Troll's Blog

Troll's Blog

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Germany to give U.S. passenger data

BERLIN, Germany -- Germany has agreed to hand over to the United States information on passengers traveling across the Atlantic despite concerns about the privacy of its citizens, said an interior ministry spokeswoman.

The EU Commission agreed in December to hand over data about airline passengers, which the United States wants to track suspected militants and criminals after the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York City and Washington.

Germany's Federal Data Privacy Commissioner told Reuters that the United States was demanding too much data from airlines about their passengers and said the issue could split the European Union's Commission and parliament.

"They (the Americans) want too much data, for too long and for unspecified purposes," Peter Schaar said, adding Washington's wish list included credit card details, contact numbers, email addresses, meal preferences and references to pilgrimages.

The Berlin government yielded to Washington's request though details of the agreement were not immediately clear.

"The government consented because it believed that the agreement was consistent with data protection," the Interior Ministry spokeswoman said.

The European Parliament could challenge the Commission's decision despite Washington's offer of "adequate" privacy safeguards although its vote, due this month, cannot bind the EU's executive arm.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

'The Sopranos,' the tourist destination

TRENTON, New Jersey (AP) -- Love them or hate them, "The Sopranos" are good business for New Jersey.

The HBO saga of conflicted mobster Tony Soprano and his two dysfunctional families returned for a fifth season Sunday night, and that means a boon for cottage industries like bus tours, memorabilia Web sites and celebrity lookalikes.

It also has meant more attention for hobbyists like Sue Sadik of Clifton, known to legions of Sopranos fans on the Internet as "Soprano Sue." Her Web site, www.sopranosuessightings.com, features news, photos and off-screen sightings of the actors on the show, as well as links to e-commerce sites that sell everything from Bada Bing drink coasters to the Artie Bucco Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Gift Set.

Sadik, 42, who owns a small delivery service in Jersey City, said she began watching the show after she noticed many of the locations shown in the opening credits were within minutes of her commute to work.

"I had to watch to see what locations I could pick out," she said. "I had a digital camera, so I started taking pictures of the locations and sending them around."

There is little doubt that the location that has benefited most is Satin Dolls. This Lodi gentleman's club doubles as the Bada Bing, the combination strip joint/clubhouse where Tony, Silvio, Paulie Walnuts and the rest of the crew relax after a hard day of beating the system.

The cast spent about 100 hours shooting there last year, according to manager Richie Malaricci, who said he expects a crowd of 250 people for Sunday night's season premiere. "The Bing" has become the favorite stop for visitors on bus tours from Manhattan who come to snap up T-shirts, hats, ties and coasters.

More than half the tour-takers are foreigners, mostly from Britain and Australia, according to Georgette Blau, who runs the Sopranos tours for On Location Tours out of midtown Manhattan. Business has risen about 20 percent in recent weeks, she said.

'Every day they're in the news'

The tour runs about four hours, costs $35 and visits close to 50 sites, including Satriale's Pork Store in Kearny -- site of a gruesome murder in the pilot episode -- and the Skyway Diner in South Kearny where Tony's nephew, Christopher, was shot by two mob wannabes.

The approaching season has kept Adrienne Gusoff busy booking Sopranos lookalikes for her New York-based business, Bubby Gram/Pick-a-Shtick. Among Gusoff's clients is a dead ringer for James Gandolfini, who plays Tony; lookalikes for Edie Falco, who plays Tony's wife, Carmela; and doubles of Lorraine Bracco, who plays psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Melfi.

"It's been nonstop. Every day they're in the news," Gusoff said.

Not everyone will miss the show when it finishes its run. Bloomfield-based Italian American One Voice, a coalition of Italian-American organizations, is one of several groups that have criticized the show for promoting negative stereotypes.

"It's lazy casting," said Emanuel Alfano, One Voice's national director. "If you want a pimp, make him black. If you want a gangster, make him Italian. People say, 'But it's good writing.' Just because it's well done, it doesn't mean it's right. 'Amos 'n Andy' was well done. 'Birth of a Nation' was well done."

The upcoming season of "The Sopranos" was once thought to be the series' last -- for that matter, so were the third and fourth seasons -- but earlier this year, creator David Chase confirmed there will be one more go-round consisting of 10 episodes.

The end of the show may not necessarily mean the end of the gravy train. Blau said her tours should continue to thrive since some European countries have just begun to get reruns of "The Sopranos." And Satin Dolls' 15 minutes of fame could extend indefinitely.

"Once the legend grows, it never dies," Malaricci said. "It's been a very happy time for us."

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Oscar Gives ABC Weekly Win

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - A rejuvenated Oscar telecast and the finale of "The Bachelorette" took ABC to the top of the Nielsen rankings for the week ending Feb. 29.

The network also got a boost from the return of Regis Philbin and his "Super Millionaire" specials on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. But it was Sunday's 3-1/2-hour Academy Awards telecast that drove ABC to its highest weekly numbers in more than a year -- since the week of the network's 2003 Super Bowl telecast. By Oscar's own standard, Sunday's telecast was the most-watched ceremony in four years.

Wednesday's two-hour "Bachelorette" finale did more than respectable business, though it didn't score as highly as previous "Bachelor" and "Bachelorette" closers.

For the week, ABC averaged 14.4 million viewers and a 5.1 rating/13 share in the adults 18-49 demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research. That marked ABC's first significant weekly win of the season in the key demo. (ABC posted two weekly wins in late December during the holiday-light viewing period for primetime.)

NBC and Fox were neck-and-neck for second place in 18-49 (NBC's 4.4/12 to Fox's 4.3/11). CBS was No. 2 in viewers (12.3 million) and fourth in adults 18-49 (3.6/10). NBC ran third in viewers (11.1 million) ahead of Fox (10.1 million), followed by UPN (4 million) and the WB Network (3.9 million).

Fox had a strong week with its Tuesday and Wednesday installments of "American Idol"; Tuesday's hour-long edition was noteworthy even by "Idol's" lofty standards, up 23% versus the comparable episode of "Idol" that aired this time last year. Monday also was a big night for the network as the finale of "My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance" delivered the highest 18-49 demo ratings of any unscripted series so far this season other than "Idol" and CBS' post-Super Bowl premiere of "Survivor: All-Stars."

The NBC success story of the week was Thursday's edition of "The Apprentice," which grew from its "Will & Grace" lead-in to finish in a virtual 18-49 demo tie with the reigning king of primetime, CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." NBC's 10 p.m. mainstay "ER" also perked up compared to recent weeks thanks to its stronger lead-in.

CBS held its own Thursday with a particularly strong showing from 8 p.m.'s "Survivor: All-Stars."

At UPN, it was another record-setting ratings performance from Tuesday 9 p.m. reality show "America's Next Top Model." The WB's highlight of the week was the Monday drama combo of "7th Heaven" and "Everwood."

Thursday, February 26, 2004

India's private carriers fly to Sri Lanka

NEW DELHI, India (Reuters) -- India's private airlines can begin flying to neighboring Sri Lanka under a new policy, the civil aviation minister said, breaking a decades-old monopoly of state-owned carriers over international routes.

Guidelines allowing private carriers to fly to the south Asian nation had been issued by the industry regulator following government approval of the new policy in January, Rajiv Pratap Rudy told reporters at an industry seminar.

"The director general of civil aviation has already issued orders. The private domestic scheduled operators (airlines) can start operations any day," Rudy said.

Until now, only two Indian state-run carriers were allowed to fly on lucrative international routes, but in January the cabinet approved a proposal allowing private airlines to fly to six countries of a regional South Asian group.

The policy also needs approval of other governments, Rudy said.

"As for now, it is only Sri Lanka which has made the offer and permission has been granted for Sri Lanka," he said.

For years, India's aviation industry was a monopoly of international flag carrier Air-India Ltd and the mostly domestic Indian Airlines Ltd.

But the government threw open the industry to private companies as part of an economic liberalization plan.

More than a decade later, Jet Airways and Air Sahara, India's two main private carriers, have more than half the share of the domestic air travel market helped by their younger fleet.

Both are keen to begin flying to Sri Lanka.

Rudy said another plan to allow private airlines to fly to countries outside the South Asian region would be considered afresh by a new government after national elections this year.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Democratic battle turns into two-man race

The Democratic race for the White House turned largely into a two-man matchup Wednesday with Howard Dean's withdrawal from the field, leaving John Kerry and John Edwards battling for delegates as more state contests loom.

Kerry added to his growing list of state victories with a win in Wisconsin Tuesday, but Edwards claimed new momentum with his surprisingly strong second-place showing in that contest.

Following his distant third-place finish in Wisconsin, Dean, the former governor of Vermont who had galvanized the Democratic base with his insurgent campaign, threw in the towel, even as he vowed to "transform the Democratic Party" through a new organization.

Dean made no endorsement Wednesday, but vowed to support whoever emerged as the Democratic nominee and help to defeat President Bush in November.

Aides said Dean was mulling the possibility of an endorsement. He has been complimentary of Edwards lately on the campaign trail and he has had a chilly relationship with Kerry. But Dean aides cautioned that no decision has been made on who Dean might support.

Edwards said he would continue to focus on a key issue that exit polls showed helped him gain a last-minute surge among Wisconsin voters: trade.

"Senator Kerry supported NAFTA and other trade agreements," Edwards told CNN. "I was against NAFTA and some of the trade agreements that he was for, and I think they've cost us millions of jobs. And I think voters need to see the difference in our views on what needs to be done about trade and how trade can work for America and American workers."

Kerry, who has served in the Senate since 1985, struck back at the one-term senator in comments to reporters on the campaign trail in Dayton, Ohio, part of the upcoming "Super Tuesday" lineup.

"We have the same policy on trade, exactly the same policy. He voted for the China Trade Agreement; so did I. And we both want to have labor agreements and environment agreements as part of any trade deal. So it's the exact same policy." As for Edwards' stance on NAFTA, Kerry said, "Well, he wasn't in the Senate back then. I don't know where he registered his vote, but he wasn't in the Senate."

'Super Tuesday'
The two men are battling for votes in Hawaii, Idaho, and Utah, which hold nominating contests next Tuesday, but they're putting more focus into the following week, when voters in 10 states will make their choices on "Super Tuesday."

A total of 1,151 delegates will be picked March 2 in 10 states, including such electoral prizes as California, New York, Ohio and Georgia.

Kerry took aim at Bush in Ohio, saying that the president's budget proposal would cost the state $1.1 billion. He said tax cuts aimed at higher-income families should be rolled back with the money invested in "education, health care, cities and the future of our country."

Edwards, meanwhile, touted the support he won among independents in Tuesday's primary. They were allowed to cast a Democratic ballot Tuesday in Wisconsin, and they broke for Edwards by better than a 10-point margin.

"I would be the strongest candidate against George Bush because we have to get those people to win against George Bush in the fall," Edwards told CNN.

Edwards had no campaign events scheduled, but was traveling to New York, where he hopes to make a splash come Super Tuesday. He plans to visit the state five times in the next five days, and also has trips scheduled to Ohio, Georgia, Minnesota, and California.

"We always planned to go into March 2nd, and now we do so with wind on our backs," said Edwards' communications director, David Ginsberg.

Kerry's campaign sought to downplay Edwards' upward mobility, arguing that a win is a win -- and noting that Kerry has won all but two contests so far in the primary season.

In winning 16 of 18 contests held so far, Kerry has secured slightly more than a quarter of the 2,161 delegates he needs to win his party's White House nomination.

But enough delegates remain uncommitted to give either candidate a shot at the nomination in July.

Civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio remain in the race, but neither man has picked up a single primary or caucus win, and both are trailing badly in the polls.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Bird flu could become major economic disaster if spread among humans.

SINGAPORE (AFP) - The economic damage caused by bird flu in Asia is now largely confined to poor farming communities but it could turn into a multi-billion-dollar disaster if the virus spreads directly among humans, experts warned.

Ten countries have now been confirmed hit by the virus, which has killed at least eight people and led to the culling or deaths of millions of chickens in a region still recovering economically from last year's SARS epidemic.

Health and economic experts fear bird flu has the potential to be more devastating than Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which killed about 800 people and infected some 8,000 others worldwide in the first half of 2003.

SARS, spread by human contact, was concentrated in cities like Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore and Beijing, as well as densely-populated Guangdong province in southern China, causing heavy losses to tourism and related industries.

Bird flu by comparison is ravaging farming villages across a wider swath of territory but is so far suspected of being spread only by infected poultry.

But even highly urbanized Singapore is taking no chances. The city-state, which imports most of its food, has warned the public to stay away from seven poultry farms in the suburbs and stepped up checks on imported chickens from Malaysia, where no signs of the virus have been reported.

The Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) offered to help countries combat the growing threat posed by the outbreak.

Its assistant chief economist, Jean-Pierre Verbiest, said that at least initially, the rural poor will be hardest hit by the outbreak.

"But if the flu creates a major travel scare as was the case with SARS, tourism and other economic losses could reach tens of billions of dollars," he said in a statement.

Paul Coughlin, credit watchdog agency Standard and Poor's managing director for corporate and government ratings in the Asia-Pacific region, said that in itself, "a problem of the chicken industry won't herald a recession."

"Unless bird flu develops the same characteristic of human to human contagion, then we wouldn't expect bird flu to have the same impact as SARS," he told journalists in Singapore.

South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, Japan, Cambodia, Pakistan, Laos and China have confirmed outbreaks of bird flu.

Singapore's DBS Bank said in the short term, countries with large numbers of people employed in the farm sector and highly dependent on tourism are likely to suffer the most economically, singling out Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines.

If the virus starts mutating across large sections of the population in Asia, there could be an overall slowing of economic growth. However, thanks to Asia's experience in dealing with SARS, it is likely that containment this time around will be quicker, DBS said.

In Manila, the Philippines' Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit said that since most of its poultry imports come from Western countries, the risks of an outbreak "are very minimal," and "there is no reason to be overly concerned."

The government has banned all imports of live birds as well as poultry-related products from other Asian countries.

Poultry supply and fastfood sales in affected countries have already been affected.

American fast-food giant KFC said it will not serve any more of its famous chicken in its nine restaurants in Vietnam. A company executive said it was working on a menu including fish and other new products.
Fresh chicken, a staple of Thailand's famous cuisine, has disappeared from food markets in Bangkok, with frustrated vendors unable to convince a fearful public their poultry is safe.

There has been no sign of an outbreak in Malaysia, which exports chickens to Singapore and shares a border with Thailand.

Culture, Arts and Tourism Minister Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir has warned Malaysia's media to be cautious when reporting on the bird flu as it could affect the country's economy and tourism, the Bernama news agency said.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Arazi Upsets Philippoussis in Australia.

MELBOURNE, Australia - Hicham Arazi, a Moroccan ranked 51st, was nearly perfect in upsetting 10th-seeded Mark Philippoussis 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 on Monday to advance to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.

The stunning defeat of Philippoussis, the hero of Australia's Davis Cup victory over Spain last month, put a damper on the center court fans celebrating their country's national day.

It left former top-ranked Lleyton Hewitt, who was facing second-seeded Roger Federer in a late match, as the last Australian in the tournament.

Philippoussis hit a big overhead early in the first set that bounced and hit the 30-year-old Arazi on the side of the head, knocking him down. Arazi smiled as he got up and made the crowd laugh when he briefly hid behind a linesman before the next point.

But Arazi, who beat 25th-seeded Albert Costa in his last match, blunted Philippoussis' vaunted power, breaking his serve five times. Philippoussis squandered all 10 of his break-point opportunities, including five while trying to get back into the match while Arazi was serving at 1-2 in the third set.

The left-handed Arazi then broke Philippoussis for the last time in the next game, running around his backhand to hit a forehand winner that the Australian didn't make a move on.

While both players had 34 winners, Arazi made just 10 unforced errors to 38 for Philippoussis.

"The guy was pretty much too good today," Philippoussis said. "He played a flawless match. I felt like every time he wanted to go for it, he went for it and made it. Nothing much I could do."

Arazi next faces third-seeded Juan Carlos Ferrero, the French Open champion, who needed treatment on his injured leg twice in a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Andrei Pavel.

"I started to feel better and better during the match, I tried to fight a lot and win — I did it very well," Ferrero said. "I was very focused and concentrated on my game and not on my injury."

Lisa Raymond followed her upset over Venus Williams with an easy victory, defeating wild-card entry Tatiana Golovin 6-2, 6-0 to reach the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for only the second time in 45 attempts. She reached the quarters at Wimbledon in 2000.

"It would have been pretty easy for me to have the letdown after playing so well against Venus," Raymond said. "I've never really peaked at Slams. To be able to play as well as I have here, it feels great. And hopefully I've got a lot more great tennis left in me for a couple more rounds."

Her quarterfinal opponent will be Switzerland's Patty Schnyder, seeded 22nd, who beat Nathalie Dechy of France 6-2, 6-4.

The 354th-ranked Golovin, who celebrated her 16th birthday Sunday, had only one win on the WTA Tour before arriving at Melbourne Park. She said she was tired after going further than she expected.

Second-seeded Kim Clijsters beat Silvia Farina Elia of Italy 6-3, 6-3 and will play sixth-seeded Anastasia Myskina of Russia, who rallied for a 6-7 (3), 6-2, 6-2 win over ninth-seeded American Chanda Rubin.

Myskina also beat Rubin in the fourth round at the Australian Open last year before losing to Clijsters in the quarterfinals.

Clijsters showed no signs of her sprained ankle, at one point sprinting in from behind the baseline to flick a drop volley just over Farina Elia's head. While she was happy with her form, she said the ankle is still bothering her.

Eighth-seeded David Nalbandian will play the winner of the Federer-Hewitt match after his fourth-round 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 win over fellow Argentine Guillermo Canas. Canas looked sluggish after consecutive five-setters, including an almost five-hour win over 11th-seeded Tim Henman in his last match.

Nalbandian, who lost the 2002 Wimbledon final to Hewitt, hasn't dropped a set in four matches. He beat top-ranked Andy Roddick and defending champion Andre Agassi, who both advanced on Sunday, in a warmup tournament in Melbourne.

Ferrero said he had a groin injury, but didn't expect it to trouble him much. He hit 53 winners and had Pavel chasing balls over the court in his victory.
Fashion in bloom.

The red carpet blossomed with spring colors as stars donned ladylike gowns for Sunday's Golden Globe Awards, with one glittery exception: Nicole Kidman in a backless, cut-down-to-there gold sequin dress.

The "Cold Mountain" ' star stood out among the pretty pastel dresses and safe black gowns at the 61st annual awards show in Beverly Hills.

Kidman's gold sequin bodice, with a neckline that plunged to her waist, was held together with nude fabric and paired with a flowing, pale chiffon skirt. Her loose curls were held back with a gold headband.

"I need a coat, though," ' Kidman told Joan Rivers on E! Entertainment Television. "I sort of like that it" s got a sort of slight Salome feel to it.''

Kidman's gown, designed by Tom Ford in his last collection for Yves Saint Laurent, will likely be the most-talked-about dress of the evening, said Kevin Lennox, associate fashion editor for Glamour magazine.

"I like her for wearing what she" s wearing,'' Lennox said. "She" s like 6 feet tall or something and 10 pounds. It's great that she takes chances and doesn't just do the run-of-the-mill.''

The other surprise of the evening was presenter Jennifer Lopez, who wasn't expected to appear on the red carpet. Days after her breakup with fiance Ben Affleck was announced, Lopez strolled by fans appearing effortlessly chic in a tangerine goddess gown with silver straps, her hair pulled up in a loose ponytail.

"It looked very pretty on her. Sometimes she doesn" t play up the pretty softer side of her, she wears harsher things,'' Lennox said.

Goddess gowns also gave a romantic flair to Kim Cattrall of HBO's "Sex and the City" ' in vintage Valentino and "Lost in Translation" ' director Sofia Coppola in Azzedine Alaia.

"It" s just very cool,'' Lennox said of Coppola's black vintage gown. "I think it looks great, but looks great from a different perspective." '

Most stars played it safe in gowns that revealed just enough to be sexy but not enough to steal the spotlight.

Lennox loved Uma Thurman's satin lavender gown and Charlize Theron's ultrafeminine, pale yellow ruffled gown.

"She is my favorite for the night," ' he said of Theron, who transformed herself to look like serial killer Aileen Wuornos in the film "Monster." ' "Especially because you have the contrast of her in that movie and the way she looks tonight." '

Youthful, fresh looks were plentiful on the red carpet, like the nude-colored corset gown worn by 19-year-old "Lost in Translation" ' star Scarlett Johansson, a fashion enthusiast who sang a song as part of Cynthia Rowley's spring runway show in September in New York.

"Joan of Arcadia" ' star Amber Tamblyn, 20, wore a pale apricot corset gown with handkerchief train by designer Reem Acra. Evan Rachel Wood, 16, of "thirteen" ' wore a simple metallic gray spaghetti strap gown, with minimal, radiant makeup and loosely pulled up hair.

Elisha Cuthbert, 21, of Fox's "24" ' wore a 1950s inspired, ladylike look with a strapless, pale pink organza cocktail dress by Monique Lhuillier, accessorized with a small bouquet of roses at the waist.

"It" s a little prom queen but I love it,'' Cuthbert told Melissa Rivers on E! "I wanted to do simple, I didn" t want to do too crazy.''

Carson Kressley, the fashion guru on Bravo's "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," ' got into the spring spirit, wearing a pink jacket.

But what about the fashion disasters? Lennox or Glamour magazine said the "don" ts'' were in short supply.

"I love Diane Lane but I did not love her dress tonight. It" s not like a huge 'don't' but it's like, eh,'' Lennox said of Lane's floral print strapless gown, one of the few patterned dresses of the evening. "It" s sort of disappointing when you know how much amazing stuff is out there.''

Gwen Stefani's mod, cap- sleeved white gown was anoth<-> er disappointment, Lennox said.

"It was hard to distinguish her hair from her dress," ' Lennox said of the platinum-blond singer's outfit. "But that" s kind of her role, she's the rocker chick coming into this.''

Diane Keaton wore all white in a funky getup with gloves, boots and a jacket buttoned high on her neck. Wearing all black was Sharon Stone, whose spiky platinum hairdo Lennox called a "don" t.'' But that's not always a bad thing, he said.

"As Lara Flynn Boyle demon strated spectacularly last year, sometimes when you" re a bit of a 'don't' you get more atten tion if you're a 'do,' '' Lennox said.


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