News & Current Affairs

March 7, 2010

Sandra Bullock wins worst actress award at Razzies

Filed under: Entertainment News, Latest — Tags: , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 3:45 pm

Sandra Bullock wins worst actress award at Razzies

Sandra Bullock turned up at the Golden Raspberry Awards on Saturday to pick up the worst actress prize just one day before she is expected to win an Oscar.

Bullock, who won the Razzie for the comedy All About Steve, arrived with a trailer filled with DVDs of the film to give to the audience.

“Something tells me you all didn’t watch the film because I wouldn’t be here if you really, really watched it and understood what I was trying to say,” she said.

Bullock is hotly tipped to be named best actress for her role in American football drama The Blind Side at the Academy Awards on Sunday.

Panning

The Razzie awards are held in Los Angeles just ahead of the Oscars to celebrate the direst films of the year. The last big star to turn up and claim her award was Halle Berry in 2005.

Bullock received a standing ovation when she arrived on the Razzies stage with the DVDs.

Sandra Bullock in All About Steve

Bullock co-produced the comedy All About Steve, which made a profit

“Everyone gets a copy and this is the deal I’m going to make,” she told the cheering crowd.

“I will show up next year if you promise to watch the movie and really consider if it was truly the worst performance. If you’re willing to watch, I’ll come back next year and give back the Razzie.”

In All About Steve, Bullock plays Mary Horowitz, a socially awkward crossword compiler who turns stalker when she meets a local TV cameraman.

During the film she joins a group of protesters, gets hit by a tornado and falls down a mine shaft where she meets a deaf girl at the bottom – all while wearing a pair of shiny red boots.

Bullock also co-produced the film, which made a profit at the box office. Critics, however, gave it a panning.

In other prizes, the worst picture of 2009 went to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen while John Travolta’s film Battlefield Earth was named worst picture of the decade.

One of Battlefield Earth’s screenwriters, JD Shapiro, also turned up to accept the award.

He said: “I especially want to thank the dozens and dozens of people who went to see the movie.”

He then quoted a review from the New York Times which said: “Battlefield Earth is about the extinction of the human race, and after seeing this movie I’m all for it.”

The Jonas Brothers were named worst actors for their 3D concert movie, while Bullock and Bradley Cooper won worst screen couple – also for All About Steve.

The Razzies were set up by copywriter and publicist John Wilson as the antithesis to the Oscars, and are voted for by members of the Golden Raspberry Award Foundation, which is open to anyone.

Asked about Bullock’s performance at the Razzies, Wilson laughed: “It was much better than the one you’re about to see on the DVD.”

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February 20, 2010

Police battle illegal Russian gamblers

Filed under: Business News, Entertainment News, Latest, Politics News — Tags: , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 4:27 pm

Police battle illegal Russian gamblers

Police vidoe of raid on ilegal casino

A picture from a police video shows officers catching staff and gamblers red-handed

Illegal gambling has spread rapidly across Russia since a new law came into force last July banning casinos and slots machines in towns and cities, according to a senior police officer in an exclusive interview with the BBC.

Col Oleg Bolderov of the economic crimes department of the Russian police said they had carried out thousands of raids over the past eight months.

“We have closed down 70 casinos and 4,000 slot-machine arcades… and have brought 600 criminal cases against those trying to organise this (illegal gambling),” he said.

A police video of one of the raids given to the BBC shows heavily armed officers dressed in black, breaking into an illegal casino and catching the staff and punters red-handed.

Brandishing automatic weapons, two police officers stand over a poker table busy with startled gamblers.

But despite the crackdown, well-placed sources connected to the formerly legal gambling industry say underground gambling dens continue to flourish in the capital, Moscow, and in St Petersburg, while in more far-flung cities very little actually changed when the law came into force last July.

‘Gambling rife’

There are also allegations that some senior police officers are actively offering to protect illegal casinos in return for huge pay-offs.

“We were approached by a police official who told us that for $400,000 per month we could stay open,” said one source who wished to remain anonymous.

Russian police officer Oleg Bolderov
In parts of Russia, gambling remains rife. Why? Because of corruption
Col Oleg Bolderov

Even Col Bolderov admits that authorities are fighting a losing battle against the continuing huge demand for gambling as well as against corrupt officials.

“One of the most probable explanations for the rise of illegal gambling is corruption,” he says.

“In our police department, we do our best to close down underground casinos and slot-machine halls and we have some success.

“But in parts of Russia, gambling remains rife. Why? Because of corruption.”

In the centre of Moscow it is easy to find slot-machine arcades operating openly, although slightly more discreetly than before.

And it took just a few phone calls to arrange a visit to an illegal casino.

I was told to leave my bag behind to ensure I had no recording equipment or cameras with me.

Lucrative industry

The owner then led me through corridors and heavy doors, which could only be opened using special security codes, into the casino.

It was not large but it had pristine poker tables, a roulette wheel and hi-tech slot machines.

At the bar, a lone gambler, his back turned to me, nursed a drink.

Still from police video of Moscow gambling site

The police have had some success in closing gambling sites down

According to industry sources the illegal casinos were up and running just four months after the ban came into force.

The new law, which should have put an end to gambling in Russia’s towns and cities, was pushed through by the former president and now Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin.

Casinos and slot-machine arcades had come to dominate city centres with their gaudy neon entrances.

The gambling industry, which was resurrected after the collapse of the Soviet Union almost twenty years ago, had grown to be worth around $6bn (4.4bn euros, £3.9bn) a year.

And the number of addicts was also growing.

Too remote

The government’s plan was to banish gambling to four specially-designated zones in the remotest regions of the country.

But the zones were so remote that none of the big casino operators was prepared to invest the huge sums of money required to have the slightest chance of attracting gamblers to travel so far.

So for the most part, they remain empty plots of land.

In a forlorn ceremony earlier this month however, one casino in one of the regions did finally open its doors.

It is at least a two hour drive from the nearest city and airport, in the middle of nowhere in the far south of the country.

No other casinos have been built so far in any of the regions.

Already there are calls for the law to be revised on the basis that it has simply driven gambling underground and provided corrupt officials with yet another opportunity to solicit bribes.

August 9, 2009

Jackson friend claims paternity

Filed under: Business News, Entertainment News, Latest — Tags: , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 2:09 pm

Jackson friend claims paternity

Mark Lester, a former child star and long-time friend of Michael Jackson, says he could be the father of one of the late pop star’s children.

Speaking to the News Of The World, Lester said he had donated sperm to the King of Pop and was willing to take a paternity test.

“I believe Paris could be my daughter,” he said, and noted she bore a physical resemblance to his daughter, Harriet.

Calls to Lester’s home in Cheltenham were not immediately returned.

The 51-year-old, who rose to fame playing Oliver Twist in the 1968 film of the stage musical, had been friends with Jackson for nearly 30 years.

He is godfather to Paris, 11, and Jackson’s two other children, 12-year-old Prince, and Prince Michael II, seven.

The star suffered a cardiac arrest at his Los Angeles home on 25 June at the age of 50.

His mother, Katherine, became the permanent guardian of his three children last week.

Welfare concerns

In a video on the News Of The World website, Lester said he had come forward at this time “because I have concerns about the welfare and upbringing of the children”.

“There’s a contact issue,” he added. “I dearly want to remain in contact with those kids and I feel now this is the only way that I can ensure that.”

The former actor, who now works as an osteopath, also detailed how the arrangement with Jackson had come to pass.

Michael Jackson's children

Paris (left) made an emotional speech at her father’s memorial concert

“Michael Jackson asked me in a private conversation if I would be willing to donate sperm on his behalf,” he said.

“I was phoned up by a London clinic and I was asked what would be a convenient time for me to attend. I made an appointment to go along.”

Lester said he assumed the mother of the child would be Debbie Rowe, Jackson’s then-wife.

There has previously been speculation that Jackson’s dermatologist, Arnold Klein, was the father to his two children with Rowe.

The star’s third child was born to a surrogate mother, whose identity was never revealed.

“Of all of Michael’s children, I would assume that the one who looks most like me is Paris,” Lester said.

“Paris has blue eyes, pale complexion and high cheekbones. My girls all have very similar features.”

There has been no comment on Lester’s claims from the Jackson family.

Saudis shut TV offices in sex row

Filed under: Business News, Entertainment News, Latest, Politics News — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 2:05 pm

Saudis shut TV offices in sex row

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The Jeddah offices of a Lebanon-based TV station which broadcast an interview with a Saudi man boasting about his sexual conquests have been closed.

Saudi Arabian authorities said the offices had been shut by order of the country’s deputy prime minister.

The 32-year-old Saudi man’s interview shocked conservative Saudi society, prompting calls for him to be punished.

Mazen Abdul Jawad talked about his sexual conquests and how he picks up women in the kingdom.

A spokesman at the information ministry confirmed the decision to close the offices of the LBC TV station in the kingdom’s commercial capital.

“It was because of the interview with Mazen Abdul Jawad,” Abdul Rahman al-Hazzaa said, according to AFP news agency.

Discreet society

Saudi media say officials are considering whether to charge Mr Abdul Jawad over the interview, which appeared on a programme called Red Lines and challenged Saudi taboos.

The Saudi daily newspaper al-Watan said authorities had also closed other offices of the channel, which is mainly owned by Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

Pre-marital sex is illegal in Saudi Arabia and Mr Abdul Jawad could face imprisonment or flogging.

Saudi Arabia is not only the most conservative society in the Arab world, it is also the most discreet.

If people break its strict Islamic code they face punishment – lashes or imprisonment for drinking or non-marital sex.

These rules are flouted by locals as well as expatriates, correspondents say, but almost everyone who breaks the rules keeps quiet about it and hopes they will not be found out.

July 20, 2009

Enduring allure of Egyptian belly dance

Enduring allure of Egyptian belly dance

Ahlan Wa Sahlan belly dance festival

The Ahlan Wa Sahlan festival has been a big hit this year

Hundreds of women of all nationalities sway their hips and twirl in time to the beat of a drum in a hotel ballroom by the pyramids in Cairo.

Belly dancing is said to have been practised in Egypt since Pharaonic times and now it has caught on around the globe.

It is well-established in Europe and the US and has recently spread to Asia. This year dozens of dancers travelled from China for the Ahlan Wa Sahlan belly dancing festival.

“Because this is the land of dance, women have to come!” declares Raqia Hassan, the festival organiser.

“When she comes she can meet famous dancers and musicians. She can see the pyramids. Anyone who comes to Egypt one time, she cannot stop coming back.”

Japanese belly dance fan

Safa Bakr’s shop attracts women from all over the world

Raqia, who has taught many belly dancing celebrities, leads her large class through the basic moves of the dance putting together a routine.

“It’s fun and you can do this at any age,” says Ewa Horsfield from London. “You can express your own personality. It’s an individual dance. You just listen and respond to the music.”

Many speak of the fitness benefits of belly dancing.

“In China all ladies like for their health,” says Angel from Shanghai.

“This kind of dance began here. Here teachers [are] very, very good so all Chinese ladies want to come.”

Contradictions

Belly dancing is big business in Egypt thanks to the global market.

Designer, Safaa Yasser Bakr, runs a belly dancing costume shop in the historic Khan el-Khalili bazaar.

She helps a Brazilian woman try on a sky-blue sequinned bra and a matching skirt with a split up one side.

“In one show big stars change costume many times,” she tells her. “You need maybe five different pieces.”

Nowadays Safaa sells most of her alluring outfits to foreigners.

Safa Yasser Bakr

Safa sells her wares in Khan el-Khalili – Cairo’s Islamic heart

“I see people coming from France, Italy, United States, Argentina, Spain, Japan,” she says.

But in Egypt at large, many experts fear the dance is losing its appeal.

Society has become more religious and conservative over the past generation and belly dancing is not considered a respectable profession.

“I don’t like belly dancing. I don’t like to see a woman half-naked dancing and moving her body like that,” says one man on the street in central Cairo.

“It has a kind of sexual movement. That’s why I don’t like to watch it,” adds his friend.

An older passer-by remembers the famous dancers of the 1960s with affection but says he would not let his wife or daughters dance in public today.

“I liked the old belly dancer because you could not see a lot of her body,” he remarks. “They were very respectable – not like the new ones now.”

Enduring art

Dance historian, Mo Geddawi, accepts belly dancing is facing a challenging time in Egypt but says this must be seen in perspective.

“Forget about different governments and religion,” he says. “When Christianity and then Islam came the dance was taboo, but people continued to dance.”

“Sometimes in public it is less but the dance never died.”

For now though international devotees help to ensure the dance goes on.

Diana Esposito from New York came to Cairo on a scholarship to study the social and economic reasons for its decline but has become an accomplished belly dancer herself.

“The first time I saw it I thought the movements were so sensual,” she says. “I decided to try something new and it became an addiction.”

“I don’t see the dance being done properly anywhere else in the world. That’s why everyone flocks here – this is the capital of belly dance.”

One dead at Slovak music festival

Filed under: Business News, Entertainment News — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 6:23 am

One dead at Slovak music festival

Collapsed tent in Trencin on July 18

The festival was called off after the accident

One person has died after a giant tent collapsed on a crowd of concert goers at Slovakia’s biggest music festival, reports say.

Another 40 were injured – 15 seriously – when a gust of wind lifted and then brought down the tent during a rain storm in the western town of Trencin.

Organisers cancelled the Pohoda festival, which was attended by more than 30,000 music fans.

One report said the accident victim was a young boy.

Mario Gesvantner, a spokesman for the organisers, said weather forecasts had not warned of severe storms.

July 17, 2009

US firm averts French explosion

Filed under: Business News, Entertainment News, Latest, Politics News — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 6:15 pm

US firm averts French explosion

Gas bottles have been placed around the New Fabris site

A threat to blow up another French factory has not been defused

A US construction equipment firm has agreed to pay extra compensation to French workers who had threatened to explode gas canisters at their plant.

Staff at JLG Industries in Tonneins, south-western France, made the threat in order to get better redundancy terms for 53 workers.

It is the third such incident in which workers have threatened violence against employers.

Elsewhere, French workers have taken managers hostage in “boss-nappings”.

The French Employment Minister, Laurent Wauquiez, described the tactics as “blackmail”.

In the JLG deal, the 53 affected workers were each guaranteed 30,000 euros (£26,000; $42,000) in severance pay.

JLG Industries is a subsidiary of the US company Oshkosh, which makes cranes and work platforms.

Meanwhile, a tense stand-off continues at the bankrupt New Fabris car plant in Chatellerault, south-west of Paris, where workers have also made a threat to blow up the factory.

They have given a 31 July deadline for Renault and Peugeot, which provided 90% of the plant’s work, to pay them 30,000 euros each.

Renault and PSA Peugeot said it was not their responsibility to pay workers.

The BBC’s Emma Jane Kirby in Paris says there is an acute sense of injustice in France at the moment, with many workers complaining that while their bosses continue to reap company benefits and bonuses, they are paying for this economic crisis with their jobs.

July 16, 2009

LA to foot Jackson memorial bill

LA to foot Jackson memorial bill

Michael Jackson memorial

More than 17,000 fans flocked to Los Angeles for the memorial

The city of Los Angeles will pay the costs of policing Michael Jackson’s memorial concert, its mayor has said.

“This is a world-class city and we provide fire and police protection,” said Antonio Villaraigosa.

City council officials have suggested Jackson’s family and promoter AEG Live should pay some of the $1.4m (£860,000) needed for police and traffic control.

But Mr Villaraigosa said that “the idea we would charge the family for a funeral is nonsensical”.

The mayor was on holiday in South Africa a week ago when more than 17,000 fans flocked to downtown Los Angeles to watch the public memorial.

In his absence a website was set up encouraging public donations to help cover the costs of last Tuesday’s event at the Staples Center.

‘Hard decisions’

Meanwhile, AEG Live’s chief executive has revealed he wants to stage a one-off London tribute concert featuring the Jacksons and other artists.

Speaking to 6 Music, Randy Phillips said “hard decisions” would need to be made if the event was to take place on what would have been Michael Jackson’s 51st birthday.

“What we’re thinking about is one massive tribute that’s broadcast around the globe,” he said.

However, he played down reports that a concert was already in the works featuring such artists as Leona Lewis and Justin Timberlake.

Mr Phillips also rejected calls for AEG to reimburse LA authorities for the costs incurred by last week’s memorial.

“I think the city should cover these costs,” he said. “[When] someone of this fame dies, do you not give them a proper funeral?”

Jackson’s ex-wife denies pay-off

Filed under: Entertainment News, Latest — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 5:28 pm

Jackson’s ex-wife denies pay-off

Michael jackson and Debbie Rowe

Rowe was married to Michael Jackson from 1996 to 1999

Michael Jackson’s ex-wife Debbie Rowe has denied reports she was paid by the singer to give up parental rights to their two children.

The New York Post reported that Rowe agreed to take about $4m (£2.4m) to give up her rights to children Prince Michael Jr, 12, and Paris, 11.

In a letter to the newspaper, her lawyer Eric George called the claims “blatant falsehoods”.

New York Post editor-in-chief Col Allan said the paper “stands by its story”.

That was despite Mr George asking the newspaper to publish an immediate retraction.

‘Reckless’

The lawyer said Ms Rowe, who was married to Jackson from 1996 to 1999, “has not and will not” give up her parental rights and the claim was “unequivocally false”.

Jatherine Jackson

Katherine Jackson has temporary guardianship of her grandchildren

He said the story had been “concocted with reckless disregard for the truth”, adding that Ms Rowe had also not taken, and would not accept, any additional money beyond the spousal support she had agreed with the singer years ago.

Mr George said that, following Jackson’s death, “no determination has been reached concerning custody or visitation”.

Jackson’s mother, Katherine, was granted temporary guardianship of her son’s three children on 29 June.

A custody hearing on the three is set for next Monday.

The surrogate mother of Jackson’s youngest child, seven-year-old Prince Michael II, has never been identified.

In a 2002 will signed by Jackson, he said he had “intentionally omitted” to provide for Ms Rowe.

She gave up custody rights to the children but sought them again in 2003.

They agreed a settlement in 2006 but the terms were never disclosed.

Intervention

Meanwhile, sales of Jackson’s music have continued to rocket in the US.

Early figures show the singer’s catalogue of solo albums sold 1.1 million copies in the past week.

It brings the total number of Jackson album sales in the US to more than 2.3 million in two-and-a-half weeks.

Meanwhile, Tito Jackson has said he and his brothers and sisters confronted the star over claims he was addicted to prescription drugs.

In an interview with the Daily Mirror, he said: “We had to act – it was me, my sisters Janet, Rebbie and La Toya and my brothers Jackie and Randy.

“We kept asking him if it was true.”

He added: “He kept denying it. He said we were over-reacting. We talked about it again and again for hours but we just couldn’t get through to him.”

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Los Angeles coroner said results of Jackson’s autopsy would not be released “this week or next” while final work on the case was carried out.

Racing for the first Jackson book

Filed under: Entertainment News, Latest — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 5:25 pm

Racing for the first Jackson book

Michael Jackson biography, published by Harper Collins

The first books will be on sale by the end of the week

We don’t know if he has even been buried yet but already the first Michael Jackson tribute biography is bound and ready to go.

Harper Collins is one of 15 publishers racing to get their book onto the shelves first.

A printers in Somerset began running 110,000 copies of their edition on Saturday. Harper Collins hopes this means the book can hit the shops on Friday, just three weeks after Jackson’s death.

How they did it is down to some of the tightest self-imposed deadlines the UK publishing industry has ever seen.

Race begins

The morning after the news Michael Jackson had died, Harper Collins sensed an opportunity. They decided a new book was needed, especially since the most recent Jackson biography in the marketplace was over five years old.

In terms of the reaction to the death of a public figure, it’s probably the most significant publishing event since the death of Princess Diana
Joe Browes, music buyer for Waterstone’s

The trouble is, they knew their competitors would be thinking the same thing.

“We needed text in two days, pictures in three days,” says Carole Tonkinson, publisher for non fiction at Harper Collins. “We started the project Monday afternoon, and by Thursday we had to give it to the designer to put together, which is the tightest schedule in the history of our company.”

To meet the tight deadlines the publisher had set themselves, they quickly brought in a freelance author, sat him down in an office on the editorial floor of their London headquarters, and told him to write 10,000 words of new material in 48 hours.

He shut himself away until he had finished.

Sales boost

“Being first is key, we need to get that slot in the retailers,” says Tonkinson. “If our competitors sell them their Jacko book, then we’re out in the cold. We need to be in that slot, on the shelf in the supermarket, in the book shop before anybody else.”

Books rolling out

Harper Collins gave itself the tightest schedule in its history

The book trade, under pressure from the recession and online media, is excited at what all the publishers might come up with.

“In terms of the reaction to the death of a public figure, it’s probably the most significant publishing event since the death of Princess Diana,” says Joe Browes, the music buyer for Waterstone’s.

For the industry, this is great news. It means extra sales that had not been planned for.

But with four or five publishers rushing to be first to market, it seems likely that there won’t be room in the market for all of the books.

Even though Jackson’s commercial appeal is huge, the pie is finite and not everyone will get a bite.

Reacting fast is everything.

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