If the brewing crisis goes unaddressed, RBC Capital Markets forecasts, US GDP growth could be reduced by 3.8%age points at a time when the economy is expected to grow by little more than 2%.

Pleading for a plan

Fed policymakers have suggested the economy would have to deteriorate from forecasts and inflation remain low for the Fed to take more steps, including a third round of bond buying, or quantitative easing (QE3).

Since late 2008, the central bank has kept interest rates near zero and bought $2.3 trillion in securities to spur growth and support the recovery, which has been bogged down by frustratingly high unemployment and tepid growth.

Fed officials regularly plead for a credible fiscal plan from lawmakers that lowers US debt without sharp, short-term spending cuts and tax increases that would curtail investment and spending and undercut the recovery.

"One specific risk is that elevated uncertainty about prospective fiscal policy adjustments could weigh on the spending plans of households and businesses," Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen said this month.

US consumer sentiment remains fragile, slipping this month as Americans were less optimistic about the short-term outlook. Consumers and investors alike could become preoccupied with the fiscal uncertainty if it appears little will get done until after the election.

"Certainly if you listen to the Republican platform, this would be a very different set of policies, and people may be uncertain about that, and may indeed pull back on spending," said Avinash Persaud, chairman of London- and Mumbai-based investment bank Elara Capital.

Last August, uncertainty over the US debt ceiling sparked daily triple-digit swings in the Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI>, which fell 7.2% over two weeks while investors sought safety in bonds.

Today, with rates so low and credit readily available, the effects of any additional Fed steps to head off such turmoil could be limited. And conservatives would likely criticize any Fed action as interfering in an election in which the economy is center stage.

Economists polled by Reuters this month put the odds of more Fed bond purchases at 30%. Illustrating the uncertain environment, 11 of 16 primary dealers polled by Reuters said the Fed will eventually embark on QE3.

"You set monetary policy based not just on the economy today, but on where you see the economy going for the next couple of years," said Roberto Perli, managing director of policy research at broker-dealer International Strategy and Investment Group in Washington. "Clearly that puts the fiscal cliff squarely in your sights."

0 “Dirty Picture” Banned on TV

Sony channel had created much brouhaha about telecasting the controversial movie “Dirty picture”, based on the life of southern siren Silk Smitha. But, the Union Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry poured cold water on all the publicity by banning the channel from telecasting it yesterday.

Dirty Picture Vidya Balan

Initially, the ministry had asked Sony to telecast the movie late at night, when most children would be asleep. Many parents had complained about the bold scenes and adult dialogue in the movie. Vidya Balan had won a national award for her portrayal of Silk Smitha in the movie. Let us wait and watch the fate of the “Dirty Picture” on the small screen.


0 Abducted Sukma collector's health worsens, govt rushes medicines

The Chhattisgarh government today rushed medicines for abducted Sukma District Collector Alex Paul Menon hours after Maoists informed them he was critically ill.

The medicines are being sent through president of All India Adivasi Mahasabha Manish Kunjam, one of the mediators named by the Maoists for holding negotiations with the government.

Abducted Sukma collector Alex Paul Menon health

Though Kunjam has refused to take part in the mediation process, he has agreed to take the medicines to the collector.

Last night, the Maoists had named three mediators including lawyer Prashant Bhushan and former national SC/ST Commission chairperson B D Sharma, as their chosen negotiators after the Chhattisgarh government offered to hold talks to free Menon from the extremists.

The Naxals said only the three named by them would be allowed to negotiate in the Tarimetla village and asked them to accept the invitation to act as mediators.

Kunjam, who had declined the Maoists' offer yesterday citing regional circumstances and party obligations, said today he was ready to take medicines for the 32-year-old IAS officer, who is an asthma patient.

"Menon's life is supreme. I will be going to Sukma soon and then proceed to Tarimetla with the medicines. Thereafter, I will come back," he said.

Chief Minister Raman Singh's Chief Secretary N Brijendra Kumar told PTI today that a few journalists from the Naxal-hit Bastar region have also offered to take medicines for Menon. The state government has decided to give them permission provided they keep a distance from police, lest it proves detrimental to the officer's safety.

A worried Asha, Menon's wife, has also appealed to Maoists to send an audio or video tape of her husband, so that she can gauge his condition. She asked them to provide immediate medical relief to him in view of his critical state.

Chief Minister Raman Singh had said yesterday that the state government was exploring all options and making efforts to ensure the safe release of Menon.

He said the state government has been in continuous touch with the Centre since the IAS officer was abducted.

An all-party meeting was also convened in Raipur to discuss the issue, Singh said adding all parties have come out with a joint appeal, which says the matter should be settled through talks.

Earlier, the Chhattisgarh government also appointed a sub-committee under the chairmanship of the chief minister to look into the abduction.

The panel included State Home Minister Nanki Ram Kanwar, Tribal Welfare Minister Kedar Kashyap, Water Resources Minister Ramvichar Netam and School Education Minister Brijmohan Agrawal.

Naxals abducted the 2006 batch officer on Saturday from Majhipara village in Raipur district when he was holding a meeting as part of the government's special Gram Suraj Abhiyan.

A day later, the Maoists set a deadline of April 25 to fulfill their demands that included the immediate halt of all police action against them and the release of eight fellow comrades, including two women.

They had also asked the government not to indulge in "delay tactics" as Menon's health was worsening.

According to sources, Menon is being held hostage at the border of Chhattisgarh and Odisha and is kept under watch by nearly 400 armed Naxals.

Monday, 23 April 2012

0 Think Like a Man Review

Think Like a Man is a 2012 comedy film directed by Tim Story. It was released on April 20, 2012.It is an adaptation of Steve Harvey's book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man

Think Like a Man Review

The film follows four couples, the women partners being readers of Harvey's best selling book. When the men learn the women are hooked on Harvey's advice, they try to turn the tables on their mates.

The film received mixed reviews. At Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a "mixed" rating of 49%, based on 67 reviews and an average rating of 5.5/10, with the critical consensus saying, "In Think Like a Man, an otherwise standard rom-com is partially elevated by a committed -- and attractive -- cast, resulting in a funny take on modern romance".The film also holds a score of 51 on Metacritic, based on 29 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".

Despite mixed reviews, Think Like A Man managed to make $33,636,303 over it's opening weekend landing on the top spot, ending The Hunger Games 4 week streak.

0 The Dangerous Joker in the Presidential Political Deck

If, as now seems clear, the nation is headed for a close, razor-thin presidential election, it is not (as most pundits say) jobs and the economy, or (as many pundits think but don't say) race or religion, that will decide the outcome.

Joker in the Presidential Political Deck

Rather, the deciding factor is far likelier to be a little discussed internet operation called Americans Elect. That elegantly titled organization is the joker in the presidential election deck that could trump every other card and determine whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney is elected in November.

Americans Elect is a political reform movement funded by Peter Ackerman and others, and supported by some distinguished citizens like former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman, television producer Mark Burnett, and former FBI Director William Webster, who sit on its advisory committee. The object of Americans Elect is to assemble a non-partisan ticket through a series of caucuses and national nominating convention on the internet. To "balance" the ticket, presidential candidates seeking Americans Elect's nomination must select a vice presidential candidate from the other party (or if an independent, tilting the other way). More than 2.5 million individuals have already qualified as delegates to vote in this nomination process.

The remarkable -- and unprecedented -- achievement of this movement is that it is laying claim to a voting line for president in just about every one of the 50 states. The group's larger objective is to collect enough votes in each state to maintain that powerful political positioning for congressional and other races in 2014, as well as quadrennial national elections in 2016.

Americans Elect is sparked by concerns that the two major political parties are so partisan and polarized that they have paralyzed the national government in Washington. It hopes to return control of the Congress and executive branch to a moderate middle ready to compromise. Americans Elect would rather be seen as middle-of-the-road mediator than a third party, but its impact this year will be like that of a third party.

We haven't seen anything quite like Americans Elect with a line in every state ballot. But we have seen third parties. The two most recent examples show the political mischief such parties can cause, however well meaning. Ross Perot ran on a Reform Party line in several states in 1996. Thanks to the conservative votes he garnered, Bill Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush. Ralph Nader ran in 2000 and captured enough votes in Florida to snatch that state from Al Gore and put George W. Bush in the White House.

If the presidential candidate of Americans Elect is conservative, that will almost certainly gain Barack Obama a second term. If, on the other hand, its candidate is liberal, that will likely send Mitt Romney to the White House. The "balance" required for the vice presidential nominee will be lost on voters who focus on the top of the ticket.

The potential for malevolent mischief is enormous. In the no-holds-barred world of presidential politics, it is in the interest of Democrats to maneuver for a conservative or Republican to be Americans Elect's presidential candidate, while Republicans will want a liberal or Democrat to be the Americans Elect nominee.

Think about this: Ideologically driven high roller super PACs on the left would like to see a conservative like Ron Paul for the Americans Elect nomination, while right-wingers with deep pockets like the Koch brothers would prefer a liberal like Bernie Sanders in that position. (Americans Elect's web site lists both as possible nominees.) Moreover, hard-nosed Democratic campaign professionals may seek discreet (deniable) ways to discourage any liberal or Democrat who wins the internet nomination from accepting it; their Republican counterparts will pressure any winning conservative or Republican candidate to just say no.

The backers of Americans Elect are well-intentioned and concerned, as many of us are, with the dysfunction in Washington. Congress is gridlocked in perpetual campaign mode as control of the Senate and House are up for grabs every two years. Indeed, in an act of supreme political cowardice and individual self-interest, both parties have quietly agreed to put off the pressing budget and public debt issues, like raising taxes and trimming entitlements, until after the election -- and then to be handled in a lame duck session filled with members who did not run for reelection, lost their reelection bids, or won by camouflaging their true intentions during the campaign!

The frustration of the Americans Elect folks is understandable. But even the most well-intentioned initiatives can produce unintended, and in this case, dangerous consequences. Before we replace the two-party system with the dream of a mediating non-partisan middle, we should ponder the old Basuto proverb: "If a man does away with his traditional way of living and throws away his good customs, he had better first make certain he has something of value to replace them."

Two-party petty partisanship may not look like a tradition worth keeping or a good custom today, but does introducing a third party that is virtually certain to tip the election to one of the other two offer a better value for our nation?

0 Conservative Groups Spending Heavily in Bid to Win a Senate Majority

The conservative groups that helped Republicans win the House in 2010 are pouring money this year into an aggressive campaign to capture the Senate, a goal that they consider just as vital as winning the White House.

Conservative Groups US Elections

Already, they have committed at least $17 million to television commercials in more than a dozen states from Florida to Hawaii, in most cases dwarfing what their Democratic opponents have spent. Their plans call for an effort that will exceed $100 million by Election Day, strategists for these groups said, far surpassing their efforts in 2010, a high-water mark for outside money in politics.

In the weeks ahead, they will pour more resources into states like Nebraska and Missouri, which have already seen some of the heaviest spending, in addition to intensifying their campaigns in New Mexico, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Their immediate objective: use hard-hitting television ads to tether Democratic candidates to the budget deficit, lackluster economic growth and the perception that government has become too intrusive and unmanageable.

Except for the candidate, and the phone number that flashes on screen at the end, the ads follow a strikingly similar script.

Senator Fill-in-the-Blank supports business-smothering regulations and will raise your taxes. He also added trillions to the deficit by voting for “Obamacare” and will cut your Medicare.

In Missouri, Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, has been buffeted with more than $2.2 million in television ads from Crossroads GPS, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a group called the 60 Plus Association, which bills itself as a right-leaning AARP and uses Pat Boone as its pitch man. “Call Senator McCaskill,” Mr. Boone says in one ad. “Tell her unaccountable bureaucrats should never have the power to deny you the care you deserve.”

Ms. McCaskill and her allies have countered with ads of their own but are being outspent by more than 3 to 1, data from Kantar Media show.

In Nebraska, Bob Kerrey has been mocked as a liberal Manhattan interloper in a trio of TV commercials from Americans for Prosperity. In one, set to music that vaguely recalls Bernard Herrmann’s score from “Psycho,” a narrator warns, “Bob Kerry is moving back to Nebraska, and he wants to bring his liberal agenda back to our Nebraska home.” Stern-faced citizens object. “Not in my house,” says one man. “Not here,” says another.

Mr. Kerrey, a former Nebraska governor and senator who left office a dozen years ago to run the New School in Manhattan, has responded with nearly half a million dollars in commercials of his own. That is a considerable expense for his fledgling campaign, and almost as much as the amount of cash he had on hand at the end of March.

The conservative groups’ strategy makes clear that they — traditional Republican allies like the Chamber of Commerce along with newer players like the Karl Rove-backed Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity, a Koch brothers-affiliated venture, among others — intend to be even more aggressive this year than they were in 2010, when they greatly expanded the role of outside money in Congressional elections.

By forcing their opponents to respond with expensive ad campaigns of their own, these conservative groups are achieving at least part of their goal. But their strategy is not without its risks, namely that they are dumping money into advertising long before voters are really paying attention.

The focus on the Senate reflects conservative hopes for a sweep of the White House and both branches of Congress, and frustration with the Senate’s role in blocking legislation passed by the Republican-controlled House, especially on the budget and fiscal issues that have come to dominate the debate in Washington.

“You could argue that what happens in the Senate and the House matters more on a day-to-day basis, on key legislative matters, than an administration does,” said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity.

The Chamber of Commerce, which, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, spent more than $30 million on Congressional races in 2010, said it will commit “measurably more” this year to House and Senate campaigns in what officials called the most significant political effort in its 100-year history.

“We’re going to shape the environment now instead of waiting for the environment that comes to us later,” said Rob Engstrom, national political director for the Chamber of Commerce. For over a year, the group has enlisted strategists to comb through candidates’ voting records and public statements, looking for material useful in an ad.

“We’re prepared to quickly engage if developments warrant,” he added.

Crossroads plans to spend about $60 million on Senate races alone and an additional $30 million on House races. That would more than double what it and its sister organization, American Crossroads, spent in 2010. These sums will come atop the nearly $18 million in air time that the National Republican Senatorial Committee has reserved for the fall.

Americans for Prosperity, which has been an important supporter of the Tea Party movement, and others promoting various aspects of the conservative agenda, like Club for Growth, a group that promotes fiscally conservative and free-market principles, have each vowed to spend millions more.

Democrats acknowledge that they are outgunned, but expect the Republicans’ financing advantage to dissipate as the general election nears. Money being spent on ads now, Democratic strategists argue, is being wasted on voters who are not paying close attention to their local races. And it will leave less money for Republicans and their allied groups come the fall, they contend.

“Even Karl Rove’s money becomes finite at some point,” said Matt Canter, communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, who added that Democratic incumbents had plenty of cash on hand that would go further because candidates, unlike outside groups, get the lowest possible advertising rates. “We will not be outspent in practice as much as it might appear.”

In addition to lacking the large donors who have provided much of the money for outside conservative groups, Democrats find themselves at a further disadvantage because President Obama’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee do not plan to finance the Congressional campaign committees this year.

Democrats are trying to turn their underdog status into a political benefit by using it to raise money and portray their Republican opponents as beholden to their big contributors. Indeed, Ms. McCaskill features the attack ads being run against her in an ad of her own that rails against the “special interests” behind the commercials.

“What they’re doing to Claire McCaskill is nothing compared to what their special interest agenda will do to you,” the narrator says, going down a list that includes tax breaks for the wealthy, “ending Medicare as we know it,” and trade policies that benefit China over the United States. “Claire says, ‘Make it in Missouri,’ ” the announcer adds, pronouncing it the way many locals do: Muh-zhur-UH.

0 No survivors from Pakistan plane crash, official says

A commercial airplane carrying 127 people crashed Friday in Islamabad just before it was to land at a nearby airport, according to Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority, which cited poor weather as a possible factor.

No survivors have been found, officials said.

Pakistan plane crash 2012

The Bhoja Air Boeing 737-200 had been making its first evening flight from Karachi to Islamabad, where the weather was cloudy, officials said.

Authorities twice changed the number people reported to be on board, but by Friday afternoon appeared to agree on the figure.

The crash occurred near the Chaklala airbase, a military site used by the country's air force, which is adjacent to the Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Islamabad.

Debris and body parts were scattered across the crash site as workers sifted through the wreckage in the heavily populated residential area. Four villages were affected by the crash and debris from the plane has been recovered within a kilometer of the site, Interior Minister A Rehman Malik said in a interview with Pakistani media.

At least 110 bodies have been recovered from the scene, while more than a 150 bags filled with body parts have been transported to hospitals across the region, according to Farkhand Iqbal, a municipal official in Islamabad.

World's deadliest plane crashes

The flight data recorder, which is considered a key component in determining what may have caused the tragedy, was recovered, officials said.

The Bhoja airliner had been flying from the southern seaport city of Karachi and crashed just before touching down in the capital after its 3½-hour flight.

Local authorities say the crash site is located about five aeronautical miles from the airport in Islamabad.

Weather reports indicated that conditions in the area included thunderstorms and limited visibility, according to CNN meteorologist Mari Ramos.

Authorities are examining what may have caused the crash and the potential for additional casualties at the site of the wreckage.

Investigators are "going to be looking at technology," aviation security consultant Greg Feith said. "What kind of radio equipment, what kind of ground proximity warning system the aircraft was equipped with, weather radar, things like that ... since the weather may be a factor in this accident."

Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on Friday expressed "deep shock and grief over the tragedy," ordering his country's Civil Aviation Authority "to gear up all its resources for rescue operation," state media reported.

A separate inquiry into the incident has been launched by Pakistan's Safety Investigation Board, and two crisis operation rooms have been set up at airports in both Islamabad and Karachi to provide information to the affected families.

A Boeing spokeswoman, meanwhile, said the American manufacturer "stands ready to provide technical assistance to the Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan."

The airliner was originally sold in 1985, said Julie O'Donnell.

"The Boeing Company wishes to extend its profound condolences to the families and friends of those lost today in the Bhoja Air accident in Pakistan, as well as wishes for the recovery of those injured," said O'Donnell.

Responding to allegations that the aircraft was not in good condition to fly, Defense Secretary Nargis Sethi told a local television station that the government has initiated "an immediate investigation."

"Whether it was 10, 8 years old, or not airworthy is something that we can't confirm yet," Sethi said.

But Bhoja Air station manager Zahid Bangish told a Pakistani television station later Friday that the "aircraft was new, not the old one and unairworthy."

The crash is reminiscent of one in 2010,when 152 people were killed as a Pakistani passenger plane crashed on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan's capital. That plane was also was coming from Karachi when it crashed into a hillside while trying to land, officials said at the time.

Four years earlier, another airliner crashed in central Pakistan, leaving 45 dead.

The first known commercial passenger airplane crash occurred in Pakistan in 1953 when a Canadian Pacific DH-106 Comet crashed shortly after takeoff from Karachi. That crash killed 11 people on board.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

0 Romney seeks to undercut Obama's foreign policy advantage

When North Korea launched a rocket earlier this month in a failed attempt to supposedly put a satellite into orbit, U.S. President Barack Obama was quick to condemn the latest provocation and then canceled a deal to resume nutritional assistance.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP nominee for president, offered a blistering statement of his own. But his statement was not entirely directed at the new leader in Pyongyang. It was also directed at the U.S. commander in chief.

Romney seeks to undercut Obama's foreign policy

"Instead of approaching Pyongyang from a position of strength, President Obama sought to appease the regime with a food-aid deal that proved to be as naive as it was short-lived," Romney said in a written statement. "At the same time, he has cut critical U.S. missile defense programs and continues to underfund them," he added, digging at another area of Obama foreign policy.

As the Republican candidate transitions from the long primary slog into the general election battle, his effort to cut down Obama on foreign policy and national security will sharpen. Naivety, appeasement, apologist and a menu of other unflattering descriptions are likely to be emanating from Romney's attack machine trying to cut down the president's perceived advantage on foreign policy. The president and his campaign team will be doing their best to ensure that advantage is maintained.

Romney's positioning in this particular battle arena is not new.

"Romney is going to do what presidential candidates, Democrat and Republican, have done for years when going up against an incumbent, and that's to run to the right" of the incumbent, said James Lindsay with the Council on Foreign Relations.

North Korea is not the only global hot spot where Romney has taken on the president's record in foreign policy and national security. Iran, China, Russia and the war in Afghanistan are among the areas that have been targeted as ripe for criticizing Obama's stewardship.

When an open-mic caught Obama last month telling the Russian president that he would have more flexibility to deal with missile defense after the election, Romney smelled blood in the water.

"These are very unfortunate developments," Romney said the same day in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Russia is "without question our number one geopolitical foe, they fight every cause for the world's worst actors, the idea that he has some more flexibility in mind for Russia is very, very troubling indeed," he said.

In what is likely to be a continuing theme throughout the general election, the Obama campaign was quick to put out statements from foreign policy surrogates painting Romney as a foreign policy novice unprepared to take the reins in a time of war.

"Does Mitt Romney think Russia is a bigger threat to the U.S. today than a nuclear armed-Iran or the terrorists of al Qaeda?" asked Colin Kahl, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East. "This is yet another example of Mitt Romney's willingness to say anything to get elected, no matter how reckless it may be."(Aol)

In a speech earlier this year to the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC, Romney excoriated the administration's "policy of engagement with Iran," but erroneously asserted the president had opposed sanctions against Iran at that point. Supporters of the administration were quick to point out that the most crippling set of sanctions against Iran, since legislation was passed in the late 1990s, has occurred under Obama's watch.

When it comes to China, Romney has been critical of the administration's approach, saying he would penalize the country for its currency policy. He has also accused the administration of gutting the defense budget and of abandoning Israel, a dependable ally in an unsettled part of the world.

And from the beginning of his candidacy, Romney has criticized Obama's plan to drawdown the U.S. footprint in Afghanistan. Such decisions were driven by politics and failed to heed the advice of senior military officials, Romney has said. Romney says the scheduled pullout of troops is premature and could jeopardize any gains that have been made. But Romney himself has said troops need to come out as soon as possible, as judged the commanders on the ground.

Most polls on the subject show even the president's policy of a phased withdrawal by 2014 from Afghanistan to be to the right of the American public, with a majority calling for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. His handling of counterterrorism, highlighted by the killing of Osama bin Laden in his Pakistan compound, has handed the president some high-profile foreign policy triumphs.

Romney's campaign has added a list of foreign policy heavyweights from past Republican administrations who served in positions at the White House, State Department, Pentagon and the intelligence community. In an open letter to Obama, the team said Obama's inadvertent comments to the Russian president raised "questions about whether a new period of even greater weakness and inconstancy would lie ahead if you are re-elected."

The Obama campaign has in turn branded Romney an untested leader unsure of his standing on issues beyond the waters' edge.

"Gov. Romney has been all over the map on the key foreign policy challenges facing our nation today, offering a lot of chest thumping and empty rhetoric with no concrete plans to enhance our security or strengthen our alliances," Ben LaBolt, Obama's campaign spokesman, said in a statement last month.

So far, the power of incumbency seems to be playing to Obama's benefit. In a CNN/Opinion Research poll of 1,015 adult Americans conducted earlier this month, 52% said they saw Obama as being the candidate better able to handle the duties of commander-in-chief. Some 36% of those surveyed sided with Romney. The poll had a sampling error plus or minus 3 percentage points.

As the calendar draws closer to November, analysts who follow the race say Romney needs to remain cognizant of the risk of appearing too tough in his foreign policy rhetoric that presents an opening for the Obama campaign to paint him as reckless. At the same time, he can't appear to deliberately tone things down so much thereby inviting charges of changing his positions for political expediency.

With the economy and other domestic issues largely drowning out the discussion of foreign policy so far, it's unlikely to be a major discussion point in the campaigns, absent an unforeseen event, until later this year when the candidates debate each other. And that will be where the true test for Romney will likely emerge.

"It's easy to say Mr. President, I can do better on Iran, on China, on North Korea," says Lindsay with the Council on Foreign Relations. "What we have yet to see is whether or not Romney can generate in the answer to the obvious counterquestion from Barack Obama: 'OK, what would you do, and why should we believe it would work?' "

0 Will Baby B debut in the Oprah Winfrey show?

Ever since Aishwarya Rai delivered a daughter in November 2011, speculations are rife about her name. While recently, there were rumours that Baby B was named Aaradhya, there were no confirmations either from her father Abhishek Bachchan nor her legendary grandfather, the Twitter-happy Amitabh Bachchan.

Aishwarya Rai

But according to a report by a Chicago-based journalist Jennifer Hopfinger, who runs a site called The Bollywood Ticket, the baby daughter of Aishwarya and Abhishek Bachchan may be introduced to the world this weekend, with her name being revealed on Oprah Winfrey's newest show, Oprah's Next Chapter.

It can be recalled that Oprah traveled to India for the first time a few months ago to shoot an episode about the country. The international talk-show queen, who met up with quite a few Bollywood A-listers including Hrithik Roshan, Anil Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra, also visited the Bachchan family home during her stay in Mumbai.

She was gifted an orange sari by Aishwarya, while the latter was also featured in a teaser promo for Oprah’s new show. Moreover, Ash has been a guest on ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ twice, first in 2005 and then in 2009 with her husband Abhishek.

So far the Bachchans have been extremely discreet about Beti B. No one, apart from their close friends knows what she looks like. In fact, such has been the interest about the little one that she has grown into a brand herself! But is this latest rumour just that – a rumour – or will she actually make her debut on an international chat show, remains to be seen!

0 The Dirty Picture’ TV premiere stalled despite cuts, Bollywood furious

he much-anticipated television premiere of Vidya Balan starrer “The Dirty Picture” was stalled at the last moment Sunday, despite 59 cuts in the film to make it suitable for television viewing. While film’s director Milan Luthria is shocked and disappointed, filmmaker Karan Johar branded it hypocrisy.

The Dirty Picture

The government moved quickly to stall the screening of film by an entertainment television channel, ostensibly due to its “adult” content, and asked the channel to telecast it late in the night after prime time.

Information and broadcasting ministry officials in New Delhi told IANS that they have sent a letter to Sony TV not to telecast the movie during prime time Sunday.

“The channel has been told to screen the movie only after 11 p.m.,” they said to a query in this regard.

This directive from the ministry left Luthria, fuming, even as the Mumbai film industry reacted angrily to the development.

“I am shocked and disappointed that this decision was taken at the last moment. For the last two months we have been working on this and as per the rule few scenes had to be cut to get the U/A certificate. Don’t harass us like this,” Luthria told IANS.

“We re-submitted the film after 59 cuts. Now I am curious to know why has this happened. DVDs of the films are already out and many people have already seen it,” Luthria added.

The film, which is reportedly based on the story of late southern actress Silk Smitha and fetched Vidya Balan her first National Award, was to be shown at 12 noon and at 8 p.m. Sunday on Sony TV. However, it was not shown. Sony had bought the rights of the Ekta Kapoor’s production venture for Rs 8 crore.

After the decision to pull it off from the small screen, Sony ran a ticker saying: “For unavoidable reasons we regret to inform that the film ‘The Dirty Picture’ will not be telecast today. Any inconvenience caused is deeply regretted.”

Johar too was surprised at the decision.

“A national award winning film cannot have a national telecast??? this is not an irony but plain and simple hypocrisy!!!! #dirtypicture. If the censorship is not a final authority then what is??? Complicated and blurred lines defeat the core of democracy!!!! #dirtypicture,” he tweeted.

The film, which also features Tusshar Kapoor, Naseeruddin Shah and Emraan Hashmi, is replete with “bold scenes” and after cuts it was given a UA certification for being shown on Indian television.

Tusshar also expressed his disappointment on Twitter.

“Really unfortunate that after all the necessary cuts and a valid UA certificate, The Dirty Picture could not be telecast today on Sony TV,” he tweeted.

“In light of recent events that exposed the dark side of Bollywood, ‘The Dirty Picture’ was well timed as it depicts a similar harsh reality!

“Sad that inspite of being acclaimed for it’s entertaining realism and having won 3 National Awards the regulatory forces have stalled the show,” Tusshar posted. – IANS

0 Happy wedding anniversary Abhishek-Aishwarya

Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan celebrate their rock solid five years wedding anniversary today.

It’s only love, love and LOVE between Ash and Abhi, that has taken them so far. This wedding anniversary is even more special as the couple celebrate their day with their lovely daughter Aaradhya.

 wedding anniversary Abhishek-Aishwarya

Just a quick recap, Abhishek Bachchan proposed to Aishwarya Rai on 12 January 2007, in Toronto, after the premiere of Guru. The couple got engaged on 14th Jan and April 20, 2007, the “made for each other” love birds entered marital bliss.

Celebden wishes one of the most romantic and good looking couples, a very happy wedding anniversary.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

0 Obama ahead in contributions, but Romney has big push on way

Here's a look at how much cash and debt the four leading presidential candidates have accumulated as of March 31. Total receipts include contributions from individuals, loans, political action committee (PAC) contributions and other income. Small contributions include unitemized contributions of up to $200

Presidential Election
Romney took in nearly $12.6 million last month, his strongest fundraising of the campaign as he racked up a slew of primary victories in March. In all, he has raised more than $88 million in his second bid for the presidency.

Obama, capitalizing on the power of the incumbency, has raised about $350 million since the start of the 2012 campaign, adding in his joint fundraising with the Democratic National Commitee.

The president's financial advantage may not last for long: Romney recently has started collecting money with the Republican National Committee and will be aided by deep-pocketed Republican outside groups eager to deny Obama a second term.

Two Republican groups — the American Crossroads super PAC and and its non-profit arm, Crossroads GPS— raised nearly $100 million for the election cycle, the group announced Friday. Nearly half the total — $49 million — came during the first three months of this year, besting the $31 million Romney collected during the same period.

Restore Our Future, a super PAC aiding Romney, raised nearly $8.7 million in March — much of it from a handful of wealthy donors and corporations. The largest donation, $1 million, came from Huron Carbon LLC, a company that shares a West Palm Beach, Fla., address with Oxbow Carbon, a private energy company founded by Republican donor William Koch.

Details on some of the donations are difficult to trace.

A $400,000 donation to Restore Our Future last month came from a West Palm Beach, Fla., company that has been listed as inactive since March 2011, Florida corporate records show.

Seaspray Partners is an investment firm created by Scott DeSano, a former Fidelity investments executive who now owns an Atlanta pizzeria, according to Florida corporate records, Internet website registrations and DeSano's LinkedIn profile.

Florida records list Seaspray Partners LLC as an inactive corporation in Florida, which converted to a Delaware corporation in March 2011.

Obama and Romney

In an interview Friday night, DeSano said he owns Seaspray and let it lapse, but made no such donation. "Seaspray made no contributions to anyone at anytime," he said. "Not a dime was given by me."

Super PACs and their non-profit branches can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations and unions to influence the election. Others writing large checks to the pro-Romney super PAC in March included Kenneth Griffin, Citadel hedge fund CEO, who contributed $850,000 — along with Dallas industrialist Harold Simmons and New Balance Athletic Shoes Chairman James Davis, who gave $500,000 each.

Obama, who has touted grassroots support for his campaign, also was helped by wealthy individuals. More than 530 individuals and couples have raised at least $106.4 million for his re-election, a USA TODAY tally of the campaign's fundraising list shows. Obama fundraisers include best-selling, alternative medicine author Deepak Chopra, who raised between $100,000 and $200,000.

Romney ended March with $10.1 million stockpiled for the fight ahead; Obama had more than $104 million on hand.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul said he raised $2.6 million in March, bringing his total for the election cycle to $37 million. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich spent more than he raised in March and ended the month with $4.3 million in debt.

Campaign reports show Priorities USA Action, a pro-Obama super PAC, once again trailing Republican groups in fundraising last month. The group, run by former Obama White House aides, raised $2.5 million in March. Amy Goldman, part of a wealthy New York real-estate family, donated $1 million, the largest contribution, followed by $500,000 from Kareem Ahmed, the CEO of the California medical billings company.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

2 Obama reverts to 2008 plan: Blame Bush

No sooner had Mitt Romney effectively locked up the Republican presidential nomination than President Obama began to sharpen his attacks — on former President George W. Bush.

In pushing for a tax increase this week on millionaires, Mr. Obama said an unfair impact of tax cuts for the wealthy were enacted during the “eight years before I took office.” A White House spokesman argued that Mr. Bush’s tax policies contributed to “global economic chaos.”

Obama Blame Bush

Administration officials also took verbal swipes after North Korea’s unsuccessful missile launch last week, accusing Mr. Bush of having rewarded North Korea with food aid years ago in spite of its nuclear weapons activities.

Mr. Obama has criticized the Bush administration’s policies in the past, but the attacks of the past two weeks have been more direct and specific.

“In a poker game, this would be called a ‘tell,’ ” said Steve Schmidt, who managed Republican John McCain’s presidential bid in 2008. “It’s a signal about what the campaign is going to be. From the perspective of the Obama campaign, they’re trying to have a debate about things other than the president’s economic record.”

Mr. Obama also is trying to link Mr. Romney, a wealthy former Massachusetts governor, to Mr. Bush’s policies, especially the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003.

“Take a look at what happened — between 2000 and 2008,” Mr. Obama told an audience in Ohio this week. “Instead of faster job growth, we had the slowest job growth in half a century. Instead of broad-based prosperity, the typical American family saw their incomes fall by about 6 percent.(Google)

“Outsourcing, rampant; phony financial profits all over the place,” the president said. “Instead of strengthening our economy, our entire financial system almost collapsed. We spent the last 3 1/2 years cleaning up after that mess. So their theory did not work out so well.”

The tactic prompted House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, to comment this week that the Obama team is “going to pull out every bogeyman they can.”

The strategy of attacking Mr. Bush worked well for Mr. Obama in 2008, but Republicans said that by reaching for this “blame Bush” tactic again, the president is acknowledging implicitly that he has failed to improve the economy during his term.(Yahoo)

“President Obama’s re-election strategy is clear — he doesn’t have a record to run on, so he’s going to attack his opponent with small things and point fingers at everyone but himself for his failure to turn the economy around,” said Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. “As he said in 2008, candidates that don’t have records to run on talk about small things.”

A New York Times/CBS News poll released Thursday didn’t ask voters about blame for the economy, but whether they thought an Obama re-election would improve their financial situations. Thirty-eight percent said it would have no effect; 33 percent said it would make their situations worse. Only 26 percent said a second Obama term would improve their economic situations.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday showed that 56 percent of respondents disapprove of Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy, and 38 percent approved. The split among independents was especially wide, with 67 percent disapproving of the president’s job performance on the economy and 28 percent approving.(Aol)

Mr. Schmidt said the Obama campaign’s strategy will play well with some Democrats who still harbor “deep antipathy” toward the Bush administration, but he thinks it won’t win over the independent voters who will decide the election.

“I don’t think the people who are in the dab-smack center of the electorate, the 6 percent of the electorate that’s going to determine its outcome, are going to be animated in their vote by looking backwards,” Mr. Schmidt said. “That’s a fundamental, structural problem for Obama, because it’s difficult to run a backwards, finger-pointing campaign when your initial campaign that launched your presidency was about hope and change for the future.”(Bing)

0 Dhanush-Shruti's 3 fails at the box office

When Tamil superstar Rajnikanth’s son-in-law, Dhanush, sang Kolaveri Di for 3 and got millions of hits on YouTube, tinsel town mandarins predicted that the film would fly high.  But it did not. Rather, as one daily said, after hitting a three, the movie went for a six.

Dhanush-Shruti 3 fail

3 began with a noon show which was packed in just about every theater where the film was screened. Word of mouth in these days of mobile testing and social sites on the internet is quicker than you can finish saying 3. The very next show, according to reports from exhibitors, saw a 50% drop in patronage. Which declined dramatically as the day wore off. Now, one is told, 3 is running to empty theatres.

Here are two quotes from distributors. Arul Pathy, president of the Tamil Nadu Film Distributors’ Association, told the media that the movie generated all the hype with the song, but the film itself could not live up to that expectation.

Telugu movie producer and distributor Natti Kumar reportedly said that out of the Rs. 6 crores he spent on distribution rights and publicity, he had been able to recover only Rs. 1.70 crores.

Distributors have collectively lost Rs. 20 crores in Tamil Nadu and Rs. 2 crores in Karnataka. 

The question now is, will Rajnikanth and Dhanush compensate for these losses. Rajnikanth had helped distributors at least on one occasion when his movie bombed at the boxoffice. It was Kuselan.

In an important way, 3 was a make or mar film for its director, Aishwarya, Dhanush’s wife. This was her debut attempt.

Now with Aishwarya (Rajnikanth’s elder daughter) tottering, her sister, Soundarya’s Kochadaiyaan (with Rajnikanth doing the lead in what is being touted as some kind of animated work in 3D) will be watched with great keenness. Will the movie move the Madrasi masses?

0 No More ‘Mr. Obama Is a Nice Guy’

There is a reflexive desire among a certain species of moderate Republicans to be perceived as “civil” by liberal opponents who believe that the mere existence of free-market, limited-government conservatism is an indecent affront to humankind. All aboard the USS Lost Cause.

This disastrous, bend-over bipartisanship is a hard habit to break. In 2008, Arizona senator John McCain rode the “Barack Obama is a nice guy, but vote for me” wave to crashing defeat. In 2012, McCain’s endorsee, Mitt Romney, has made “Barack Obama is a nice guy but in over his head” a standard stump-speech talking point.

Obama Is a Nice Guy

Conservatives of good will who’ve watched President Obama brutalize his enemies have one question for the nice-guy niceties: Why, GOP, why?

Romney’s smarter-than-thou strategists explain that he can’t scare off independents and Democrats with straight talk about Obama’s thuggery. But he’s turning off the conservative base, on whom his hold is tenuous. More important, Romney’s McCain Lite impersonation is also writing off independents and Democrats who’ve come to realize what the myriad targets of White House bullying have learned the hard way over the past four years: Barack Obama is not a “nice guy.”

Ask Gerald Walpin, the former AmeriCorps inspector general who was pushed out of his job by the Obamas after exposing fraud and corruption perpetrated by Democratic mayor of Sacramento and Obama friend Kevin Johnson. Walpin was unceremoniously fired and smeared by Team Obama. The White House baselessly questioned the veteran watchdog’s mental health and never apologized for slandering him.

Ask the family, friends, and co-workers of murdered Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. They have been forced to sue the Obama administration to combat the Operation Fast and Furious cover-up of deadly policy decisions that led to their hero’s death. “I think they are liars, and I would tell them that,” Terry’s father, Kent, said of Obama’s henchmen.

As Townhall editor Katie Pavlich makes clear in her devastating new book, Fast and Furious: Barack Obama’s Bloodiest Scandal and Its Shameless Cover-Up, the president, his corrupt attorney general, Eric Holder, and their minions weren’t “in over their heads.” They knew exactly what they were doing and have obstructed investigations into the bloody consequences of their policies ever since.

That’s not “nice.” It’s rotten to the core.

Nice? Ask those who have felt the wrath of Obama: tea-party members, bitterly clinging gun owners, and voters of faith; budget-reform leaders, such as Wisconsin’s GOP congressman Paul Ryan and governor Scott Walker; Chrysler creditors and dealers and Delphi auto-parts workers strong-armed and cut out of the White House auto-bailout negotiations with United Auto Workers; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity, and their donors; Fox News; conservative talk-radio giant Rush Limbaugh; the Congressional Budget Office; and the Supreme Court.

0 Romney gaining conservatives’ support, if not their hearts

Mitt Romney was not his first choice for president, but conservative political activist Scott Magill has come to accept that Romney is now his only choice. So Magill is looking for reasons to get jazzed about the candidate he once dismissed.

Romney gaining conservatives support

His list so far: Romney is a Republican who would sign into law legislation passed by a GOP-led House. Romney has started to hit the right talking points. If elected, Romney would have to listen to the conservative base — or risk its wrath at reelection time.

Also, and perhaps most important, Romney is not Barack Obama.

But Magill, a Newt Gingrich supporter who attended a recent National Rifle Association convention here, can’t help but let his disappointment show.

“Do I think he’s truly a conservative — by that I mean someone who conserves the Constitution? No,” said Magill, who mingled with some GOP stalwarts among acres of high-powered rifles, hunting knives and camouflage gear. “Is he a little Etch-a-Sketchy? Yeah. But we’ve got to tie that Etch a Sketch down. If we can do that, then there’s hope for us.”

Across the country, some Republicans are coming to terms with the likelihood that the man they never really liked will probably be their party’s presidential nominee. For many, it has been a hard pill to swallow at a time when the conservative base has logged an impressive list of victories and holds enormous sway over the party’s leaders.

In dozens of interviews with conservative leaders and activists, many said Rick Santorum’s decision to drop out of the race last week prompted some soul-searching about Romney, whom they have resolved to consider with fresh eyes and a newly opened mind.

And with the primary contest largely behind him, Romney appears to be trying to secure their support. On Thursday, his campaign announced that he will be delivering the commencement address next month at Liberty University, an evangelical Christian college. His advisers consider it a prime opportunity to consolidate conservatives behind him.

The conservative base appears to be warming to Romney, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted after Santorum’s exit, which found that about 80 percent of conservative Republicans hold favorable views of Romney — a record percentage for the candidate.

But only 29 percent of conservative Republicans said they held a “very favorable” view of him. And in a CNN poll released Monday, more than six in 10 respondents who said they would vote for Romney in November said they would do so out of opposition to President Obama rather than support for the former Massachusetts governor.

All of which suggests that Republicans are ready to support Romney. But they don’t love him.

Whether there’s anything Romney can do to change that — and whether it even matters in an election in which independent voters will rule — is an open question.

Peter Flaherty, a senior adviser for the Romney campaign who works with conservative groups, said the candidate has long-standing ties to conservative organizations and their leaders. He said the movement has been coalescing quickly around Romney since Santorum left the race last week and that activists’ excitement will grown naturally as the campaign progresses.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

0 Curtain falls on Dick Clark, but not on his legacy

But Dick Clark? He never left. With his toothpaste-ad smile and a microphone always ready, Clark was a fixture in our pop culture for decades.

Maybe you hear his name and think New Year's Eve stalwart, or American Bandstand host, or "the oldest living teenager," a nickname he picked up years ago, but Clark was much more than any of those single images.

Curtain falls on Dick Clark

Clark, who suffered a stroke in 2004 and died Wednesday of a heart attack, was a irrepressible entrepreneur who built an empire for himself in the entertainment industry. He was 82.

A wide spectrum of artists whose careers he had nurtured rushed to pay tribute. Tony Bennett tweeted that Clark was "a great guy and one of the first people to play my records." Paul Stanley wrote that Clark "was the face of rock and roll and its best ambassador. He championed Kiss when others turned away and was instrumental in breaking us."

On Facebook, Marie Osmond recalled their long association: "In 1974, my first time on Bandstand, I thought Dick Clark was the most handsome man in show business. In 1998, when he created and produced the Donny & Marie talk show, I realized that he was truly the hardest-working man in showbiz. And now, in 2012, I will always remember him as one of the most honorable men in show business."

And Motown founder and family friend Berry Gordy called Clark "an entrepreneur, a visionary and a major force in changing pop culture and ultimately influencing integration. It happened first emotionally. Music can do that. He didn't do it from a soap box, he just did it. That's who he was."(Bing)

With teen dance shows, prime-time programming, specials, game shows, made-for-TV movies and even feature films and restaurants, the ambitious Clark made Dick Clark Productions into a thriving business that touched the worlds of music, television and film.

And from Bandstand in the 1950s to his three decades of New Year's Rockin' Eves, Clark was particularly adept in the melding of music and TV, long before MTV and American Idol.

"Music is the soundtrack of your life," he was quoted as saying, and yet, he wasn't ever the one shimmying on the dance floor.

And his favorite music? "Disco," he said in more than one interview.

Clark was all about the smooth running of the production, not so much the joy of music. "I don't make culture," he once said. "I sell it."

Worked up from radio

In fact, the life of Richard Wagstaff Clark is a classic mailroom-to-boardroom Hollywood story. He was a broadcast salesman from start to finish.

The Mount Vernon, N.Y.-born Clark began his career in 1945 working as a teenager in the mailroom of WRUN-AM in Utica, N.Y., a station owned by his uncle and run by his father. He worked his way up to weatherman and newsman. At Mount Vernon's A.B. Davis High School in 1947, Clark was voted "Most Likely to Sell the Brooklyn Bridge."

After getting his business administration degree from Syracuse University in 1951, clean-cut Clark used his stint in radio to move into a newscasting job in Utica. But his career took off in Philadelphia the next year, when a station followed the new trend of having radio announcers play records over the air. Shortly after, the station decided to try it on a sister TV channel.

Teenagers were invited to come and dance on the show, Bob Horn's Bandstand. When host Horn went on vacation, Clark filled in, and when Horn was arrested for drunken driving in 1956, Clark got the job permanently.

What made him a success was his rapport with the teens and his non-threatening image to their parents. He knew what to sell. In 1957, American Bandstand went national, and Clark began introducing the American public to rock 'n' roll. Not only did it show worried parents exactly what their kids were interested in, but when Clark took over, he also began introducing black artists. American Bandstand provided the first national exposure for Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly and Chubby Checker, among others.

But Clark, while breaking racial ground, shied away from grittier fare. He basically ignored the British Invasion, figuring The Beatles would never be big, and gravitated to the tamest pop acts he could find. He was die-hard mainstream — always keeping his eye on what would sell in America and therefore ensure his success.

"I'm not gonna sit here and tell you I did this solely to keep music alive," he once told Rolling Stone. "To perpetuate my own career first and foremost, and secondly the music."

Add game show, AMAs

By 1959, American Bandstand was broadcast by 101 affiliates and reached an audience of 20 million. And the music industry quickly realized that once a new song was played on the show, it became a guaranteed hit.

Pop singer Connie Francis says she would have had "no career" without him.

"I had put out a bunch of records, and they were going nowhere," and her record label was "ready to drop me," she says. "Then, on Jan. 1, 1958, at 4 p.m., I rushed over to my 18-inch Motorola and turned on American Bandstand, like everyone else. And I heard him say, 'There's a new girl singer headed straight for the No. 1 spot,' and I thought, 'Good for her — sour grapes.' Then he played Who's Sorry Now, … and I knew in five seconds flat I was a star.(Yahoo)

"He could make or break anybody," she says, but "he used that power with kindness."

But the power of the show became a concern within the business. In 1959, the Senate began investigating the practice of "payola," record companies paying radio personalities to play new records. Clark admitted he accepted a fur stole and jewelry and held financial interests in artists and songs frequently on American Bandstand. Even though Clark was cleared of wrongdoing, he was ordered to either leave ABC or sell his interests; he sold.

Clark, who started Dick Clark Productions in 1957, moved his headquarters to Los Angeles in the 1960s and developed a keen eye for business.

"The man loved to come up with new ideas, and preferably moneymaking ideas," says a pal from the era, guitarist Duane Eddy, for whom he says Clark's second son was named. "And he had some ridiculous ideas. He said, 'It would be great to come up with a way to keep kittens continue to be kittens.' "

He never did. But during that time, he became friends with an up-and-comer named Chuck Barris, who went on to create and host The Gong Show, and Ed McMahon. Clark was responsible for introducing McMahon to Johnny Carson.(Aol)

In 1965, Clark produced Where the Action Is for ABC, a Bandstand-style show hosted by Paul Revere and the Raiders, while he continued to host Bandstand after it went into syndication. When he stopped hosting in 1989, it had become the longest-running television variety show of all time.

He was also a big game-show fan, becoming host in 1973 of $10,000 Pyramid, and he stayed with it as the pyramid's value grew (and won nine Emmy Awards for best game show).

Also in 1973, Clark took on a new production, the American Music Awards, which offered an alternative to the Grammys but became a battleground for loyalty in the music industry.

In 2001, that battle came to a head. Clark filed suit in federal court in Los Angeles, alleging that Michael Greene, president and chief executive of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, maintained a "blacklist" policy that prevented stars — including Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Toni Braxton— from performing on both Greene's Grammy Awards and Clark's American Music Awards. The suit sought $10 million in damages but was later withdrawn.

Now known as the Recording Academy, the group paid tribute Wednesday, saying Clark "blazed new trails in pop music and became pivotal celebrations of music on television, spotlighting both established and emerging artists."(Google)

'In bad shape' after stroke

In 2001, Clark sold Dick Clark Productions for $137 million to a group of private investors but stayed on as chairman and chief executive, producing various shows and cultivating other parts of the business, such as Dick Clark Restaurants.

Whenever he was asked how he retained his youthful, teenage looks, Clark would always says, "I've got the pat answer — select your parents carefully, get the good genes."

On Dec. 8, 2004, he was hospitalized with what was described as a "mild" stroke and missed ringing in 2005 on his New Year's Eve show. Regis Philbin substituted.

But the stroke was not so mild; Clark returned when 2005 turned to 2006 with slurred speech and a gaunt look as he sat in the ABC studio in Times Square and told the audience the stroke had left him "in bad shape."