Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Iran's opposition calls for inauguration protests

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian opposition groups called for a new round of street protests to coincide with the inauguration ceremony for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday.

The pro-reform movement claims the June 12 election declared for Ahmadinejad was fraudulent and opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi was the real winner.

Several pro-reform blogs and Web sites, including some linked to Mousavi, appealed for demonstrators to gather in front of parliament, where Ahmadinejad is to be officially sworn in for a second term. They also called for protests at main markets in other cities around Iran.

Any protests will almost certainly be met by a heavy security presence, as the government has harshly cracked down on any opposition demonstrations over the disputed election.

At least 30 people have died in the unrest that followed the vote, according to figures from a parliamentary investigation, and hundreds have been detained. Human rights groups believe the death toll is likely far higher.

Ahmadinejad also faces discontent from fellow conservatives in Iran's ruling hierarchy over the harsh crackdowns and accusations that some of those detained in the unrest have been mistreated.

Ahmadinejad last month also opened a brief — but potentially disruptive — confrontation with the supreme leader's ruling theocracy by refusing to drop his top deputy, Esfandiar Rahim Mashai. Mashai had angered conservatives last year when he made friendly comments toward Israelis. But the president eventually relented and dropped Mashai.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei formally endorsed Ahmadinejad for a second term as president on Monday. Though both men were smiling, it was a noticeably cooler reception than four years ago, when Khamenei allowed Ahmadinejad to kiss his hand and then drew him close and kissed him on both cheeks.

Still, Khamenei has firmly backed Ahmadinejad as the election winner from the beginning of the dispute and continued to give him support.

When the president takes his oath of office on Wednesday, it will be before a parliament where many pro-reform lawmakers have echoed the claims of fraud in the election.

The calls for more street protests present the government with a serious challenge. It is eager to choke off the protest movement, but a harsh response by security forces could ignite another sustained wave of unrest.

Sporadic clashes broke out in north Tehran late Monday after security forces boosted patrols, witnesses said.

Many of Tuesday's protest appeals included instructions to shift the rallies to main squares if the security presence is too strong at the first sites.

They called for key opposition figures — including Mousavi and his pro-reform election rival, Mahdi Karroubi — to join the marches. It was not immediately clear whether they would attend.

In a sign of Iran's seemingly unbridgeable rifts, both men were among the list of no-shows at Monday's ceremony with the supreme leader.

Karroubi, in a newspaper interview published Tuesday, pledged that he and Mousavi would continue to lead the opposition to the president.

"We are going to continue protesting," he said in the interview with the Spanish daily El Pais. "We are never going to cooperate with this government. We don't want to harm it but we are going to criticize its actions. We are not going to help it in any way."

On Monday, Khamenei bluntly told the opposition and others who have said the election was marred by abuses that they had simply failed.

"This election was a test. People passed the test ... and some of the elites failed. This election made some (figures) the losers," state TV quoted Khamenei as saying.

The ruling establishment has sought to hobble the opposition by bringing many of its prominent figures before a court in a mass trial.

More than 100 activists and reformist political figures are being tried for allegedly supporting the postelection unrest. The trial is scheduled to resume Thursday.

On Sunday, Ahmadinejad's main conservative election challenger, Mohsen Rezaei, demanded trials for those accused of killing protesters.

Pro-reform groups, including clerics, have condemned the mass trial as a sham and said confessions from two prominent activists had been coerced.

PepsiAmericas accepts sweetened offer, sells to PepsiCo

PepsiCo Inc. said Tuesday it has reached agreements to acquire its two largest bottlers, including Minneapolis-based PepsiAmericas Inc., for a combined $7.8 billion.

Purchase, New York-based PepsiCo offered to buy both PepsiAmericas and Pepsi Bottling Group Inc. in April for $6 billion. PepsiAmericas (NYSE: PAS) later rejected the proposal, which called for PepsiCo to pay $23.27 per share for the company. PepsiCo has since upped its offer, agreeing to pay $28.50 per share for the firm.

Prior to the acquisition, PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP) had a 43 percent stake in PepsiAmericas.

PepsiCo CEO and Chairman Indra Nooyi said in a press statement that the acquisitions will allow the company to streamline operations and “react more quickly to changes in the marketplace.”

For PepsiAmericas, the deal will benefit shareholders and the company, said Robert Pohlad, PepsiAmericas’ CEO and chairman. “This agreement provides great value to our shareholders and an opportunity for them to participate in the unique potential of this combination. Bringing together these three great companies is bold and strategically innovative, and will create a system unmatched in our industry.”

Photo of the Day: Trenton man shows the police how he really feels about them..

Photo of the Day: Trenton man shows the police how he really feels about them..
This maybe the greatest photo ever, lol.....

Civil Rights Champ Was Secretly in Klan

A white Detroit businessman known for his support of civil rights groups and his generosity toward his black neighbors led a secret life as a high-ranking member in Ku Klux Klan.

Detroit NewsThe Detroit News said Jim Burwell's double identity only came to light after his death of a heart attack in 1990.

Until then, Burwell had a reputation for reaching out to help his black neighbors. He had an old bus that he used to ferry thousands of black children to church services and field trips. He ran a job program for ex-convicts that was partially funded by a civil rights group. He even donated to the Detroit Black Panther Party, the News said.

But documents found in his old truck repair shop after his death at 62 revealed Burwell had been a member of the KKK. Michigan State Police records also indicate he was involved with the Klan, the News said. His widow confirmed his membership. She said it was possible he was working for police as an informant, but there was nothing in police records to confirm that.

Revelations about Burwell's secret life shocked many who knew him as a rights champion. "I guess you never really know who you are dealing with," civil rights activist Rob Scott, a former Black Panther, told the newspaper. "A whole lot of black people considered him a friend."

'Housewives of Atlanta': Bringing Bigger Ratings

It seems fans of the 'Real Housewives of Atlanta' can't get enough of NeNe Leakes, Lisa Wu Hartwell, Kim Zolciak, Sheree Whitfield (pictured l-r) and newcomer Kandi Burruss.

Last Thursday's premiere of the second installment of the reality series pulled in astounding numbers for the Bravo network. Over 4 million viewers tuned in to the broadcast to see the drama that ensues when the ladies from the Peach State get together.

Not only was the telecast the highest-rated series premiere in 'Real Housewives' franchise history, but it was also the highest-rated Thursday in Bravo'sReal Housewives prime-time network history.

The series shot up triple digits compared to the season one premiere. Compared to the season two premiere of 'Orange Country,' the 'Atlanta' ratings were up 107 percent among adults 18 to 49 and up 138 percent among total viewers, a Bravo spokesperson confirmed.

'The Real Housewives of Atlanta' also posted historic gains online. The network's official Website (BravoTV.com) generated the best premiere-day video performance for any Bravo series in the history of the network

This season of 'Real Housewives of Atlanta' ushered in a new housewife – Grammy Award-winner Burruss of Xscape fame. In between recording a solo album and planning a wedding, Burruss befriends Zolciak, who has ambitions of becoming a country singer.

Also this season, Leakes, while searching for her biological father, will work at patching up her rocky relationship with Whitfield, who, after a small divorce settlement, has to downgrade her living arrangements but still plans to launch her She by Sheree clothing line.

And then, there's Wu Hartwell, a busy body who is also planning to launch a clothing line and perhaps have another child with her NFL player husband (who has been sidelined until further notice).

Regardless of how the Atlanta 'Housewives' pan out with their respective career ventures, this season is sure to be lively.

More Bad News For Republicans: Democrats Lead In State Party Affiliation

Yet more evidence that the GOP has a long way to go before it makes a comeback:

PRINCETON, NJ — An analysis of Gallup Poll Daily tracking data from the first six months of 2009 finds Massachusetts to be the most Democratic state in the nation, along with the District of Columbia. Utah and Wyoming are the most Republican states, as they were in 2008. Only four states show a sizeable Republican advantage in party identification, the same number as in 2008. That compares to 29 states plus the District of Columbia with sizeable Democratic advantages, also unchanged from last year.

These results are based on interviews with over 160,000 U.S. adults conducted between January and June 2009, including a minimum of 400 interviews for each state (305 in the District of Columbia). Each state’s data is weighted to demographic characteristics for that state to ensure it is representative of the state’s adult population.

Because the proportion of independents in each state varies considerably (from a low of 25% in Pennsylvania to a high of 50% in Rhode Island and New Hampshire), it is easiest to compare relative party strength using “leaned” party identification. Thus, the Democratic total represents the percentage of state residents who identify as Democratic, or who identify as independent but when asked a follow-up question say they lean to the Democratic Party. Likewise, the Republican total is the percentage of Republican identifiers and Republican-leaning independents in a state.

And, since a pictures is worth a thousand words, we have this:

So, what does this all mean ?

Well, it’s not good news if you’re a Republican:

Since Obama was inaugurated, not much has changed in the political party landscape at the state level — the Democratic Party continues to hold a solid advantage in party identification in most states and in the nation as a whole. While the size of the Democratic advantage at the national level shrunk in recent months, this has been due to an increase in independent identification rather than an increase in Republican support. That finding is echoed here given that the total number of solid and leaning Republican states remains unchanged from last year. While the Republican Party is still able to compete in elections if they enjoy greater turnout from their supporters or greater support for its candidates from independent voters, the deck is clearly stacked in the Democratic Party’s favor for now.

You’ve got a long way to go, Republicans.

First African-American supermodel Naomi Sims has died of cancer yesterday, August 03, 2009. She was 61.

Once bullied by her classmates because of her height, Naomi Sims has risen to become one of the most successful black models while still in her teens

She has been the first African-American model to appear on the covers of Ladies Home Journal in 1967, The New York Times Magazine's Fashion of the Times in 1967, and Life Magazine in 1969. (Her magazine appearances - the 1967 New York Times fashion magazine cover and the 1969 cover of LIFE Magazine - are now on display in the Metropolitan Museum's "The Model As Muse" exhibit.)

According to reports, Naomi Sims was turned down by modeling agencies in the late 1960s. Undeterred by rejection, the black model went to photographers and finally persuaded Gosta Peterson to capture her for the cover of The New York Times Magazine's Fashion of the Times supplement in 1967. (It was this image which would later appear in the MET's "Model as Muse" exhibit.) She has also sent out the image to advertising agencies and was earning $1,000 within a year. The image has her land a national AT&T TV commercial campaign wearing Bill Blass.

Her phenomenal appearances on top magazine covers has paved the way for her worldwide recognition in the late 1960s and early 1970s. She has also modeled for prestigious fashion designers Halston, Fernando Sánchez, Teal Traina, and Giorgio di Sant' Angelo.

Because of popularity, Naomi Sims was later offered a lead role in the Hollywood film Cleopatra Jones but she chose to turn down the role because of racist portrayal of blacks in the movie.

When she retired from modeling in 1973, she started her own beauty business and launched a successful wig collection. Her design posted an annual sales of $5 million by 1978.

Naomi Sims also became a successful author in her later years. She wrote five books on modeling, beauty and health including "All About Health and Beauty for the Black Women," "How to Be a Top Model," and "All About Success for the Black Women." She also has an advice column for teenage girls in Right On! Magazine.

Naomi Sims always acknowledged that her success has come from using her race as an advantage. Her early works and advocacy for the black race has helped established the identity of today's black supermodels like Tyra Banks, Naomi Campbell, Jourdan Dunn and other upcoming top models of African descent.

"It's 'in' to use me, and maybe some people do it when they don't really like me. But even if they are prejudiced, they have to be tactful if they want a good picture," Naomi Sims once said after establishing her multi-million beauty empire.

Judge Orders 25-Year-Old To Pay RIAA $675,000 For Downloading 30 Songs

A judge has awarded the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) $675,000 in the Sony v. Tenenbaum filing sharing case, in which 25-year old Joel Tenenbaum was convicted of downloading MP3s from the file-sharing site Kazaa while in college.

While the substantial reward could discourage a few future file-sharers from downloading music illegally, we think it's unlikely it will encourage the RIAA to bring more suits -- given comments made by the lobbying group in Aug. 2008, when it told Congress it would not pursue any new cases.

While some reports claimed it had brought new cases to court as recently as April, 2009, we contacted the RIAA this morning and it said that these cases were continuations of old "John Doe" cases in which the identity of the actual person downloading the files could not be determined, and that no new cases had been made since the fall of 2008 or would be made in the future.

The award could have been as high as $4.5 million, far higher than a previous judgement of $1.92 million against file-swapper Jammie Thomas-Rasset of Minnesota made last month.

Tenenbaum was not saddled with such a heavy judgement, but the $675,000 penalty does amount to $22,500 per song. Of course, given that he is only 25, chances are the RIAA will have a very hard time collecting. Here is the RIAA's statement about the verdict:

"We are grateful for the jury's service and their recognition of the impact of illegal downloading on the music community. We appreciate that Mr. Tenenbaum finally acknowledged that artists and music companies deserve to be paid for their work. From the beginning, that's what this case has been about. We only wish he had done so sooner rather than lie about his illegal behavior."

White House mostly mum on Clinton's NKorea mission

WASHINGTON — The White House took a tight-lipped stance Tuesday on former President Clinton's visit to North Korea to press for the release of two jailed Americans arrested in March.

"While this solely private mission to secure the release of the two Americans is on the ground, we will have no comment," said a statement by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. "We do not want to jeopardize the success of former President Clinton's mission."

Clinton earlier landed in North Korea on a private jet.

Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., said earlier Tuesday he hoped that Clinton's visit to Pyongyang would yield some progress on the difficult standoff between the United States and North Korea on nuclear issues.

Interviewed on NBC's "Today" show, Graham said he saw no problem with Clinton taking the lead on resolving the issue of the two women arrested in March. The Clinton visit was reminiscent of some missions that Bill Richardson, now the governor of New Mexico, had taken in the past.

Graham said that winning the release of the two young women arrested in March along the North Korean-Chinese border is "a priority of our government at the highest level." He said the "world is watching" how the leaders of North Korea will interact with Clinton and said it's time for Pyongyang's regime to "step up to the plate" and release the pair.

"You would expect that you would not send a former president knowing that he is not likely to be successful," Graham said. "Maybe we can build on this to do something better with nuclear weapons. ... I don't know if this is the beginning of something bigger."

Graham said he assumed Clinton had President Barack Obama's authority to act, saying that "I do not believe in cowboy diplomacy. ... Maybe this is a breakthrough, I would hope."

Tensions have increased between Washington and Pyongyang in the wake of North Korea's increased missile tests, including a series undertaken on July 4. The North Koreans have backed away from Six-Party talks aimed at getting them to renounce nuclear weapons ambitions.