Friday, August 28, 2009

Malaysia bans Muslims from Peas concert...Officials say others can attend Guinness-sponsored event...

Malaysia bans Muslims from Peas concert
Officials say others can attend Guinness-sponsored event
August 27, 2009
Associated Press

Malaysia's government has barred Muslims from a concert by U.S. hip-hop stars the
Black Eyed Peas next month because the event is organized by Irish beer giant Guinness, an official said Thursday.
The prohibition comes amid a clampdown on alcohol consumption among Malaysia's Muslim majority.
A Muslim woman who drank beer in public was sentenced to caning by an Islamic court last month, though authorities this week agreed to review the penalty.
Officials also recently curbed retail sales of liquor in a central state.
In family and personal matters, Muslims in Malaysia are governed by Shariah or Islamic law, which forbids the consumption of alcohol.

The Black Eyed Peas will perform at a theme park near Kuala Lumpur on Sept. 25 as part of worldwide celebrations marking the 250th anniversary of Guinness' flagship brewery in Dublin.
Malaysia's largest city is one of five places hosting Guinness' concerts.
The Malaysian show's official Web site said "the party is only open to non-Muslims aged 18 years and above."
Previous major pop concerts in Malaysia, including one by the Black Eyed Peas in 2007, have always been open to Muslims.
"Muslims cannot attend.
Non-Muslims can go and have fun," an official at the Ministry of Information, Communication and Culture told the Associated Press.
She said the concert would not have been permitted at all under normal circumstances because government regulations forbid alcohol companies from organizing concerts.
But authorities made an exception on the hopes the event would boost tourism, the official said on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to make public statements.
Guinness must not use its logo in concert publicity material, she said.
It was not immediately clear how the ban on Muslims will be enforced.
Concert organizers did not immediately respond to a request for comments.
Ethnic Malays comprise nearly 60% of Malaysia's 28 million people and are all legally considered Muslim, while the rest of the country is mainly ethnic Chinese and Indians, most of whom are Buddhist, Christian or Hindu.
The Black Eyed Peas have enjoyed phenomenal success this year.
The foursome has topped Billboard's Hot 100 singles charts for the past 20 consecutive weeks, the most ever by an act.
Their performance next month is the latest to be hit by restrictions in Malaysia.
Shows by Gwen Stefani ( above ) and Avril Lavigne ( below ) in recent years faced protests by conservative Muslim Malaysians over immodest clothes, forcing the artists to don attire that revealed little skin.

Madonna booed for defending Gypsies
Romanian audience scoffs at singer's plea for tolerance
Associated Press
Aug 27, 2009, 11:48 AM ET

BUCHAREST, Romania --
At first, fans politely applauded the Roma performers sharing a stage with Madonna.
Then the pop star condemned widespread discrimination against Roma, or Gypsies -- and the cheers gave way to jeers.
The sharp mood change that swept the crowd of 60,000, who had packed a park for Wednesday night's concert, underscores how prejudice against Gypsies remains deeply entrenched across Eastern Europe.
Despite long-standing efforts to stamp out rampant bias, human rights advocates say Roma probably suffer more humiliation and endure more discrimination than any other people group on the continent.
Sometimes, it can be deadly:
In neighboring Hungary, six Roma have been killed and several wounded in a recent series of apparently racially motivated attacks targeting small countryside villages predominantly settled by Gypsies.
"There is generally widespread resentment against Gypsies in Eastern Europe.
They have historically been the underdog," Radu Motoc, an official with the Soros Foundation Romania, said Thursday.
Roma, or Gypsies, are a nomadic ethnic group believed to have their roots in the Indian subcontinent.
They live mostly in southern and eastern Europe, but hundreds of thousands have migrated west over the past few decades in search of jobs and better living conditions.Romania has the largest number of Roma in the region.
Some say the population could be as high as 2 million, although official data put it at 500,000.
Until the 19th century, Romanian Gypsies were slaves, and they've gotten a mixed response ever since:
While discrimination is widespread, many East Europeans are enthusiastic about Gypsy music and dance, which they embrace as part of the region's cultural heritage.
That explains why the Roma musicians and a dancer who had briefly joined Madonna onstage got enthusiastic applause.
And it also may explain why some in the crowd turned on Madonna when she paused during the two-hour show -- a stop on her worldwide "Sticky and Sweet" tour -- to touch on their plight.
"It has been brought to my attention ... that there is a lot of discrimination against Romanies and Gypsies in general in Eastern Europe," she said.
"It made me feel very sad.
"Thousands booed and jeered her.
A few cheered when she added:
"We don't believe in discrimination ...
we believe in freedom and equal rights for everyone."
But she got more boos when she mentioned discrimination against homosexuals and others.

"I jeered her because it seemed false what she was telling us.
What business does she have telling us these things?" said Ionut Dinu, 23.Madonna did not react and carried on with her concert, held near the hulking palace of the late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
Her New York-based publicist did not immediately return an e-mail message sent by the Associated Press on Thursday seeking comment.
"It's contradictory:
Romanians watch Gypsy soap operas, they like Gypsy music and go to Gypsy concerts," said Damian Draghici, a Grammy Award-winning Roma musician who has performed with James Brown and Joe Cocker.
"But there has been a wave of aggression against Roma people in Italy, Hungary and Romania, which shows me something is not OK," he told the AP in an interview.
"The politicians have to do something about it.
People have to be educated not to be prejudiced.
All people are equal, and that is the message politicians must give.
"Nearly one in two of Europe's estimated 12 million Roma claimed to have suffered an act of discrimination over the past 12 months, according to a recent report by the Vienna-based EU Fundamental Rights Agency.
The group says Roma face "overt discrimination" in housing, health care and education.
Many do not have official identification, which means they cannot get social benefits, are undereducated and struggle to find decent jobs.
Roma children are more likely to drop out of school than their peers from other ethnic groups. Many Romanians label Gypsies as thieves, and many are outraged by those who beg or commit petty crimes in Western Europe, believing they spoil Romania's image abroad.
In May 2007, Romanian President Traian Basescu was heard to call a Romanian journalist a "stinky Gypsy" during a conversation with his wife.
Romania's anti-discrimination board criticized Basescu, who later apologized.
Human rights activists say the attacks in Hungary, which began in July 2008, may be tied to that country's economic crisis and the rising popularity of far-right vigilantes angered by a rash of petty thefts and other so-called "Gypsy crime."
Last week, police arrested four suspects in a nightclub in the eastern city of Debrecen.Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia also have been criticized for widespread bias against Roma.
Madonna's outrage touched a nerve in Romania, but it seems doubtful it will change anything, said the Soros Foundation's Motoc.
"Madonna is a pop star.
She is not an expert on interethnic relations," he said.
Later, Madonna's Publicist Liz Rosenberg, issued this statement...

Her publicist, Liz Rosenberg, said...
Madonna and other had told her there were cheers as well as jeers.

"Madonna has been touring with a phenomenal troupe of Roma musicians who made her aware of the discrimination toward them in several countries so she felt compelled to make a brief statement,"
Rosenberg said in an e-mail.
"She will not be issuing a further statement."

Q&A: Michael Moore

By Matthew Belloni
Aug 18, 2009, 02:40 PM ET
Illustration by Chris Morris
Since bursting onto the documentary scene 20 years ago with "Roger & Me," a blistering critique of General Motors, Michael Moore has directed the highest-grossing documentary of all time (2004's "Fahrenheit 9/11") and become a professional populist provocateur.
The Flint, Mich., native is now busy finishing "Capitalism: A Love Story," his take on the U.S. financial crisis, which will premiere next month at the Venice and Toronto film festivals ahead of its wide release Oct. 2.
The Hollywood Reporter:
Your new film was announced in May 2008 as a follow-up to "Fahrenheit 9/11" that would look at America's role in the world.
Then the economy tanked.
Do you feel pressure to make movies that respond to the zeitgeist?
Michael Moore:
That was our cover.
From the spring of '08, we were always doing a film about capitalism and corporate America.
But, as you've seen from the recent revelations about the health insurance industry's secret campaign to attack my last film (2007's "Sicko"), I have to be extremely dodgy in order to outsmart these corporate guys.
I had no way of knowing in May of 2008 that the economy would crash four months later.
We were right in the middle of this Wall Street movie when it happened.
The conventional wisdom in Hollywood is that in tough economic times, moviegoers want an escape.
Is there a big audience for a film that looks at the financial crisis?
I have no doubts that people will want to come to a movie that goes after, with humor and reckless abandon, those bastards who've made their lives miserable.
They deserve a night out at the movies where the movie is on their side.
Given your history with "Roger & Me," what was your reaction to the initial bailout of GM, its subsequent bankruptcy and the firing of CEO Rick Wagoner?
All my films, in one way or another, speak to my experience of growing up in the hometown of General Motors.
As for GM's demise, I tried to warn people about that some 20 years ago.
Nothing made me happier than seeing President Obama fire the head of GM.
It was every Flint boy's dream come true.
They arrogantly kept making lousy cars that few people wanted to drive.
They fought every safety measure from mandatory turn signals to controls that would protect the melting of our polar ice caps.
They fired tens of thousands of people over the years for the short-term benefit of making their balance sheet appear to be in profit.
That was a fraud of major proportions, and to date, no one has yet to go to prison.
You supported President Obama in the election.
How do you grade his response to the financial crisis and the health care issue?
How about congressional Democrats?
I'm still in a stupor of stunned ecstasy that Obama won.
And I approve of most everything he's done, from apologizing to the Iranians for America overthrowing their democratically elected president in 1953 to appointing Kumar (actor Kal Penn of the "Harold and Kumar" movies) to a White House position.
He is doing the best he can with the mess he inherited, and I and millions of others are counting on him never to forget that he came from the working class and that his people need him now more than ever.
As for the congressional Democrats, what a bunch of losers -- weak, scared, stupid.
They had better get a clue pretty quick or the Dark Forces will return.
Bill Maher recently said that "America is stupid" and "too dumb to be governed."
Do you agree?
Eight years ago I wrote a book called "Stupid White Men."
In that book, I wrote a chapter entitled "Idiot Nation."
I think that says it all.
Sad, sad, sad.
Have you ever considered leaving the U.S.?
Thank you for asking!
I had never considered this idea until you mentioned it, and now that you have, it doesn't sound like such a bad idea!
I guess if I were going to live outside the U.S., I would live in Texas.
What's the No. 1 thing you want to teach your kids?
Never trust anyone from Texas.
In your opinion, what's the single worst legacy of George W. Bush?
That he has yet to be arrested for committing the worst crime the leader of a nation can commit: lie to the people and convince them to invade another country and kill its people with absolutely no provocation.
There are 8,662 parents who might better answer this question.
Your films are big boxoffice draws, and you won an Oscar for 2002's "Bowling for Columbine," but you've always been considered an outsider to the entertainment community.
Do you like Hollywood?
I've met only very nice people out here, and if I wouldn't miss the 20-below winters, I'd live here for sure.
What's the last movie you saw?
The last book you read?
A Norwegian film called "Troubled Water."
Best drama I've seen this year.
The last book was "The Coming Insurrection" (a French leftist call-to-arms manifesto that has been labeled a "manual for terrorism" by the French government).
I'm also reading the daily newspaper religiously, considering how there won't be any to read a year from now.
There were reports you were feuding with Harvey and Bob Weinstein, who executive produced "Fahrenheit," "Sicko" and "Capitalism."
Will you work with them again?
In 20 years of knowing the brothers, I have had only one fight with them, and that was over who would get the last cannoli.

Planet seems on death spiral into star

This artist's impression depicts an exoplanet similar to the newly discovered WASP-18b.
As seen from …

AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein, Ap Science Writer –
Wed Aug 26, 1:00 pm ET

Astronomers have found what appears to be a gigantic suicidal planet.

The odd, fiery planet is so close to its star and so large that it is triggering tremendous plasma tides on the star.
Those powerful tides are in turn warping the planet's zippy less-than-a-day orbit around its star.

The result: an ever-closer tango of death, with the planet eventually spiraling into the star.

It's a slow death.
The planet WASP-18b has maybe a million years to live, said planet discoverer Coel Hellier, a professor of astrophysics at the Keele University in England.
Hellier's report on the suicidal planet is in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

"It's causing its own destruction by creating these tides," Hellier said.

The star is called WASP-18 and the planet is WASP-18b because of the Wide Angle Search for Planets team that found them.

The planet circles a star that is in the constellation Phoenix and is about 325 light-years away from Earth, which means it is in our galactic neighborhood.
A light-year is about 5.8 trillion miles.

The planet is 1.9 million miles from its star, 1/50th of the distance between Earth and the sun, our star.
And because of that the temperature is about 3,800 degrees.

Its size — 10 times bigger than Jupiter — and its proximity to its star make it likely to die, Hellier said.

Think of how the distant moon pulls Earth's oceans to form twice-daily tides.
The effect the odd planet has on its star is thousands of times stronger, Hellier said.
The star's tidal bulge of plasma may extend hundreds of miles, he said.

Like most planets outside our solar system, this planet was not seen directly by a telescope. Astronomers found it by seeing dips in light from the star every time the planet came between the star and Earth.

So far astronomers have found more than 370 planets outside the solar system.
This one is "yet another weird one in the exoplanet menagerie," said planet specialist Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

It's so unusual to find a suicidal planet that University of Maryland astronomer Douglas Hamilton questioned whether there was another explanation.
While it is likely that this is a suicidal planet, Hamilton said it is also possible that some basic physics calculations that all astronomers rely on could be dead wrong.

The answer will become apparent in less than a decade if the planet seems to be further in a death spiral, he said.

Money not easy for filmmakers

Funding is out there for Hollywood --
the trick is finding it
By Georg Szalai and Paul Bond
Aug 27, 2009, 06:36 PM ET
Despite a credit crunch that has wealthy investors hiding cash under their mattresses rather than risking it on films and Wall Street retreating from financing studio slates, Hollywood isn't running out of money.
Witness James Janowitz of Pryor Cashman.
The attorney is buttoning up a $250 million structured finance arrangement -- including money from hedge funds -- that will help pay for the production of a dozen films.
"The market isn't as strong as it once was, but there is activity, and the structures make sense as long as they don't unduly favor the studio or producer," Janowitz says.
In short, a film-finance bubble that pumped billions into Hollywood during the first few years of the new millennium has popped, but the show is going on with new -- and a few old -- players.
Foreign investors and government entities, including U.S. states and foreign territories offering incentives, have taken up some of the slack.
Plus, finance folks have hit up strategic investors including film distribution partners;
rich individuals who might or might not have invested in films before; and
relative newcomers to the field among financial investors, such as family foundations and pension funds.
The money, though, comes under more stringent terms these days.
The interest rate banks charge on loans when film is used as collateral has increased 20% compared with five years ago, "when it was all lovely and nice," says Jeanette Buerling, who runs Magnet Media Group with partner Maggie Monteith.
Investors and their interest in staying on budget also are inserting themselves into the filmmaking process more than they used to.
During the lensing of one recent indie movie where the budget faced overrun, the creative team had to bargain with the financiers before shooting more.
"We broke it all down by shots and decided, 'this is what we should shoot and this is where the bank closes,' " says former studio exec John Hadity, president and CEO of production finance consultancy Hadity & Associates.
In the post-bubble era, there are only rare new slate deals for big studios and puny pre-sales abroad for indie films.
Such notable institutions as Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland and Dresdner have pulled the plug on film lending, and hedge funds have been trying to get out of their film investments -- often at lower prices.
So, filmmakers often must chase money far and wide to cobble together deals.
"Even Steven Spielberg had trouble getting a bank to step up," says Janowitz, referring to the recent financing secured by DreamWorks from India's Reliance Big Entertainment.
Buerling says film investing remains popular with rich Europeans seeking tax advantages.
Among the movies her company is backing, in part through a $250 million fund, include "13," starring Mickey Rourke, "The Experiment," with Forest Whitaker, and "Cleo," starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and directed by Steven Soderbergh.
Even amid this tough economic environment, there's enough interest in movies from investors to encourage a second Film Finance Forum next month in New York.
The first one, four months ago in Los Angegles, attracted 120 participants.
"The equity players who are left are being very careful and diligent about the investments they are making," says Katherine Winston, managing partner of event organizer Winston/Baker.
Jesse Cohn, who manages hedge fund Elliott Associates' relationship with Relativity Media, highlighted that point last year.
After the two struck a slate-financing deal with Universal, Cohn said he liked the "fair and reasonable" investment terms agreed to by the studio.
"These deals have nearly always paired a strong and profitable studio with a poor structure, or a weak and unprofitable studio with a good structure," he said.
"This is the first deal we've seen that matches a top-tier studio with a structure that properly aligns the interests of all parties.
"While Hollywood routinely has replaced one golden goose with another -- the Japanese in the 1980s, the Germans in the '90s and Wall Street at the turn of the millennium --
this time it appears a hodgepodge of entities from India, Singapore, Switzerland and the Middle East are among those stepping up to the plate.

Initially, foreign investors were taking advantage of a weak dollar, then a decline in asset values made film investment more affordable.
Swiss outfit Millbrook Pictures, for example, launched about a year ago with its first U.S. foray, "W.," from director Oliver Stone.
Millbrook has raised millions from private investors who are passionate about movies, managing director Karl Spoerri says.
Beyond the usual criteria -- original scripts and a good cast -- Millbrook seeks films that can be made on a "realistic" budget.
Spoerri predicted Swiss interest in film investing might rise because "other forms of investments have turned out riskier than thought, so people would rather put money into something that is declared as a risky investment from the start.
"Clearly, the $825 million raised by DreamWorks that includes $325 million from Reliance, along with an investment from distribution partner Disney and a loan syndicated by JPMorgan, indicates there's overseas interest in Hollywood.
For now, foreign money is not as big a boon as highflying Wall Street bets were, though, no matter what the buzz might be.
"I do see foreign investors take note, and I think the trend there is going to be positive, but it hasn't hit us in a big way yet," says independent film consultant John Logigian, who works with high-net-worth individuals.
From August 2004-August 2007, Wall Street channeled at least $11 billion into the production of about 600 films, the money coming from such famous names as Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Citibank.
"There is no way to replace all of that money," Film Department CEO Mark Gill says.
"The time of easy money is over."
Adds Robert Darwell, who heads the transactional entertainment, media and technology group at law firm Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton:
"There has been an adjustment in the marketplace, and likely a necessary one.
Maybe there were too many movies made.
Hopefully a bit of Darwinism will help in that stronger projects survive."

Although Hollywood didn't need a bailout, production incentives offered by most U.S. states also quickly have become a key part of budgets, especially for indie films.
"It's a component of nearly every movie," Darwell says.
Especially for independent movies with budgets in the $4 million-$5 million cost range, $750,000 or $1 million in incentives can be "very meaningful," he says.
"I refuse to work on a project if it doesn't include some form of production incentives," Hadity says.
"I find that irresponsible."
Some government money also can be tapped overseas, combining the government and international funding trends.
In fall 2007, Time Warner's Warner Bros. studio struck a broad partnership with Abu Dhabi Media, owned by the Abu Dhabi government, that included plans to jointly finance films with a $500 million fund, even though that fund since has stalled.
Hyde Park Entertainment has struck a seven-year, $250 million financing partnership with Imagenation Abu Dhabi, a unit of Abu Dhabi Media.
Plus, it is financing a slate being developed by its Hyde Park Asia arm with backing from Singapore's Media Development Authority.
"Government and state-sponsored groups and private money have become very important because of the pullback from Wall Street," Hyde Park chairman and CEO Ashok Amritraj says.
Hollywood talent agencies also see opportunity in the brave new film-finance world.
This year, Gersh named producer Jay Cohen as head of a new film-financing and packaging division.
"We felt there was a clear need for these services," he says.
Similarly, CAA has worked with Bob Stanley, former head of media and sports finance at Merrill Lynch, to help find funds for the likes of Summit, Marvel and United Artists.

Meanwhile, there are the usual high-net-worth individuals who remain unafraid of the movie biz, including
FedEx founder Fred Smith of Alcon Entertainment;
Jones Apparel founder Sidney Kimmel of Sidney Kimmel Entertainment; and
eBay's first president, Jeff Skoll, of Participant Media.
Also, Ryan Kavanaugh's Relativity Media is busy as ever before, perhaps even benefiting from a sudden lack of competition.
Relativity's staying power might owe to its relationship with New York hedge fund Elliott Associates, which provides solid financial backing.
Plus, Relativity knows its way around Hollywood.
But when not dealing with the usual suspects, patience is required.
"We're having to educate new investors," says Laura Fazio, who has worked on slate deals for investment banks and now is managing director and global head of telecom, media and technology at Aladdin Capital Management.
She has traveled to Asia and Europe lately because, "we all just have to go further afield.
"With battered housing and stock markets, she tries to sell film investments with the positive industry trends.
"I have a great chart that shows worldwide boxoffice rising against all the major market indices," Fazio says.
So, while things are much more sober in film financing these days compared with a few years ago, the sky isn't falling.
"Everybody's portfolio has taken a hit, so people look for new opportunities," Logigian says.
"It's not like the auto industry that has been hurting so much.
I do have people coming into the showroom and looking.
They may not close the deal, but they are at least looking."

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