Sunday, September 30, 2007

Opri to Birkhead -- "I Have Had Enough"

Debra Opri is filing a lawsuit against Larry Birkhead for defamation, fraud and breach of contract.
Larry Birkhead and Debra Opri
In the lawsuit, filed this afternoon in L.A. County Superior Court, Opri claims Birkhead slandered her during a recent appearance on "Larry King Live," during which Birkhead said Opri had leaked confidential documents in his paternity case to Rita Cosby. Cosby wrote a book about the Anna Nicole saga.

In her lawsuit, Opri claims Birkhead " ... impugned both Opri's ethics and her professional reputation." Opri says Birkhead's allegation that Opri was a source for Cosby's book is untrue -- "Birkhead never witnessed Opri handing confidential and private documents to Rita Cosby because it never occurred." Opri claims she was not a source in the Cosby book.

Opri cites an interview Birkhead gave to TMZ in which he said he fired her. Opri says in her lawsuit that she was the one who withdrew from the case, claiming Birkhead's statements were "planned and malicious."

Opri goes on to allege, "Birkhead personally leaked a confidential document, Opri's attorney billing within hours of receiving it, to"

Opri says she has paid damage control gurus Sitrick and Company around $200,000 to blunt "defamatory attacks made by Birkhead."

Opri also claims Birkhead knew her fee in the paternity case could exceed $500,000 from the get-go. And she claims he screwed her out of a commission she was entitled to receive on a $1.7 million Dannielynn photo deal.

The suit seeks unspecified damages.

In a statement issued this afternoon, Opri said, "My message today to Larry Birkhead is ... I have had enough."

Birkhead could not immediately be reached for comment.

Birkhead to Opri -- I Meant What I Said

Larry Birkhead has responded to Debra Opri's defamation suit.

Opri claims, among other things, that Birkhead slandered her on "Larry King Live," where he said Opri leaked confidential documents to Rita Cosby in his paternity case.

This morning, Birkhead's lawyer, Michael Trope told TMZ, "The defense that we will file in this case will be simple. Truth is a defense."

Shifting Targets

The Administration’s plan for Iran.

by Seymour M. Hersh October 8, 2007

In a series of public statements in recent months, President Bush and members of his Administration have redefined the war in Iraq, to an increasing degree, as a strategic battle between the United States and Iran. “Shia extremists, backed by Iran, are training Iraqis to carry out attacks on our forces and the Iraqi people,” Bush told the national convention of the American Legion in August. “The attacks on our bases and our troops by Iranian-supplied munitions have increased. . . . The Iranian regime must halt these actions. And, until it does, I will take actions necessary to protect our troops.” He then concluded, to applause, “I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran’s murderous activities.”

The President’s position, and its corollary—that, if many of America’s problems in Iraq are the responsibility of Tehran, then the solution to them is to confront the Iranians—have taken firm hold in the Administration. This summer, the White House, pushed by the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney, requested that the Joint Chiefs of Staff redraw long-standing plans for a possible attack on Iran, according to former officials and government consultants. The focus of the plans had been a broad bombing attack, with targets including Iran’s known and suspected nuclear facilities and other military and infrastructure sites. Now the emphasis is on “surgical” strikes on Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities in Tehran and elsewhere, which, the Administration claims, have been the source of attacks on Americans in Iraq. What had been presented primarily as a counter-proliferation mission has been reconceived as counterterrorism.

The shift in targeting reflects three developments. First, the President and his senior advisers have concluded that their campaign to convince the American public that Iran poses an imminent nuclear threat has failed (unlike a similar campaign before the Iraq war), and that as a result there is not enough popular support for a major bombing campaign. The second development is that the White House has come to terms, in private, with the general consensus of the American intelligence community that Iran is at least five years away from obtaining a bomb. And, finally, there has been a growing recognition in Washington and throughout the Middle East that Iran is emerging as the geopolitical winner of the war in Iraq.

During a secure videoconference that took place early this summer, the President told Ryan Crocker, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, that he was thinking of hitting Iranian targets across the border and that the British “were on board.” At that point, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice interjected that there was a need to proceed carefully, because of the ongoing diplomatic track. Bush ended by instructing Crocker to tell Iran to stop interfering in Iraq or it would face American retribution.

At a White House meeting with Cheney this summer, according to a former senior intelligence official, it was agreed that, if limited strikes on Iran were carried out, the Administration could fend off criticism by arguing that they were a defensive action to save soldiers in Iraq. If Democrats objected, the Administration could say, “Bill Clinton did the same thing; he conducted limited strikes in Afghanistan, the Sudan, and in Baghdad to protect American lives.” The former intelligence official added, “There is a desperate effort by Cheney et al. to bring military action to Iran as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the politicians are saying, ‘You can’t do it, because every Republican is going to be defeated, and we’re only one fact from going over the cliff in Iraq.’ But Cheney doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the Republican worries, and neither does the President.”

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said, “The President has made it clear that the United States government remains committed to a diplomatic solution with respect to Iran. The State Department is working diligently along with the international community to address our broad range of concerns.” (The White House declined to comment.)

I was repeatedly cautioned, in interviews, that the President has yet to issue the “execute order” that would be required for a military operation inside Iran, and such an order may never be issued. But there has been a significant increase in the tempo of attack planning. In mid-August, senior officials told reporters that the Administration intended to declare Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization. And two former senior officials of the C.I.A. told me that, by late summer, the agency had increased the size and the authority of the Iranian Operations Group. (A spokesman for the agency said, “The C.I.A. does not, as a rule, publicly discuss the relative size of its operational components.”)

“They’re moving everybody to the Iran desk,” one recently retired C.I.A. official said. “They’re dragging in a lot of analysts and ramping up everything. It’s just like the fall of 2002”—the months before the invasion of Iraq, when the Iraqi Operations Group became the most important in the agency. He added, “The guys now running the Iranian program have limited direct experience with Iran. In the event of an attack, how will the Iranians react? They will react, and the Administration has not thought it all the way through.”

That theme was echoed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national-security adviser, who said that he had heard discussions of the White House’s more limited bombing plans for Iran. Brzezinski said that Iran would likely react to an American attack “by intensifying the conflict in Iraq and also in Afghanistan, their neighbors, and that could draw in Pakistan. We will be stuck in a regional war for twenty years.”

In a speech at the United Nations last week, Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was defiant. He referred to America as an “aggressor” state, and said, “How can the incompetents who cannot even manage and control themselves rule humanity and arrange its affairs? Unfortunately, they have put themselves in the position of God.” (The day before, at Columbia, he suggested that the facts of the Holocaust still needed to be determined.)

“A lot depends on how stupid the Iranians will be,” Brzezinski told me. “Will they cool off Ahmadinejad and tone down their language?” The Bush Administration, by charging that Iran was interfering in Iraq, was aiming “to paint it as ‘We’re responding to what is an intolerable situation,’ ” Brzezinski said. “This time, unlike the attack in Iraq, we’re going to play the victim. The name of our game seems to be to get the Iranians to overplay their hand.”

General David Petraeus, the commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, in his report to Congress in September, buttressed the Administration’s case against Iran. “None of us, earlier this year, appreciated the extent of Iranian involvement in Iraq, something about which we and Iraq’s leaders all now have greater concern,” he said. Iran, Petraeus said, was fighting “a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq.”

Iran has had a presence in Iraq for decades; the extent and the purpose of its current activities there are in dispute, however. During Saddam Hussein’s rule, when the Sunni-dominated Baath Party brutally oppressed the majority Shiites, Iran supported them. Many in the present Iraqi Shiite leadership, including prominent members of the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, spent years in exile in Iran; last week, at the Council on Foreign Relations, Maliki said, according to the Washington Post, that Iraq’s relations with the Iranians had “improved to the point that they are not interfering in our internal affairs.” Iran is so entrenched in Iraqi Shiite circles that any “proxy war” could be as much through the Iraqi state as against it. The crux of the Bush Administration’s strategic dilemma is that its decision to back a Shiite-led government after the fall of Saddam has empowered Iran, and made it impossible to exclude Iran from the Iraqi political scene.

Vali Nasr, a professor of international politics at Tufts University, who is an expert on Iran and Shiism, told me, “Between 2003 and 2006, the Iranians thought they were closest to the United States on the issue of Iraq.” The Iraqi Shia religious leadership encouraged Shiites to avoid confrontation with American soldiers and to participate in elections—believing that a one-man, one-vote election process could only result in a Shia-dominated government. Initially, the insurgency was mainly Sunni, especially Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Nasr told me that Iran’s policy since 2003 has been to provide funding, arms, and aid to several Shiite factions—including some in Maliki’s coalition. The problem, Nasr said, is that “once you put the arms on the ground you cannot control how they’re used later.”

In the Shiite view, the White House “only looks at Iran’s ties to Iraq in terms of security,” Nasr said. “Last year, over one million Iranians travelled to Iraq on pilgrimages, and there is more than a billion dollars a year in trading between the two countries. But the Americans act as if every Iranian inside Iraq were there to import weapons.”

Many of those who support the President’s policy argue that Iran poses an imminent threat. In a recent essay in Commentary, Norman Podhoretz depicted President Ahmadinejad as a revolutionary, “like Hitler . . . whose objective is to overturn the going international system and to replace it . . . with a new order dominated by Iran. . . . [T]he plain and brutal truth is that if Iran is to be prevented from developing a nuclear arsenal, there is no alternative to the actual use of military force.” Podhoretz concluded, “I pray with all my heart” that President Bush “will find it possible to take the only action that can stop Iran from following through on its evil intentions both toward us and toward Israel.” Podhoretz recently told that he had met with the President for about forty-five minutes to urge him to take military action against Iran, and believed that “Bush is going to hit” Iran before leaving office. (Podhoretz, one of the founders of neoconservatism, is a strong backer of Rudolph Giuliani’s Presidential campaign, and his son-in-law, Elliott Abrams, is a senior adviser to President Bush on national security.)

In early August, Army Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq, told the Times about an increase in attacks involving explosively formed penetrators, a type of lethal bomb that discharges a semi-molten copper slug that can rip through the armor of Humvees. The Times reported that U.S. intelligence and technical analyses indicated that Shiite militias had obtained the bombs from Iran. Odierno said that Iranians had been “surging support” over the past three or four months.

Questions remain, however, about the provenance of weapons in Iraq, especially given the rampant black market in arms. David Kay, a former C.I.A. adviser and the chief weapons inspector in Iraq for the United Nations, told me that his inspection team was astonished, in the aftermath of both Iraq wars, by “the huge amounts of arms” it found circulating among civilians and military personnel throughout the country. He recalled seeing stockpiles of explosively formed penetrators, as well as charges that had been recovered from unexploded American cluster bombs. Arms had also been supplied years ago by the Iranians to their Shiite allies in southern Iraq who had been persecuted by the Baath Party.

“I thought Petraeus went way beyond what Iran is doing inside Iraq today,” Kay said. “When the White House started its anti-Iran campaign, six months ago, I thought it was all craziness. Now it does look like there is some selective smuggling by Iran, but much of it has been in response to American pressure and American threats—more a ‘shot across the bow’ sort of thing, to let Washington know that it was not going to get away with its threats so freely. Iran is not giving the Iraqis the good stuff—the anti-aircraft missiles that can shoot down American planes and its advanced anti-tank weapons.”

Another element of the Administration’s case against Iran is the presence of Iranian agents in Iraq. General Petraeus, testifying before Congress, said that a commando faction of the Revolutionary Guards was seeking to turn its allies inside Iraq into a “Hezbollah-like force to serve its interests.” In August, Army Major General Rick Lynch, the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, told reporters in Baghdad that his troops were tracking some fifty Iranian men sent by the Revolutionary Guards who were training Shiite insurgents south of Baghdad. “We know they’re here and we target them as well,” he said.

Patrick Clawson, an expert on Iran at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told me that “there are a lot of Iranians at any time inside Iraq, including those doing intelligence work and those doing humanitarian missions. It would be prudent for the Administration to produce more evidence of direct military training—or produce fighters captured in Iraq who had been trained in Iran.” He added, “It will be important for the Iraqi government to be able to state that they were unaware of this activity”; otherwise, given the intense relationship between the Iraqi Shiite leadership and Tehran, the Iranians could say that “they had been asked by the Iraqi government to train these people.” (In late August, American troops raided a Baghdad hotel and arrested a group of Iranians. They were a delegation from Iran’s energy ministry, and had been invited to Iraq by the Maliki government; they were later released.)

“If you want to attack, you have to prepare the groundwork, and you have to be prepared to show the evidence,” Clawson said. Adding to the complexity, he said, is a question that seems almost counterintuitive: “What is the attitude of Iraq going to be if we hit Iran? Such an attack could put a strain on the Iraqi government.”

A senior European diplomat, who works closely with American intelligence, told me that there is evidence that Iran has been making extensive preparation for an American bombing attack. “We know that the Iranians are strengthening their air-defense capabilities,” he said, “and we believe they will react asymmetrically—hitting targets in Europe and in Latin America.” There is also specific intelligence suggesting that Iran will be aided in these attacks by Hezbollah. “Hezbollah is capable, and they can do it,” the diplomat said.

In interviews with current and former officials, there were repeated complaints about the paucity of reliable information. A former high-level C.I.A. official said that the intelligence about who is doing what inside Iran “is so thin that nobody even wants his name on it. This is the problem.”

The difficulty of determining who is responsible for the chaos in Iraq can be seen in Basra, in the Shiite south, where British forces had earlier presided over a relatively secure area. Over the course of this year, however, the region became increasingly ungovernable, and by fall the British had retreated to fixed bases. A European official who has access to current intelligence told me that “there is a firm belief inside the American and U.K. intelligence community that Iran is supporting many of the groups in southern Iraq that are responsible for the deaths of British and American soldiers. Weapons and money are getting in from Iran. They have been able to penetrate many groups”—primarily the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias.

A June, 2007, report by the International Crisis Group found, however, that Basra’s renewed instability was mainly the result of “the systematic abuse of official institutions, political assassinations, tribal vendettas, neighborhood vigilantism and enforcement of social mores, together with the rise of criminal mafias.” The report added that leading Iraqi politicians and officials “routinely invoke the threat of outside interference”—from bordering Iran—“to justify their behavior or evade responsibility for their failures.”

Earlier this year, before the surge in U.S. troops, the American command in Baghdad changed what had been a confrontational policy in western Iraq, the Sunni heartland (and the base of the Baathist regime), and began working with the Sunni tribes, including some tied to the insurgency. Tribal leaders are now getting combat support as well as money, intelligence, and arms, ostensibly to fight Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Empowering Sunni forces may undermine efforts toward national reconciliation, however. Already, tens of thousands of Shiites have fled Anbar Province, many to Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, while Sunnis have been forced from their homes in Shiite communities. Vali Nasr, of Tufts, called the internal displacement of communities in Iraq a form of “ethnic cleansing.”

“The American policy of supporting the Sunnis in western Iraq is making the Shia leadership very nervous,” Nasr said. “The White House makes it seem as if the Shia were afraid only of Al Qaeda—but they are afraid of the Sunni tribesmen we are arming. The Shia attitude is ‘So what if you’re getting rid of Al Qaeda?’ The problem of Sunni resistance is still there. The Americans believe they can distinguish between good and bad insurgents, but the Shia don’t share that distinction. For the Shia, they are all one adversary.”

Nasr went on, “The United States is trying to fight on all sides—Sunni and Shia—and be friends with all sides.” In the Shiite view, “It’s clear that the United States cannot bring security to Iraq, because it is not doing everything necessary to bring stability. If they did, they would talk to anybody to achieve it—even Iran and Syria,” Nasr said. (Such engagement was a major recommendation of the Iraq Study Group.) “America cannot bring stability in Iraq by fighting Iran in Iraq.”

The revised bombing plan for a possible attack, with its tightened focus on counterterrorism, is gathering support among generals and admirals in the Pentagon. The strategy calls for the use of sea-launched cruise missiles and more precisely targeted ground attacks and bombing strikes, including plans to destroy the most important Revolutionary Guard training camps, supply depots, and command and control facilities.

“Cheney’s option is now for a fast in and out—for surgical strikes,” the former senior American intelligence official told me. The Joint Chiefs have turned to the Navy, he said, which had been chafing over its role in the Air Force-dominated air war in Iraq. “The Navy’s planes, ships, and cruise missiles are in place in the Gulf and operating daily. They’ve got everything they need—even AWACS are in place and the targets in Iran have been programmed. The Navy is flying FA-18 missions every day in the Gulf.” There are also plans to hit Iran’s anti-aircraft surface-to-air missile sites. “We’ve got to get a path in and a path out,” the former official said.

A Pentagon consultant on counterterrorism told me that, if the bombing campaign took place, it would be accompanied by a series of what he called “short, sharp incursions” by American Special Forces units into suspected Iranian training sites. He said, “Cheney is devoted to this, no question.”

A limited bombing attack of this sort “only makes sense if the intelligence is good,” the consultant said. If the targets are not clearly defined, the bombing “will start as limited, but then there will be an ‘escalation special.’ Planners will say that we have to deal with Hezbollah here and Syria there. The goal will be to hit the cue ball one time and have all the balls go in the pocket. But add-ons are always there in strike planning.”

The surgical-strike plan has been shared with some of America’s allies, who have had mixed reactions to it. Israel’s military and political leaders were alarmed, believing, the consultant said, that it didn’t sufficiently target Iran’s nuclear facilities. The White House has been reassuring the Israeli government, the former senior official told me, that the more limited target list would still serve the goal of counter-proliferation by decapitating the leadership of the Revolutionary Guards, who are believed to have direct control over the nuclear-research program. “Our theory is that if we do the attacks as planned it will accomplish two things,” the former senior official said.

An Israeli official said, “Our main focus has been the Iranian nuclear facilities, not because other things aren’t important. We’ve worked on missile technology and terrorism, but we see the Iranian nuclear issue as one that cuts across everything.” Iran, he added, does not need to develop an actual warhead to be a threat. “Our problems begin when they learn and master the nuclear fuel cycle and when they have the nuclear materials,” he said. There was, for example, the possibility of a “dirty bomb,” or of Iran’s passing materials to terrorist groups. “There is still time for diplomacy to have an impact, but not a lot,” the Israeli official said. “We believe the technological timetable is moving faster than the diplomatic timetable. And if diplomacy doesn’t work, as they say, all options are on the table.”

The bombing plan has had its most positive reception from the newly elected government of Britain’s Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. A senior European official told me, “The British perception is that the Iranians are not making the progress they want to see in their nuclear-enrichment processing. All the intelligence community agree that Iran is providing critical assistance, training, and technology to a surprising number of terrorist groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, through Hezbollah, in Lebanon, and Israel/Palestine, too.”

There were four possible responses to this Iranian activity, the European official said: to do nothing (“There would be no retaliation to the Iranians for their attacks; this would be sending the wrong signal”); to publicize the Iranian actions (“There is one great difficulty with this option—the widespread lack of faith in American intelligence assessments”); to attack the Iranians operating inside Iraq (“We’ve been taking action since last December, and it does have an effect”); or, finally, to attack inside Iran.

The European official continued, “A major air strike against Iran could well lead to a rallying around the flag there, but a very careful targeting of terrorist training camps might not.” His view, he said, was that “once the Iranians get a bloody nose they rethink things.” For example, Ali Akbar Rafsanjani and Ali Larijani, two of Iran’s most influential political figures, “might go to the Supreme Leader and say, ‘The hard-line policies have got us into this mess. We must change our approach for the sake of the regime.’ ”

A retired American four-star general with close ties to the British military told me that there was another reason for Britain’s interest—shame over the failure of the Royal Navy to protect the sailors and Royal Marines who were seized by Iran on March 23rd, in the Persian Gulf. “The professional guys are saying that British honor is at stake, and if there’s another event like that in the water off Iran the British will hit back,” he said.

The revised bombing plan “could work—if it’s in response to an Iranian attack,” the retired four-star general said. “The British may want to do it to get even, but the more reasonable people are saying, ‘Let’s do it if the Iranians stage a cross-border attack inside Iraq.’ It’s got to be ten dead American soldiers and four burned trucks.” There is, he added, “a widespread belief in London that Tony Blair’s government was sold a bill of goods by the White House in the buildup to the war against Iraq. So if somebody comes into Gordon Brown’s office and says, ‘We have this intelligence from America,’ Brown will ask, ‘Where did it come from? Have we verified it?’ The burden of proof is high.”

The French government shares the Administration’s sense of urgency about Iran’s nuclear program, and believes that Iran will be able to produce a warhead within two years. France’s newly elected President, Nicolas Sarkozy, created a stir in late August when he warned that Iran could be attacked if it did not halt is nuclear program. Nonetheless, France has indicated to the White House that it has doubts about a limited strike, the former senior intelligence official told me. Many in the French government have concluded that the Bush Administration has exaggerated the extent of Iranian meddling inside Iraq; they believe, according to a European diplomat, that “the American problems in Iraq are due to their own mistakes, and now the Americans are trying to show some teeth. An American bombing will show only that the Bush Administration has its own agenda toward Iran.”

A European intelligence official made a similar point. “If you attack Iran,” he told me, “and do not label it as being against Iran’s nuclear facilities, it will strengthen the regime, and help to make the Islamic air in the Middle East thicker.”

Ahmadinejad, in his speech at the United Nations, said that Iran considered the dispute over its nuclear program “closed.” Iran would deal with it only through the International Atomic Energy Agency, he said, and had decided to “disregard unlawful and political impositions of the arrogant powers.” He added, in a press conference after the speech, “the decisions of the United States and France are not important.”

The director general of the I.A.E.A., Mohamed ElBaradei, has for years been in an often bitter public dispute with the Bush Administration; the agency’s most recent report found that Iran was far less proficient in enriching uranium than expected. A diplomat in Vienna, where the I.A.E.A. is based, said, “The Iranians are years away from making a bomb, as ElBaradei has said all along. Running three thousand centrifuges does not make a bomb.” The diplomat added, referring to hawks in the Bush Administration, “They don’t like ElBaradei, because they are in a state of denial. And now their negotiating policy has failed, and Iran is still enriching uranium and still making progress.”

The diplomat expressed the bitterness that has marked the I.A.E.A.’s dealings with the Bush Administration since the buildup to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. “The White House’s claims were all a pack of lies, and Mohamed is dismissive of those lies,” the diplomat said.

Hans Blix, a former head of the I.A.E.A., questioned the Bush Administration’s commitment to diplomacy. “There are important cards that Washington could play; instead, they have three aircraft carriers sitting in the Persian Gulf,” he said. Speaking of Iran’s role in Iraq, Blix added, “My impression is that the United States has been trying to push up the accusations against Iran as a basis for a possible attack—as an excuse for jumping on them.”

The Iranian leadership is feeling the pressure. In the press conference after his U.N. speech, Ahmadinejad was asked about a possible attack. “They want to hurt us,” he said, “but, with the will of God, they won’t be able to do it.” According to a former State Department adviser on Iran, the Iranians complained, in diplomatic meetings in Baghdad with Ambassador Crocker, about a refusal by the Bush Administration to take advantage of their knowledge of the Iraqi political scene. The former adviser said, “They’ve been trying to convey to the United States that ‘We can help you in Iraq. Nobody knows Iraq better than us.’ ” Instead, the Iranians are preparing for an American attack.

The adviser said that he had heard from a source in Iran that the Revolutionary Guards have been telling religious leaders that they can stand up to an American attack. “The Guards are claiming that they can infiltrate American security,” the adviser said. “They are bragging that they have spray-painted an American warship—to signal the Americans that they can get close to them.” (I was told by the former senior intelligence official that there was an unexplained incident, this spring, in which an American warship was spray-painted with a bull’s-eye while docked in Qatar, which may have been the source of the boasts.)

“Do you think those crazies in Tehran are going to say, ‘Uncle Sam is here! We’d better stand down’? ” the former senior intelligence official said. “The reality is an attack will make things ten times warmer.”

Another recent incident, in Afghanistan, reflects the tension over intelligence. In July, the London Telegraph reported that what appeared to be an SA-7 shoulder-launched missile was fired at an American C-130 Hercules aircraft. The missile missed its mark. Months earlier, British commandos had intercepted a few truckloads of weapons, including one containing a working SA-7 missile, coming across the Iranian border. But there was no way of determining whether the missile fired at the C-130 had come from Iran—especially since SA-7s are available through black-market arms dealers.

Vincent Cannistraro, a retired C.I.A. officer who has worked closely with his counterparts in Britain, added to the story: “The Brits told me that they were afraid at first to tell us about the incident—in fear that Cheney would use it as a reason to attack Iran.” The intelligence subsequently was forwarded, he said.

The retired four-star general confirmed that British intelligence “was worried” about passing the information along. “The Brits don’t trust the Iranians,” the retired general said, “but they also don’t trust Bush and Cheney.”

BBC to premiere an American newscast

PhotoMatt Frei who will anchor the new 'BBC World News America,' which debuts Monday at 7 p.m. EDT on BBC America, a network available in about half of the nation's TV homes.

By DAVID BAUDER, AP Television WriterSun Sep 30, 12:17 PM ET

They speak English at the BBC, but CBS News veteran Rome Hartman still faced a language barrier when he was hired to create a newscast specifically for American viewers.

Almost all of the TV terms he was accustomed to were different. The American anchorman is a "presenter" at the BBC. The producer works in a "gallery," not a control room. And a voiceover is known as an OOV — an acronym for "out of vision."

"I'm not so arrogant that I think the entire BBC should adopt my lingo," Hartman said, "but it does make my head hurt."

Nearly four months of planning bear fruit Monday when the hourlong "BBC World News America" debuts at 7 p.m. EDT on BBC America, a network available in about half of the nation's TV homes. Parts of the newscast will also be seen on PBS stations that regularly air news material from the British Broadcasting Corp.

Matt Frei, the BBC's lead correspondent in the U.S. for the last five years, is the anchor. Oops, we mean presenter.

It was the second time in a year Hartman was asked to create a new newscast. He was Katie Couric's first executive producer at the "CBS Evening News" and the fall guy when that went sour.

His goal each night is to "bring the world home to Americans."

While many American networks boast of having a worldwide reach, it's mostly just talk compared to the resources of the BBC, Hartman said. CNN comes closest with its international staffing, but "if you look at what CNN broadcasts to an American audience, the appetite for world news on a daily basis for the domestic network is really quite limited," he said.

"BBC World News America" won't ignore breaking news from the United States — but if you're looking for extensive coverage of a tornado blowing apart some mobile homes, it's best to turn to the American networks. Frei is looking forward to presenting an outsider's view of the upcoming presidential election.

For those who want to learn more about the democracy protests in Myanmar, the BBC offers several advantages. The company operates a Burmese radio service that broadcasts in the isolated country, giving the network many contacts. Frei spent many years based in Asia, and was even arrested once on a surreptitious reporting trip to Myanmar.

During Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's contentious trip to New York, for example, the BBC could offer another angle with its ability to quickly gauge how the leader's actions were playing back home.

Besides news reports, the BBC will offer "60 Minutes"-style in-depth pieces, interviews by Frei and round-table discussions. For most viewers, it will complement, rather than replace, the American network newscasts that air a half-hour earlier.

"What we have to do is use what the people come to the BBC for," Hartman said. "They come to us because they want a smart and sophisticated view of the world and that's what we hope to provide."

BBC America on Monday will also begin presenting a second daily newscast, "World News Today," at 10 p.m. EDT.

One of the BBC's faults, Frei said, is that it takes for granted a certain level of knowledge among its viewers. Hartman has been helpful in encouraging BBC reporters to make clear to viewers why a particular story is important.

Hmmmm. Does that mean a little condescension can slip through?

"We are British," Frei said, "and people have this impression of the British as being a bit stuffy, a bit haughty. We have to be aware of that. I personally don't think if you watch a BBC newscast now that you will feel you're being talked down to and I think the American audience will feel the same way."

As a journalist, Frei said he loves Americans.

"This is a country, and you really appreciate it after having been in Asia for six years, where everyone will talk to you, with a very small number of exceptions," he said.

"They are not intimidated by a camera, or the sight of a correspondent with a microphone. They will give you their unadulterated, constitutionally underpinned opinion about just about everything in wonderfully articulated English. And that is a joy."

Now his friends and neighbors will be able to see what the Washington-based Frei does for a living.

For Hartman, there's far less outside pressure than there was for his last start-up. Couric's early version of the "CBS Evening News" didn't hold up, but he remains proud of the product. He said he doesn't feel like he got a raw deal from CBS News.

"You climb up on the wire and you know you're just as likely to get knocked off as not," he said.

Meanwhile, he's busy enough now learning the vocabulary.

Much of the week before the premiere was spent doing "paper pilots," or written run-throughs of a test show. You may be able to figure this one out by now: when someone says Frei is "in vision," it just means he's on camera.

"There is a bit of a culture shock, for sure," Hartman said. "But, for me, it has mostly been a good culture shock."


On the Net:

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Paris Hilton on Letterman

David Letterman has an exasperating habit of fawning over his female guests, so color me delighted to see him sticking it to Paris Hilton on his show last night.

At one point during the interview (during which he keeps needling her about her time in jail), an audience member screamed, “I love you Paris!” and Paris — *GAG* — blew a kiss in response. Dave quipped, “Is that somebody you met in prison?” As the crowd erupted in laughter, Paris paused and said, “I didn’t come here to talk about this. That was a long time ago. Now you’re making me sad that I came.”

Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Ritchie, and Paris Hilton skateboards

San Francisco's Think Skateboards has come out with a new line called "Jailbait" that features artistic versions of Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Ritchie, and Paris Hilton in their infamous mug shots. Above each celeb is a thought bubble that reads, "If only I could think."

Former DA sues author John Grisham
October 1, 2007

OKLAHOMA CITY – Author John Grisham and others were sued for libel Friday in a federal lawsuit filed by former Pontotoc County District Attorney Bill Peterson and former investigator Gary Rogers over depictions of them in Grisham’s nonfiction book The Innocent Man and books by two other authors.

Grisham’s book, his first nonfiction effort, is about the investigation and prosecution of two men convicted of the 1982 murder of Debbie Sue Carter in Ada.

Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz were eventually exonerated and released after serving 12 years in prison.

Williamson is deceased.

Fritz, who wrote his own book, Journey Toward Justice, is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit along with several publishers, Robert Mayer, author of The Dreams of Ada, and New York City attorney Barry Scheck, who once represented Fritz and is co-director of The Innocence Project.

Grisham is a member of the Innocence Project’s board of directors.

Peterson and Rogers allege that Grisham and the other defendants engaged in a civil conspiracy “to commit libel, publicity placing a person in false light and intentional infliction of emotion distress.”

They are seeking both compensatory and punitive damages of more than $75,000.

The Innocent Man contains malicious statements that were knowingly and recklessly made which are false, half-truths, contains incomplete information as well as omissions of material facts,” their attorneys state in a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma. “These statements were among other reasons designed to bring about great public hatred, contempt and ridicule of the plaintiffs, as well as to cause actions that would result in causing the plaintiffs to be deprived of public confidence and be injured in their professions and occupations.”

The complaint states that in the author’s note to those who helped him with his book, Grisham thanks Fritz and states that he relied heavily on Mayer’s book. The filing refers to Fritz and Mayer as co-conspirators and alleges that there are knowingly false statements in all three works.

The complaint also cites a speech made by Grisham in September 2006 referring to Peterson as “the number one bad guy in this book.”

Tulsa attorney Gary Richardson, who represents Rogers and Peterson, said the ultimate amount of damages will be considerably more than $75,000.

“The lawsuit was filed because what was supposed to be a nonfiction book was turned into a fiction book, in a lot of respects,” Richardson said. “Parts of the evidence that would put a totally different light on Bill Peterson, for example, and Gary Rogers, was not written about.”

Rogers is a former Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agent, Shawnee police officer and investigator for the District 22 DA’s office.

Richardson contends that the three authors engaged in an obvious strategy by releasing books within days of each other. The 2006 publication of The Dreams of Ada was a re-release.

The attorney quoted Grisham in the September 2006 speech as saying he fully expected to be sued.

“Being a lawyer, I wonder why he would say that?” Richardson said, laughing.

“It’s probably somewhat difficult for someone to write fiction for so many years and then write a nonfiction book, particularly if they have a motive in mind, which we believe the evidence will show, to impact the issue of the death sentence,” he said.

Richardson said that Peterson was in Colorado Friday and declined to comment except through his attorneys.

Peterson launched a Web site earlier this year to dispute many of the allegations and conclusions in Grisham’s book.

Fritz now lives in Kansas City, Mo.

“The lawsuit is completely meritless,” Fritz said, adding that he did not know the full scope of the allegations. “I do know that libel and conspiracy is not there.”

Fritz said every word in his book is true as he remembered the events of that time.

“Factually, it’s backed up exactly by every word out of the transcript,” he said. “The problem is that Mr. Peterson convicted two innocent men, sent Ronnie and I to the penitentiary for 12 years, based upon alleged evidence that did not go beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Fritz said that Peterson achieved their convictions through “several huge mistakes, worse than mistakes, travesties of justice.”

“He doesn’t want to face the truth, really, of what happened,” he said. “He wants to try to make everybody believe that, in fact, he has not done anything wrong.”

Fritz said the lawsuit is merely a power play by Peterson “to regain what he has lost because of his actions, or mis-actions.”

“He cannot handle the truth that’s been brought out in both Mr. Grisham’s book as well as mine,” Fritz said.


Grisham’s publicist at his publisher, Doubleday, declined comment on the pending litigation.
Fritz said Grisham told him earlier Friday that he has elected not to speak to the press at the present.

“As the lawsuit progresses, he might,” Fritz said.

Man charged in Tom Cruise extortion plot found dead

Authorities believe that David Hans Schmidt, a broker in celebrity photos and other items who was known as 'The Sultan of Sleaze,' committed suicide.

David Hans SchmidtDavid Hans Schmidt
By Rene Lynch
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

3:09 PM PDT, September 29, 2007

A celebrity photo broker facing federal prison for trying to extort more than $1 million from Tom Cruise and wife Katie Holmes has been found dead, an apparent suicide.

David Hans Schmidt specialized in acquiring celebrity sex videos and nude photos -- a specialty that earned him the nickname "The Sultan of Sleaze," a moniker he wore like a badge of honor. But he also readily marketed other celebrity goods, such as Paris Hilton's diaries, in which she reportedly recounts sexual escapades.

Schmidt had long denied claims that he came by his merchandise through unscrupulous means. But earlier this year he agreed to plead guilty to attempted extortion after federal authorities said he contacted Cruise's representatives and threatened to release photos of Cruise and Holmes' wedding in Italy last year unless he was paid $1.2 million to $1.3 million.

At the time of his death, Schmidt was wearing a monitoring device while under house arrest in Arizona pending sentencing. He was found dead in his townhouse about 3 p.m. Friday after police noticed that the device indicated he not moved and he had not checked in, law enforcement officials told the Associated Press.

His attorney, Nancy Kardon, told AP that she had spoken to Schmidt earlier this week and was preparing for an Oct. 11 hearing in federal court where he would formally enter his plea. She said she had planned to ask for probation.

"I was greatly saddened by his loss and I found him to be a very kind man," Kardon said.

Among other items Schmidt purported to have obtained:

* Explicit photographs he said were found in the Dumpster at Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx's Las Vegas home.

* Hilton's sex diaries, which along with other personal items had been discovered in a Los Angeles-area storage locker. (A Hilton spokesman said at the time that the items were illegally obtained.)

* A homemade sex tape starring Colin Farrell and former Playboy playmate Nicole Narain.

* A sex tape involving Fred Durst, lead singer of Limp Bizkit.

* Nude pictures of Amber Frey, the key prosecution witness in the Scott Peterson double-murder trial.

* Nude photos of rescued U.S. Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch. (The photos were offered up to Larry Flynt for publication in his Hustler magazine, but he ultimately declined to publish them.)

Schmidt did not shy away from the sordid. Although some called what he did unscrupulous, he relished it.

"Somebody has to make the deals," he would say.

When discussing the Colin Farrell sex tape, for example, Schmidt gleefully described its contents, offering details that couldn't be printed in this newspaper, and was matter of fact about how he intended to exploit the tape for his personal enrichment. Farrell later sought legal action to block the tape's release, and shortly thereafter the tape ended up on the Internet, dramatically undercutting its worth. Schmidt insisted that he had nothing to do with the tape's release.

There were some suggestions, though, that Schmidt also craved acceptance from some of the people he was seemingly trying to exploit.

When it came to the photos a worker reportedly found on Foxx's property, Schmidt agreed to return them -- if he could get a face-to-face meeting with the actor.

"He wanted to shake hands with Jamie Foxx, and I said that would not occur," celebrity attorney Martin D. Singer recalled at the time. The photos were nonetheless returned.

Schmidt was also willing to make a sex tape himself. He was in negotiations at one point to help produce and distribute a sex tape co-starring him and 1991 Mrs. America Jill Scott. "Jill looks great, we both work out every day, and I think this gives the fortysomething crowd a little hope for eternal youth," Schmidt said at the time.

Tall and buff from those strenuous weight-and-swimming workouts, Schmidt was a name dropper who boasted of personal relationships with the likes of Hustler's Flynt; Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione; Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio; and Joe Garagiola Jr., general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team. (Arpaio had a particularly unusual relationship with Schmidt, having been his jailer -- Schmidt spent time behind bars in Arizona as part of an extended custody battle with the mother of his daughters Kelsey and Kassidy.)

Schmidt was a Rochester, Minn., native who attended Augsberg College before relocating to Arizona, where he worked briefly as a newspaper reporter and would later become press secretary to then-Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham. Schmidt's second career began in 1992, when Gennifer Flowers sold her story about her relationship with Bill Clinton to the Star tabloid. Schmidt took the initiative to contact Flowers through her attorney and subsequently negotiated a deal for her to pose in Penthouse.

Tom Cruise

A second man still faces charges in connection with the Tom Cruise extortion plot. Computer expert Marc Lewis Gittleman, 33, of Los Angeles allegedly took the pictures when he worked on a computer belonging to the wedding's authorized photographer. Gittleman reportedly made a copy of the hard drive and later brought them to Schmidt.

Tom Cruise building $10 million bunker to protect against 'alien attack'


Hollywood star Tom Cruise is planning to build a bunker at his Colorado home to protect his family in the event of an intergalactic alien attack, according to new reports.

The Mission Impossible actor, who is a dedicated follower of Scientology, is reportedly fearful that deposed galactic ruler 'Xenu' is plotting an evil revenge attack on Earth.

Bunker down: Tom Cruise, on set of his latest movie with wife Katie and daughter Suri, is reportely fearful of an alien attack

According to American magazine Star, a source said: "Tom is planning to build a US$10 million bunker under his Telluride estate."

"It's a self-contained underground shelter with a high tech air purifying shelter."

The facility is said to have enough room for ten people - including wife Katie Holmes, 17-month-old daughter Suri and his adopted children Isabella, 14, and Connor, 12.

Keeping the faith: Tom Cruise, in Spain in 2004, is a dedicated follower of Scientology

A spokesperson for the actor has denied the reports, saying: "This is completely untrue. He is not building on his property at all."

The 45-year-old is currently filming World War II movie Rubicon (formerly known as Valkyrie) in Germany, where he is regularly joined on set by Katie and Suri.

Tom plays German hero Colonel Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg in the wartime thriller surrounding a failed plot by high-ranking military officers to blow up Hitler and has come under attack for his decision to do so as well as his religious beliefs.

The controversial film depicts the ill-fated plan to blow up the dictator on July 20, 1944, which he survived, with the plotters subsequently paying with their lives.

The Colorado property where Tom Cruise is reported to be building a bunker

Tom's spokesperson has denied plans for the underground facility

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Perfume Wars

Filed under: Paris Hilton > Celebrity Feuds > Britney Spears


Both Britney Spears and Paris Hilton have come out with ads for their new fragrances on the same day.


We think not!

While both may be Photoshopped to within an inch of their hairless vagina, the real question remains…..

Which print ad is the better one?????

Oprah On Top

Filed under: Oprah Winfrey


Oprah Winfrey is rich. We all know that! But just how filthy rich is she?

According to Forbes, the talk show queen took in $260 million between June 2006 and June 2007.

The financial mag has come out with their annual list of wealthy TV celebs and the Big O leads everyone by far!

Who else made the cut?

2. Jerry Seinfeld, $60 million
3. Simon Cowell, $45 million
4. David Letterman, $40 million
6. Jay Leno, $32 million
7. Dr. Phil McGraw, $30 million
8. “Judge” Judy Sheindlin, $30 million
9. George Lopez, $26 million
10. Kiefer Sutherland, $22 million
11. Regis Philbin, $21 million
12. Tyra Banks, $18 million
13. Rachael Ray, $16 million,
14. Katie Couric, $15 million
15. Ellen DeGeneres, $15 million
16. Ryan Seacrest, $14 million
17. Matt Lauer, $13 million
18, Barbara Walters, $12 million
19. Diane Sawyer, $12 million
20. Meredith Vieira, $10 million

Grey’s Anatomy Bombs in the Nielsen Ratings !!!

Filed under: TV News


This is a shocker!

Last season’s hottest show, Grey’s Anatomy, got squashed in the ratings by none other than CSI, which has been on the air forever!

At 9 p.m., CBS has plenty to smile about with the eighth season-premiere of CSI besting the fourth season-premiere of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy (15.2/23 vs. 12.6/19) by 21 percent in the overnights. Although Grey’s Anatomy could ultimately still win among adults 18-49, last year the medical drama opened with a 17.1/25 — 15 percent above CSI.

Seems like viewers have grown tired of McDreamy, McSteamy and all that shiz.

This does not bode well for the new Grey’s spin-off, Private Practice, which debuted to less heat and buzz than NBC’s Bionic Woman.

Kenny Rogers Plastic Surgery Disaster

Rogers is someone else who’s not thrilled about his surgery, telling People:

Last year I had so many lines coming in at the side of my eyes up here. So I went in and got my eyes done, and I’m not happy about it. (The surgeon) is going to go in and fix that for me. They’re too tight around the eyelids for me. It drives me crazy.

Donald Trump vs. Mark Cuban Turns Nerdy

Donald Trump, Mark CubanThe never-ending battle of words between boisterous billionaires Donald Trump and Mark Cuban has shifted from the topic of Dan Rather to Internet spam. Ooooh, burn!

The feud began this week when Trump called Dan Rather "a loser." Rather, who is currently suing former employer CBS, now works for Cuban's HDNet. Cuban didn't take too kindly to that, telling "Access Hollywood" that Trump "is a first-class idiot!" To which Trump retorted to Page Six, "Mark is a total loser."

Now Cuban is firing back, telling TMZ, "Has [Trump] ever hired anyone who went to Trump University, or is Trump University just a good excuse to be one of the biggest Internet spammers in America?" Oh snap! He told him!

And then Trump was all, "I know you are but what am I?" And then Cuban was all, "I'm rubber, you're glue." And then Trump was all, "I know you are but what am I?" And then Cuban was all, "You already said that." And then Trump was all, "Nuh-uh." And then Cuban was all, "Yeah you did, it was right there on TMZ." And then Trump was all, "Yeah, you're right." And then Cuban was all, "Told you so."

Will O.J. Use Rhyming Defense?

"If it doesn't fit, you must acquit" is quite possibly the most quoted courtroom line in pop culture history.

And if O.J. Simpson stands trial on the litany of charges he's currently facing in Las Vegas, he might need another clever quip to help keep him out of jail ... yet again.

O.J. Simpson
Although they're not qualified to argue at a jury trial, the good people at Maxim have come up with a list of possible phrases the Juice might use.

Our favorites include: "If the items are mine, then what is the crime?" and "If you plunder my riches, I might have to kill some white bitches," and "If you take my memorabilia, I might just have to killia."

Couldn't have said it better ourselves.

The Hollywood Reporter

'Bionic,' 'Private' come out swinging Wed.
By Paul J. Gough
NEW YORK -- The fall season shifted into high gear Wednesday with the first heated showdown between NBC's "Bionic Woman" and ABC's "Private Practice." NBC's sci-fi drama prevailed in the coveted 18-49 demo, but ABC won the night overall, noticeably in total viewers and by a slim margin in the demo.

After lackluster freshman premieres so far, Wednesday produced three strong launches -- "Bionic," "Practice" and NBC's "Life," which to date rank as the top three new series among adults 18-49. Word wasn't that good for another new ABC drama, "Dirty Sexy Money," which got off to a slow start.

Despite NBC's dominating performance from 9-11 p.m. with "Bionic" and "Life," the Alphabet edged the Peacock by a tenth of a point to take its second nightly victory in the first three nights of the new TV season among the 18-49 demo. The network was bolstered by the third consecutive night of "Dancing With the Stars."

CBS' "Kid Nation" (7.6 million viewers, 2.8 rating/8 share in adults 18-49) and Fox's "Back to You" (7.5 million, 2.8/9) both showed declines from last week's premieres (9.4 million, 3.1/9 and 9.5 million, 3.2/10, respectively), bowing to ABC's "Dancing" (16.8 million, 4.1/12). "Dancing" was about even with fall 2006's results show, while "Kid" was up week-to-week in adults 18-34.

The 9 p.m. showdown between "Bionic Woman" and ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" spinoff -- along with the established "Criminal Minds" -- was won by "Bionic" (13.9 million, 5.7/14), which grew exponentially from its "Deal or No Deal" lead-in (8.9 million, 2.6/8) and logged NBC's best numbers for an NBC Wednesday series premiere since "The West Wing" in 1999.

"Practice" (14.4 million, 5.2/13) also did well, losing more than a million viewers in the half-hour but holding steady in adults 18-49. The season premiere of CBS' "Minds" (12.7 million, 3.5/9), with the last episode prominently featuring departing star Mandy Patinkin, couldn't keep up, slipping from last year's premiere by 22% in 18-49; neither could the second episode of Fox's "Kitchen Nightmares" (5.4 million, 2.5/6), which fell from last week (6.6 million, 3.1/8) against all-original competition.

NBC stayed in the game at 10 p.m. with a win for "Life" (9.9 million, 4.0/11). The Damian Lewis police drama won in the demo against ABC's "Dirty" (10.4 million, 3.6/10) and the season premiere of CBS' "CSI: NY" (12.7 million, 3.7/10), which was down 26% among 18-49 from last season's premiere.

"Dirty" was down 34% compared with last season's premiere of "Lost" in the same time period and down 22% from the Oct. 4, 2006, premiere of the short-lived "The Nine."

The CW's "America's Next Top Model" (4.8 million, 2.4/7) hung tough at 8 p.m. and posted a 7% gain in adults 18-34 versus last week's season premiere, but the new drama "Gossip Girl" (2.5 million, 1.1/3) took a hit in its second outing at 9 p.m.

ABC (13.9 million, 4.3/11) won Wednesday's primetime in both viewership and adults 18-49, the latter just a shade higher than NBC (11 million, 4.1/11), which was followed by CBS (11 million, 3.3/9), Fox (6.1 million, 2.5/7) and the CW (3.7 million, 1.8/5).
Hollywood studios go after two piracy sites

Xem Phim Online

By Leslie Simmons
Friday, September 28, 2007; 3:08 AM

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The Motion Picture Assn. of America has filed suit against two Web sites that it claims are allowing Internet users to view pirated films, many of which are still in theaters.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday on behalf of the major studios, seeks to shutter ( and ( from further infringing on the copyrights of the MPAA members.

The sites feature links to hundreds of titles, including such recent releases as "Resident Evil: Extinction," "The Brave One" and "Good Luck Chuck."

A "Who Is" domain search of the sites indicate both are registered as private, meaning the information on ownership and administrative contacts are not disclosed.

The domain search also indicated's servers are located in Malaysia. The site averages more than 24,000 unique users each day who view more than 85,000 pages of content.

Servers for are located in Arizona and average 55,000 unique daily visitors who view more than 190,000 pages of content per day.

"We are putting illegal Web operators on notice that they are not above the law and will face serious consequences for their activities," said John Malcolm, executive vp and director of worldwide anti-piracy operations at the MPAA.

The MPAA estimates that the industry lost $18.2 billion in 2005.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The New York Times
Printer Friendly Format Sponsored By

September 28, 2007

Law Firms Go a Bit Hollywood to Recruit the YouTube Generation

Law firms have discovered YouTube.

Well, actually, they have discovered that the law students they are trying to recruit as summer associates watch YouTube, the popular video Web site.

Several firms are trying to parlay that discovery into a hiring tool, creating recruiting videos and Web sites with the look and feel of YouTube. The firms hope to persuade students that their lawyers, and by extension the firms, are young-thinking and hip.

The need to attract top-notch summer associates is crucial; they are the pool from which most new hires are made. More than 19,000 graduates join law firms each year.

So far, the firms’ efforts have run the gamut from simple conversations with summer associates to videos promoting the firm’s expertise or its diversity.

“The videos are still kind of in the early days,” said Brian Dalton, the senior law editor at Vault Reports, which ranks law firms. “A lot of them come off seeming like hostage videos.”

There are exceptions. Choate Hall & Stewart, a Boston firm with about 200 lawyers and more than 100 years of history, has developed a series inspired by the “Mac vs. PC” advertisements from Apple. Rather than associates, actors are used in the Choate ads.

In four spots called “Choate vs. Megafirm,” a hapless male associate at Megafirm is seen variously trying to find his briefcase in one of his employer’s many offices; tied up in boat rope, explaining that the firm placed him in “leveraged lease and ship financing” when he really wanted litigation; and clad in a business suit, pants rolled up, with an inner tube around his waist, on his “working” vacation.

His counterpart, a young female associate at Choate, is rather smug as she explains how life there is different. Just as on YouTube, there are ratings — albeit fake — like the one from a Web poster with the handle, “Jdhound,” who writes, “This are like so professional. Our site not.”

The Choate videos were created by Greenfield Belser, a Washington marketing firm that specializes in law firms. Its president, Burkey Belser, decided to parody the Apple ads in part because of a limited budget. The firm charged Choate $75,000 for the 4 ads and 20 testimonials from 9 summer associates and other lawyers.

Mr. Belser said that he coached the Choate associates to whittle their testimonials to 30 seconds, told from a red-leather armchair meant to tie in with the firm’s choice of red as a branding color. In one testimonial, the law student talks about his participation in a Swedish folk trio; another student talks about her college thesis, on horror films.

In contrast, the recruiting site at Morrison & Foerster of San Francisco challenges law students, asking if they have the “mojo” needed to join the firm.

The site was revamped last year by a finance partner, Anna T. Pinedo, who said the previous version “was boring.”

One link under “achievements” draws the firm’s definition of a phenomenon it calls “rankophilia.” It offers law students the chance to make their own ranks, from ugliest vegetables to most addictive snack foods. The most popular with students? Ugly vegetables.

At Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, a Los Angeles firm where flip-flops are acceptable footwear, attempts to be hip backfired just a bit.

The firm started a Web site, which, among other things, was to feature “A Day in the Life of an Associate.”

The video told the story of Ivey, a young brunette, who is first seen as she develops photos in her darkroom and plays Ultimate Frisbee. Ivey (really an actress) says she has a B.A. from Yale and a J.D. from Stanford, and is seen wearing a form-fitting jersey shirt, blue jeans and chunky necklaces as she consults with the partners.

But when the Web site went live last week, the video did not appear.

“Some of the associates, some of the partners, thought it was too contrived; maybe corny was probably a better word,” said A. William Urquhart, the firm’s hiring partner.

In contrast, associate testimonials at Ropes & Gray, a Boston-based firm, are strictly about the job. The five segments, each a montage of voices lasting about three minutes, begins with one associate intoning, “People with small problems don’t come to Ropes & Gray.” (The firm has about 850 lawyers in five cities in the United States.)

A tool that students have often used in deciding where to apply is, which ranks the most prestigious firms, based on Web responses of associates.

At one firm on the list, Sullivan & Cromwell, 16 videos featuring conversations from lawyers appear on the site. Each is a three-minute montage, filmed by Muffie Meyer, a documentary maker whose work has appeared on PBS.

“Law students sometimes have this idea that large prestigious Wall Street firms are filled with the same sort of person,” said Frederic C. Rich, the partner who oversaw the making of the videos.

The videos are meant to telegraph the variety of people who work there. Mr. Rich appears in one video talking about the oratorio he conducted in a conference room at the firm.

In another video, Joseph C. Shenker, the firm’s vice chairman, an observant Jew and a Brooklyn native who graduated from City University of New York, says he does not have the pedigree one would associate with an old-line firm. “The only thing people care about here is the pursuit of excellence,” he says, in conversation with Lisa A. Lofdahl, a lawyer who talks about being openly gay.

Norm Rubenstein of the Zeughauser Group and former marketing officer at three law firms, said the videos were interesting because they aim at “a generation that takes the Web for granted, that values Internet-based social networking.”

“That’s what makes the video ‘conversations’ on the Sullivan site or the mock commercials on Choate’s site so compelling,” Mr. Rubenstein said. “Compared to the traditional iteration of marquee clients, major deals and disputes, these express true personality in ways that are memorable.”

Tennessean Logo

Can't keep engagement ring if wedding called off, court says

Don't hock that engagement ring just yet.

If you don't get married, you're not entitled to keep the ring, the Tennessee Court of Appeals said Monday.

In a ruling that appears to be the first appellate decision of its kind in the state, the court said that if the wedding is canceled, the person who gave the engagement ring is entitled to get it back.

"In summary, we hold that an engagement ring is given in contemplation of marriage, and as such, is impliedly a conditional gift," the unanimous opinion, written by Judge Charles D. Susano, said.

If the marriage doesn't take place, "the engagement ring goes back to the one who gave it."

The decision stems from a legal battle over an engagement ring that began in a Knox County court. The ruling involves a woman who is a reporter for WSMV in Nashville.

On Christmas Day 2005, Jason Crippen placed an engagement ring on Catharyn Campbell's finger and proposed marriage.

After the couple broke up, Crippen asked for the ring back; Campbell would not give it to him.

The opinion doesn't describe the ring or give its value.

Crippen's attorney, Adam Priest of Knoxville, said he couldn't give the value of the ring without permission from his client.

Crippen sued Campbell to get the ring back, but a Knox County circuit judge said she was entitled to keep it because it was a gift.

Campbell would not comment after the ruling Monday, but her attorney said he was disappointed that the appeals court didn't consider the ring a gift.

"I believe this gift took on unique and special meaning considering it was a Christmas Day gift," attorney James K. Scott said.

The Court of Appeals ordered Campbell to return the ring.

Google Earth Costs Navy $600,000 !!!

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Woops! Which unlucky person designed this building? This military base, that looks shockingly like a swastika, has caused outrage in the U.S. The naval barracks in Coronado, California, are made up of four ‘L’ shaped buildings that look like the hated Nazi symbol from the sky.

Navy bosses are to spend £300,000 to disguise the offensive design. The buildings were built in the 1960s and from the ground the controversial pattern cannot be seen. It was spotted by internet users looking at Google Earth who alerted government officials to the gaffe.

The Navy have said they will alter the walkways joining the building and add landscaping and rooftop solar panels to camouflage the sign. “We don’t want to be associated with something as symbolic and hateful as a swastika,” said Navy spokesman Scott Sutherland.

Spin this: Hollywood PR guru passes torch at her firm

Pat Kingsley will step down as chief executive to devote more time to her clients. Kingsley and Tom Cruise
By Lorenza Muñoz
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

September 27, 2007

Pat Kingsley, the grande dame of Hollywood spin, is stepping down as chairwoman and chief executive of the public relations firm she led for nearly three decades.

Kingsley's position at PMK/HBH will be assumed by partners Cindi Berger, who began her career as a receptionist in the firm's New York office 24 years ago, and Simon Halls, who was a founding partner of Huvane Baum Halls before it merged with PMK in 2001. Nate Schreiber, the firm's executive vice president of brands and events, has been promoted to president.

Kingsley, 75, said she wanted to focus on working more closely with her clients, including director Michael Mann and stars Will Smith and Jodie Foster, rather than managing the multimillion-dollar firm that has expanded beyond its core film and television businesses.

The agency, which Kingsley co-founded in 1980, rakes in more than $15 million a year, up from its initial $1.5 million annually, according to company executives. In 1999, PMK was purchased by Interpublic Group, a global marketing corporation that also owns publicity firms Rogers & Cowan and Bragman Nyman Cafarelli.

Although she insists that she is not retiring any time soon, this move in effect passes the torch to her younger colleagues.

"Business projections and financial reports are not what I enjoy doing most," Kingsley said. "I took accounting in college and my instructor suggested that I not continue the course. We are now a conglomerate and it's daunting. I want to be involved in the creative aspects of working with clients. That is what I enjoy."

PMK in recent years has taken on corporate clients such as American Express Co. and Reebok International Ltd., sports figures including Olympic downhill skier Bode Miller and musical acts like the Dixie Chicks. It was Berger who led the effort to recast the Chicks' image as a mainstream pop/country band that stood for freedom of speech when the country-and-western music establishment turned against them after lead singer Natalie Maines made a remark critical of President Bush.

"Now that there are three of us, there is three times more energy to grow the company in different areas," Halls said. "Pat Kingsley gave us a huge leg up. We are lucky we get to expand from what is already a huge business."

At the zenith of her power, Kingsley was feared for her tough negotiating tactics and respected for advising clients on topics others might fear to broach. For 14 years, Kingsley represented Tom Cruise and she consistently advised him not to mix his controversial beliefs as a Scientologist with his career. When Cruise fired her in 2004, he became embroiled in a firestorm of bad press after publicly touting his religion, criticizing Brooke Shields for taking antidepressants and appearing out of control as he jumped on Oprah Winfrey's couch during an interview.

Three years ago, Kingsley also made headlines when she unceremoniously fired longtime partner Leslee Dart. Dart, who presided over PMK's New York office, was passed over as Kingsley's heir apparent. Dart now runs her own company, 42West, and still represents such clients as Martin Scorsese and Nicole Kidman.

"Pat taught me how to up my game," said Halls, whose specialty was launching up-and-coming talents such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Russell Crowe. "She exposed us on how you do a film campaign from soup to nuts."

Intellectual property laws abused in quest to shutdown

By Jacqui Cheng | Published: September 26, 2007 - 01:05PM CT

The tagline for home improvement superstore Lowe's may be "Let's Build Something Together," but that "something" sure isn't good PR when it comes to dealing with public criticism online. One angry customer was so dissatisfied with Lowe's work and customer service that he was spurred into putting up a web site called in order to air his grievances. Lowe's was unhappy with this public display of dissatisfaction and took a "creative" approach to getting him to take it down—accusations of trademark infringement. After a bit of back and forth, Lowe's has relented by making an offer to settle out of court, but has suddenly fallen silent upon the customer's counteroffer.

Let's back up a little bit. Lowe's customer and Ars Technica reader, Allen Harkleroad, had a fence installed at his home by a Lowe's "professional." Upon further inspection, however, Harkleroad discovered that the $3,500 job came complete with what he considered to be shoddy workmanship. Fence posts were loose, parts became easily disjointed, and the gate door did not fully close, among other things. Harkleroad said that his dogs were able to escape several times, and that when he complained to customer service, he was told that the installer would need to come back out to fix the fence. When he called the installer, he said that Lowe's had to tell him to go fix the fence. Harkleroad decided that he would refuse to pay the remainder of his balance until the situation was fixed, but Lowe's was having none of that. The billing department told him that it wasn't their problem and proceeded to turn Harkleroad's account over to collections.

It was at this point that was born, but Lowe's was having none of that either. Last week, Harkleroad received a cease-and-desist letter from the company, accusing him of unauthorized use of the company's intellectual property on his site. "Your use of the Lowe's Marks and your registration of is unauthorized by LF, distorts the goodwill of LF's federally-registered trademarks, and constitutes infringement of LF's trademark rights," reads the letter signed by Lowe's trademark manager Rebecca Green. Part of the problem with this accusation is that Harkleroad's site contains absolutely no logos, graphics, or other "marks" from Lowe's, and otherwise would not be identifiable as being related to Lowe's at all except for the name in the URL and the content of the site itself (which is unlikely to be mistaken for the company's official web site).

Harkleroad also points out that the infringement notice failed to identify the alleged trademark infringements, and fails to recognize that the site is a parody. "I also might remind you that USC 15 1125(a) is in correct [sic] in regards to your claim of infringement, you need to come up with something better than that. Better go grab that US Code book you are referring from and find something that you believe matches more closely," wrote Harkleroad in response to the letter.

At that point, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) hopped on Harkleroad's side to provide legal counsel and help defend him against what he claims were abuses of the law in an attempt to bully him—the story was also picked up by a number of online news outlets. Suddenly, Lowe's attorneys made Harkleroad an offer on Monday to settle the issue out-of-court, which Harkleroad discussed optimistically on his site. "My thanks to Lowe's for allowing us to (possibly) come to a mutually acceptable agreement for both parties, that is of course if this all gets finalized as I do believe it will. If it does this will be the last post or comment I make about the issue on this web site," he wrote.

But that's apparently where the story has ground to a halt once again. Harkleroad tells Ars that he and his attorney made a counteroffer to the settlement, and have since not heard back. "I think they are thinking that for the most part the issue is over," he told us. He has declined to comment on the details of the offer and counteroffer, but Harkleroad says that he has not heard any word back for several days.

Harkelroad's attorney, EFF staff attorney Corynne McSherry, acknowledged that the two parties are in discussions about a settlement, but declined to provide details as the "discussions are confidential." She did, however, point out that the courts have been clear that "gripe sites like this are protected—in fact, they want people to speak freely and share information about their experiences with various companies." She said that trademark holders sometimes lose sight of the point of trademark law, which is to protect consumers and provide them with good information about a company's product. Sites like provide information on someone's consumer experience, she said, which is not only allowed under trademark law, but protected by the First Amendment. "There is no legal question here that they don't have a trademark claim," McSherry told Ars.

This isn't the first time companies have attempted to use some arbitrary aspects of intellectual property law to silence public criticism online. Universal Music Group sent DMCA takedown notices to YouTube over a highly critical video of rapper Akon was posted by Michelle Malkin—eventually the EFF got involved and the clip was restored to YouTube. The EFF also filed a lawsuit against "paranormalist" Uri Geller for sending DMCA takedown notices over videos that were not created by him, but by another company that had created a documentary that was critical of his work and posted it to YouTube.

So what is the lesson to be learned in all of this? While Harkleroad's case with Lowe's is not quite over, it appears as if the company is backing off of its trademark infringement claims (Harkleroad notes on his web site that the issue of officially retracting the claim is still being worked out between the attorneys). But the attempt to even make such a claim is still troubling, given the Internet's availability as a public soap box, where nearly anyone with grievances to air is allowed to do so.

In another case where Viacom "mistakenly" misused the DMCA to have a parody taken down, the company agreed as part of its settlement with the EFF to educate its reviewers about fair use and promised not to challenge the use of its content if it is "creative, newsworthy, or transformative." The EFF isn't exactly known for backing down over cases like this, so we look forward to hearing about whatever resolution may come out of the Lowe's case. Harkleroad told us that if the two are unable to come to a resolution, he is still willing to take the case to court in Georgia.