ABY News

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Steve Irwin

SYDNEY (Reuters) - He may not have been a serious scientist but eccentric Australian TV naturalist Steve Irwin, who died in a freak diving accident this week, was an extremely effective environmentalist, a survey said on Thursday.

Irwin, the 44-year-old naturalist famed for his quirky "Crocodile Hunter" documentaries, died after the serrated barb of a stingray's tail pierced his heart, prompting an outpouring of grief from fans in Australia and around the world.

But in a discordant note amid the floods of tributes, expatriate Australian academic Germaine Greer said on Wednesday she hoped his death would signal the end of what she described as exploitative nature documentaries.

"There is the problem of this hyper-masculine character interacting with nature ... but the positive results stand alone," University of New South Wales researcher Chontelle Perucich told Reuters.

The university released the results of Perucich's 2004 research on the naturalist Thursday.

The survey of 300 people found that only 8 percent regarded Irwin as a scientist, although 65 percent had a positive view of him.

Eighty percent of those who had watched his shows had a positive view.

"While experts might argue about whether Steve Irwin was a so-called savage or a savior, he had an enormously positive and influential impact on the community," Perucich said.

"Whether we agree or disagree with his provocative and up-close interactions with wildlife, research confirms that he was publicly successful," she said.

The findings were announced as Irwin's family said it had declined the offer of a state funeral and would hold a private burial, although a separate public service would also be held.

"Because of the tremendous public sympathy and support, we have decided to hold a full memorial service within the next two weeks at a suitable venue yet to be decided," Irwin's father Bob said in a statement read to reporters outside his son's Australia Zoo in tropical Queensland state.

Irwin flirted with death many times in his documentaries, seen by 200 million people around the world, as he wrestled with some of the world's most dangerous creatures in an approach different to more traditional wildlife films.

Perucich's research found that people with higher education levels such as tertiary degrees were more likely to disagree with Irwin on specific environmental issues like the culling of native kangaroos to control their numbers.

Irwin was most popular among the young, although older people were more likely to support his views on the environment, the survey showed.

By Paul Tait

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Tom Apologizes to Brooke

More than one year after engaging in a war of words over postpartum depression, Tom Cruise and Brooke Shields have made peace.

The accord was announced by Shields on Friday's Tonight Show. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan presumably was too busy with other stuff to comment.

According to Shields, Cruise's former Endless Love coworker, the embattled superstar initiated the settlement last Thursday.

"[Cruise] came over to my house, and he gave me a heartfelt apology," the actress told Tonight host Jay Leno. "And through it all, I was so impressed with how heartfelt it was."

Won over, Shields accepted the apology, she said.

Through a spokesman, Cruise confirmed the olive branch.

It was Cruise who fired the shot. During a discussion with Access Hollywood in May 2005 about psychiatry and prescription drugs--two non-favorites of the devout Scientologist--the actor expressed doubt that therapy and the anti-depressant Paxil had helped Shields, as she had written in a book about overcoming postpartum depression following the birth of her first child.

"Look at her life," Cruise charged while ostensibly promoting War of the Worlds. "Here is a woman--and I care about Brooke Shields because I think she is incredibly talented--[but] you look at where has her career gone?"

The implication: Since their work together in 1981's Endless Love, the prescription-drug-free Cruise had become A-list successful; the Paxil-popping Shields had become less so. (If only she'd taken vitamins...)

Shields held fire until Cruise popped off again just weeks later during his infamous "you're glib" interview with Today Show's Matt Lauer.

Cruise, who has never given birth, accused Shields, who has, of spreading "misinformation."

"She doesn't understand the history of psychiatry," Cruise told Lauer. "She doesn't understand in the same way that you don't understand it, Matt."

Shields responded with an op-ed piece in the New York Times that slammed Cruise's "ridiculous rant."

The aftermath: Since their tangling, Cruise has lost his pricey production deal with Paramount, alienated his female fan base--or, so the theory of Mission: Impossible III's underwhelming box office goes--and watched his likeability numbers fall 40 percent; Shields has bagged a recurring role on Nip/Tuck. (If only he'd skipped the vitamins comment...)

A recent quote from producer Kathleen Kennedy in the New York Daily News suggested that Cruise "deeply regret[ed]" his hectoring of Shields. But Kennedy later explained she didn't really know how Cruise felt.

According to a statement from Cruise's camp to the Associated Press over the weekend, the actor feels exactly the same--about Paxil.

"It is true that his friendship with Ms. Shields has been mended," rep Arnold Robinson said. "He has not changed his position about antidepressants, which as evidenced by the black label warnings issued by the FDA on these types of drugs, are unhealthy."

Still, Cruise has changed his position on the lecture circuit--he's off it.

"I didn't feel at any time that I had to defend myself, nor did I feel that he was trying to convince me of anything other than the fact that he was deeply sorry," Shields said on the Tonight Show.

Even before their settlement, Cruise, 44, and Shields, 41, were brought together, location-wise, in April when Cruise and life partner Katie Holmes welcomed daughter Suri down the hospital hall from Shields, who was giving birth to her and husband Chris Henchy's second daughter, Grier.

In issuing the mea culpa, Cruise is borrowing a page from the script of Mel Gibson, who followed up his notorious "f--king Jews" drunken-driving arrest of this past summer with a press-release apology to "everyone in the Jewish community," and reportedly with personal communications to individual members of the Jewish community.

It is not believed Gibson has apologized to Shields. But if Cruise's Q ratings bump up...

by Joal Ryan

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Tom Cruise

Sept. 4, 2006 issue - In the end, it may be the best thing that could have happened to Tom Cruise. Viacom billionaire Sumner Redstone told The Wall Street Journal last week that his studio, Paramount, was not renewing Cruise's production-company deal after 14 years because "we don't think someone who effectuates creative suicide and costs the company revenue should be on the lot." Hollywood and the media erupted. Redstone was saying that Cruise's wacky behavior—jumping on Oprah's couch, espousing his Scientology beliefs—had hurt the box office for "Mission: Impossible III," which grossed $393 million worldwide, but $153 million less than "M:i:II."

Cruise's camp came out swinging, insisting that they, not Paramount, had decided to sever ties. "This was a pre-emptive strike," says Cruise's producing partner, Paula Wagner. "This was a personal attack, but I don't think it was personal to Tom Cruise. It was about him being the biggest movie star in the world." Indeed, Redstone's team played to Wall Street, portraying the 83-year-old mogul as a tough guy taking a stand against overpaid actors. (Cruise will likely make more than $80 million from "M:i:III," while the studio will make a fraction of that.) That spin seemed to work in New York, but it backfired in L.A. "It's disgusting," says one high-placed exec at a rival studio who didn't want to be named discussing another shop's internal strife. "Sumner just wanted to show how big his d—k is. Tom has made hundreds of millions of dollars for Paramount. He's entitled to some respect."

Although Cruise had become a punch line in Hollywood—and Redstone was only saying what many thought—Redstone's lack of decorum made him look like the town bully, and Cruise like the wounded hero. "Paramount way overplayed their hand," says one top talent manager who asked for anonymity criticizing a studio. "Tom Cruise is going to have a new studio deal inside of a week. Paramount just got this wrong." Sources close to Redstone said he was in high spirits and had no regrets. "He just wanted some attention," says a high-ranking Viacom exec who didn't want to publicly talk about his superior. "He reminded everyone that he's still in charge."

So in charge that critics saw it as evidence that Paramount chairman Brad Grey and his boss, Tom Freston, were powerless. Redstone says that's false. "We were all in agreement about ending Tom Cruise's production deal," Redstone tells NEWSWEEK. "I have complete faith in Tom and Brad, and they are clearly running the business." Last Friday, Grey spoke directly about the matter to NEWSWEEK: "Sumner is a maverick. He said what he felt, and that's his prerogative. He certainly didn't ask my permission, and I'm certain, know-ing Sumner as I do, that he felt no obligation to. He built the place." Grey also offered an olive branch to Cruise. "I still admire Tom Cruise," he says. "He's a huge movie star, and a great actor, and I'm sure we'll work together in the future."

Strange as it sounds, Cruise's team isn't opposed to that idea. Wagner, buoyed by industry support, says she would consider making a fourth "Mission"—at Paramount. "If it's the right script, why not?" she says, laughing. "We created that franchise." Ironically, this episode could endear Cruise to the public again. America loves an underdog. "It's not like no one is going to hire him," says the studio exec. "His last movie made $400 million. I'd sell my soul to the Devil for that."

—Sean Smith and Johnnie L. Roberts

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Chadian president orders Chevron Corp., Petronas to leave country

N'DJAMENA, Chad (AP) — Chad's president on Saturday ordered oil companies Chevron Corp. and Petronas to leave the country, saying neither has paid taxes and his country will take responsibility for the oil fields they have overseen.

In remarks on state-run radio, President Idriss Deby gave the companies — part of the African country's oil production consortium that is led by ExxonMobil — a deadline of just 24 hours to start making plans to leave.

"Chad has decided that as of tomorrow (Sunday), Chevron and Petronas must leave Chad because they have refused to pay their taxes," Deby said in a message broadcast on state-run radio.

Deby said Chad, which is one of Africa's newest oil producers and is setting up a national oil company, would take over the oil fields that have been overseen by the American and Malaysian companies and account for some 60% of its oil production.

Sabri Syed, a spokesman for Kuala Lumpur-based Petroliam Nasional Berhad, said he could not comment on Deby's announcement.

Chevron declined to comment.

Mark D. Boudreaux, a spokesman for ExxonMobil, told The Associated Press by e-mail that neither his company, nor affiliate Esso Chad has been asked to leave the country.

If the two companies are evicted, Chad could seek help from China, which has taken an active interest in Africa in its search for raw materials like oil and metals.

Earlier this year, Chad broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan and turned instead to China, a move that could help it sell its oil to the energy-hungry power.

China is already the largest exporter of oil from Angola and it also exports oil from Sudan.

The production and export of petroleum in Chad are overseen by the ExxonMobil-led consortium. Under the mechanism, Texas-based ExxonMobil Corp. is responsible for 40% of the country's production, while Chevron and Petronas each have 30%.

The three companies agreed to finance a risky $4.2 billion, 659 mile pipeline to deliver oil from landlocked Chad to the Atlantic port of Kribi in Cameroon.

The companies agreed to invest the money after the World Bank gave the project its blessing and after Chad passed a World Bank-backed oil revenues law that required most of the money to be allocated to health, education and infrastructure projects.

From October 2003 to December 2005, the consortium exported some 133 million barrels of oil from Chad, according to the World Bank.

Chad itself earned $307 million, or about 12.5%, on each barrel exported.

But the venture has proved troubling for Chad, at times. In January, the World Bank froze $125 million in oil revenue and cut $124 million in financial aid, accusing Chad of reneging on a promise to set aside part of its oil revenues to help the poor.

Last month, the government reached a deal with the bank and signed an accord to commit 70% of its budget to poverty and development programs.

But the World Bank also agreed to allow 30% of oil revenues to go toward Chad's general treasury, instead of just 15%. Chad can use that money on whatever it wants — including weapons.

Deby's declaration came a day after he urged his citizens to take a more active role in the production of oil.

Chad government spokesman Hourmadji Moussa Doumgor told reporters on Friday that Deby wanted greater profits from oil production.

Deby has stressed that the country "should fully enjoy its oil, mining and other resources," Doumgor said.

Chad, which is not a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, has struggled with discontent over its poor economy, and unhappiness has intensified over the failure of an immediate boost from its oil field, which went online for development in 2003.

Unrest also has spilled over from Darfur, where Sudan's Arab-dominated government is accused of encouraging a campaign of destruction aimed at civilians in African farming villages that are the base for a three-year-old rebellion. Sudan charges that Chad supports the Darfur rebels. Chad, in turn, accuses Sudan of backing eastern Chad rebels.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Miami Vice (2006)

Ricardo Tubbs is urbane and dead smart. He lives with Bronx-born intel analyst Trudy, as they work undercover transporting drug loads into South Florida to identify a group responsible for three murders. Sonny Crockett is charismatic and flirtatious until-while undercover working with the supplier of the South Florida group-he gets romantically entangled with Isabella, the Chinese-Cuban wife of an arms and drugs trafficker. The intensity of this case pushes Crockett and Tubbs out onto the edge where identity and fabrication become blurred, where cop and player become one-especially for Crockett in his romance with Isabella and for Tubbs in the provocation of an assault on those he loves.

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Monster House (2006)

Although no adults will believe them, three children realize a neighbor's house is really a monster. They must find a way to stop the house and save the neighborhood.

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The Ant Bully (2006)

Ten-year-old Lucas is the new kid on the block--and the local bullies make sure he knows it. Tired of being a punching bag, Lucas takes out his frustration on the ants living in his lawn. But when the ants strike back--shrinking Lucas down to their size with a magic potion and forcing him to live like an ant within the colony--an astonishing new world opens up to him. Lucas learns, first-hand, the value of friendship and teamwork, ultimately leading the ants in an effort to save their colony from annihilation. And in the process, Lucas obtains the things he wants most: friends, companionship, acceptance and the courage to stand up for himself.

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Lady in the Water (2006)

Cleveland Heep, a modest building manager, rescues a mysterious young woman from danger and discovers she is actually a narf--a character from a bedtime story who is trying to make the treacherous journey from our world back to hers. Cleveland and his fellow tenants start to realize that they are also characters in this bedtime story. As Cleveland falls deeper and deeper in love with the woman, he works together with the tenants to protect his new fragile friend from the deadly creatures that reside in this fable and are determined to prevent her from returning home.

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Superman Returns (2006)

Superman--born on a planet which has long since died--has been raised by adoptive parents on the Kent farm in Kansas. The young boy Kal-El is renamed Clark Kent, and though he has grown up among humans, he is not one of them. Under Earth's yellow sun, he can do two things humans can only dream of, but to co-exist with them he must live a dual life as mild, unassuming Clark Kent, secretly transforming into the Man of Steel when the world cries out for him. But now, the world's crises have gone unheeded for five long years since Superman's mysterious disappearance. Without him, crime has risen in the city of Metropolis and beyond; that's not even counting the future destructive acts of Lex Luthor, who has been sprung from prison with the specific intent of using Superman's technological secrets for his own personal gain and glory. Lois Lane, star reporter for the Daily Planet and the love of Superman's life, has moved on since Superman left without a word. She has even won a Pulitzer Prize for her essay, "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman." Lois has other issues to contend with--she is now engaged to the editor's nephew and has a young son to look after. But for Superman, the long search for his place in the universe ends back at the Kent farm, among the only family he has ever known. His destiny lies in Metropolis, where one look in Lois's eyes tell him that this place, among the flawed but ultimately good people of Earth, is his true home. And with Lex's plan coming to fruition mere hours after his return, the world will never need Superman more than it does now.

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The $100 million giveaway

Howard Schultz, Vinod Khosla and other top investors are sharing their best startup ideas. And they're willing to give a collective $100 million to the entrepreneurs who can make them happen.

(Business 2.0) -- Asking venture capitalists for great startup ideas is a little like asking Curt Schilling what pitch he's going to throw next. When we posed the question to dozens of VCs and investors around the country, more than a few indignantly shot back, "Are you out of your mind?"

But after some friendly prodding from our reporters, a surprising number of them couldn't help but start jawing about companies they would love to build - if only the right people could be found to perfect the technologies or the business plans and make them seem possible.

The result is this list of 20 tantalizing business ideas, ranging from a host of new websites and applications to next-generation power sources and a luxury housing development.

This isn't small-time thinking, either: These investors - which include some of Silicon Valley's most successful VCs as well as serial entrepreneurs like Steve Case and Howard Schultz are backing their ideas with a collective $100 million in funding to the entrepreneurs who can get them off the ground.

We don't guarantee you'll land a multimillion-dollar payday or even get your foot in the door. But with the ideas now in your hands, consider yourself halfway there.

By Michael V. Copeland and Susanna Hamner

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Russia still seeks Iran solution

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russia has said it will continue to probe avenues for diplomatic cooperation with Iran over its nuclear program but France said that uranium enrichment must be suspended before talks resume.

Speaking a day after Iran responded to a package of incentives offered by world powers for Tehran to roll back its nuclear program, Moscow said it was time for the international community to seize the initiative.

"Russia will continue with the idea of seeking a political, negotiated settlement concerning Iran's nuclear program, maintaining the role of the IAEA and rejecting dilution of the principles of non-proliferation," Interfax news agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin as saying on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

The IAEA is the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Vienna-based United Nations nuclear watchdog.

Kamynin said Russia and the four other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, who are involved in negotiations, were working out a joint response to Iran's stand.

"It is very important to understand the nuances and grasp constructive elements, if in fact they exist, and work out how to work further with Tehran on the basis of known proposals of the six countries," Interfax quoted him as saying.

But France said the nuclear program must stop before talks can resume. "I want to point out again that France is available to negotiate, and to recall that, as we have always said ... a return to the negotiating table is linked to the suspension of uranium enrichment," Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said on Wednesday.

The Tehran government on Monday offered to resume talks about its nuclear program but gave no public indication on whether it would agree to halt uranium enrichment and reprocessing.

Iran's state-run news agency, IRNA, quoted the country's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani as saying that Iran "tried to pave the way for fair talks with a logical and positive approach."

"Despite other parties' breach of commitments, the Islamic Republic of Iran has proposed a constructive course," Larijani said, according to IRNA.

The semiofficial Iranian Fars News Agency quoted unnamed sources as saying the Iranian government had rejected suspension of its nuclear activities, "but it has proposed a new formula for resolving the issue through talks."

White House officials took a wait-and-see attitude about the Iranian response, which was still being studied.

"Let's let the diplomats take a look at this response before we parse too much here," spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

However, Perino indicated the Bush administration took a dim view of recent statements by Iranian officials that they would not consider suspending uranium enrichment, which U.S. officials charge could be a prelude to building nuclear weapons.

"The president made very clear to everyone ... that he thinks that that is a mistake and dangerous for the region and the whole world," Perino said.

Iranian officials have insisted that their nuclear program is solely for peaceful generation of power and that they have no ambitions to build nuclear weapons.

On July 31, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution giving Iran until the end of next week to agree to suspend its uranium enrichment program, which would pave the way for the Tehran regime to receive financial incentives.

The United States has also held out the possibility of resuming direct contacts with Iran, more than 25 years after the two countries broke off diplomatic relations.

However, if the Iranians do not accept the offer, then the U.N. Security Council will discuss a resolution proposing economic sanctions on Iran.

While such a move is backed by three of the council's permanent members -- the United States, Britain and France -- the two others, Russia and China, have been cool to the idea and could use their veto to block a sanctions resolution.

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, said Tuesday that the U.S. "will be prepared to submit elements of a resolution very quickly" if Iran did not accept what he termed a "very generous offer."

"This is a test for the (Security) Council," Bolton said. "We will see how it responds."

Even if Iran rejected suspension of its uranium program in its initial response, some U.N. diplomats were holding out hope that the Iranians might change their mind before the August 31 deadline set out in the Security Council resolution.

"In between, anything can happen, in between August 22nd and the 31st," said Nana Effah-Apenteng, the U.N. ambassador from Ghana, which currently holds the Security Council's rotating presidency.

Larijani formally delivered Iran's response to the ambassadors of Germany, France, Britain, Russia, China and Switzerland during a meeting in Tehran on Tuesday.

Switzerland is representing the interests of the United States because Washington does not have diplomatic ties with Tehran.

Larijani has also discussed Iran's response with the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana.

Solana's office issued a statement saying that the document "is extensive and therefore requires a detailed and careful analysis."

"Pending this detailed analysis, I will be in contact with the different key interlocutors and will remain in open contact with (Larijani)," Solana said.

CNN correspondents Aneesh Raman, Richard Roth and Ed Henry contributed to this report

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Bush: Katrina recovery will take time

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush on Wednesday cautioned against placing too much importance on the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's Gulf Coast strike, saying it will take a long, sustained effort to rebuild the area.

"It's a time to remember that people suffered and it's a time to recommit ourselves to helping them," Bush said. "But I also want people to remember that a one-year anniversary is just that, because it's going to require a long time to help these people rebuild."

The president promised to continue working to make sure the federal government's efforts in the rebuilding effort are efficient. (Watch Bush pledge to eradicate bureaucratic hurdles -- 3:02)

A day earlier, the Bush administration's Gulf Coast coordinator, Don Powell, said only $44 billion has been spent to get the battered region back on its feet. More than $110 billion has been designated for the massive rebuilding project -- $17 billion of which is to help rebuild an estimated 204,000 homes in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Bush spoke on the South Lawn of the White House after meeting in the Oval Office with a New Orleans-area man who lost his home in the storm. Rockey Vaccarella, 41, of Meraux in St. Bernard Parish, has been traveling the Gulf Coast region to mark the Katrina anniversary.

Vaccarella said he wanted to thank Bush for the federally provided trailers that have provided temporary housing to many in the region who lost homes but also to keep the pressure on.

"I wanted to remind the president that the job's not done and he knows that," Vaccarella said. "I just don't want the government and President Bush to forget."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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Barnyard: The Original Party Animals (2006)

Down on the farm, the farmer thinks he's in charge, keeping all the animals safe and sound. But when the farmer is out of sight, the lookout sheep shouts "Clear!" and all of the barnyard animals spring up on two legs, walk, talk, watch TV, and orchestrate practical jokes. For Otis the cow that last one is the most important. He and his best friends--Pip the mouse, Freddy the ferret, Peck the rooster, and Pig the pig--are world-class pranksters and always in the mood for a laugh. Otis is in the state of arrested development and quite happy that way. Otis's dad, Ben, is the cow who makes sure the farm is running on all cylinders. Each morning, Ben leads a meeting to take care of farm business and to issue warnings about their common enemy, the coyotes. (It's a position that Ben takes seriously: "As long as I'm still kickin'," he says, "no animal will be harmed inside that fence!") Ben wants Otis to grow up and take responsibility. Much to Ben's chagrin, Otis's main project comes to life every evening. As soon as the Farmer hits lights out, the barn is transformed into Party Central. On this night, there's even a pretty new cow, Daisy--Otis hams it up for her, and she can't help but be attracted to his fun-loving personality. That world is not for Ben. He's outside, guarding the fence and protecting the farm from the coyotes. When Otis explains to Ben that being on watch isn't "his thing." Ben responds: "Otis, a strong man stands up for himself, a stronger man stands up for others." When Ben is no longer able to lead, Otis tries to keep order but the role of leader does not come as naturally for him. Without Ben to keep everyone in line, absolute mayhem breaks loose and it isn't long before the farmer begins to get to the bottom of the animals' secret--and the scheming coyotes begin to think that the farm could be theirs for the taking.

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2006 Pontiac Solstice

The 2006 Pontiac Solstice is a 2-door, 2-passenger convertible sports car, available in one trim only, the Roadster. Upon introduction, the Solstice is equipped with a standard 2.4-liter, I4, 177-horsepower engine that achieves 20-mpg in the city and 28-mpg on the highway. A 5-speed manual transmission with overdrive is standard, and a 5-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is optional. The 2006 Pontiac Solstice is all-new for 2006.

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2007 Saturn SKY

The 2007 Saturn SKY is a 2-door, 2-passenger convertible sports car, available in two trims, the Roadster and the Red Line. Upon introduction, the Roadster is equipped with a standard 2.4-liter, I4, 177-horsepower engine that achieves 20-mpg in the city and 28-mpg on the highway. The Red Line is equipped with a standard 2.0-liter, I4, 260-horsepower, turbo engine that achieves 21-mpg in the city and 30-mpg on the highway. A 5-speed manual transmission with overdrive is standard on both trims, and a 5-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is optional. The 2007 Saturn SKY is all-new for 2007.

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2006 BMW M5

The 2006 BMW M5 is a 4-door, 5-passenger luxury sports sedan, available in one trim only, the Sedan. Upon introduction, the M5 is equipped with a standard 5.0-liter, V10, 500-horsepower engine that achieves 12-mpg in the city and 18-mpg on the highway. A 7-speed manual transmission with overdrive is standard. The 2006 BMW M5 is redesigned for 2006.


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Could this be the iPod killer?

SanDisk Corp has introduced a new digital music player that stores twice as many songs as the popular iPod Nano for nearly the same price and cut the cost of existing models ahead of the holiday shopping season.

SanDisk, which is a distant second to Apple in the digital music player market, said it would sell a model of its Sansa player with 8 gigabytes of storage capacity enabling it to save up to 2000 songs.

The new player will retail at just under $US250, SanDisk said. By comparison, a new 4-gigabyte Nano is priced at about $US249.

Prices for Sansa players with 2, 4 and 6 gigabytes of storage were cut by as much as 30 per cent to a range of about $US140 to $US220.

"The most costly ingredient in a flash-based (music) player is the flash memory," said Eric Bone, director of audio/video product marketing at SanDisk. "Since we make the flash memory, we essentially remove the middleman and pass that savings directly to the consumer."

California-based SanDisk is the world's top supplier of flash memory data storage cards and has set its sights on raising its share of the digital music player market to about 30 per cent to 35 per cent from about 10 per cent.

Demand for flash memory chips is expanding rapidly as their ability to retain data after power is shut off make them an ideal storage device for portable electronics.

SanDisk is in the midst of expanding production, announcing earlier this month plans with Toshiba to spend nearly $US5 billion building a new flash memory plant in Japan. The company has also agreed to buy memory card developer Msystems for $US1.55 billion.

Apple reached agreements last year for a long-term supply of flash memory with Toshiba, Intel, Hynix Semiconductor, Micron Technology and Samsung Electronics.



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Northwest flight escorted back to Amsterdam

BRUSSELS, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- Two Dutch F-16 jet fighters escorted a Northwest Airlines flight back to Amsterdam's Schiphol airport on Wednesday morning, Radio Netherlands reported. The reason behind the escort had not been disclosed. A spokesman for the Dutch military police only said a number of passengers were removed from the plane and interviewed, the report said. The military police had informed the national anti-terror coordinator, Tjibbe Joustra, of the incident. Joustra said he did not regard it as sufficient reason for extra security measures, the report added. The airliner was heading for Mumbai, India. When it was escorted back, it was over Germany shortly after leaving Schiphol. It was not known how many people were on board the plane. Enditem

Editor: Wang Yan

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IBM acquires Internet Security for $1.3 billion

Internet Security Systems Inc. has reached a $1.3 billion acquisition with IBM.

IBM announced that it has agreed to buy Internet Security Systems Inc. for $1.3 billion, continuing an acquisition drive to fuel growth. The company said it will pay $28 a share for the company, which helps customers protect against Internet threats across networks, desktop computers and servers. Internet Security is a services company that helps companies protect themselves against Internet attacks. IBM will sell those products through its global services unit, the world's largest IT services company. "This is something we couldn't do before because we didn't have the software assets to provide protection against Internet attacks," said Kristof Kloeckner, vice president of strategy and technology for IBM's software group. IBM said it expects the acquisition to close in the fourth quarter, subject to shareholder and regulatory approvals. The deal is the fourth acquisition IBM has announced in August. On Aug. 10 IBM said it would buy FileNet Corp. for $1.6 billion, its biggest acquisition in three years and fourth-largest to date.

By: GameSHOUT.com

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Snakes On A Plane

Before all the hype, before the Internet craze, before the filming and the press junkets and KRAFT tables, “Snakes on a Plane” existed as an article in Nature Magazine. Fourteen years and more than 25 studios later, it would become one of the most hyped movies of all time (and who said nothing good every came out of Nature Magazine). Its fame started soon after screenwriter Josh Friedman, who had been asked to work on the script, introduced the title to the Internet. Songs, apparel, parody sketches and mock movie trailers almost immediately followed. The title even came to be used on Internet forums as an expression for everything from the absurd and nonsensical to phrases such as “shit happens,” affectionately abbreviated SoaP. And while “Snakes on a Plane” is undoubtedly both absurd and nonsensical, with Samuel L. Jackson (which naturally only added to the excitement) as the leading man, he certainly doesn’t adopt the SoaP, “shit happens” attitude, and take this airborne reptilian invasion sitting down.

Indeed, “Snakes on a Plane” wastes almost no time in thrusting Jackson onto a flight that looks more like the snake house at the zoo than a 747. And thank God. In a movie where the entire synopsis is conveyed in the title, plot building should most defiantly take the back row of coach. The little storyline there is remains easy to follow: A red-bull drinking extreme sports enthusiast witnesses some Asian bad guy murder a prosecutor in Hawaii. This baddies’ henchmen seek out the witness, who is narrowly saved by FBI agent Neville Flynn, Samuel L. Jackson’s character. Convinced to testify against the murderer (who is in L.A. by this time), Flynn escorts the witness aboard a flight bound for California. Enter the snakes, which have been ingeniously placed in the cargo hold. Time elapsed: around 15 minutes. The rest of the film then concerns the passengers’ battle to keep control of the plane, as multitudes of poisonous snakes crawl out of every crevice of the aircraft and over every cleft of the human body.

It’s hard not to fall in love with “Snakes on a Plane” if you go in with the right attitude. Expecting anything but what the title suggests will not only disappoint you, but should get you shot (it’s about motha-f***ing snakes on a motha-f***ing plane for Christ’s sake). It would also help if you go in with a sense of humor, for the film is, despite its classification as an action/thriller/horror film, hilarious in its own absurd, “so bad, it’s good,” B-movie way. Perhaps even more entertaining than the film itself is the cheering, applauding and the “call and response” from the audience that makes the film feel almost interactive. Samuel L. Jackson of course steals the show, especially with his famous line of well placed expletives that will undoubtedly erupt in a roar from the crowd every time: “I’ve had it with these motha-f***ing snakes on this motha-f***ing plane.” And for those who just can’t get enough of snakebites, there are plenty to go around; eyes, faces, nipples, you name it and at least one snake will have attacked it.

Still there are those who were more than disappointed with the movie’s performance and its opening weekend box office numbers were not as good as expected. Certainly the movie was a bit overvalued, but fault lies not with the actual film but the hype the Internet generated. Ultimately though, “Snakes on a Plane” delivers on its promise. And sometimes it takes a man like Samuel L. Jackson to point this out: “I don't have to think about it; I know what it is. It's ‘Snakes on a Plane,’ and it's got vicious things biting people.”

By: Gordon Bottomley

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