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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."

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