Monday, December 28, 2009

New Video: Michael Jackson, 'This Is It,' Directed By Spike Lee

During his amazing, chart-topping, record-breaking, phenomenon-creating, totally Bad life, Michael Jackson created iconic music videos with some of the most acclaimed names in modern filmmaking.

Directors like John Landis ("Thriller"), Martin Scorsese ("Bad") and Francis Ford Coppola (Captain Eo) all helped create a vision to Jackson's one-of-a-kind sound.

So, it's only fitting that this tradition of collaboration continues even after Jackson's tragic passing with this Spike Lee-directed clip for Michael Jackson's "This Is It."

The single (and new song) from Jackson's posthumous performance/concert film of the same name scores this Spike Lee-helmed montage of clips and rare photos spanning Jackson's life, including scenes from his hometown of Gary, Indiana, and shots of his fans throughout the world. "This Is It" shows flashes of Spike's formidable documentary chops (see When The Levees Broke), as well as his nearly unparalleled ability to match images with music to gorgeous effect.

Watch Michael Jackson's "This Is It" video, directed by Spike Lee. The This Is It soundtrack is available now.

Michael Jackson - This Is It - Directed by Spike Lee from 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks on Vimeo.

Homeland Security Secretary Napolitanon now admits the system failed

Yesterday, DHS Secretary Napolitano was either arrogant or tone deaf when she said the airline security system worked. That same line was coming out of the White House, so we can't just blame this on Napolitano "mis-speaking." Some guy got on a plane and tried to blow it up. He had to be stopped by another passenger. The system most definitely did NOT work.

At least Napolitano admitted the failure today:

The Obama administration admitted on Monday that air travel security failed when a Nigerian man with suspected ties to Islamic militants allegedly was able to smuggle explosives onto a U.S.-bound flight in an attempt to blow it up.

Asked on NBC's "Today Show" on Monday if the security system "failed miserably," U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano replied: "It did."
Yes, it did. And, almost everybody seemed to understand that yesterday.

Nelly offers reward in break-in of his home

The rapper Nelly is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the man who broke into his suburban St. Louis home earlier this month.

CrimeStoppers announced the reward on Monday.

Someone forced his way through a locked window at Nelly’s Wildwood home in the early hours of Dec. 11 and got away with a duffel bag full of items that included electronics and other goods.

Nelly, whose real name is Cornell Haynes Jr., was not home at the time. Police say one of three occupants saw and confronted the intruder, a male in his 20s or 30s.

No one was injured.

Lieberman: Even Wronger On Yemen

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) has been taking heat for his comments on Fox News yesterday about how we need to “act preemptively” against extremist networks in Yemen. While it’s almost always safe to assume that Lieberman, like his comrade-in-tinny-bravado Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), is in favor of new wars, in this case I think treating Lieberman’s comments as advocating a preemptive U.S. invasion of Yemen actually obscures how wrong Lieberman really is. Here’s the offending passage:

LIEBERMAN: Yemen now becomes one of the centers of that fight [against Islamic extremism]. I was in Yemen in August. And we have a growing presence there, and we have to, of Special Operations, Green Berets, intelligence. We’re working well with the government of President Saleh there.

I leave you with this thought that somebody in our government said to me in the Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. Iraq was yesterday’s war. Afghanistan is today’s war. If we don’t act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow’s war. That’s the danger we face.

Iraq, Afghanistan… Yemen. That’s a really careless formulation, but I think it’s fairly clear that he’s not calling for an invasion of Yemen, but something more along the lines of what we’ve got going in Pakistan. But, as Gregg Carlstrom writes, that’s a huge problem:

The U.S. spent most of this decade propping up the Musharraf government: He received a lot of military aid, a lesser amount of civilian aid, and a great deal of support on the world stage. And it was a totally counterproductive strategy: Pakistan is more unstable than ever, and America’s public image is tarnished, perhaps irreparably, in the eyes of a whole generation of Pakistanis.

Supporting the Saleh government will produce the same outcome. The U.S. has very little leverage over Saleh; it cannot impel him to approve political reforms and focus on economic development. So Yemen’s government will go on being violent and oppressive, and the U.S. — in exchange for a massive aid package — will get a limited amount of counterterrorism assistance.

This is the kind of crudely transactional international relations that infuriates people in the Muslim world. And it’s ultimately counterproductive, because it leaves in place the root causes that allow countries to become “breeding grounds” for terrorism.

As in Pakistan, last week’s U.S.-assisted air strikes in Yemen killed a number of civilians (while failing to kill their main target), which in turn fuels hatred of the government, and of the government’s U.S. sponsor, and resulting in sympathy, if not outright support, for extremists and insurgents. These bad effects will fast outweigh and overshadow any of the good effects of U.S. aid, especially if that aid is not accompanied by more responsible, less corrupt and oppressive governance.

It’s also very much worth noting that the ranks of Yemen’s Islamic extremist insurgency have been fed by fighters returning from Iraq, bringing with them tactics and experience gained in one of the previous wars that Joe Lieberman supported. Unfortunately, the nature of our national security debate is such that militaristic voices like Lieberman’s will always be treated as “serious,” even when the problems they’re proposing to solve have only been made worse by their previous harebrained militarism.

Government Expands Fannie and Freddie Bailout and Lavishes Money on their CEOs

On Christmas Eve, when it hoped no one would notice, the Obama administration lifted the $400-billion limit on bailouts for government-sponsored mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and showered their executives with $42 million at taxpayer expense. (Earlier, Freddie Mac’s CFO received $5.5 million).

Under the Bush administration, federal regulators took over Fannie and Freddie in the name of stopping their risky practices. But the Obama administration has increased their purchases of risky mortgages in a vain attempt to inflate the economy. Worse, it forced them to run up to tens of billions in losses to bail out deadbeat and at-risk mortgage borrowers, and then tried to conceal those losses, in conduct reminiscent of Enron.

Fannie and Freddie helped spawn the mortgage crisis by acting as loan toilets, buying up risky mortgages that were issued by banks and mortgage companies, and thus creating an artificial market for junk. They put up with Clinton-era affordable housing regulations that required them to buy up lots of risky loans, in order to curry favor on Capitol Hill and thus retain their annual $10 billion in tax and other special privileges (which they possessed owing to their status as “Government-Sponsored Enterprises” or GSEs). They paid their CEOs millions in the process, and engaged in massive accounting fraud — $6.3 billion at Fannie Mae alone – to increase the size of their managers’ bonuses. As GSEs, they were exempt from the capital requirements that apply to private banks, so they did not have enough reserves to cover their losses when their mortgages started defaulting.

The federal government has a double standard when it comes to huge executive pay. It has no problem paying exorbitant sums of money to people who head failed government agencies like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. (At the direction of the Obama administration, Freddie Mac is now running up $30 billion in losses to bail out mortgage borrowers, some of whom have high incomes. Federal regulators sought to make Freddie Mac hide the resulting losses from the SEC and the public).

The federal government does, however, have a problem with big compensation packages at private banks like Bank of America and Citibank, even for talented new executives. Obama’s pay czar, Ken Feinberg, a major donor to liberal politicians like Senator Chris Dodd (who recommended Feinberg for the job after he gave Dodd more than $9000), is now chopping compensation more at basically self-supporting institutions like Bank of America than at completely-bailed out entities like Chrysler. (Many expect Chrysler to go under despite a $70-billion bailout. Chrysler is owned mostly by the United Auto Workers union, which received majority ownership from the Obama administration at taxpayer expense, through a politicized bankruptcy process).

Feinberg’s actions have already left taxpayers worse off by forcing Citigroup to get rid of a profitable subsidiary. As finance professor Roy C. Smith noted in The Washington Post:

Feinberg’s actions . . . are not going to improve either the government’s chances of getting its money back or the prospects of repairing these damaged companies. Because of his recommendations, Citigroup agreed to sell its profitable Phibro unit at an extremely low price of only one or two times earnings in order to avoid having to pay a talented trader a $100 million contractual share of the profits he had earned. The most successful of the remaining employees of Citigroup, AIG and Bank of America have been given an incentive to leave their posts, and the firms will be constrained in hiring replacements.
Many competent executives whose pay is threatened by the pay czar are now leaving for other firms. (The pay czar’s political patron, Senator Dodd, received sweetheart loans from the reckless, bankrupt subprime lender Countrywide, and a massive gift from Edward Downe, in the form of a luxurious “cottage” in Ireland he received in a “cut rate real estate deal” for hundreds of thousands of dollars less than fair market value.)

Banks will now be pressured to make even more risky, low-income loans. Obama has sent to Congress his proposal to create a politically correct entity called the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, tasked with enforcing the Community Reinvestment Act. Government pressure on banks to make low-income loans was a key reason for the mortgage meltdown and the financial crisis. Yet Obama’s proposals would empower the new agency to enforce the Community Reinvestment Act, which was a key contributor to the financial crisis, without regard for banks’ financial safety and soundness.

The mortgage crisis was also caused by the reckless government-sponsored mortgage giants (”GSEs”) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and by federal affordable-housing mandates. But Obama’s proposed financial rules overhaul does absolutely nothing about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, admits Obama’s Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, even though he admits that “Fannie and Freddie were a core part of what went wrong in our system.”

Worse, Obama’s plan is “largely the product of extensive conversations” with two lawmakers responsible for the corrupt status quo, Chris Dodd and Barney Frank, and it expands the reach of regulations that have been used by left-wing groups to extort payoffs from banks.

'Israel resembles a failed state'

More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed in Operation Cast Lead, but author says the war damaged Israel's standing in international public opinion [EPA]

One year has passed since the savage Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, but for the people there time might as well have stood still.

Since Palestinians in Gaza buried their loved ones - more than 1,400 people, almost 400 of them children - there has been little healing and virtually no reconstruction.

According to international aid agencies, only 41 trucks of building supplies have been allowed into Gaza during the year.

Promises of billions made at a donors' conference in Egypt last March attended by luminaries of the so-called "international community" and the Middle East peace process industry are unfulfilled, and the Israeli siege, supported by the US, the European Union, Arab states, and tacitly by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah, continues.

Policy of destruction

Amid the endless, horrifying statistics a few stand out: Of Gaza's 640 schools, 18 were completely destroyed and 280 damaged in Israeli attacks. Two-hundred-and-fifty students and 15 teachers were killed.

Of 122 health facilities assessed by the World Health Organization, 48 per cent were damaged or destroyed.

Ninety per cent of households in Gaza still experience power cuts for 4 to 8 hours per day due to Israeli attacks on the power grid and degradation caused by the blockade.

Forty-six per cent of Gaza's once productive agricultural land is out of use due to Israeli damage to farms and Israeli-declared free fire zones. Gaza's exports of more than 130,000 tonnes per year of tomatoes, flowers, strawberries and other fruit have fallen to zero.

That "much of Gaza still lies in ruins," a coalition of international aid agencies stated recently, "is not an accident; it is a matter of policy".

This policy has been clear all along and it has nothing to do with Israeli "security".

The Full Story

Black church ordains former KKK leader

Johnny Lee Clary, right, of Miami, OK, poses with Bishop George McKinney, who helped ordain him as a minister of the Church of God in Christ.

On Nov. 29, Oklahoman Johnny Lee Clary knelt before the Church of God in Christ’s elders, who ordained him as a minister in what is one of the nation’s largest black churches. The fact that Clary is white made the moment historic.

view all photos The fact that he is also a former Ku Klux Klan leader made it — at least in Clary’s view — something divine.

"We’re making history,” said Clary, 50, of Miami. "We’re building a bridge of racial reconciliation, and what better way to do that than with a former KKK leader ministering in a black church that boasts over 6 million members? I hope I can have a great impact.”

Clary made a different kind of contribution to humanity as an angry teenager. He joined the Klan.

Ironically, his ordainment ceremony last month in San Diego shared some of the ritualistic acts of a long-ago Klan ceremony. Yet the two events now stand as the darkest and greatest moments of his life.

"The worst thing I ever did was swear an allegiance to the KKK, vowing to hate all Jews and blacks and people of other races,” Clary recalled. "I knelt before the Klan leaders as they sprinkled me with water. I then swore an oath to the KKK and the god of the KKK. But they can call their god anything they want — Jesus Christ or whatever. It doesn’t matter. Because their god is not the God of the Bible.

"Their god is Satan.”

Clary rose through the ranks of the White Knights of the KKK, eventually attaining the status of an imperial wizard. He later quit the hate group after a falling out with another Klan leader.

Disillusioned, Clary reached for the Bible. The Word set him free, he said.

Clary soon began preaching to anyone who would listen. Television shows picked up his story, prompting him to appear on talk shows such as "The Phil Donahue Show,” "Geraldo,” "The 700 Club,” and "Sally Jesse Raphael.” In recent years, he has traveled the nation evangelizing and has made annual trips to Australia.

Along the way he crossed paths with Bishop George McKinney, pastor of St. Stephen’s Cathedral Church of God in Christ in San Diego and one of the church’s 12 elders. The two met more than 15 years ago at a Christian event in Montgomery, Ala.

"Bishop McKinney and I became friends,” Clary said. "One day he told me he would ordain me as a minister because the time was needed for racial reconciliation ... Finally, after years of being sidetracked, I agreed the time was right. My mission is to bring people of all races together.

"The Bible says there is one church, one Lord, one baptism, and so there should be one people.”

McKinney said Clary’s dramatic turnaround is a testament that the Holy Spirit can even bring a heart filled with hatred, prejudice and destruction under control.

"I’m thankful to God that there is still ongoing evidence of His grace, forgiveness and power to redeem,” McKinney said.

While he was in San Diego, McKinney said, Clary’s presence and his story of evangelism and racial reconciliation were warmly received by the predominantly black congregation.

"And he’s certainly qualified to speak on either because of his own background and journey,” the bishop said.

Clary is now waiting to hear from Bishop McKinney where his travel schedule will take him. Eventually, he hopes to oversee his own Church of God in Christ congregation.

"Looking back now at my days in the Klan, I regret not saying anything when I knew someone’s property was going to be destroyed or people were going to be terrorized or beaten up,” Clary said. "Instead, I stood by and said nothing ... Not anymore.”

Contributing: Staff Writer Johnny Johnson

Dollar gains in Asia on US economic optimism

The dollar rose in Asian trade Monday, supported by optimism about the outlook for the US economy, dealers said.

The dollar gained to 91.57 yen in Tokyo afternoon trade from 91.47 in late Asian trade on Friday, when markets in New York and London were closed for the Christmas holiday.

The euro slipped to 1.4382 dollars from 1.4385 but edged up to 131.70 yen from 131.45.

The dollar's strength reflected investors' expectations that the United States will recover from recession more quickly than other major economies, said Marito Ueda, a currency trader at FX Prime.

US data issued last week showed that orders for manufactured durable goods rose in November, while weekly claims for jobless benefits dropped to the lowest level since September 2008.

Markets were looking ahead to the next batch of US indicators due this week, including the Conference Board's consumer confidence index and housing prices, analysts said.

"Both data should be consistent with a gradual recovery remaining on track," predicted Calyon economist Sebastien Barbe.

But markets may be getting ahead of themselves in betting on early interest rate hikes by the US Federal Reserve, he added.

"The Fed will not raise rates soon. In addition, fiscal worries are also very much present in the US. In our view, those fears should limit the dollar's upside at some point," Barbe said.

The yen failed to get much of a boost from the latest economic data out of Japan. Markets were also unmoved by news that Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii, 77, was hospitalised for tests due to high blood pressure and fatigue.

Factory output rose for a ninth straight month in November, extending the longest unbroken expansion since 1997 on the back of a recovery in exports, but retail sales remained weak, the government said.

"It's hard to buy the yen at the moment due to uncertainty over the political and economic outlook," Ueda said.

Recent voter surveys have shown a sharp drop in support for Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who is embroiled in a political funding scandal.

Against Asian currencies, the dollar fell to 1.4063 Singapore dollars from 1.4064 on Friday, to 1,169.80 South Korean won from 1,174.60, and to 46.40 Philippine pesos from 46.51.

The greenback firmed to 9,490 Indonesian rupiah from 9,480, while holding steady at 32.25 Taiwan dollars and at 33.38 Thai baht.

Malcolm X lawyer, New York pol Percy Sutton dead at 89

Percy Sutton, attorney to Malcolm X and a pioneering media mogul, has died in New York. He was 89.

Marissa Shorenstein, a spokeswoman for Gov. David Paterson, confirmed Sutton’s death Saturday.

The son of a slave, Sutton became a fixture in Harlem after moving to New York City following his military service with the famed Tuskegee Airmen in World War II. His law office represented Malcolm X and the slain activist’s family for decades.

In the 1970s, Sutton built up a business in radio. With his brother, he purchased WLIB-AM, making it the first black-owned radio station in New York City. His Inner City Broadcasting Corp. owned stations nationwide.

Sutton was elected to political office in New York, and mentored Jesse Jackson during two presidential races.

Among Sutton’s other endeavors was his purchase and renovation of the famed Apollo Theater when the Harlem landmark’s demise appeared imminent.

In addition to his radio holdings, Sutton also headed a group that owned The Amsterdam News, the second largest black weekly newspaper in the country. The paper was later sold.

Sutton’s devotion to Harlem and its people was rarely more evident than when he spent $250,000 to purchase the shuttered Apollo Theater in 1981. The Apollo turned 70 in 2004, a milestone that was unthinkable until Sutton stepped in to save the landmark.

Sutton is survived by his wife, Leatrice; his son, Pierre, and daughter Cheryl.

Amy Winehouse is being treated for nervous exhaustion after she collapsed at home

The troubled ‘Back to Black’ singer was treated at home by a doctor over the Christmas period as a chest infection coupled with the stress of her recent arrest on suspicion of assault both took their toll.

A source close to Amy, 26, told the Daily Mirror newspaper: “She’s been told to keep a low profile and fully recuperate. She has been feeling very ill of late and had a funny turn at home. She is quite unwell and exhausted over recent events but is soldiering on.”

The singer’s friends have been keen to stress Amy is not back on drugs and isn’t drinking heavily, although work on her comeback album will suffer setbacks as she recuperates.

The source added: “Her new songs are amazing but will be on the back burner until she feels better.”

Amy’s recent arrest – for allegedly attacking a theatre manager at a performance of ‘Cinderella’ in Milton Keynes, England, on December 19 – has led to her being charged with a public order offence and common assault.

She will appear at Milton Keynes Magistrates Court to answer to the charges on January 20.

The source said: “The last week has been a massive setback for Amy, who was really turning a corner. Everyone in her camp is shocked by what has happened.
“The New Year doesn’t look set to get off to a good start, but Amy is determined and she’ll keep looking forward.”


It was meant to be an event when Iranians unite to honour one of Shia Islam's most revered martyrs. Instead, it turned into a day of bloodshed that left at least nine people dead, many more injured and the country facing a potentially unbridgeable political divide amid an escalating cycle of violence.

The Shia mourning ceremony of Ashura became a confrontation between Iran's torn political factions when the government unleashed a furious crackdown on pro-opposition protesters that included orders to open fire.

Witnesses were still reporting the sounds of gunfire in Tehran last night after a day in which at least five protesters in the city were killed and many more injured in the most violent clashes between opposition supporters and security forces in months. Four more were killed in the northern city of Tabriz, a stronghold of the reformist leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, whose nephew was among those reportedly shot dead in Tehran.

More than 300 arrests were confirmed, amid reports of violent clashes in cities and towns across Iran."

Charlie Sheen Arrest Update: Brooke Mueller Was Drunk, Takes It All Back

So, how was your Christmas? Probably better than Charlie Sheen’s! As you may be aware, the Hot Shots! Part Deux actor was arrested in Aspen early Friday morning and charged with second-degree assault, menacing, and criminal mischief. It’s not as fun as those last two charges sound, though, as it later came out that the alleged victim was Sheen’s wife, Brooke Mueller. Sheen was freed on $8,500 bail Friday night, but things only got more confusing from there.

On Saturday, TMZ reported that Mueller recanted her accusation to the police, saying she was drunk when she called 911 at 8:34 a.m. And she was! Mueller scored a .13 BAC count (Sheen was at a respectable .04). Yesterday, TMZ reported that Mueller initially told the police Sheen threatened her with a knife … which is part of the story that she already took back, we think.

This morning, People provided some comic relief, digging up Sheen and Mueller’s Christmas card, featuring the couple and their twin babies, along with the helpful explanation that it “looks like Charlie Sheen didn't expect to get coal — or police handcuffs — this Christmas.” People also has an actual report on what happened, claiming the couple were a little tipsy at a friend’s dinner party, where they began engaging in a fight that lasted through the morning. Don't worry, though, 'cause they’ll be undergoing counseling. In related news, nobody cares how Jon Cryer’s Christmas went.

Suicide Bomber Hits Pakistani Shi'ites in Karachi, Killing 20

Pakistani officials say a suicide bomber has struck a Shi'ite Muslim religious procession in the southern city of Karachi, killing 20 people and wounding dozens of others.

Officials say the bomber blew himself up Monday while walking in a procession of Shi'ites observing the holy festival of Ashura in Pakistan's commercial capital.

The Karachi bombing is the second major attack on Shi'ite Muslims, a minority in Pakistan, in as many days. A suicide bomber struck a Shi'ite mosque in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir Sunday, killing at least 10 people and wounding more than 80.

Authorities tightened security across the country in the run-up to the Ashura festival, which often has coincided with an upsurge in sectarian attacks.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani army says troops have killed some 15 militants in the ongoing offensive against the Taliban in the South Waziristan tribal region.

A military statement says the militants were killed when they tried to raid a security checkpoint. Two soldiers were reported killed.

Texas prison guard sought in fatal stabbings

ROSENBERG, Texas — Authorities from Texas to Florida were searching Monday for a prison guard accused of stabbing his wife and mother-in-law in a double-slaying witnessed by children.

Detectives in the Houston suburb of Rosenberg were looking for Albert James Turner, 44, who faces murder charges after an argument at the home of his in-laws turned violent early Sunday, Rosenberg police Lt. Colin Davidson said.

Turner has family near Orlando, Fla., and Davidson said law enforcement agencies all along Interstate 10 have been notified in case Turner is headed that way. The 6-foot-1 Turner weighs about 270 pounds and should be considered armed and dangerous, Davidson said.

"He knows what goes on in prison, so who knows what he's going to do," Davidson said. "He probably wouldn't want to go back to the place where he worked."

Davidson said Turner was identified by eyewitnesses, including a child who called 911.

"The children did witness some of it, yes," Davidson said. "This was a violent crime scene."

The victims were Turner's 39-year-old wife, Keitha Frank Turner, and her mother, 66-year-old Betty Jo Frank. The women were the daughter and wife of Rosenberg preacher Gene Frank of the Church of Living Waters, Davidson said.

The Franks, Turners and at least two grandchildren were at the home when an argument escalated, Davidson said. He did not know who was fighting or why.

Davidson was unsure how many children were in the home but told the Houston Chronicle there were at least two, with the older one being 12.

Turner could be traveling in his maroon Honda Accord, with a Texas plate: 494-JFY and possibly wearing a gray Texas Department of Correction detention officer uniform.


Tyra Follows Oprah, Quits

Daytime television has just taken another big hit. Just weeks after media mogul Oprah Winfrey announced that she would be ending her wildly successful talk show Oprah, Tyra Banks has announced that she'll be ending The Tyra Show. Both daytime talk shows were wildly popular with women. Tyra's show, which often centers on female empowerment and inner beauty, is currently in the middle fifth and final season, which is slated to end, along with the series, in June 2010.

“This will be the last season of The Tyra Show,” Banks exclusively revealed to People magazine. “I’ve been loving having fun, coming into your living rooms, bedrooms, hair salons for the past 5 years.”

Tyra, however, won't be completely absent from television screens. She'll continue to appear in her hit show America's Next Top Model, which will return for its fifteenth season in February 2010. She will also continue to appear on her other show, True Beauty, which airs on ABC.

“With Oprah’s big announcement this year, I think that gave Tyra the confidence to get out there and follow her longtime dream of film producing," said a source for People.

Well, daytime television has certainly taken a hit this year, and it's not been because of the recession (mostly). With all these hosts leaving, what will become of daytime television? You can't replace them with more soap operas; those have been declining just as equally, although for financial reasons.

It will be interesting to see how this situation is resolved by the networks come next year, when daytime television will be rendered a practical wasteland. What do you think about Tyra's departure from daytime TV? Let us know in the comments below!

Nigerian family of jet bomb suspect speaks of shock

The family of a Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a transatlantic jet on Christmas Day says his actions are "completely out of character".

They said that, until recently, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, had never given them cause for concern.

His father, a prominent banker, alerted security agencies about two months ago when his son broke off communication.

Meanwhile, the UK said on Monday that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had been on its security watch list.

This meant he could not come into the UK, although he could pass through the country in transit.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said he had been refused a visa 14 months ago after applying to study at a bogus college.

'Sought help'

The Abdulmutallab family, based in Abuja, said that they "like the rest of the world were woken in the early hours" of 26 December to the news of their son's alleged attempt to blow up a flight between Amsterdam and Detroit.

They said that prior to this event, his father, "having become concerned about his disappearance and decision to break off communication while schooling abroad", had approached security officials in Nigeria and overseas.

"We were hopeful that they would find and return him home," the statement said. "It was while we were waiting for the outcome of their investigation that we arose to the shocking news of that day."

The statement went on to say that the recent disappearance and end of all communication by their son was "completely out of character and a very recent development".

Until then, "from very early childhood, Farouk, to the best of parental monitoring, had never shown any attitude, conduct or association that would give concern".

"As soon as concern arose, very recently, his parents reported it and sought help."

The statement went on to say that the family would fully co-operate with any investigation, and gave thanks "that there were no lives lost in the incident".
The BBC's Caroline Duffield in Lagos says the suspect's father, Alhaji Umaru Abdulmutallab, is a prominent banker well-connected in Nigeria's political world

He is said to have approached the US embassy in Abuja in November to voice concerns about his son, who is a former engineering student at University College London.

The family have told the BBC Hausa service that they lost contact with Mr Abdulmutallab in October, when he was living in Yemen.

Mr Abdulmutallab's route began in Yemen, from where he travelled to Ethiopia, Ghana and Nigeria. On 24 December, he flew from Lagos to Amsterdam, where he boarded the flight to Detroit.

His name was on a security database of more than half a million individuals, known as Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (Tide), but there was not enough information about his activities to place him on a blacklist that would have prevented him from flying.

Nine people die in Mississippi apartment blaze

Nine people have been killed in a fire at an apartment block in the US state of Mississippi, say reports.

At least six children were among the dead, state fire marshal Mike Chaney told the Associated Press news agency.

The blaze was reported to have broken out before dawn at the building in Starkville, Oktibbeha County.

It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, in a two-storey block containing eight apartments, not far from Mississippi State University.

The deaths were confirmed by County Coroner Michael Hunt.

An eyewitness told the Commercial Dispatch newspaper that children aged four and three as well as a young baby were feared dead.

Nigeria Orders Increased Airport Security after Failed US Plane Bombing

The Nigerian government has enhanced security checks at its airports after a young Nigerian man tried to blow up a U.S. airliner.

Nigerian Information Minister Dora Akunyili told reporters a range of measures have been introduced to boost security at airports in response to the failed attack.

"We want to assure everybody that our airports are very safe, having just passed American Investigation and Security Administration audit in November 2009. However, in the light of the new development, we have reinforced our security systems in all our airports," she said.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian student with alleged links to al-Qaida, tried to detonate explosives just before a U.S. jetliner landed in Detroit on a trip from Amsterdam Friday. Abdulmutallab began his journey in Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos.

The Nigerian government ordered security agencies to investigate the incident and said they would cooperate fully with the American authorities.

Abdulmutallab is the son of a prominent Nigerian figure. The father had reported his concerns about his son's extreme religious views to the U.S. embassy in Abuja.

Information Minister Akunyili described the 70-year-old former government minister and top banker as a responsible and respected Nigerian with a true Nigerian spirit.

"The man in question has lived outside Nigeria for a while. He sneaked into Nigeria on the 24th of December 2009 and left the same day. The father, Alhaji Umar Mutallab, who is a responsible and respected Nigerian with a true Nigerian spirit, had earlier reported his concerns about his son's activities to the relevant American authorities. His father had expressed his shock and regret over his son's actions," she added.

The attempted bombing by a Nigerian of a U.S.-bound flight has provoked sharp reactions in image-conscious Nigeria. The government was quick to condemn the incident involving its national. Several Islamic groups have also denounced the attempted attack.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation, roughly divided between Christians and Muslims.

Some Western diplomats have expressed concern about the rise of violent Islamic extremism in Nigeria.