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Tuesday, 14-Jun-2011 11:32 Email | Share | | Bookmark
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Tuesday, 2-Feb-2010 02:30 Email | Share | | Bookmark
'Transformers,' 'Lost' lead worst movie nominees

CNN) -- "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" and "Land of the Lost" now have another dishonor to add to the critical lambasting they took upon release: the two films are tied for most Razzie nominations for worst films of the year.

"Transformers," which dominated box office charts if not reviewers' hearts, picked up seven nominations, including 10-11mm pearl necklace worst picture, worst director (Michael Bay, a Razzie favorite), worst actress (Megan Fox) and worst screen couple (Shia LaBeouf with Fox or any Transformer).

"Land of the Lost," the Will Ferrell remake of the early-'70s Sid and Marty Krofft children's show, earned nods for worst picture, worst actor (Ferrell), worst director (Brad Silberling) and worst screen couple (Ferrell and "any co-star, creature or 'comic riff,' ") according to the Razzie list.

"Head Raspberry" John Wilson, author of "The Official Razzie Movie Guide" and chief of the Golden Raspberry Award Foundation, acknowledges that the organization might be risking a backlash from "Transformers" fans, who made the film the No. 2 highest-grossing film of 2009 with more than $400 million at the domestic box office.

"This is not the first time we've nominated something that made that kind of money," he said, noting that the "Star Wars" sequels "The Phantom Menace" and "Attack of the Clones" also earned Razzie nods.

But he doesn't apologize for the inclusion of "Transformers": " 'Transformers,' to me, is the personification of what's wrong with Hollywood right now," he said. "It's all about do what already worked, pander to the audience, put in a lot of special effects. ... It's almost as though when they freshwater pearl brooch
were editing the thing they had a little egg timer running, and every seven minutes something had to blow up or somebody had to yell, 'Go go go go! Run run run run!' "

Other nominees for worst picture are "All About Steve," "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" and "Old Dogs."

Though Sandra Bullock is riding a wave of respect for her performance in "The Blind Side" -- she's expected to receive an Oscar nomination tomorrow for best actress -- she's also on the list for a Golden Raspberry for her performance in "Steve," her 2009 dud.

Wilson observed that Bullock, presuming she gets an Oscar nomination Tuesday, could become the first person to win both a major-category Oscar and Razzie on the same weekend.

"She's in as good a position as anyone could be to accept both awards," he said. Noting Bullock's good sense of humor, he has hopes that she'll show up at the Razzie ceremony on freshwater pearl pendant March 6. (Halle Berry, in a rare appearance by a top star, accepted a Razzie for "Catwoman" in 2005.)

The Razzies, now in their 30th year, are equal-opportunity tributes, giving note to A-listers and D-listers alike. Along with Bullock and Ferrell, nominees this year include Steve Martin ("Pink Panther 2"), John Travolta ("Old Dogs"), Sarah Jessica Parker ("Did You Hear About the Morgans?") and teen heartthrob Robert Pattinson ("The Twilight Saga: New Moon"). Winners receive a hand-made, spray-painted gold trophy with an estimated street value of about five dollars, according to the Razzie Web site.

Wilson was surprised that the Razzie voters, who number about 650, didn't back "New Moon" more strongly. The "Twilight" sequel earned four nominations overall.

"Based on the volume of postings we had on the two forums on our Web site, I would have thought 'Twilight Saga' would have made more categories than it did," he said.

Along with their year's-worst awards, the Razzies are also giving out "The Worst of the 'Uh-Ohs,' " giving tribute to the worst of the decade. Pictures up for that distinction are "Battlefield Earth" (2000), "Freddy Got Fingered" (2001), "Gigli" (2003), "I Know Who Killed Me" (2007) and Madonna's version of "Swept Away" (2002).

The race is expected to come silver pearl jewelry down to "Battlefield Earth" and "Gigli," which the Razzies named the worst drama and comedy of its first 25 years, respectively.

The Razzies are sticking with tradition, nominating just five films in each category -- unlike the Oscars, which are going to have 10 movies in the running for best picture. But though there were plenty of bad films in 2009, Wilson said, if there were 10 worst picture Razzie nominations, it would dilute the process.

"What I've been saying is, if we had 10, then our awards really wouldn't be any more meaningful than the cultured akoya brooch Golden Globes," he said.

The Gala 30th Annual Razzie Awards will be held Saturday, March 6 -- the night before the Oscars -- at Hollywood's Barnsdall Gallery Theatre.

Tuesday, 2-Feb-2010 02:25 Email | Share | | Bookmark
In Quake’s Wake, Haiti Faces Leadership Void

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The journalists had assembled and the cameras were rolling. Seated at center stage were the American ambassador and the American general in charge of the wholesale jewelry sets United States troops deployed here.

At the back of the room, wearing blue jeans and a somber expression, stood President René Préval, half-listening to the updates on efforts to help Haiti recover from its devastating earthquake while scanning his cellphone for messages. Then he wandered away without a word.

That moment last Wednesday was revealing of the leadership crisis taking hold in Haiti as it faces the task of rebuilding almost every corner of Port-au-Prince, the capital.

Foreign nations have sent hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance, only to find the government too weak to harness it. Virtually every symbol of this country’s political system vanished into
6-7mm freshwater pearl the rubble. The seat of government has been reduced to little more than a platform beneath a towering mango tree outside a police station near the airport.

Parliamentary elections have been indefinitely postponed. Radio programs have become soap boxes for opposition leaders to strike the government while it is down. A nation that had been looking forward to a rare, peaceful transfer of power is now experiencing familiar — albeit faint — rumblings of chaos and coups.

During the greatest disaster Haiti has ever faced, its president has seemed incapable of pulling himself together, much less this deeply divided society.

“What the country has seen since the earthquake is not a leader, but a broken man,” said Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady of Haiti who makes no secret of her presidential aspirations. “He’s not doing. He’s not speaking. He’s not acting. He’s not moving. And if he’s not moving, how’s the country supposed to move?”

In the immediate aftermath of the quake, Mr. Préval seemed to wander around in a daze, lapsing into moments of disorientation. The morning after, he sent a taped message to the nation, his only one so far, to a radio station, dispassionately reporting details of the damage and urging listeners, “Kembe,” the Creole term for “hold on.”

In recent days he has begun to take steps to reassert authority and restore his government, but given Haiti’s turbulent and unforgiving politics, the damage may have been done.

Mr. Préval makes no apologies for his low profile. “I don’t do politics, O.K.?” he huffed in one recent interview. “My work is to find ways to ease the pain of those suffering, instead of being trailed by journalists to pose for pictures with people who suffer.”

He boasts that government workers have cleared the streets of about 170,000 bodies. But with so little else to show for his efforts in the nearly three weeks since the earthquake, few are convinced that Mr. Préval is doing anything at all. Despite a flood of foreign aid, hundreds of pearls jewelry wholesale thousands of people continue to languish in squalid shelters.

Publicly, the international organizations here emphasize at almost every turn that they are working under Mr. Préval’s direction. Privately, United Nations and American officials said they did not believe he was up to the task.

Because of concerns about the government’s history of corruption and inefficiency, only a fraction of the aid flowing into Haiti is permitted to pass through government channels.

The disappointment in the president seems most palpable. Judith Marceline, a former nurse who lost everything in the quake but the dirty flowered dress she was wearing Sunday, said that she stood in line for hours to vote for Mr. Préval in 2006. Today she wonders why.

“When he needed us, we went out to support him,” she said. “Now that we need him, where is he?”Mr. Préval, like Haiti, is no stranger to crisis. In fact, he rose to power as its antidote. After several volatile decades amber earrings marked by dictatorships and populist governments, the simple, soft-spoken agronomist appealed to a country looking for a cool technocrat to lower the political temperature.

During his first term in office, from 1996 to 2001, he is credited with building dozens of public schools, putting tens of thousands of people to work and issuing titles to thousands of acres of farmland.

In his second term, which began in 2006, Haiti experienced modest, but hopeful, levels of growth and security.

Political tensions, however, began to flare after Mr. Préval’s handpicked electoral council disqualified more than a dozen opposition parties from taking part in this year’s elections. The move put Mr. Préval at odds with his old mentor, former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who, even in exile, remains adored by the poor.

Mr. Aristide and other opposition leaders accused Mr. Préval of trying to stack the Parliament so that he could make the constitutional changes necessary to run for a third term.

“The only way to confront Préval’s plan is to mobilize the population,” Evans Paul, a former presidential candidate, told The Associated Press in early January. “The people have a right to rebel whenever the government is acting antidemocratically.”

Since the earthquake, its hand strengthened by government weakness, the opposition has seized on the leadership vacuum as another truncheon to swing at the president.

Slowly it appears that Mr. Préval has gotten the message, many say.

In recent days, he sent his prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, to address a meeting of donors in Montreal. He wishing pearls in oysters ordered public works projects outside the capital to get back to work, and children in those areas to return to school.

He appointed a group of government ministers and private-sector leaders to serve as liaisons between his government and the hundreds of international organizations delivering assistance to this country. Most notably, he has begun to stake out a place on the public stage, giving interviews and holding news conferences. On Friday, he spoke at length to reporters at Radio Television Caraibes, outlining his vision for a new, less congested capital, where the government employs people to help clear the rubble and rebuild their own homes.

Responding to criticism of his displays of distress after the earthquake, he said, “Even though I am president, I am human first.”

To those who have suggested that the recovery ought to be moving more quickly, he said, “They underestimate the magnitude of the problem.”

And when asked for a political forecast, he sounded more hopeful than sure, saying that he would try to push ahead with the presidential election, scheduled for November, as the best way to guarantee political stability.

“I want this to be a new country,” he said, waving his hands for emphasis. “I want it to be totally different.”

Tuesday, 2-Feb-2010 02:19 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Terry's England future in doubt after alleged affair with Bridge

(CNN) -- Soccer star John Terry's role as captain of England's national team is in jeopardy following tabloid accusations of his marital infidelity, according to a British government minister.

Terry is alleged to have had an affair with the ex-partner of his former Chelsea teammate Wayne Bridge, having failed in a high court bid to prevent newspapers publishing details of his liaison with Vanessa Perroncel.

The 29-year-old has two children with his wife Toni, whom he married in June 2007, and was named "2009 Dad of shell necklace the Year" by a British sauce maker. He reportedly earns more than $200,000 a week.

French actress and model Perroncel had a child with Terry's fellow England defender Bridge in 2006. The pair have since separated but Bridge, who is now at English club Manchester City, said on Saturday that he would not be commenting for the sake of their son.

Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe said he would contact the English Football Association about the matter, the UK Press Association reported.

"On the field John Terry is a nature pearl pendant fantastic player and a good England captain, but to be the captain of England you have got to have wider responsibilities for the country," Sutcliffe said.

"And clearly if these allegations are proven -- and at the moment they are only allegations -- then it does call into question his role as England captain.

"I speak to the FA on a regular basis, so I will be asking what their viewpoint is and we will see what comes of it."

Perroncel has enlisted the services of noted celebrity publicist Max Clifford, PA reported, and he said she told him that some of the allegations were true.

"She has never spoken to a single journalist and she's all over all the papers with all kinds of allegations, some of jewelry set wholesale which she said were true and some of which she said aren't true," Clifford told the GMTV television program.

"All I'm prepared to say is that she's known John a long time, and obviously I think during that time they've become very close friends, but anything more than that, I wouldn't want to say at this particular stage. It's really for her to decide what she wants to do."

While Terry's alleged infidelity may not have the global impact as that of golf superstar Tiger Woods, it could 7-8mm pearl necklace cause big problems for England ahead of June's World Cup finals in South Africa.

Bridge, who is sidelined with injury, is not guaranteed to be part of the squad but has represented his country 36 times and is the regular back-up at left-back for Chelsea's Ashley Cole.

England coach Fabio Capello is out of the UK following a knee operation, but is expected to make a decision on Terry's future before the friendly international against African Nations Cup winners Egypt on March 3, PA reported.

The FA has released a statement saying that Capello, known to be a strict disciplinarian, "alone will make the decision about John Terry's position."

"Fabio is fully up to speed with developments regarding John Terry. He spoke with our chairman Lord Triesman and shell pearl necklace chief executive Ian Watmore today, who both backed him to make the best decision for England on footballing grounds," the FA said on its Web site on Monday evening.

"Fabio is dealing with the matter in his own way using his extensive experience as a football manager."

Terry was first named captain of England after the 2006 World Cup when Steve McClaren took over as manager from Sven Goran Eriksson, and retained the armband when Capello was appointed in 2008.

It is not the first time that Terry has been the subject of controversy.

Last year he was accused by a tabloid paper of accepting money to show fans around Chelsea's training ground, and in 2002 he was cleared by a court after being charged with assault and affray following an incident with a nightclub bouncer.

Tuesday, 2-Feb-2010 02:09 Email | Share | | Bookmark
With Bill Stalled, What if Talks Reopen?

For all the handwringing among Democrats about the fate of their health care legislation following the Republican victory in the Massachusetts special election for United States Senate, one thing party leaders have not said is that they would use the political setback as an opportunity to write a better bill.

President Obama and Congressional Democratic leaders have floated the idea of a smaller bill or bills: breaking apart the legislation into parts that might have a better chance at passage. They have also raised the prospect of House Democrats simply adopting what almost everyone bracelet clasps wholesale agrees is a flawed Senate bill, including a number of shortsighted provisions stuck in to win the votes of individual senators.

And they have talked about using budget reconciliation, a procedural maneuver, to push through the Senate any changes that are needed to the health care legislation.

But what they have not suggested, perhaps because of the exceedingly bellicose comments by Republican Congressional leaders, is that they would try to rewrite the bill in such a way that lawmakers in both parties would find it virtually irresistible.

Congressional Democrats, generally speaking, say the time for substantive debate of the health care legislation has passed and that it is politically naïve to think that a bipartisan deal is possible in the tense political climate of a mid-term election year.

But just for fun, let’s imagine that Democrats, answering Mr. Obama’s call for greater collaboration and collegiality in Washington, decided to give it one more try.

If they did, they just might start with a phone call to Representative John Shadegg, Republican of Arizona, who recently said he would retire after this year, at the end of his eighth term in Congress.

Why Mr. Shadegg? In tough political circumstances, whenever Congressional leaders are scrounging for votes cultured freshwater pearl on the other side of the aisle, a special subset of lawmakers always ranks high on the target list: retirees.

Few things focus the minds of public officials on their accomplishments and their failures than their impending departure from public office. With months left to serve, the word “legacy” looms large.

Liberated from an urgent need to satisfy constituents, donors and interest groups, largely freed from the shackles of party loyalty and spared attack by the opposition, retirees can vote as they please.

Mr. Shadegg has long had a keen interest in health care issues. Unlike his party’s leaders, he has no personal stake in the outcome of this year’s hotly contested mid-term elections and therefore no personal interest in seeing the Democrats fail. He has studied the nation’s health care system and has some serious ideas. And he believes that Republicans and Democrats share common goals.

“I don’t believe this debate is about whether or not we should take care of everybody in American who can’t afford health insurance,” he said in an interview on Sunday. “Republicans and Democrats agree we have to give everybody in America basic coverage.”

He added: “There is agreement on both sides that we have to figure out how to get a system in place that covers all Americans. And there’s a debate about how to do it.”

Mr. Shadegg, for instance, is a strong supporter of allowing health insurers to sell policies across state lines and has introduced a bill to that end (PDF).

The Democrats’ legislation also seeks to permit the sale of insurance across state lines, but Mr. Shadegg believes there are substantial flaws in the Democrats’ proposal because it would require too much federal regulation.

The Senate bill also would require state legislatures to pass a law to allow policies to be sold across state lines, a step that Mr. Shadegg said is redundant and unnecessary.

Mr. Shadegg said his saltwater pearl own proposal would set federal requirements for solvency of insurance plans and would allow beneficiaries to appeal denials of claims.

Democrats say stronger regulation is required to prevent insurance companies from writing policies in the states with the thinnest requirements for basic health coverage and the weakest consumer protections, and then turning around and selling them everywhere, giving beneficiaries the least coverage for their money.

Mr. Obama, in a question-and-answer session with House Republicans last week, used this issue as an example of how he and other Democrats have considered many Republican ideas but disagree about how best to implement them. Mr. Shadegg quickly put out a statement insisting that the president “got his facts wrong.”

Still, it is difficult to see why a deal could not be reached on this point. This is just one issue, and not even one of the hardest. But if Democrats and Republicans could agree that they had found the best way to sell health insurance across state lines, they could move on to other disagreements.

Mr. Shadegg has also proposed expanding state high-risk insurance pools as a way of helping cover people who are otherwise denied benefits. The Democrats’ legislation includes money for a temporary expansion of the pools until new rules kick in that would bar insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

Mr. Shadegg said that on this point, too, the Democrats were going about things all wrong. But he also noted that amber earrings Republicans agree that no one should be denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions. That’s a much bigger agreement than the comparatively minor disagreement over how to expand high-risk pools.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said that the House Republicans’ health care bill, which relied mainly on high-risk pools to cover the uninsured, would leave about 52 million Americans uninsured by 2019.

In other words, it would barely make a dent.

But that’s largely because House Republican leaders, in proposing their substitute health care measure, ignored all sorts of ideas put forward by rank-and-file Republicans. Extending coverage would cost a great deal of money, and Republican leaders concluded that given the nation’s fiscal situation, it would be unaffordable.

Still, there are Republicans outside of the leadership who are serious about improving the American health care system and mitigating the severe risks that rising health care costs pose to the nation’s economic security and stability.

Some, like Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, are also retiring and may have more flexibility to negotiate with Democrats. Others, like Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, have been inhibited by the need to run for re-election.

Some are physicians, like Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Representative Tom Price of Georgia. And wish pearl for key chain many tend to be experts on the nation’s finances, like Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the senior Republican on the Budget Committee.

In private conversations, with reporters or with colleagues, all of these lawmakers acknowledge that their efforts to work on health care have been hampered by Republican leaders in both chambers of Congress who are focused on the political ground game.

At the same time, to really bring Republicans to the table, Democrats would need to be prepared for some serious soul-searching. It is important to remember that even before the results of the Massachusetts special election stalled everything, Democrats’ had yet to resolve all the differences among themselves over the health care legislation.

For instance, Democrats would likely have to revisit the question of whether employer-provided health benefits should be taxed as income, a point of major dispute between Mr. Obama and Senator John McCain of Arizona in the 2008 presidential race.

Many Democrats loathe the thought of taxing health benefits, as do labor unions, which have negotiated generous benefits plans over the years, often in place of wages because of the tax benefits both to employees and employers.

But health economists generally agree that the tax exemption for employer-provided health benefits creates a perverse incentive for overspending on health care and puts downward pressure on wages.

And even unsophisticated observers typically conclude that the current tax exemption for employer-provided benefits is unfair. Americans who do not get their health insurance through their employer pay for much, if not all, of their coverage with after-tax dollars. So a banker with a health policy worth $40,000 a year gets $40,000 in tax-free income, while someone who is self-employed gets no such break.

(When Mr. McCain proposed eliminating the tax exemption for health benefits, his campaign estimated that it would raise $3.6 trillion over 10 years, which he would have used to provide tax credits to defray the cost of health insurance for all Americans. That $3.6 trillion is more than three times the 10-year cost of the Democrats’ legislation.)

The excise tax that Senate Democrats proposed on high-cost, employer-sponsored health insurance policies is a step toward limiting the tax exemption. Many House Democrats fiercely oppose the idea, illustrating that this is an issue that cuts across party lines.

A number of Republicans have put forward legislation that would end the tax exemption altogether. So has Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, who proposed a bill (PDF) together with Senator Bob Bennett, Republican of Utah.

Mr. Wyden, who believes that health care legislation should do still more to increase choices for people who get insurance through their employers, has long been one of the leading optimists on Capitol Hill when it comes to the question of Democrats and Republicans cooperating on health care.

Many Republicans have criticized a deal reached between the White House and labor groups to blunt the impact of the excise tax on generous union-sponsored insurance policies. But that criticism might be tempered if the legislation called for eventually phasing out the tax exemption for employer-provided health benefits.

Mr. Ryan of Wisconsin has proposed legislation that would replace the tax exemption for employer-provided health benefits with a tax credit (PDF) to offset the cost of health insurance for all Americans.

Mr. Coburn has introduced a similar bill in the Senate.

Democrats will surely argue that the tax credit proposed by Mr. Ryan, slightly more than $5,700 per family, is nowhere near sufficient to cover the cost of even a bare-bones health insurance plan. The average cost of a family health plan is now about $13,000 annually.

But the underlying concept of his proposal — tax credits to help people purchase private coverage — is similar enough to the subsidies that Democrats have proposed in their legislation to provide an opening for negotiation.

Many Republicans abhor a provision in the Democrats’ legislation that requires virtually every American to obtain insurance or pay financial penalties for failing to do so — a so-called individual mandate.

Some Republicans, instead, have proposed a system of automatic enrollment by which any uninsured American seeking medical care would be entered into a computer system and, provided they qualify, signed up for a government-subsidized health plan.

Would Democrats go along if such automatic enrollment were not optional but mandatory for anyone seeking care who could not pay their doctor or hospital bill on the spot? What if it were coupled with incentives to get people to visit the doctor for an annual physical, or to enroll in a prevention and wellness program?

There are many other areas that seem ripe for compromise.

The Democrats know that their legislation does not do enough to limit frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits. The Republicans know that the Democrats’ legislation takes important steps toward helping small businesses afford health coverage for their workers.

And Republicans know that many of the fears they have raised about cuts to Medicare services for the elderly are overblown — Republicans are usually the ones to point out the need to eliminate waste and inefficiency.

The legislation already includes some ideas to help bridge these gaps. Many states have programs to insure some low-income adults who do not otherwise qualify for Medicaid.

And Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington, has proposed allowing states to expand such programs, which would likely be far more appealing to Republicans than a pure expansion of Medicaid, which is one of the flashpoints in the legislative divide.

Many of these issues have already been debated, a number of them in private talks among a small bipartisan group of senators on the Finance Committee who worked for months trying to draft a compromise health care measure.

In recent days, Mr. Obama has begun explaining why some compromises on the health care legislation are so difficult.

At a town hall-style meeting in Elyria, Ohio, he explained that requiring insurers to cover everyone, including people with pre-existing conditions, is unaffordable unless healthy people also obtain insurance and pay premiums that contribute to the cost of caring for the sick.

In the question-and-answer session with House Republicans on Friday, he explained why allowing the sale of health insurance across state lines might require beefed-up regulation to prevent insurers from writing policies in states only with the thinnest coverage requirements.

If the president wants Congress to pass a bill — that helps fix the health care system and wins the support of the American public — he may yet need to explain what Democrats can do to win over some Republican votes.

Republicans, however, would seem to have some of their own explaining to do.

Mr. Obama, at his session with the House Republicans, accurately noted that many of the provisions in the Democrats’ legislation were included in a proposal (PDF) put forward by two former Republican Senate majority leaders, Howard Baker of Tennessee and Bob Dole of Kansas, together with a former Democratic majority leader, Thomas A. Daschle of South Dakota.

“You may not agree with Bob Dole and Howard Baker, and Tom — certainly you don’t agree with Tom Daschle on much,” Mr. Obama said. “But that’s not a radical bunch.”

Mr. Obama added, “So I’m thinking to myself, well, how is it that a plan that is pretty centrist — no — no, look, I mean, I’m just saying — I know — I know you guys disagree, but if you look at the facts of this bill, most independent observers would say this is actually what’s — many Republicans — it — it is similar to what many Republicans proposed to Bill Clinton when he was doing his debate on health care.”

“So all — all I’m saying,” the president continued, “is we’ve got to close the gap a little bit between the rhetoric and the reality.”

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