Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson King of Pop Dead at 50

Michael Jackson, the fallen King of Pop, is dead. The singer, songwriter and dancer whose career reached unprecedented peaks of sales and attention, died Thursday at 1:07 p.m. Pacific time, a Los Angeles city official said. He was 50.

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Mr. Jackson, in a coma, was rushed to U.C.L.A. Medical Center, a six-minute drive from the rented mansion in which he was living, shortly after noon by Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics. A hospital spokesman would not confirm reports of cardiac arrest.

As with Elvis Presley or The Beatles, it is impossible to calculate the full impact he had on the world of music. At his height, he was indisputably the biggest star in the world and has sold more than 750 million albums. Radio stations across the country reacted to his death with marathon sessions of his songs. MTV, which was born in part as a result of Mr. Jackson’s groundbreaking videos, reprised its early days as a music channel by showing his biggest hits.

From his days as the youngest brother in the Jackson 5 to his solo career in the 1980s and early 1990s, Mr. Jackson was responsible for a string of hits like “I Want You Back,” “I’ll Be There,” “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough,” “Billie Jean” and “Black and White” that exploited his high voice, infectious energy, and ear for irresistible hooks.

As a solo performer, Mr. Jackson ushered in the age of pop as a global product – not to mention an age of spectacle and pop culture celebrity. His early career with his brothers gave way to a solo act in which he became more character than singer: his sequined glove, his whitened face, his Moonwalk dance move became embedded in the cultural firmament.

But not long after his entertainment career hit high-water marks — Thriller,” from 1982, has been certified platinum 28 times by the Recording Industry Association of America – it started a bizarre disintegration. His darkest moment undoubtedly came in 2004, when he was indicted — though later acquitted — on child molesting charges. A young cancer patient who claimed the singer had befriended him and then sexually fondled him at his Neverland estate near Santa Barbara, Calif.

But Mr. Jackson was an object of fascination for the press since the Jackson 5’s first hit, “I Want You Back,” in 1969. His public image wavered between that of the musical naif, who only wanted to recapture his youth by riding on roller-coasters and having sleepovers with his friends, to the calculated mogul who carefully constructed his persona around his often baffling public behavior.

Mr. Jackson had been scheduled to perform a 50 concerts in at the O2 arena London beginning next month and continuing into 2010. The shows were positioned as a potential comeback, with the potential to earn him up to $50 million, according to some reports.

But there has also been worry and speculation that Mr. Jackson was not physically ready for such an arduous run of concerts, and Mr. Jackson’s postponement of the first of those shows from July 8 to July 12 fueled new rounds of speculation about his health.

“The primary reason for the concerts wasn’t so much that he was wanting to generate money as much as it was that he wanted to perform for his kids,” said J. Randy Taraborrelli, whose biography, ”Michael Jackson: The Magic and the Madness,” was first published in 1991. “They had never seen him perform before.”

Mr. Jackson is survived by three children: Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr., Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince "Blanket" Michael Jackson II.

The performer’s eccentric lifestyle took a severe financial toll. In 1987 Mr. Jackson paid about $17 million for a 2,600-acre ranch in Los Olivos, Calif., 125 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Calling it Neverland, he outfitted the property with amusement-park rides, a zoo and a 50-seat theater, at a cost of $35 million, according to reports, and the ranch became his sanctum.

But Neverland, and Mr. Jackson’s lifestyle, were expensive to maintain. A forensic accountant who testified at Mr. Jackson’s molestation trial in 2005 said that Mr. Jackson’s annual budget in 1999 included $7.5 million for personal expenses and $5 million to maintain Neverland. By at least the late 1990s, he began to take out huge loans to support himself and pay debts. In 1998 he took out a loan for $140 million from Bank of America, which two years later was upped to $200 million. Further loans of hundreds of millions followed.

The collateral for the loans was Mr. Jackson’s 50 percent share in Sony/ATV Music Publishing, a portfolio of thousands of songs, including rights to 259 songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney that are considered some of the most valuable properties in music.

In 1985 Mr. Jackson paid $47.5 million for ATV, which included the Beatles songs -- a move that estranged him from Paul McCartney -- and 10 years later Mr. Jackson sold 50 percent of his interest to Sony for $90 million, creating a joint venture, Sony/ATV. Estimates of the value of the catalog exceed $1 billion.

In many ways, Mr. Jackson never recovered from the child molestation trial, a lurid affair that attracted media from around the world to watch as Mr. Jackson, wearing a different costume each day, appeared in a small courtroom in Santa Maria, Calif., to listen as a parade of witnesses spun a sometimes-incredible tale.

The case ultimately turned on the credibility of Mr. Jackson’s accuser, a 15-year-old cancer survivor who said the defendant had gotten him drunk and molested him several times. The boy’s younger brother testified that he had seen Mr. Jackson fondling his brother on two other occasions.

After 14 weeks of such testimony and seven days of deliberations, the jury returned not-guilty verdicts on all 14 counts against Mr. Jackson: four charges of child molesting, one charge of attempted child molesting, one conspiracy charge and eight possible counts of providing alcohol to minors. Conviction could have brought Mr. Jackson 20 years in prison.

Instead, he walked away a free man to try to reclaim a career that at the time had already been in decline for years.

The Michael Jackson Video Tribute Dead at 50

Michael Jackson, King of Pop, has died after being rushed to hospital

Michael Jackson Dies From Cardiac Arrest: Report

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

the reports are coming in. Earlier Thursday (June 25), news of Farrah Fawcett's death shocked every, and now ,Michael Jackson goes late this afternoon in Los Angeles.

According to TMZ, the King of Pop was rushed to a Los Angeles hospital shortly after 12:00 p.m. after suffering from cardiac arrest at his Holmby Hills home. Paramedics administered CPR in the ambulance ... and at the time things looked grim.

Members of his family rushed to UCLA, shortly after the news.

Upon arrival to the hospital, Jackson had no pulse, and despite trying to revive him, it came to no avail.

The King of Pop was just 50 years old. He will be missed by many. He was a true legend.

Michael is survived by three children: Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr., Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince "Blanket" Michael Jackson II.

As a solo artist, he had 13 no. 1 hits and still holds the record for the best-selling album of all-time with 1982's Thriller. As of 2007, the Guinness Book of World Records lists the album as having sold 65 million copies worldwide.

LA Times: Michael Jackson hospitalized

A fire department official tells the Los Angeles Times that Michael Jackson has been rushed to the hospital.

Steve Ruda (ROO'-dah) told the newspaper Thursday that Jackson was not breathing when Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics responded to a call at his Los Angeles home about 12:30 p.m.

The paramedics performed CPR and took him to UCLA Medical Center, Ruda told the paper.

L. Londell McMillan, a lawyer for Jackson, did not have any information. Messages left for other Jackson associates were not immediately returned.

The hospitalization was first reported by the Web site TMZ.

Black-on-black crime

Baton Rougseeks a solution

Priscilla Givins has a hard time looking at photos of her grandson, who was killed almost a year ago a block away from her home.

“I can’t stand to look at him,” she said, holding a handful of pictures she only recently got out of safekeeping. “It’s too painful.”

Givins’ grandson, 19-year-old Barry Heard, was gunned down March 16 in the 1200 block of South 15th Street hours after serving as the best man in his father’s wedding.

Heard was one of 82 homicide victims in East Baton Rouge Parish last year. He also represents the high percentage of those victims who are black males.

Of the 2008 homicide victims, 89 percent were black and 83 percent were male. An even greater proportion of the people arrested in those homicides fit the same description: 92 percent are black and 87 percent are male.

Chris Crothers, a spokesman for the Foundation for the Mid South, wrote a report on the disparities faced by black males who are 16 to 44. He said in an interview that the statistics for East Baton Rouge Parish are unfortunate, but unsurprising.

Black males in Louisiana are 10 times more likely to be murdered than their white counterparts, Crothers found in his study.

“In Louisiana, the age-adjusted homicide rate for black males is 54 (per 100,000 people) compared to 5 (per 100,000 people) for white males,” he writes.

Black-on-black offenses in the mid-South accounted for 94 percent of homicides between 1976 and 2005, he writes. Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi make up the mid-South in the study.

In general, black males have a 29 percent chance of being incarcerated at some time during their lives, which in 2001 was six times higher than the prevalence of imprisonment for white males, Crothers says in his study.

In 2000, more black males were imprisoned in the mid-South than enrolled in higher education, he says.

In Louisiana that year, there were 4,375 more black men in prison than in college, a number greater than in Arkansas and Mississippi combined, the study shows.

“I hope it’s a wake-up call,” he said in an interview. “I hope when people start putting the numbers together and look and the stats … that people will start asking the questions ‘Why?’ and ‘How can we turn things around?’ It’s definitely a call to action.”

Causes of violence

Edward Shihadeh, an LSU sociology professor and criminologist, has asked such questions and looked at what drives violence in Baton Rouge.

A study he did in the early 1990s found that economic deprivation — not race — accounted for a disproportionate concentration of serious crime in predominately black neighborhoods.

“Middle-class African-American neighborhoods in Baton Rouge are not plagued by homicide, assault and burglary,” Shihadeh says in the study.

But, “If you lay a map of crime over a map of unemployment and a map of poverty, all those maps look the same,” he said in an interview.

Shihadeh also found that black people in Baton Rouge are disproportionately concentrated in poor neighborhoods with high rates of unemployment, poverty and income inequality.

“It’s not so much that we have more poor, but that they are concentrated into small areas of town,” Shihadeh said.

The majority of black people in Baton Rouge live in neighborhoods that are more than 80 percent black, Shihadeh found in his study.

Residential segregation is a major predictor of the rates of homicide and robbery among black people, Shihadeh says in another one of his studies.

“Black isolation has profoundly negative consequences,” he writes. “Secluded in their own communities, many urban blacks lack the sustained contact with mainstream institutions necessary for upward social and economic mobility.”

So it’s not surprising that homicide victims and perpetrators share demographics, Shihadeh said.

“Most homicides require interpersonal action, often times involving minor disputes turning into altercations,” he said.

Preventing murder

To lower crime among black people, and in communities as a whole, Shihadeh said residential segregation must be fought and welfare that requires people to stay in one place must be abolished.

“You’ve got to free people up to move around,” he said. “If you allow them to move around, you allow them to move up.”

Another issue that can be tackled is vacant housing, which gives people an opportunity to commit crime, Shihadeh said. Vacant housing, he added, needs to be torn down.

Houses that harbor drug dealers also need to be taken down, Priscilla Givins said, adding that if it weren’t for such a house she believes her grandson would still be alive.

“If the people who killed him hadn’t moved into the neighborhood, he would still be here,” Givins said. “Drugs have a lot to do with the killing of young black men. There’s no doubt about it.”

Baton Rouge Police Chief Jeff LeDuff said preventing crime, especially murder, has to be an individual, as well as a collaborative effort, among parents, teachers, law enforcement, government, social organization and others.

“We have to teach conflict resolution,” LeDuff said. “We have to spend time with our children teaching them that a human life is more valuable than anything you can buy.”

That’s why the Police Department is involved in various community programs, has specialized task forces and crime-abatement teams and spends time in area schools, LeDuff said.

One program the Police Department plans to implement in the near future, LeDuff said, involves moving his office once a month to various Baton Rouge neighborhoods.

“You won’t have to come downtown to see me,” he said. “I’m going to come see you.”

Casey Rayborn Hicks, a spokeswoman with the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, said Sheriff Sid Gautreaux attempts to prevent crime by educating the community about crime prevention and the devastating effects of crime.

The sheriff educates the community via crime victims assistance programs, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program in schools, junior deputies and Neighborhood Watch, Hicks said.

“We will stay on the course in being proactive in crime prevention through education, partnerships with other agencies and neighborhoods, internal cooperation among departments, visibility in high-crime areas, working with youths and community outreach,” she said.

John Smith with the Baton Rouge civic group 100 Black Men said his organization, in conjunction with Baton Rouge Constable Reginald Brown, is looking to convicts for answers.

“We are going to ask them what we can do and what were some of the contributing factors to their situations,” Smith said. “From there, we are going to come up with different strategies to tackle this problem.”

Will continue to recruit

In the meantime, the organization will continue to recruit youth to participate in Brown’s radio talk show once a month, Smith said. It also will continue its campaign to keep guns out of the hands of young people.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore said such groups as 100 Black Men, along with efforts by the religious community, have made solid efforts to curb violence in the parish.

Other institutions that have made contributions and need to continue to their part in the fight against crime are schools and the juvenile justice system, Moore said.

“We have to reach these children early,” he added.

Tracy Felton agreed, but said the juvenile justice system failed her 18-year-old son, who was killed last year in a shooting outside a north Baton Rouge night club.

“They don’t follow through and they don’t follow up,” she said of juvenile justice. “They need to come up with a better plan to save our youth.”

Felton said her son, Joshua, entered the juvenile justice system when he was 9 and from that point, she knew he would die young.
“The Lord gave him longer than I thought,” she said. “It’s still heartbreaking.”

Advocate staff writer Sonia Smith contributed to this article

Mousavi: Gov't misrepresented state of affairs

Defeated presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi says the Iranian government has been distorting the facts about the state of affairs in the country.

In a statement posted on his official website, Kalemeh, Mousavi took a shot at Iranian state media for portraying him as the figure responsible for the latest "violence and bloodshed" in the country.

He accused authorities of making efforts to isolate and vilify him in a bid to get him to withdraw his election challenge.

"I will not withdraw from demanding the rights of the Iranian people to protect my own interests and for fear of their threats," read the statement by Mousavi.

The former Iranian prime minister said he is ready to address every accusation that has so far been made against him.

"I am ready to prove how those responsible for electoral fraud took side with the main elements of the recent violence and unrest and spilled the blood of the people," Mousavi said.

"The fact that they are trying to ignore is that a massive fraud took place in this election and afterwards those who opposed the situation were brutally detained, attacked, injured and killed."

Earlier on Wednesday, Mousavi's website reported that 70 university professors had been arrested after they met with the defeated contender.

Fars news agency, however, has given a different account of the issue and said that following the conclusion of the meeting, Judiciary officials discussed certain issues with those attending the meeting.

According to the agency, no one had been detained.

Snoop Knocks Out Tyson

Snoop Dogg has taken on Mike Tyson in a boxing match. Against all odds the veteran rapper out-boxed the former heavyweight champion to take him down in four rounds playing the new game "Fight Night Round 4". (June 25)

'Charlie's Angel' Farrah Fawcett dies at 62

Farrah Fawcett, whose luxurious tresses and blinding smile helped redefine sex appeal in the 1970s as one of TV's "Charlie's Angels," died Thursday after battling cancer. She was 62.

The pop icon, who in the 1980s set aside the fantasy girl image to tackle serious roles, died Thursday shortly before 9:30 a.m. PDT in a Santa Monica hospital, spokesman Paul Bloch said.

She burst on the scene in 1976 as one-third of the crime-fighting trio in TV's "Charlie's Angels." A poster of her in a clingy swimsuit sold in the millions.

She left the show after one season but had a flop on the big screen with "Somebody Killed Her Husband." She turned to more serious roles in the 1980s and 1990s, winning praise playing an abused wife in "The Burning Bed."

She had been diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006. As she underwent treatment, she enlisted the help of actor Ryan O'Neal, who had been her longtime companion and was the father of her son, Redmond, born in 1985.

This month, O'Neal said he asked Fawcett to marry him and she agreed. They would wed "as soon as she can say yes," he said.

Her struggle with painful treatments and dispiriting setbacks was recorded in the television documentary "Farrah's Story." Fawcett sought cures in Germany as well as the United States, battling the disease with iron determination even as her body weakened.

"Her big message to people is don't give up, no matter what they say to you, keep fighting," her friend Alana Stewart said. NBC estimated the May 15, 2009, broadcast drew nearly 9 million viewers.

In the documentary, Fawcett was seen shaving off most of her trademark locks before chemotherapy could claim them. Toward the end, she's seen huddled in bed, barely responding to a visit from her son.

Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith comprised the original "Angels," the sexy, police-trained trio of martial arts experts who took their assignments from a rich, mysterious boss named Charlie (John Forsythe, who was never seen on camera but whose distinctive voice was heard on speaker phone.)

The program debuted in September 1976, the height of what some critics derisively referred to as television's "jiggle show" era, and it gave each of the actresses ample opportunity to show off their figures as they disguised themselves in bathing suits and as hookers and strippers to solve crimes.

Backed by a clever publicity campaign, Fawcett — then billed as Farrah Fawcett-Majors because of her marriage to "Six Million Dollar Man" star Lee Majors — quickly became the most popular Angel of all.

Her face helped sell T-shirts, lunch boxes, shampoo, wigs and even a novelty plumbing device called Farrah's faucet. Her flowing blond hair, pearly white smile and trim, shapely body made her a favorite with male viewers in particular.

A poster of her in a dampened red swimsuit sold millions of copies and became a ubiquitous wall decoration in teenagers' rooms.

Thus the public and the show's producer, Spelling-Goldberg, were shocked when she announced after the series' first season that she was leaving television's No. 5-rated series to star in feature films. (Cheryl Ladd became the new "Angel" on the series.)

But the movies turned out to be a platform where Fawcett was never able to duplicate her TV success. Her first star vehicle, the comedy-mystery "Somebody Killed Her Husband," flopped and Hollywood cynics cracked that it should have been titled "Somebody Killed Her Career."

The actress had also been in line to star in "Foul Play" for Columbia Pictures. But the studio opted for Goldie Hawn instead. "Spelling-Goldberg warned all the studios that that they would be sued for damages if they employed me," Fawcett told The Associated Press in 1979. "The studios wouldn't touch me."

She finally reached an agreement to appear in three episodes of "Charlie's Angels" a season, an experience she called "painful."

She returned to making movies, including the futuristic thriller "Logan's Run," the comedy-thriller "Sunburn" and the strange sci-fi tale "Saturn 3," but none clicked with the public.

Fawcett fared better with television movies such as "Murder in Texas," "Poor Little Rich Girl" and especially as an abused wife in 1984's "The Burning Bed." The last earned her an Emmy nomination and the long-denied admission from critics that she really could act.

As further proof of her acting credentials, Fawcett appeared off-Broadway in "Extremities" as a woman who is raped in her own home. She repeated the role in the 1986 film version.

Not content to continue playing victims, she switched type. She played a murderous mother in the 1989 true-crime story "Small Sacrifices" and a tough lawyer on the trail of a thief in 1992's "Criminal Behavior."

She also starred in biographies of Nazi-hunter Beate Klarsfeld and photographer Margaret Bourke-White.

"I felt that I was doing a disservice to ourselves by portraying only women as victims," she commented in a 1992 interview.

In 1995, at age 50, Fawcett posed partly nude for Playboy magazine. The following year, she starred in a Playboy video, "All of Me," in which she was equally unclothed while she sculpted and painted.

She told an interviewer she considered the experience "a renaissance," adding, "I no longer feel ... restrictions emotionally, artistically, creatively or in my everyday life. I don't feel those borders anymore."

Fawcett's most unfortunate career moment may have been a 1997 appearance on David Letterman's show, when her disjointed, rambling answers led many to speculate that she was on drugs. She denied that, blaming her strange behavior on questionable advice from her mother to be playful and have a good time.

In September 2006, Fawcett, who at 59 still maintained a strict regimen of tennis and paddleball, began to feel strangely exhausted. She underwent two weeks of tests and was told the devastating news: She had anal cancer.

O'Neal, with whom she had a 17-year relationship, again became her constant companion, escorting her to the hospital for chemotherapy.

"She's so strong," the actor told a reporter. "I love her. I love her all over again."

She struggled to maintain her privacy, but a UCLA Medical Center employee pleaded guilty in late 2008 to violating federal medical privacy law for commercial purposes for selling records of Fawcett and other celebrities to the National Enquirer.

"It's much easier to go through something and deal with it without being under a microscope," she told the Los Angeles Times in an interview in which she also revealed that she helped set up a sting that led to the hospital worker's arrest.

Her decision to tell her own story through the NBC documentary was meant as an inspiration to others, friends said. The segments showing her cancer treatment, including a trip to Germany for procedures there, were originally shot for a personal, family record, they said. And although weak, she continued to show flashes of grit and good humor in the documentary.

"I do not want to die of this disease. So I say to God, `It is seriously time for a miracle,'" she said at one point.

Born Feb. 2, 1947, in Corpus Christi, Texas, she was named Mary Farrah Leni Fawcett by her mother, who said she added the Farrah because it sounded good with Fawcett. She was less than a month old when she underwent surgery to remove a digestive tract tumor with which she was born.

After attending Roman Catholic grade school and W.B. Ray High School, Fawcett enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin. Fellow students voted her one of the 10 most beautiful people on the campus and her photos were eventually spotted by movie publicist David Mirisch, who suggested she pursue a film career. After overcoming her parents' objections, she agreed.

Soon she was appearing in such TV shows as "That Girl," "The Flying Nun," "I Dream of Jeannie" and "The Partridge Family."

Majors became both her boyfriend and her adviser on career matters, and they married in 1973. She dropped his last name from hers after they divorced in 1982.

By then she had already begun her long relationship with O'Neal. The couple never married. Both Redmond and Ryan O'Neal have grappled with drug and legal problems in recent years.

Step One: Tell Guards and Prisoners That Rape is Against the Rules

The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission released its final report and recommendations this week. The Commission was established by the Prison Rape Elimination Act in 2003 to develop a set of policy proposals to end sexual abuse in prisons. The recommendations, though, read more like a desperate plea for basic competency in prison management. Sample a few of its groundbreaking ideas:

To begin with, every correctional agency must have a written policy mandating zero tolerance for all forms of sexual abuse in all settings, whether it is operated by the government or by a private company working under contract with the government....

Thoroughly screen all new job prevent hiring, retaining, or promoting anyone who has engaged in sexual abuse....

Strict limits on cross-gender searches and the viewing of prisoners who are nude or performing bodily functions are necessary because of the inherently personal nature of such encounters....

Facilities have a duty to thoroughly investigate every allegation of sexual abuse without delay and to completion, regardless of whether or not the alleged victim cooperates with investigators....

The Commission urges that individuals under the age of 18 be held seperately from the general population.

To recap: Have zero tolerance for sexual abuse, don't hire people with a history of sexual abuse, don't allow cross-gender observation of nude prisoners, fully investigate alleged sexual abuses, and separate adult and juvenile prisoners.

If these suggestions seem obvious to you...well, they should. Perhaps you'd be interested in a career in corrections?

To my mind, there are two possibilities here. Either the commission has wasted years of funding and produced a vanilla, restatement-of-the-conventional-wisdom report, or the extent of safety problems in America's prisons beggars belief, making a novelty out of even the most conventional policy prosposals. Given the prevalence of stories like this, I'm inclined toward the latter conclusion.

Reason writers have covered prison rape and the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission here, here, and here.


From Grayson Daughters

Here’s a video interview with Atlanta-area IT security expert, Ariel Silverstone, with an explanation we can actually understand!

Sliverstone explains how it’s possible for the unrest in Iran to arrive, uncensored, via the internet.

Silverstone also addresses the global initiative to keep the internet available to all. He talks about the years of Iran-related media now stored on YouTube/Google. And he discusses internet control, privacy issues, and pending legislation regarding the internet in the United States.

And what about a country such as Korea?!

More about Silverstone, and his blog, are here:

Iran and the Internet: A Conversation With Ariel Silverstone. 6-22-09 from Grayson Daughters on Vimeo.

Michael Jordan's son quits Illinois basketball team

Jeffrey Jordan is Michael Jordan's son. That little proposition, as it relates to basketball, can not be an easy one for any offspring to undertake.

It's not just that your dad was a great NBA basketball player. Your dad was the single greatest basketball player who ever lived. Your entire life, you're not just a classmate to your friends. You're the son of their hero. Imagine that! For all of the sundry benefits of being Jordan's son -- the money, the basketball shoes, the unimaginably awesome toys you'd get as a kid -- the specter of anticipation, of "hey, that's Michael Jordan's son out there" would haunt you for as long as you played basketball.

It appears those days are over for Jordan's eldest offspring. Jeffrey Jordan, a walk-on-turned-scholarship-athlete at Illinois, has apparently decided to hang up his balling kicks for good:

"I loved playing for the Fighting Illini and appreciate the support I was given by my teammates, coaches and the great fans here," Jordan said. "But I have come to the point where I'm ready to focus on life after basketball. I will concentrate on earning my degree from the University of Illinois and the opportunities that await upon graduating."

And good for him. Though it is a bit of an odd decision. Jordan went to school as a walk-on before earning a scholarship spot and slightly more minutes from Illinois coach Bruce Weber in his sophomore season. Why quit now? Perhaps the hassle of being Jordan's son on the basketball court factored in, but maybe not. Maybe Jeffrey is just tired of playing basketball. He certainly wouldn't be the first.

I have no idea. But I do know that it leaves Marcus all on his lonesome in the college game. Family honor's riding on you, kid. No pressure.

Shaun Robinson: Walking Her Talk !

Shaun Robinson is co-anchor and correspondent for the show Access Hollywood, the daily entertainment newsmagazine show. She was also the host of TV One Access, a show on the TV One network produced by Access that brings viewers behind the velvet rope for an inside look at who's who in "Black Hollywood".

Robinson, who was born in Detroit, Michigan, is a graduate of Detroit's famous Cass Technical High School. That school also produced Diana Ross, Lily Tomlin, Kenya Moore, Carole Gist and David Alan Grier. She then went south to Atlanta, GA were she attended and graduated from Spelman College.

Shaun Robinson's career began in Detroit at WGPR-TV62, the first African-American owned television station in the U.S. After that Robinson was a medical reporter and weekend anchor for WISN-TV in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where her series on women and cancer garnered her an Associated Press award. She also served as host of the daily talk show Milwaukee's Talking. Robinson later joined newly formed KEYE-TV in Austin, Texas in 1995, as a reporter and anchor where her series "Profiles in Power", focusing on women who made an impact in Central Texas, earned Robinson an American Women in Radio and Television award.

Before joining Access Hollywood, Robinson was a reporter and anchor for WSVN-TV in Miami, Florida. During her tenure there, Robinson anchored coverage of both the Clinton impeachment hearings and of Hurricane George, which devastated the Florida Keys. She also traveled to Oklahoma to profile survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing.

Robinson has been featured in the fashion pages of In Style magazine, Us Weekly, Ebony, Essence and was named as one of Honey magazine's "Hot 100." Her television and film credits include cameo appearances in Bruce Almighty, Charmed, She Spies, The Parkers, The Proud Family, Half & Half and Any Day Now.

She also played a small part of the 'Pat O'Brien Voice Mail Scandal' in 2005, when some sexual voicemails from O'Brien were uncovered and posted on many websites. Some of those voice mails were reportedly sent to Robinson's phone. This led to O'Brien's immediate removal from Access Hollywood, and Robinson moved into a more prominent role on the show.


Celebrated Women Share Candid Advice with Today's Girls on What It Takes to Believe in Yourself (Ballantine Hardcover), Emmy Award-winning journalist, Shaun Robinson, shares both the honest comments she's heard from young women and the heartfelt and encouraging advice she's been in the rare position to glean from today's most notable women, namely, Jamie Lee Curtis, Celine Dion, Diane von Furstenberg, Janet Jackson, Patti LaBelle, Queen Latifah, Nicole Miller, Julianne Moore, Mandy Moore, Martina Navratilova, Nancy Pelosi, Diane Sawyer, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Gabrielle Union, Meredith Vieira, Vanessa Williams, Oprah Winfrey, and more. Young girls and famous women alike give their inspiring comments on self-esteem to this book, and the result is a collection of voices that will inspire girls to find their inner strength, grow confident, and believe in themselves. Thank You Shaun For such a great book?

Sugar Ray Leonard to Address Senate Committee

Boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard joined an all-star celebrity cast last week when he spoke on a panel before a Senate committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to request federal funding for diabetes research, reports.

Leonard, whose family has been affected by diabetes, has been the international chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Walk for a Cure and now has his own foundation, The Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation, which benefits the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Southern California chapter.

Joining Leonard to testify are Nick Jonas of the popular Jonas Brothers, who has Type 1 diabetes; actress Mary Tyler Moore, who is the foundation’s international chairwoman who also had juvenile diabetes, Dr. Griffin Rodgers, director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), as well as a group of children from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Israel, Greece and the United Kingdom.

The Senate hearing is the culmination of the foundation’s Children's Congress, which has been held every other year since 1999.

NAACP Fights to Save Troy Davis As Time Runs Out

Troy Davis has been at death's door before. On Georgia's death row for nearly 18 years now for the murder of a police officer, the former sports coach has received several stays of execution -- including one last fall just an hour before he was scheduled to die. Now, despite the fact that there was no physical evidence linking him to Mark Allen MacPhail's death; despite the fact that seven of nine witnesses have recanted or contradicted their original testimony; and, despite the fact that the NAACP, former president Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, Nobel Laureate archbishop Desmond Tutu; conservative former Georgia congressman Bob Barr, and former FBI director William Sessions have all have called for a new trial, Davis may have finally run out of options.

A motion before the Supreme Court to reopen the case due to new evidence will be heard today, but chances that the justices will grant the necessary writ of Habeas Corpus aren't great. The high court has not granted a writ of Habeas Corpus since 1925. Should the Court deny the motion, the countdown to Davis' death begins again, and his execution date could be set within weeks.

Calling this case "the most compelling case of innocence in decades," NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous has waged a no-holds-barred media campaign to get the condemned man a new trial. Many of the witnesses now say they were pressured by police or prosecutors to finger Davis, and several have identified another witness, Sylvester "Redd" Coles, as the true culprit. Meanwhile, Davis has reportedly been a model prisoner.

Said Jealous in a recent essay:

I met with Troy a few weeks ago. I watched the eyes of the guards who are clearly touched by Troy's plight, the stony masks that guards are supposed to wear crack as Troy told his story. I met a woman in the parking lot who said her next door neighbor, a former guard, quit rather than have to oversee Troy's march to the death chamber.

I was moved talking with his sister, diagnosed with breast cancer and given months to live in 2001. I had a chance to hug her son – who I had met almost a decade ago as a NAACP youth member -who visits Troy once a week and looks to him as a mentor.
Source: The Grio

The NAACP, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, is urging Georgia governor Sonny Perdue to intervene. Larry Chisolm, the new African American district attorney for Savannah, also has the power to reopen the case. With the clock ticking, the NAACP is also calling on us to appeal to these men to spare Davis' life.

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U.S. Study to Target Blacks in Vitamin D, Fish Oil Test

drop of fish oil, which is widely recommended for heart health.

Two of the most popular and promising dietary supplements — vitamin D and fish oil — will be tested in a large, government-sponsored study to see whether either nutrient can lower a healthy person's risk of getting cancer, heart disease or having a stroke.

It will be one of the first big nutrition studies ever to target a specific racial group — blacks, who will comprise one quarter of the participants.

People with dark skin are unable to make much vitamin D from sunlight, and researchers think this deficiency may help explain why blacks have higher rates of cancer, stroke and heart disease.

"If something as simple as taking a vitamin D pill could help lower these risks and eliminate these health disparities, that would be extraordinarily exciting," said Dr. JoAnn Manson. She and Dr. Julie Buring, of Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, will co-lead the study.

"But we should be cautious before jumping on the bandwagon to take mega-doses of these supplements," Manson warned. "We know from history that many of these nutrients that looked promising in observational studies didn't pan out."

Vitamins C, E, folic acid, beta carotene, selenium and even menopause hormone pills once seemed to lower the risk of cancer or heart disease — until they were tested in big studies that sometimes revealed risks instead of benefits.

In October, the government stopped a big study of vitamin E and selenium pills for prostate cancer prevention after seeing no evidence of benefit and hints of harm.

Vitamin D is one of the last major nutrients to be put to a rigorous test.

For years, evidence has been building that many people are deficient in "the sunshine vitamin." It is tough to get enough from dietary sources like milk and oily fish. Cancer rates are higher in many northern regions where sunlight is weak in the winter, and some studies have found that people with lower blood levels of vitamin D are more likely to develop cancer.

Fish oil, or omega-3 fatty acid, is widely recommended for heart health. However, studies of it so far have mostly involved people who already have heart problems or who eat a lot of fish, such as in Japan. Foods also increasingly are fortified with omega-3, so it is important to establish its safety and benefit.

"Vitamin D and omega-3s have powerful anti-inflammatory effects that may be key factors in preventing many diseases. They may also work through other pathways that influence cancer and cardiovascular risk," Manson said.

However, getting nutrients from a pill is different than getting them from foods, and correcting a deficiency is not the same as healthy people taking large doses from a supplement.

The new study, which will start later this year, will enroll 20,000 people with no history of heart attacks, stroke or a major cancer — women 65 or older and men 60 or older. They will be randomly assigned to take vitamin D, fish oil, both nutrients or dummy pills for five years.

The daily dose of vitamin D will be about 2,000 international units of D-3, also known as cholecalciferol, the most active form. For fish oil, the daily dose will be about one gram — five to 10 times what the average American gets.

Participants' health will be monitored through questionnaires, medical records and in some cases, periodic in-person exams.

"We're hoping to see a result during the trial, that we won't have to wait five years" to find out if supplements help, Manson said.

Researchers also plan to study whether these nutrients help prevent memory loss, depression, diabetes, osteoporosis and other problems, Buring said.

The $20 million study will be sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and other federal agencies. Pharmavite LLC of Northridge, Calif., is providing the vitamin D pills, and Ocean Nutrition Canada Ltd. of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, is providing the omega-3 fish oil capsules.

Key senator says $1 trillion health bill possible

A senior lawmaker trying to break the logjam on health care overhaul says his committee has come up with elements of a plan that would allow them to produce a bill under $1 trillion that would be fully paid for.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., made the announcement Thursday. Of the five congressional committees working on President Barack Obama's top legislative priority, Finance has the best chance of producing a bipartisan bill.

Baucus said the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office confirmed the $1 trillion cost over 10 years.

Obama's goal is to reduce costs and provide coverage to nearly 50 million uninsured Americans.

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

WASHINGTON (AP) — With lawmakers trying to crunch the numbers on a $1 trillion health care overhaul, President Barack Obama is leaving the door open to a new tax on employer-provided health care benefits.

Senior senators said Wednesday the benefits tax could be essential for the complex plan to be fully financed.

"I don't want to prejudge what they're doing," Obama said, referring to proposals in the Senate to tax workers who get expensive insurance policies. Obama, who campaigned against the tax when he ran for president, drew a quick rebuff from organized labor.

For Obama, the health care debate got personal during an ABC News town hall at the White House on Wednesday. The prime-time program was the latest in a string of events designed to build public support for his plan to slow the rise in health care costs and expand coverage to the nearly 50 million uninsured.

Dr. Orrin Devinsky, a neurologist at the New York University Langone Medical Center, challenged Obama: What if the president's wife and daughters got sick? Would Obama promise that they would get only the services allowed under a new government insurance plan he's proposing?

Obama wouldn't bite.

If "it's my family member, if it's my wife, if it's my children, if it's my grandmother, I always want them to get the very best care," Obama said.

Earlier in the day, the administration and its allies pushed for a prominent display of progress in the Senate before Congress begins a weeklong vacation Friday.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., labored in a series of meetings to produce at least an outline of legislation that could command bipartisan support. Of the five House and Senate committees working on a health care overhaul, Finance is the only one that appears to have a chance at such an agreement.

Baucus appeared especially eager to show progress before the exodus from the Capitol begins.

Several officials said he was negotiating with representatives of the nation's hospitals, hoping to conclude an agreement that would build on an $80 billion weekend deal with the pharmaceutical industry.

Hospitals were being asked to accept a reduction of roughly $155 billion over the next decade in fees they are promised under government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, according to numerous officials.

Officials at the American Hospital Association and the Federation of American Hospitals said they could not comment on any discussions.

Baucus is seeking similar concessions from nursing homes, insurance companies, medical device makers and possibly others, noting that any legislation would create a huge new pool of customers for industry providers.

At its heart, any legislation is expected to require insurance companies to offer coverage to any applicant, without exclusions or higher premiums for pre-existing medical conditions.

Overall, Baucus has said he hopes to hold the size of any legislation to $1 trillion or less, and in private negotiations there were discussions about further scaling back eligibility for insurance subsidies from the government.

Additionally, Baucus was still searching for ways to cover the cost of his emerging legislation, and numerous officials said he appeared roughly $200 billion shy of achieving that goal. They added that a proposal to make it harder for taxpayers to itemize their medical expenses was drawing renewed interest among key senators as one way to raise revenue.

Current law allows those expenses to be itemized when they exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income. The proposal under review would raise that to 10 percent, officials said.

At the White House, Obama sidestepped when asked if he was open to taxing health care benefits, a proposal he opposed vigorously in the campaign for the White House.

"I have identified the ways that I think we should finance this. I think Congress should adopt them. I'm going to wait and see what ideas ultimately they come up with," he said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Organized labor weighed in quickly.

Gerald W. McEntee, president of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said in an interview that union leaders believe Obama is "a person of his word." He was referring to Obama's opposition to taxing those benefits during last year's campaign.

"They're not going to tolerate that," McEntee said of workers' views of that proposal.

Bizarre Gay Exorcism: Church Casts “Homosexual Demons” from Boy (VIDEO)

is almost too bizarre and disturbing to know that this sort of thing goes on in North America in modern times. A Connecticut Church, Manifested Glory Ministries, posted a video on Youtube of what can only be described as a gay exorcism. The video drew massive outrage on the site and was quickly removed, but not before someone recorded a partial copy (see below).

A 16 year old boy, allegedly gay, appears in the video with members of the church and congregation and you can hear people yelling as they try to cast homosexual demons from the boy’s body.

“Rip it from his throat! Come on, you homosexual demon! You homosexual spirit, we call you out right now! Loose your grip, Lucifer!” - one woman can be heard yelling.

During the original video, the boy was shown vomiting into a bag and appeard to be under a tremendous amount of mental and physical stress, bordering on shock.

The Associated Press got an interview with the minister at the church, Rev. Patricia McKinney, and she stated: “We believe a man should be with a woman and a woman should be with a man. We have nothing against homosexuals. I just don’t agree with their lifestyle.”

Gay rights groups have had their say as well, and rightfully so. Robin McHaelen, executive director of True Colors, an advocacy group for gay youths, said: “I think it’s horrifying. What saddens me is the people that are doing this think they are doing something in the kid’s best interests, when in fact they’re murdering his spirit. They have this kid in a full nelson. That just seems abusive to me.”

Personally, I’m glad the video below is short (the original was 20 minutes long) because it sickened me to even think people can be so twisted in this day and age. Here’s the video clip below. Prepare yourself - it’s pretty disturbing.

Manifested Glory Ministries Gay Exorcism Video Clip

Cleveland Cavaliers' trade for Shaquille O'Neal reminiscent of successful 1980s deal, Bill Livingston says

by Bill Livingston, Plain Dealer Columnist

CLEVELAND - In a way, I've been there and covered that with the Shaquille O'Neal acquisition. It worked then. I think it has a great chance to work now.

Before the 1982-83 season, the Philadelphia 76ers signed Moses Malone, the Houston Rockets' center, to an "offer sheet" as a restricted free agent. Then, when Houston drew out the negotiating process, they gave the Rockets Caldwell Jones, the rail-thin starting center/power forward on a team that had reached the NBA Finals three times, yet never won.

There was a lot of smugness in archrival Boston, about the halfcourt offenses Malone was accustomed to, about how he would slow down the Sixers' fast break and clog up the driving lanes for Julius Erving, who was past his prime, but still a very dangerous player.

But Malone hadn't won a ring either. He was also the reigning Most Valuable Player of the NBA. He turned out to be willing to do anything the team asked him to win. The Sixers ran off a 65-17 season, one game worse than last season's Cavaliers' record. They went 12-1 in the playoffs, considerably better than last season's Cavs. They won it all. Moses was the MVP again.

The memory persists of Malone driving from halfcourt, going behind his back on the dribble along the way, to lead a comeback victory in the playoffs over Hubie Brown's Knicks. The move might have even bettered Shaq's Jabbawockeez dance at the All-Star Game.

Shaq is 37 years old. Erving was 32 when his championship season began. He was the third option then, behind Malone and Andrew Toney. Shaq will be down the line too, behind LeBron James and maybe Mo Williams. But centers can play to an older age because, with all the outlet-passing they do, they run less than players at other positions.

Also, even though the Sixers won everything -- it helped that the Lakers were without Bob McAdoo, James Worthy and Norm Nixon in the Finals -- that team had no one remotely like LeBron on the roster. James now, like Malone then, is the reigning league MVP.

The Cavs are a much better team today than they were last night, and all for Sasha Pavlovic, who was so inconsistent even his good games never excited you because you knew they were teases, and Ben Wallace, who ought to retire. Plus, a mid-second round draft pick.

Phoenix General Manager Steve Kerr and Cavs GM Danny Ferry were close friends when they were bench-warmers here and in San Antonio. The relationship certainly paid off in this deal.

The Cavs clearly needed somebody to play Kevin Garnett when he returns to the Celtics next year, to play Dwight Howard without committing so much double team help to the job, and to match up with the Lakers' size.

I don't know how much is left in Shaq's tank, but he averaged 17.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 30 minutes last season, plus he shot 59.5 percent at the foul line, the second-best of his career.

Yes, he played in a much more fast-paced attack in Phoenix, especially after Alvin Gentry took over as coach and loosened the reins. But that also means he did not bog things down as much as critics feared. He played slightly more minutes and his stats were better than those of Zydrunas Ilgauskas last season in all the categories I listed earlier, except foul shooting.

Shaq also takes up a lot of space on defense, which matters. He has the size to be a true enforcer when he chooses to be.

More important, Shaq knows how to win, and he wants a fifth ring badly. That separates him from Malone, the epitome of hustle ("a 7-foot Pete Rose," a Sixers executive called him the day the offer sheet was tendered), who got too self-satisfied after the one ring.

Shaq's a rent-a-star on a one-year deal. But in his prime, he was the most physical low-post player ever. He's a legitimate top 50 player of all-time, and was so honored by the NBA. LeBron would be on that list for sure if they made it now.

It's going to be an incredibly exciting season. The Cavs didn't give up a whole lot -- much less than the Sixers in Caldwell Jones. No way Shaq will be MVP at this stage, as Malone was in 1982-83. But if the Cavs get the same collective result as Philadelphia did, no one will care.

The Nuclear Great Game - 52min. documentary and Welcome to North Korea by Peter Tetteroo and Raymond Feddema / Documentary Educational Video

When Pyongyang declared it had an advanced nuclear programme, the shock waves reverberated worldwide. But how was a state teetering on the verge of bankruptcy able to develop such a sophisticated programme? How did North Korea obtain the necessary nuclear components to threaten world peace? This week's astonishing documentary exposes how it was China who conspired to assist Pakistan and North Korea in becoming nuclear states. Without this crucial aid, neither would have been able to develop nuclear warheads on their own. Why did America turn a blind eye to this covert nuclear trade?

North Korea threatens nuclear 'fire shower' if attacked

• Regime thought to be preparing more missile tests
• Nuclear arsenal will be expanded, it says

North Korea today threatened to retaliate with a nuclear "fire shower" if it is attacked by the US and warned it would expand its nuclear arsenal, a month after it carried out a controlled nuclear explosion in defiance of the UN security council.

The regime used the 59th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean war to step up its threats against the US, whose navy is tracking a North Korean vessel off the Chinese coast that is suspected of carrying weapons.

Earlier this month the UN banned all weapons exports from North Korea in response to the May 25 nuclear test, its second in three years.

The latest warning came as speculation mounted that Pyongyang is preparing to test launch short- and medium-range missiles.

North Korea has banned ships from the waters off its east coast until July 10 for "military exercises", but South Korean and US intelligence officials do not believe the tests will involve a long-range Taepodong-2 missile, which is theoretically capable of reaching Hawaii.

Yesterday President Barack Obama extended Washington's sanctions against North Korea for another year and warned that the regime's nuclear weapons programme posed "an unusual and extraordinary threat" to the US.

North Korea, which is thought to possess between five and seven nuclear bombs, recently restarted its main nuclear reactor, which is capable of reprocessing spent fuel rods used in the production of weapons-grade plutonium.

In Pyongyang the state-run media accused the US of provoking the Korean war – most historians agree the conflict was started by the North – and of looking for an excuse to launch another attack.

The Rodong Sinmun newspaper said the North had every right to defend itself in the face of what it called US hostility. The regime "will never give up its nuclear deterrent … and will further strengthen it," it said.

The newspaper said a recent US pledge to use nuclear weapons to defend South Korea amounted to "asking for the calamitous situation of having a fire shower of nuclear retaliation all over South Korea".

The three-year Korean war ended in 1953 with a fragile truce and the creation of the most heavily fortified border in the world. Last month Pyongyang said it was no longer bound by the armistice after the South agreed to take part in US-led searches of vessels suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction.

The ship now being tracked by a US navy destroyer has reportedly cleared the Taiwan Strait and is thought to be heading to Burma with a shipment of conventional munitions.

The US and its allies have yet to decide whether to intercept and search the ship, a move that North Korea said it would view as a declaration of war.

'Transformers 2' Takes $16M First Night

The action movie breaks records in first screening

The sequel to the 2007 summer blockbuster, "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen", hit 3,000 theaters in the U.S. and snatched $16 million for the first screening. Imax played the movie on 160 of its large-format screens, all of which sold out.

In late May, director Michael Bay expressed concern over the lack of promotion done on behalf of the film; however, he was satisfied by early June when Paramount ratcheted up their efforts.

As a result, the $16 million opening midnight screening puts "Transformers 2" in a top tier of first-night money grabbers.

Among its companions are last summer's blockbuster, "The Dark Knight," which drew $18.5 million in its first showing, and "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith," which drew $16.9 million in 2005.

Despite falling short of those two, "Revenge of the Fallen" grossed the most of any film opening on a Wednesday, and outdrew "Dark Knight" in revenue from Imax screenings. "Dark Knight" took in $675,000 last year, but "Revenge of the Fallen" banked $1 million to become the king of the first night Imax.

The robot-strong opening comes in the face of rampant criticism about the films over-reliance on action sequences.

FTSE falls further after surprise rise in US jobless claims

Leading shares are hovering around their lows for the day, following worse than expected US job figures.

Despite an upward revision of US GDP, investors are concentrating on news that the number of new claims for jobless benefits rose by 15,000 last week, defying predictions of a slight fall. On top of that, there is some nervousness ahead of a $27bn auction of long-dated Treasury bonds.

So with Wall Street slipping back at the open, the FTSE 100 is down 54.49 points at 4225.49.

Meanwhile, Citigroup's Michael Saunders is predicting the end of the Bank of England's quantitative easing programme before too long, as inflation starts to pick up once more. He said in a note today:

"The June YouGov survey shows inflation expectations among the general public rising back to match the 2.0% inflation target, after markedly undershooting the inflation target since last November.

"With inflation expectations back to the CPI target, signs that recession is ending – and sticky readings for actual CPI inflation – we expect that the Bank's monetary policy committee will soon end quantitative easing, leaving the £125bn (or £150bn) expansion in bank reserves in place but not buying any more gilts. The [Bank] faces a tactical choice as to whether to stop QE at £125bn or £150bn, and the announcement that QE is ending will probably come at the August MPC meeting (Inflation Report month) rather than July. But, either way, the expansionary phase of QE is probably nearly over."

Back with equities, miners continue to be a drag on the market, as do financials with the exception of Royal Bank of Scotland, up 1.04p to 36.6p after a positive note from Cazenove.

Publisher Pearson slipped 7p to 610p as Deutche Bank issued a sell note and cut its price target from 560p to 500p, partly due to the effect of the weak dollar on the company's US earnings. Deutsche added:

"The core of our sell case on Pearson for some time has been that the woeful state of US state finances will lead to a sustained period of sub-par growth (and in the near term decline) for the Schools business (most seriously for the instructional material business) but also for the testing/software operations.

"For the majority of states the budget gap they face in 2010 is bigger than the gap they faced in 2009. Fixing year one is lot easier than fixing year two. The low-hanging fruit has been picked (and the larder raided). If 2009 was painful for those supplying the states, 2010 is likely to be truly awful. The bull hypothesis that sales in schoolbooks that didn't happen in 2009 are being deferred into 2010 looks implausible to us.

"Governor Schwarzenegger of California has announced a Free Digital Textbook Initiative. We are of the view that the near-term impact will be very limited (California can't afford to buy books anyway; it can't afford the technology investment to switch to digital product; the timeline planned looks too short). However there are three simple, somewhat scary messages: 1) the funding hole is dire; 2) a technology shift is coming eventually and we can't think of many instances where they've been good for media companies; 3) can it ever be good when your biggest customer says they don't want your product?"