Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Exclusive video : This Is It Tour - Rehearsals & Auditions (Michael Jackson & his dancers)

Exclusive video : This Is It Tour - Rehearsals & Auditions for the O2 Arena concerts (Michael Jackson & his dancers) -

Bobby Valentino says "R&B is Dead" - Rebirth

Bobby Valentino on BlackTree TV with Erica O'Young. Robert Wilson (born on February 27, 1980), better known by his stage name Bobby Valentino, or Bobby V is an American R&B singer (his nickname being Valentino because he was due to be born on Valentines day) known for his tenor. He is known as Bobby V or Bobby V-Tino in the United Kingdom due to a lawsuit involving a British musician who has been recording under the same name since 1975. Born in Jackson, Mississippi, Bobby moved to Atlanta, Georgia where he attended North Atlanta High School. He later returned to his old high school appearing on the debut episode of MTVs Once Upon A Prom, which aired on May 19, 2007. Bobby entered the music scene in 1996 as a member of the R&B youth quartet Mista, at this time using his real name, Bobby Wilson. Under the production of Organized Noize (TLCs Waterfalls), the group released their self-titled debut album, which produced the chart topping single, Blackberry Molasses. Unfortunately, the album didnt follow in the same success and despite a second album being produced by Tim & Bob, it was never released. Due to management issues the group split in 1997. Bobby later enrolled at Clark Atlanta University majoring in Mass Communications and pledged Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. While in school, Bobby continued to record in his free time in hopes of one day returning to the stage. In the spring of 2002 he auditioned for season one of American Idol, but didnt make the cut. After graduating in 2003, Bobby decided to focus on music again. Armed with three albums of demos, he set out to pursue his music career dream. The demos reached Puff Daddy who then forwarded them onto Ludacris and Disturbing Tha Peace president Chaka Zulu, and the rest is history as Bobby says. Soon after being signed as the first R&B artist on Disturbing Tha Peace Records, Bobby was featured on the hit single Pimpin All Over the World, off of Ludacris multi-platinum selling album The Red Light District in 2004. Discography Bobby Valentino (2005) Special Occasion (2007) The Rebirth (2009) http://www.blacktree.tv

Movie trailer: Disney's new animated film draws criticism from African-American community

Disney’s new animated film, “The Princess and the Frog”, draws criticism from some in the African-American community. From the creators of “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin”, this classic tale is said to have a modern twist. Although the film isn’t scheduled for release until December, it has already created a lot of buzz, because for the first time in Disney’s animated history, the princess is black.

The beautiful Princess Tiana is voiced by the talented, Tony-winning actress Anika Noni Rose. The musical score is written by Oscar-winning composer Randy Newman, and the film marks the return to traditional Disney with hand-drawn, 2D animation. Disney also secured Oprah Winfrey to voice Eudora, Tiana’s mother and serve as a consultant on the film. It appears that the producers pulled out all the stops to bring a classic fairytale to life and create a stunning work of art. Even Cori Murray, entertainment director at Essence magazine told CNN, “Finally, here is something that all little girls, especially young black girls can embrace.”

So what could possibly be so controversial? It started years back with the original title, “The Frog Princess”...perhaps insinuating that African-American women look like frogs. The Princess’ original name, Maddy (short for Madeleine) was also under fire. Some said it sounded too much like Mammy thus racist while others claimed Maddy didn’t sound ethic enough. So Disney changed the name of the movie to “The Princess and the Frog” and Princess Maddy became Princess Tiana. Whew! All settled, right?

Not so fast. Now, the main point of contention is that the Prince isn’t black…he’s tan. In fact, Prince Naveen hails from the fictional land of Maldonia and is voiced by a Brazilian actor. Angela Bronner Helm from Black Voices, a website dedicated to African-American culture, wrote in a March article,

That's right – even though there is a real-life black man in the highest office in the land with a black wife, Disney obviously doesn't think a black man is worthy of the title of prince. I guess Sasha and Malia and all the other little black girls out there should just shut up and be thankful to have something! Little black boys will have to wait another 20 years.”

And she’s not the only one, William Blackburn, former columnist at The Charlotte Observer, had a beef as well. He explained that the “story is set in New Orleans, the setting of one of the most devastating tragedies to beset a black community” and felt this locale was a bit insensitive. Even the lovable sidekick, Ray the firefly, is under scrutiny. Performed by Jim Cummings, the voice of Winnie the Pooh and Yosemite Sam, some people think Ray sounds too much like the stereotypical, uneducated Southerner.

So is “The Princess and the Frog” unintentionally promoting awful African-American stereotypes? Experts say dealing with race in animation is extremely difficult, because cartoons by nature are caricatures. Well, what do you think? Watch the just released trailer below and share your thoughts. Racist cartoon or enchanting fairytale?

Woman Says Black Men Kidnapped Her: She Really Went to Disney World

My best friend Greg was shot in the head in 1996, nearly the same time the rapper Tupac Shakur was murdered. Greg was a good man and a good father but he was also a black man, which made his murder seem typical. The media didn't find much interest in my friend's death. His story was covered in the back of the newspaper, in print small enough to be a low-budget classified ad.

The same week, a white mother of three in the same city (Louisville) was murdered on her way to a bank in the suburbs. Her murder was, for several days, the lead story on every TV channel, radio station and newspaper. There was a $25,000 reward issued for information leading to a break in the case. The police held regular press conferences announcing that they wouldn't sleep until the killer was found.

The good people of Kentucky were going to protect their damsel in distress at all cost. The entire city had become a group of Nancy Grace clones, obsessing over every nook and cranny of the case, crying for the woman's orphaned children and holding candlelight vigils. None of this was done for my best friend's daughter, since her daddy's death was just not all that intriguing.

My friend Greg was "only" another dead black man. His daughter, Jasmine, was just another fatherless black girl. In the eyes of the media, her suffering was not as important as that of the little angels from the suburbs who'd tragically lost their mother.

I thought about Greg when reading about the case of Bonnie Sweeten, the Philadelphia woman who claimed she and her daughter were abducted by two black men. Turns out that she wasn't abducted at all: she'd taken a trip to Disney World.

The Bonnie Sweeten debacle reminds us of the case of Charles Stuart in 1990. Stuart, a Boston resident, murdered his pregnant wife and said that a black man was the perpetrator. For weeks, black men were victims of tremendous persecution on the part of local police They were strip searched, taken into custody and humiliated in front of their families. That story was also fabricated.

Sweeten's sweet little lie makes us ask the following questions:

1) Why is the public so quick to believe it when black men are blamed for violent crimes? Black males are six times more likely to be incarcerated when arrested, even when they commit the same crimes as whites. In the cases of those men who are innocent, one only wonders if the justice system is also swayed by the very same stereotypes that made the public believe that two black men kidnapped Sweeten and her daughter.

"Ever since Susan Smith, it has been fashionable for white women accused of crimes to blame it on black men," says Dr. Christopher Metzler, author of 'The Construction and Re-articulation of Race'. "We hardly live in a post-racial society."

2) Why does the media zoom in on such cases more frequently than when black families are victimized? There are a shocking number of child murders taking place in Chicago right now, but the murders are receiving very little national media attention. If these children were not black, chances are that the media would be all over this epidemic. Does the blonde damsel in distress always get more attention than she deserves?

"Despite her mental illness, Sweeten had a clear understanding of two key components to a national tragedy: distressed white woman and violent black assailants," says Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, a Columbia University professor. "The public's deep interest in rescuing white women in distress stands in sharp contrast to the black women, like Latoya Figueroa from Philadelphia, whose abductions go unnoticed."

3) Perhaps we should not go overboard in our discussion of the racism inherent in this case? One must give law enforcement credit for doing a thorough enough investigation to determine that this woman was lying. Had this been another part of the country, say, the same location as the cases of Jamie and Gladys Scott, justice may not have been served. Although there is much work to do, not every police officer wants to incarcerate all black men.

The bottom line is this: It's clear that Sweeten needs psychiatric help. She is currently under investigation for allegedly stealing $300,000 from her former employer, and she hardly represents the typical white female. But we must become conscious of the fact that America overreacts when someone hurts a white woman and underreacts when the victim happens to be black. To think that this perceptive bias is not related to 400 years of racial conditioning would be silly. Nancy Grace and the rest of us must keep in mind that a black life is just as valuable as a white one, and perpetrators come in all ethnicities.

Dr Boyce Watkins is a Distinguished Scholar Affiliate at The Barbara Jordan Institute for Policy Research at Texas Southern University. He is also the author of 'What if George Bush were a Black Man?' For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com.

The Negro Cannot Win By Rev. Clenard H. Childress, Jr.

Rev. Clenard H. Childress Jr., Director Learn Northeast

As I've written before, "The Negro cannot win if he chooses to sacrifice the future of his children for immediate comfort and safety..." This quote from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King epitomizes the state of Black America and the perpetuation of its demise by the Obama administration. Ironically, and tragically, much of the decimation of the African-American community, by means of betrayal and deceit, is self imposed. This deliberate and systematic discrimination would not flourish if it were not for willing pawns, duplicitous individuals more concerned about personal political gain then the future of the lives they serve. Their culpability is disgraceful and deplorable. The greed for gain by these individuals works to sustain the status quo of destruction; works to 'sacrifice the future of our children for immediate comfort and safety.'

In this past election, 95% of African-Americans voted for Barack Obama out of ethnic pride and for the promise of Change. I would dare say, none -- out of ignorance -- who voted, 'yeah,' ever expected Obama's plan would not only continue the present annihilation, but escalate it! Voting for the most pro-abortion presidential candidate in our nation's history should have been a sign of things to come. 1,786 African American children are killed in the womb of their African American mothers each day. That's One-Thousand-Seven-Hundred-Eighty-Six African-American Babies a day! And 52% of all African-American pregnancies end in abortion (Allan Guttmacher Institute). African-American women now lead the nation in miscarriages due to the weakening of the uterine lining because of multiple abortions. The breast cancer rate has dramatically increased directly due to first time pregnancies ended by abortion. www.abortionbreastcancer.com The African American births are beneath the replacement level and still declining (US Census 2006). What's Obama's answer to this holocaust?

Obama's first Executive Order was to reverse the Mexico City policy which prohibited your tax dollars from funding international organizations promoting or performing abortions. Obama's administration started the process of overturning pro-life conscience protections that would force doctors to perform abortions against their will. He then appointed a flood of abortion advocates to his administration such as, Dawn Johnsen, NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League) Legal Director who argued in a Supreme Court brief, restrictions on abortion violate the Thirteenth Amendment's prohibition against slavery because, in her words: "...the state has conscripted..." i.e., the pregnant woman's, "...body for its own ends..."; Ellen Moran and Melody Barnes of Emily's List, a national political action committee working to elect pro-choice female Democrats; and Kathleen Sebelius, Governor of Kansas, whose collaboration with Planned Parenthood and the most notorious abortionist in America, George Tiller, is well known. These are just a few of those in Obama's administration whose radical abortion agenda targets African Americans more than any other ethnic group in America...to 'sacrifice the future of our children for immediate comfort and safety.'

African-Americans make up 12% of the population but 37% of the abortions. Why? Because the self-serving political pawns of the African-American community continue to turn a blind eye, tacitly supporting this genocide in our country for their own immediate aggrandizement of power thus securing the safety of their own reelections. For in choosing Obama, and his agenda, we are choosing to sacrifice our children for the promise of comfort and safety. As it is always when this argument comes up, there are those who would say, "...worry about the ones who are here." A case in point: one of the most absurd comments I ever heard from supposedly pro-life Senator Bob Casey when questioned about Obama's radical abortion record was, "I don't know about Barak Obama and the first nine months, but I know of his good things for children after that." Can you believe Casey said that? No one should dignify that question with a response but I will here with an observation from the District of Columbia.

These are children after nine months and were successfully navigating a ravaged Urban Community where the AIDs rate is higher than West Africa and is rated one of the worst public education school systems in the country. These children were predominately African-American that had escaped the 'genocide of the minds of our youth' in the District of Columbia, by a public school system which over the years has compromised thousands of the destinies of black youth. When Obama could have helped these, he refused. Obama, who said, let us do what is right for the kids, did what was right for Obama, and the self serving Democrats, some of whom are black and were more concerned about getting Teacher Union dollars ($55,794,000) for their reelection campaigns than serving the children they represent. The program, which all data proved was working, was denied. Why? Once again, for the immediate comfort and safety of a Democrat Congress which could care less about the plight of these urban children, while their own children, including Obama's, attend private schools. Some of these kids abandoned are in the school Obama's children attend. This is sad.

Now for the dagger in the back! The same time the decision was made to end this productive life changing school voucher program for minority children in DC, the Obama administration announced it was sending 50 million dollars, the same cost of the DC Voucher program, to the UN population agency which stands for "Less Negro's in Africa," all with the approval of congress. This is outrageous! This organization promotes abortion globally and shares the same offices with the Chinese population control officials who enforce the one-child rule in China via forced abortions. Once again, Dr. King was right: the appalling greed for gain by these individuals works to 'sacrifice the future of our children for immediate comfort and safety.'

No, the Negro cannot win, nor America for that matter, with an administration that is expediting the demise of African-Americans and stripping away that which is good, all in the name of "Change" which is mostly much of the same, and in some cases, much that is far worse.

Rev. Clenard H. Childress Jr.
President, LEARN NE
201-704-9325 cell

Racism's Role in LA Gang Case Rekindles Debate

Federal authorities call the case against the Varrio Hawaiian Gardens gang, accused of systematically trying to purge black residents from the predominantly Latino city in south Los Angeles County, the most egregious example of racially motivated gang crime in years.

Federal prosecutors called their sweeping indictment of the Varrio Hawaiian Gardens gang the biggest takedown of its kind in U.S. history.

That was sure to grab attention, but details buried in the court documents were bound to touch a raw nerve: One of the Latino gang's primary motivations was hatred of black residents.

It's the third time in recent years federal prosecutors have investigated a gang and found racism in its DNA, reopening a thorny debate that has publicly divided the region's top cops.

In dueling newspaper opinion pieces last year, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca maintained that race fueled gang violence while Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton said skin color was seldom a factor.

"If you do a survey within the African-American community ... you are in constant fear that your young male offspring is going to be killed because of the color of his skin," Baca said in an interview after his piece appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

In an area both proud and sensitive about its diversity, racial tension has been at the heart of some of its ugliest chapters: from the zoot suit riot beatings of Latinos by white sailors in the 1940s to the deadly Watts riots in 1965 to the riots that erupted in 1992 after four police officers were acquitted in the videotaped beating of Rodney King.

So-called brown-on-black or black-on-brown violence has been a long-standing concern in neighborhoods where black residents are being supplanted by Latinos. Acknowledging it, however, has political implications and officials often downplay the tension.

"Saying gangs make targeted racial hits can add a great deal of fear of communities," said Joe Hicks, vice president of Community Advocates Inc. and former executive director of the city's Human Relations Commission. "We are not on the edge of some kind of racial Armageddon here. It's just part of the picture, but it's a particularly frightening part of it."

Baca, an elected official, says his opinion comes from running the county jail system where he has to segregate inmates because of gang affiliations that break along racial lines.

Bratton works for a politically appointed commission and the Los Angeles Police Department has traditionally dealt with black gangs more than Latino gangs, though that is rapidly changing.

"Is there racial crime committed by gang members? Yes, of course," said Deputy Police Chief Charlie Beck, head of detectives under Bratton. "But if you are asking me if race is a primary factor in gang crime, the answer is no."

Having worked as a Boston cop in the 1970s when different races were bused between schools in an attempt at forced integration, Bratton is keen not to stoke racial fears, said Constance L. Rice, director of the Advancement Project, which studies gang violence.

"He comes out of some terrifying policing situations," she said. "He knows what happens when you don't handle this stuff right."

While U.S. Attorney Thomas O'Brien would not comment about the debate between the two, he said his office calls cases as it sees them.

"I am not concerned about political backlash for anything," O'Brien said.

The indictment of 147 alleged Varrio Hawaiian Gardens members and associates on charges ranging from racketeering to kidnapping and attempted murder marks the third time O'Brien's office has said explicit racial hatred plays a major role in gang crime.

Most gangs are formed along racial or ethnic lines, so turf battles can easily be construed as racist, though they're usually driven by desire to control lucrative drug territory or other gang business.

"Every time you see one case, it's easy to blow it up into a hate crime," said Malcolm Klein, a University of Southern California social psychologist. "I tend to downplay that."

But the cases federal prosecutors have brought often have involved innocent victims who don't belong to rival gangs. The Varrio Hawaiian Gardens investigation began after a gang member killed a sheriff's deputy.

In 2005, federal prosecutors indicted members of The Avenues, a Highland Park gang, charging them with hate crimes for killing a black man in what prosecutors called a campaign to drive blacks from that neighborhood.

Two years later, another indictment charged dozens of members of the Florencia 13 gang in south Los Angeles, saying the gang had killed black people because of the color of their skin.

The violence goes both ways, with the Grape Street Crips, a black gang, trying to force Latino residents out of a housing project in the Watts area of south Los Angeles.

Baca and Bratton's diverging views surfaced after the U.S. attorney unveiled the racketeering indictment against Florencia 13. The debate intensified when Jamiel Shaw, a black high school football player, was killed by a man prosecutors say is an illegal Mexican immigrant.

Much of the true racially motivated violence stems from directives from prison gangs, said Robin Toma, executive director of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission.

The Varrio Hawaiian Gardens and Florencia gangs took orders from higher-ups in the Mexican Mafia, a prison-based gang known to be highly racial.

Pinning gang crime on race can prompt a backlash from community members. Toma said he is already hearing anti-immigrant sentiment from black residents in Hawaiian Gardens and the surrounding area in south Los Angeles County.

"That's the real danger," Toma said. "It's difficult to keep a lid on this stuff when people are getting shot."

Conan on 'The Tonight Show' wins high ratings

Conan O'Brien has reason to smile after his debut as "Tonight" show host.

His first Nielsen Media Research report card shows a 7.1 rating and 17 audience share in the nation's biggest media markets. The numbers indicate more people checked out O'Brien's show out than watched David Letterman's "Late Show" and ABC's "Nightline" combined.

A typical "Tonight" show this season had a 4.0 rating. Each ratings point represents 1 percent of the nation's homes with TV, which means 7 percent of homes had someone watching O'Brien on NBC.

O'Brien was serenaded by both comic Will Ferrell and the rock band Pearl Jam on opening night.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

NEW YORK (AP) — Conan O'Brien debuted as host of "The Tonight Show" with a jog across the country to Los Angeles and other comedy bits on his entry into a strange new West Coast culture.

He joined a line of predecessors — Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson and Jay Leno — on television's most historic late-night franchise.

"I think I've timed this move perfectly," he said in his opening monologue aired Monday night. "I'm on a last-place network, I moved to a state that's bankrupt and 'The Tonight Show' is sponsored by General Motors."

O'Brien spent 17 years as host of NBC's "Late Night" in New York, and the move up one hour has been in the works for five years. Leno, his immediate predecessor, will do a weeknight prime-time show on NBC. The workaholic Leno will start "in two days, three days tops," O'Brien joked. Actually, it's in September.

O'Brien christened a new studio on the Universal City lot with a handsome art-deco look. The stage has a blue glass background for the opening monologue, before O'Brien retreats to a desk in front of a sparkling backdrop of Los Angeles.

From the top, O'Brien showed the silly comic style that sets him apart from Leno, with more comedy skits filmed earlier and less reliance on jokes in front of the studio audience. The first one showed O'Brien marking off a to-do list for his new show. "Move to L.A." was the last item, as a camera panned a New York skyline outside his window.

A frantic O'Brien went out in the street to find a cab. When he couldn't, he began running. He ran out of New York, and sprinted across the country — across Wrigley Field in Chicago, past the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, by the Rockies and through the desert to Las Vegas. Finally he arrived at the locked door to his new studio, only to realize he'd left his keys behind.

In other segments, O'Brien commandeered a tram filled with tourists on a Universal Studios lot tour and took his used green Ford Taurus for a ride into Los Angeles' car-obsessed culture. Fabio complimented him on his ride.

O'Brien appeared nervous at the long-awaited opening night, pacing onstage during his monologue and mugging with his red pompadour.

"I remember watching Johnny Carson when I was a kid and thinking: That's what I want to be when I grow up," O'Brien said. "I'm sure right now in America there is likely a kid watching me, thinking: 'What is wrong with that man's hair?'"

Longtime sidekick Andy Richter slid smoothly into the role Ed McMahon once played for Carson, standing at a podium to the side of the stage and loudly laughing at his boss' jokes.

Over at CBS, David Letterman slyly mentioned NBC's transition.

"I'm still here," he said. "I knocked off another competitor."

He said he got a call from his mom and she said, "Well, David, I see you didn't get 'The Tonight Show' again," a reference to Letterman losing out to Leno to become Carson's successor.

Comic Will Ferrell was O'Brien's first guest, his appearance less manic than some of his memorable "Late Night" visits. He offered O'Brien some "tips" for L.A. living, including a good burger joint in Pasadena "called Burger King."

Pearl Jam was the musical guest, debuting a song off an upcoming album.

Ferrell sang his own song in tribute to O'Brien, a version of "Never Can Say Goodbye" that "bewildered" the host. Why sing a goodbye song on the first night?

"Don't get me wrong," Ferrell said. "I'm pulling for you. But this little thing is a crapshoot at best."

Let the mind games begin

By John McMullen, NBA Editor
Sports Network) - Phil Jackson is usually the one playing mind games.

The Zen master has never been regarded as the best X's and O's guy, but his numbers and accomplishments can't be questioned.

Jackson has an astonishing 43-0 record in the postseason when his team wins Game 1 of a series, and he will be aiming for his record 10th NBA championship as a coach and 12th overall when the Finals kick off between his Lakers and the Orlando Magic on Thursday.

History tends to be a daunting opponent to overcome, so Magic mentor Stan Van Gundy is going to pull out all the stops to steal Game 1, and that includes using the mind games that Jackson is so famous for.

Enter Jameer Nelson.

Orlando beat the Lakers in both of their meetings during the regular season, but the combined margin of victory was only nine points. In those two games, the two superstars came through. The Magic's Dwight Howard totaled 43 points and 32 rebounds, while the Lakers' Kobe Bryant poured in 69 points.

But the big difference was Orlando's All-Star point guard, who scored 27 and 28 points for the Magic in the two regular season contests and tortured the aging and slow-footed Derek Fisher.

Fast-forward to the present. Nelson has missed the entire postseason with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, and hasn't played since February 2 against Dallas. The St. Joseph's product underwent surgery performed by renowned Dr. James Andrews on February 19, and his rehabilitation was estimated at four-to- six months.

If you do the math, four months would be June 19, safely after the finals will be history.

Nearly two weeks ago, Orlando general manager Otis Smith said there was no chance Nelson would make a return for the playoffs, but team president Bob Vander Weide wanted Nelson to take another MRI and consult with doctors.

The doctors cleared Nelson to practice this week, and the Magic's braintrust will then make a decision on his availability. If healthy, Nelson's return could be the difference against the Lakers.

Fisher has averaged just 7.1 points and 2.4 assists on 35.6 percent shooting from the field, and a miserable 23.5 percent from three. The veteran has been abused at times by Deron Williams, Aaron Brooks and Chauncey Billups during the postseason.

Fisher can be taken off the dribble at will these days and especially struggled with the lightning-fast Brooks in the West semis. Nelson's replacement, Rafer Alston, isn't chopped liver and does have the quickness to get anywhere he wants against Fisher, but the former playground legend is a streaky shooter, will turn the ball over at times and isn't consistent enough on the defensive end.

Nelson is a much steadier presence, but his potential availability strikes me as a Van Gundy mind game. The risk of permanent injury to one of the franchise's marquee players is just too great. Not to mention that Van Gundy would be wagering his team's momentum and chemistry on a guy who hasn't played in four months but would be asked to walk onto the court and play at an NBA Finals level.

It certainly would make for quite the movie script, and the series will start in Hollywood. With Nelson on the floor playing at a high level, I can't picture anyone beating this Magic team. When you have five or six players that can stretch the floor and bang threes on a consistent basis, teamed up with Howard in the middle, that's toxic.

Would I like to play? Of course. I'm a competitor," Nelson told the Orlando Sentinel. "But I don't want to do anything that would jeopardize me long- term."

Nelson was on the floor Tuesday for his first full team practice since the injury and Van Gundy said his point guard looked "terrific."

Backup point guard Anthony Johnson went even farther saying, "I expect to see him out there at some point in the series."

It's official...the mind games have begun.

Your move, Phil.

China rounds up dissidents, blocks Twitter

Ahead of the 20th anniversary of the bloody crackdown on Tiananmen Square this week, Chinese authorities have rounded up dissidents and shipped them out of town. Now, they've even shut down Twitter.

Along with their ususal methods of muzzling dissent, the authorities extended their efforts Tuesday to silence social networking sites that might foster discussion of any commemoration of the events of June 3-4, 1989.

The action is a new sign of the government's concern of the potential of such technology in an authoritarian society where information is tightly controlled.

"There has been a really intensified clampdown on quasi-public discussion of awareness of this event," said Xiao Qiang, adjunct professor of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California-Berkeley, and director of The Berkeley China Internet Project.

"It's a discussion about where China is now and where China can go from here. So the authorities are making a major crackdown to block user-generated sites such as Twitter and show there is no right to public discussion," he said.

China has the world's largest online population, and Internet communities have proven increasingly influential in spreading word of events to everything from student protests to group shopping excursions.

People are going outside the normal, controlled channels to set up communities online, spreading information about campus unrest and other potentially subversive activities taking place in this vast nation.

Government Internet monitors have shut down message boards on more than 6,000 Web sites affiliated with colleges and universities, apparently to head off any talk about the 1989 events, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy.

Numerous blogs maintained by edgy government critics such as avant-garde artist Ai Weiwei have been blocked and the text-messaging service Twitter and photo sharing site Flikr could not be accessed within China on Tuesday. Video sharing site YouTube has been blocked within China since March.

Officials from Twitter and Flikr did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Authorities have been steadily tightening surveillance over China's dissident community ahead of this year's anniversary, with some leading writers already under house arrest for months.

Government critics, including activist Ding Zilin and former top government adviser Bao Tong, could not be reached amid reports that they had been ordered to leave the capital prior to the anniversary of the crackdown.

Bao, the 76-year-old former secretary to Zhao Ziyang, the Communist Party leader deposed for sympathizing with the 1989 pro-democracy protesters, had gone to his native province of Zhejiang and would not return for another week, according to a woman answering the phone at his Beijing apartment and identifying herself as the housemaid. She refused to say when he left Beijing or provide contact numbers for him in Zhejiang.

Ding, a retired professor and advocate for Tiananmen victims whose teenage son was killed in the crackdown, had said earlier that security agents "strongly suggested" she and her husband leave the capital during the anniversary. Repeated calls to her Beijing home met with busy signals.

Elsewhere, in the Zhejiang province city of Taizhou, former educator Wu Gaoxing — jailed for two years after the crackdown — was taken from his home by agents Saturday, shortly after the publication of a letter he had co-signed complaining about economic discrimination against dissidents, according to another of the letter's signatories, Mao Guoliang.

China has never allowed an independent investigation into the military's crushing of the 1989 protests, in which possibly thousands of students, activists and ordinary citizens were killed. The subject remains taboo on the mainland, with officials routinely countering questions about Tiananmen with remarks on how much China has developed and prospered in the years since.

"The party and the government long ago reached a conclusion about the political incident that took place at the end of the 1980s and related issues," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a regularly scheduled news conference Tuesday.

Despite the official silence, the crackdown remains a major topic for human rights groups and pro-democracy supporters in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong autonomous region, where this year's June 4 vigil is expected to draw tens of thousands.

Overseas monitoring groups estimate that 30 men remain imprisoned on charges relating to the protest, and Amnesty International issued an open letter this week to China's top legislator, Wu Bangguo, calling for their release.

Also Tuesday, exiled former student leader Chai Ling issued a rare public statement calling for the release of political prisoners, an independent investigation into the events, and permission for former student leaders to return home.

"The current generation of leaders who bear no responsibility should have the courage to overturn the verdicts" on the protests, said Chai's statement, distributed by the Hong Kong human rights center.

Kim Jong Un: North Korea's next leader?

'Dear Leader' Kim Jong Il has reportedly tapped his youngest son as his successor.

South Korean intelligence sources are spreading the word that North Korea's ailing leader, Kim Jong Il, has settled on his third son, 26-year-old Kim Jong Un, as his successor.

Kim Jong Il seems to be moving quickly to pick a successor as questions swirl about how much time he has left to rule the country, while recovering from a stroke that he reportedly suffered last August and struggling with other illness.

North Korea is giving no hints about succession, but the rapid-fire moves to show off the North's military strength, notably the underground test of a nuclear device on May 25, are believed to be timed to demonstrate Kim Jong Il's power despite his physical weakness.

North Korea this week is reported to be moving a long-range missile to a site on the west coast for a test similar to the one conducted from the east coast on April 25.

"The background to the nuclear and missile thing is, you have a dying monarch who doesn't have an established successor," says Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economist at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. He adds, "you'd think he would want all his succession ducks lined up in a row."

Questions over succession reports

Analysts look askance, however, at the definitive nature of the South Korean reports on Kim Jong Il's selection of his youngest son. Although he may be a better choice than his two older brothers, his inexperience raises questions about who would really be in charge.

"It looks like Dad has toyed with the idea of all the boys," says Mr. Eberstadt, author of numerous studies on North Korea, but, he asks, "What evidence do we have?"

Kim Jong Un is not at the center of the ruling Workers' Party and is not a member of the Supreme People's Assembly, the legislative body that rubber-stamps all Kim Jong Il's decisions, Eberstadt notes.

Nor is he a member of the National Defense Commission, though he recently assumed the title of "inspector" of the armed forces, and he has had a minor government post.

Still, South Korean media are giving credence to a briefing by the National Intelligence Service to South Korean National Assembly members from the opposition party, normally extremely critical of government policy.

Major newspapers also report the same speculation, none of it formally confirmed on the record by the South Korean government.

"The designation of the successor was passed down to North Korea's Workers Party, the Supreme People's Assembly, and military right after the North carried out a nuclear test last week," according to the conservative Chosun Ilbo, South Korea's biggest-selling newspaper, citing simply "several intelligence sources."

The same reports say mid-level party, government, and military officials were notified for the first time that Kim Jong Il had "apparently made the choice early this year," says Chosun Ilbo.

The article suggests that "high-level officials in North Korea" were "confidentially notified of the decision" before word filtered down the ranks.

A song to praise Kim Jong Un?

Park Jie Won, former top aide of Kim Dae Jung, the former South Korean president who initiated the South's Sunshine policy of reconciliation with North Korea, said National Intelligence Service officials had told him North Korean officials are now "pledging allegiance" to Kim Jong Un. Mr. Park, now a member of the National Assembly, helped arrange for Kim Dae-jung's summit with Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang in June 2000.

North Koreans reportedly are referring to Kim Jong Un as "Commander Kim," and learning a new song written in his praise similar to songs written for his father, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather, Kim Il Sung, who ruled the North from the end of World War II, through the Korean War, until his death in July 1994.

The adulation for Kim Jong Un strikes some observers as extremely strange, considering that the young man was educated in a school in Bern, Switzerland (where he learned English, German, and French), is a fan of the National Basketball Association, and has nothing in his background to recommend him to leadership, aside from his father's love.

"I'm very much confused," says Kim Tae-woo, vice president and senior fellow at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses based in Seoul. "I really don't think he's eligible."

Kim Jong Il's concern about his health appears to be the driving factor behind his concerns about succession, as well as his military and diplomatic moves.

"North Koreans are consolidating behind Kim Jong Il's power," says Kim Tae-woo. "Of course they will be thinking about succession."

A favorite, perhaps by default

Kim Tae-woo wonders, however, if reports of Kim Jong Un's rise are premature. "I don't believe it even though Kim Jong Il could be a favorite son of his father. Frankly, I am confused."

Kim Jong Un has long been rumored as his father's favorite, almost by default.

His oldest brother, 38-year-old Kim Jong Nam, is considered a playboy – and his image was badly tarnished when he was detained at Japan's Narita Airport eight years ago attempting to enter the country on a fake Dominican passport.

He was sent home to North Korea after explaining to Japanese immigration authorities that he had wanted to visit Disneyland with his family.

And middle-brother Kim Jong Chol has long since been written off by his father as appearing too feminine in manner, according to Kim Jong Il's former sushi chef, Kenji Fujimoto, whose book, published six years ago after he returned to Japan, remains one of the few sources on life in Kim Jong Il's inner circle.

Bruce Klinger, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, says he takes "all these stories" about a successor to Kim Jong Il "with a grain of salt," but believes, "Whoever is the leader, it will be a collective leadership."

Within the ruling family, Kim Jong Il's brother-in-law, Jang Song-thaek, appears to wield the most power after Kim himself.

Mr. Jang, the brother of the late Ko Yong-hi, third wife of Kim Jong Il and mother of Kim Jong Il's two younger sons, was named a member of the National Defense Commission, the center of power of North Korea, shortly after the missile test on April 5.

Ms. Ko is believed to have worked feverishly on behalf of her sons and her brother before her death five years ago. Kim Jong Un has not been seen in a photograph since he was 11 years old, but is reported to resemble his father physically, meaning he is somewhat overweight.

He also is reported to suffer from a diagnosis of diabetes, like his father, and to have been in a car accident last summer – an event that sped up concerns about succession to power.

Kim Jong Il wields his power mainly through his post as chairman of the defense commission, and has often promoted his "military first" policy. Near or at the apex, however, are a number of generals who may be waiting to assert their own power after Kim Jong Il's death.

Whoever takes over, analysts are not optimistic about a sudden softening of North Korea's tough outlook toward South Korea – or the rest of the world.

"The policy will not change," says Mr. Klinger. Nor would Kim Jong Un's rise "have inherent legitimacy," he says, in view of "the dynasty aspect" – another reason why generals might assert themselves behind the cover of the ruling family.

Ford sales climb to highest level since July

Ford Motor Co. sold 155,954 units in the United States in May, up 20 percent from April. It was the highest sales volume for Ford since July 2008, when the company sold 161,530 units.

But sales were down 24.2 percent compared with May 2008, when the company sold 213,238 units.

For the first five months of 2009, Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford (NYSE: F) sold 620,303 units, compared with 981,150 units during the same period a year earlier, a 36.8 percent decline.

In a sign that buyers might be coming back to the luxury vehicle market, Ford’s Lincoln division reported that it sold 8,566 units in May, a 2.2 percent increase over May 2008, when it sold 8,365 units.

Sales of Ford Explorers declined 34.6 percent, to 5,315 units from 8,122 units a year ago. Sales of the Mercury Mountaineer dropped 45.2 percent, to 402 from 734 units a year earlier.

Sales of F-Series pickup trucks dropped 22.3 percent, to 33,381 units, from 42,973 units in May 2008.

Sales of Ford Expedition SUVs declined 40 percent, to 3,150 units from 5,252 units a year earlier. Sales of the Lincoln Navigator dropped 40.6 percent, to 790 units from 1,329 units a year earlier.

Ford saw year-over-year gains in some of its car categories.

The company sold 19,786 Fusion sedans in May, up 9.4 percent from the year-earlier period when it sold 18,088 units.

Lincoln sold 1,553 Town Cars in May, up 103.3 percent from May 2008, when it sold 764 of the luxury vehicles.

Ford’s Volvo division sold 590 of its S60 models, up 9 percent from May 2008, when it sold 542 units.

Also Tuesday, Ford announced a summer promotion to draw more consumers to dealerships. Through June 30, the automaker will cover as much as three months of payments up to $2,100, and its Ford Credit subsidiary will offer zero percent financing on select Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles.

List of passengers aboard lost Air France flight

A list of the named passengers aboard Air France Flight 447, which disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris carrying 228 people:

-Luiz Roberto Anastacio, 50; Brazilian; president for South America, Michelin

-Stephane Artiguenave, 35; French; salesman at electrical distributor CGED

-Sandrine Artiguenave, 34; French

-Aisling Butler, 26; Irish, of Roscrea, Ireland; doctor

-Brad Clemes, 49; Canadian from Guelph, Ontario; Coca-Cola executive

-Arthur Coakley, 61; British; structural engineer for PDMS

-Jane Deasy, 27; Irish; doctor

-Pedro Luis de Orleans e Braganca, 26; Brazilian; descendent of Brazil's last emperor

-Jozsef Gallasz, 44; Hungarian; partner of Hungarian victim Rita Szarvas.

-Antonio Gueiros; Brazilian; information systems director, Michelin

-Michael Harris, 60; American, from Lafayette, Louisiana; geologist

-Anne Harris; American, from Lafayette, Louisiana

-Erich Heine, 41; South African-born; member of executive board of ThyssenKrupp Steel AG

-Claus-Peter Hellhammer, 28; employee of ThyssenKrupp Steel AG based in Germany

-Giovanni Battista Lenzi, Trentino area, Italy

-Zoran Markovic, 45; Croatian, from Kostelji, Croatia; sailor

-Christine Pieraerts; French; engineer at Michelin

-Rita Szarvas; Hungarian; therapist at a Budapest center for children with motor disabilities. Her 7-year-old son was also aboard, but his name was not released.

-Eithne Walls, 29; Irish; doctor

_Rino Zandonai; Trentino area, Italy.

-Luigi Zortea; Trentino area, Italy.


KATV released this photo of the suspect after he was arrested in Little Rock. According to Army Lt. Col. Thomas F. Artis, the two victims were not recruiters, but part of a recruiting program called "Hometown Recruiting Assistance."

A United State Army recruiter was shot dead today in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The New York Times reported:

A United States Army recruiter was shot to death and a second recruiter seriously wounded by a man who opened fire from a vehicle Monday morning in a bustling suburban shopping center here, the police said.

A suspect in the shooting was arrested minutes later a short distance from the crime scene, by officers relying on a description of the vehicle, a black sport utility vehicle, provided by several witnesses. An assault weapon was taken from the S.U.V., a police spokesman said.

“He fired off several rounds,” a Little Rock police spokesman, Lt. Terry Hastings, said. “We have no idea of a motive.”

The names of the dead recruiter and his wounded colleague were not immediately disclosed.

Springfield KY3 reported the two vicitms had just completed training:

Recruiting commander Lt. Col Thomas Artis says the victims had just completed basic training and were spending two weeks in Little Rock training to recruit in their home area, showing the difference that less than two months of training made in their lives.