Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday evening power update

Here's the latest outage numbers from the C-J:
As of 3 p.m., 122,000 LG&E customers were without power, according to E.On U.S., the parent company of LG&E. KU also had 122,000 customers without power throughout the state.
Here's a little known secret: The sidewalk clearing ordinance is not being enforced.
In neighborhoods across Louisville, most sidewalks are still covered with snow and ice four days after the storm hit, making it difficult for pedestrians to get around.

And many businesses and homeowners don't know that a city ordinance requires them to clear the sidewalk in front of their properties within 24 hours of a snowstorm. City officials haven't discussed sidewalks at their daily news briefings on the storm.

"We've got bigger issues to deal with than sidewalks," like restoring power, clearing roads and setting up shelters, said Chris Poynter, a spokesman for Mayor Jerry Abramson.

The sidewalk law carries a fine of $25 to $100. But it would be impractical for the city to enforce it, Poynter said.
That's the least of matters, though there are some apartment building owners that don't clear their sidewalks either in Chicago.

Anyway, the numbers of schools without power are going down but here's the latest on both that and JCPS asking Gov. Beshear to waive the make-up days.
"We are dealing with an extraordinary situation," Berman said yesterday. "We've been hit with two of the largest disasters this state has ever had, and they both have happened in the same (school) year."

But Beshear's office said yesterday the governor doesn't have the power to waive make-up days until at least 20 are missed.

This week's ice and snow storm left as many as 69 public schools in Jefferson County without power and forced the cancellation of classes for four days.

As of yesterday afternoon, 25 public schools in Jefferson County still lacked power, and the district isn't certain classes will resume Monday. Berman said officials are doing "everything in their power" to get schools open.

Any decision to cancel classes likely won't come until early Monday morning, and hinge, in part, on "any more major snow or ice events," he said.

Getting the schools ready in time won't be easy, acknowledged Mike Mulheirn, director of transportation and facilities for JCPS.

"Restoring the power is the easy part, getting the schools ready to open again is going to be the hard part," he said.

The missed days come just four months after the remnants of Hurricane Ike left 110 of the district's 153 buildings without power and canceled classes for a week. So far, the district has made up just one of those days.

Unless the district is granted a waiver, the last day of school for JCPS students could well be June 2 rather than May 21. District officials say extending the school year that long would cause major conflicts for parents who have scheduled vacations, camps and other summer activities for their families.

Under state policy, districts that miss fewer than 20 days must make up the missed days or add minutes to each school day, said Lisa Gross of the Kentucky Department of Education.

State law requires students to attend 177 six-hour days of class each academic year. Gross said that while the state Board of Education deals with regulations, Beshear could direct the board to look into the matter.
Howeer, we all know that teachers don't teach for the last two weeks of the year, so what's the fricking point of making the days up anyway?

Friday, January 30, 2009

JCPS: Berman asks Governor Beshear to waive makeup days

Why wasn't it like this with the winter storm of 1994?

Superintendent Sheldon Berman said as of early this morning, there will still 38 schools without power. He added that some schools got power back and then lost it again.

He said they are doing "everything in their power" to get the schools back open on Monday. He said they can't forecast the weather four days in advance and that if a decision is made to cancel school on Monday, that decision won't likely come until early Monday morning.

The district is going to ask Gov. Beshear to waive some of these make-up days (as well as the make-up days caused by Hurricane Ike) so that students won't have to make them up, Berman said.

"These are the two largest diasaters this state has had in many year and they both have happened in the same year. Both storms have been costly to the city and the school district," he said.

Berman added that these power outages are more challenging than the ones caused by Ike because of the cold.
Ultimately, as far as school next week goes, JCPS will make the logical decision of what to do. It's not just power outages in the school that has to be factored but across the district. It's all the power lines that are down on the ground due to the ice, and the trees. I was told that some roads that access KY 22 are blocked due to trees, and these are routes in which buses take.

Friday morning power outage update

Here's the numbers as of Friday morning:
Power outage numbers are slowly declining around the state, according to Andrew Melnykovych, a spokesman for the Kentucky Public Service Commission.

He said the total number of outages across the commonwealth as of 9 a.m. was 547,000, down from 607,000 yesterday. The outages include 172,000 in the area served by LG&E, including Jefferson County.

“There are signs of progress out there,” he said.

Local and state officials are predicting that total restoration could take up to 10 days.

Other metro area county outage totals include: Oldham, 9,500; Bullitt, 9,700; Nelson, 4,839; and Spencer, 1,355.

Shelby Energy which serves Shelby, Henry and Trimble counties reported about 2,300 customers without power, he said. The Meade County Co-op had about 8,500 still out.

Kentucky Power which serves counties in Eastern Kentucky said it is working to restore power to about 22,000 customers yesterday, the company said in a press release. They are estimating power will be fully restored by Wednesday.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

2009 sleeper hit: Sunshine Cleaning

Amy Adams and Emily Blunt star in the off-beat dramatic comedy Sunshine Cleaning. This uplifting film about an average family that finds the path to its dreams in an unlikely setting screened in competition at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

Alan Arkin is also in the movie.


Albert Pujols would like to see Manny Ramirez as a member of the club.
"I speak with Manny every three days and he tells me, `Man, no one wants to sign me,' Pujols said Thursday during a news conference. "I'm not an agent or general manager, but I can't understand how Manny has not signed."
Speaking of Pujols, he's likely to clinch the decade-long Triple Crown, seeing as how he's led in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in overall since he came into the league in 2001.
Since that day in Coors Field, Pujols has become the first player in history to start his career with eight consecutive seasons of at least a .300 average, at least 30 home runs and at least 100 RBIs. A scan of his finishes in the National League reveals that he’s only finished first once in one category — that batting title in 2003 — but he’s also only finished out of the top 10 in two of the 24 categories (eight years, three triple-crown stats … 24). Each time he ranked 11th. In 17 of those 24 categories, he finished in the top five.
Listen, I'm a huge Judd Apatow fan but a horror movie? Are you kidding? That will be the only Apatow film I don't see but it's only because of the genre.

An early review of Adventureland.

Rod Blagojevich is now Agoneavich

The Illinois State Senate has voted to remove Rod Blagojevich from the Office of the Governor and has banned him from seeking public office.
4:50 p.m. Senate now voting

The Illinois Senate is now voting on whether to remove impeached Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich from office.

As each senator's name was called, they and spoke their vote, either "yes" or "no."

The question posed to them was: "Shall the Senate sustain the article of impeachment against Rod R. Blagojevich and remove him from the office of governor?"

The vote right now is 58-0 with one vote not yet counted due to some sort of technical issue. Senate President John Cullerton, who is to cast the final vote, could not get his vote recorded.

They're now going to redo the roll call by allowing senators to press a button.

They did, and it's 59-0 to remove Blagojevich from office.

4:53 p.m. Senate vote now official

The Illinois Senate has voted 59-0 to remove Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich from office.

4:58 p.m. Senate votes to ban Blagojevich from ever holding office again

The state Senate voted 59-0 to ban former Gov. Rod Blagojevich from again holding elected office in Illinois.

The vote is the equivalent of the political death penalty.

Georgia Fires Dennis Felton

Dennis Felton, who last season led Georgia's basketball program to an improbable SEC tournament championship, was fired on Thursday morning, the school announced.

Associate coach Pete Herrmann will serve as interim coach for the remainder of the season, the school said at a news conference announcing the move.

Evans' decision came after the Bulldogs lost to Florida 83-57 on Wednesday night, their seventh consecutive defeat. Georgia is 9-11 overall and 0-5 in SEC play.

"I'm disappointed that things have not worked out better, " athletic director Damon Evans said in a statement released by the school. "I do think it is in the best interest of our men's basketball program that we move in a new direction.

"While this may be unusual timing, I'm convinced it is the right time," Evans added.[...]

Felton had an 84-91 record in six seasons at Georgia, including a 26-59 mark against SEC opponents.

Evans seemed poised to fire Felton a year ago, but the Bulldogs won three games in two days to win the SEC tournament. Georgia was forced to play a condensed schedule after Atlanta's Georgia Dome was damaged by a tornado.
Felton's firing comes days after Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried was forced to resign.

Do my eyes decieve me?

It's not every day that you see Will Leitch published in The New Republic. The article deals with how he hopes George Mitchell handles the cindlict better than the Mitchell Report on steroids in baseball.

Power Outage Update

Here's an update of what's happening in Jefferson County:
Power was restored to more than 20,000 homes and business overnight, but 183,000 LG&E customers are still without electricity and 8,900 power lines remain down, Mayor Jerry Abramson said today.

And at least five cases of carbon-monoxide poisoning were reported overnight from people who were improperly heating their homes. No deaths were reported.

Additional utility crews are arriving in Louisville today. By tonight, 1,800 people will be working to restore power, said LG&E senior vice president Chris Hermann.

“We’re making steady progress, but this storm was so broad and so destructive that it will take time to thaw out and to rebuild the power network,” Abramson said in a release. “With another cold night expected today, I strongly urge citizens to use the shelters as needed and to check on friends and neighbors.”

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Winter Storm 2009 Update

Louisville's basketball game will go on as scheduled this evening, although the crowd won't be as high as it would usually be.
The University of Louisville's men's basketball game against the University of South Florida will be played as scheduled tonight at 7 p.m. in Freedom Hall, the school announced.

Despite the severe weather conditions and widespread power outages, Freedom Hall does have power and the South Florida players and the game officials are in town.

Big East Conference policy states that, "if both teams and at least two of the three game officials are present and there is severe inclement weather, the game shall be played."
The ice storm has led to 67 Jefferson County schools without power.
Jefferson County Public Schools officials said the ice storm had left 67 schools without power, and many had driveways blocked by fallen trees.

In Oldham County, Oldham County High, Oldham County Middle, Buckner Elementary and Oldham County Preschool were without power yesterday. More were without power in Bullitt County.
JCPS will be off the rest of the week.

The power outages across the commonwealth are second to last fall's wind storm.
Power outages from the severe ice storm are continuing to rise across Kentucky as utility crews struggle with the second-worst disruption of power in state history.

By midday Wednesday, at least 473,000 customers were without power.

Kentucky Public Service Commission spokesman Andrew Melnykovych says that figure doesn't include municipal utilities or rural electric cooperatives within the Tennessee Valley Authority system.

The only larger outage in Kentucky occurred last September, when fierce winds from the remnants of Hurricane Ike knocked out power to about 600,000 customers.

Postmaster General asks Congress to waive requirement for delivery

St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Massive deficits could force the post office to cut out one day of mail delivery per week, the postmaster general told Congress on Wednesday.

Postmaster General John E. Potter asked lawmakers to lift the requirement that the agency deliver mail six days a week.

Faced with dwindling mail volume and rising costs, the post office was $2.8 billion in the red last year and, "if current trends continue, we could experience a net loss of $6 billion or more this fiscal year," Potter said in testimony for a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee.

Total mail volume was 202 billion items last year, more than 9 billion less than the year before, the largest single volume drop in history.

And, despite annual rate increases, Potter said 2009 could be the first year since 1946 that the actual amount of money collected by the post office declines.

"It is possible that the cost of six-day delivery may simply prove to be unaffordable," Potter said. "I reluctantly request that Congress remove the annual appropriation bill rider, first added in 1983, that requires the Postal Service to deliver mail six days each week."

If the change is made, that doesn't necessarily mean an end to Saturday mail delivery. Previous studies have looked at the possibility of skipping some other day, such as Tuesday.

75,000 without power in Louisville

The ice storm that hit Louisville has knocked out power to 75,000 homes.
Louisville Gas & Electric crews were out this morning assessing damage from the ice storm that struck Kentucky and Southern Indiana overnight.

So far, they reported just over 900 power lines down throughout the metro area, leaving more than 75,000 people without power.

Chris Hermann, spokesman for E.On U.S., the parent company of LG&E and Kentucky Utilities, said 200,000 of its customers across the state were without power.

But Hermann said he expects that number to grow as the morning goes on and the storm continues to track across Central Kentucky.
Metro Parks are asking that you not go sledding because the ice on the trees pose a risk.
Metro Parks is asking people not to go to parks to sled today because trees and limbs laden with ice are continuing to fall and making conditions dangerous.

Several of the area parks are typically used as sanctioned sledding areas, including Cherokee and Seneca, but officials said today’s conditions make it too treacherous.
Please be safe out there.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

JCPS closed on Wednesday

Better that they be closed than risk lawsuits for vehicles running out of control. It's not as much the snow that closes the schools as it is the mixture of freezing rain, ice, sleet, and snow. If it has ice, they will close. Anything else is a delay.

With new Jimmy Carter book comes more Carter lies

I'm not surprised that there are more falsehoods in the book by former President Jimmy Carter.
Jimmy Carter's new book about the Middle East, We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land: A Plan That Will Work, is now available, and so the former president has again hit the media circuit for promotional interviews, introducing new falsehoods. An interview on NBC's Today Show with Meredith Vieira yesterday, for instance, typifies Carter's self-aggrandizing, his position that Hamas is not a terrorist group, and his carelessness when it comes to the facts. Thus, when Vieira notes that "you've been criticized for [meeting with Hamas], sir, because Hamas is considered a terrorist group," Carter gives a little grin and responds:
By some they are, and they've done some bad things, but for instance a year before we had the cease-fire that I helped to orchestrate last June the 19th, there was one Israeli killed by rockets. And on an average, 49 Palestinians were killed every month during that previous year. And as soon as the cease-fire went into effect, Hamas obeyed it completely. There was no serious rocket fire during the next four or five months. Whereas, Israel did not restore providing provisions for the -- for the Palestinians and Gaza.
Carter did not fact-check because there were four Israelis that were killed in the year prior to the cease-fire.

CAMERA is only one of the organizations that will likely be fact-checking Carter's book for falsehoods. The page shows a few as of now.

Bunning insists he's not Blagojevich

Hall of Fame pitcher and Senator Jim Bunning insists that he's running for re-election to the Senate.
A defiant Sen. Jim Bunning insisted today that he is running for a third term in 2010.

The Republican said he is hiring campaign staffers, scheduling fundraisers and planning a February poll in which he expects to do well.

But it also is clear that the relationship between Bunning and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is strained.

McConnell last Friday told the National Press Club that he did not want to speculate about the 2010 Senate race in Kentucky until Bunning made his intentions known.

"I'd like to correct a misunderstanding on this," Bunning told reporters in a conference call today. "I had an hour-long meeting with Sen. McConnell in the first week of December in 2008, and we thoroughly discussed my candidacy for the Senate in that hour meeting in my office in Northern Kentucky -- and gave him every indication that I was going to run again."

"So he either had a lapse of memory or something when speaking to the Press Club last week when he said that he didn't know what my intentions were. He knew very well what my intentions were," Bunning said.

Asked if he felt he was getting the "Fletcher treatment" from McConnell, a reference to the Senate GOP leader's silence on Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher's candidacy for re-election in 2007, Bunning answered: "If that's what you consider the Fletcher treatment, I guess that's what I'm getting."
Okay, so Blago has nothing to do with this post whatsoever but I'll tell you this: Blago is WORSE than Fletcher, Bunning, and McConnell combined!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Scumdog Million-hairs

Jon Stewart said it. Ghandi thought about Blagojevich when he found out he was going bald. Actually, Jon Stewart and his writers said that.

Kashrut alert: Thin Mints are kosher, despite label not being placed on box

Thin Mints are kosher but the OU label was mistakenly left off 14 million boxes of Thin Mints.
The kosher symbol, intended to show consumers that the contents adhere to Jewish dietary laws, was mistakenly left off 14 million boxes of Thin Mints, the variety that accounts for roughly 25 percent of Girl Scout cookie sales, said Raymond Baxter, president and chief executive of Interbake Foods, the parent company of ABC Bakers of Richmond, Va., one of two approved manufacturers of the cookies.

Proofreaders missed the mistake. But a customer noticed in November that the symbol — a circled U accompanied by a D for dairy — was missing, said Brian Crawford, an executive at the Scouts’ New York headquarters. (Some troops sell cookies in the fall, though most sales are held January through March.)

Middle-East related news...

Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi had an op-ed published in the New York Times last week, making the case for--not two--a one-state solution when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Here's some excerpts, while I encourage you to read the full op-ed.
But everywhere one looks, among the speeches and the desperate diplomacy, there is no real way forward. A just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians is possible, but it lies in the history of the people of this conflicted land, and not in the tired rhetoric of partition and two-state solutions.

Although it’s hard to realize after the horrors we’ve just witnessed, the state of war between the Jews and Palestinians has not always existed. In fact, many of the divisions between Jews and Palestinians are recent ones. The very name “Palestine” was commonly used to describe the whole area, even by the Jews who lived there, until 1948, when the name “Israel” came into use.

Jews and Muslims are cousins descended from Abraham. Throughout the centuries both faced cruel persecution and often found refuge with one another. Arabs sheltered Jews and protected them after maltreatment at the hands of the Romans and their expulsion from Spain in the Middle Ages.[...]

The basis for the modern State of Israel is the persecution of the Jewish people, which is undeniable. The Jews have been held captive, massacred, disadvantaged in every possible fashion by the Egyptians, the Romans, the English, the Russians, the Babylonians, the Canaanites and, most recently, the Germans under Hitler. The Jewish people want and deserve their homeland.[...]

A two-state solution will create an unacceptable security threat to Israel. An armed Arab state, presumably in the West Bank, would give Israel less than 10 miles of strategic depth at its narrowest point. Further, a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would do little to resolve the problem of refugees. Any situation that keeps the majority of Palestinians in refugee camps and does not offer a solution within the historical borders of Israel/Palestine is not a solution at all.[...]

It is a fact that Palestinians inhabited the land and owned farms and homes there until recently, fleeing in fear of violence at the hands of Jews after 1948 — violence that did not occur, but rumors of which led to a mass exodus. It is important to note that the Jews did not forcibly expel Palestinians. They were never “un-welcomed.” Yet only the full territories of Isratine can accommodate all the refugees and bring about the justice that is key to peace.

Assimilation is already a fact of life in Israel. There are more than one million Muslim Arabs in Israel; they possess Israeli nationality and take part in political life with the Jews, forming political parties. On the other side, there are Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Israeli factories depend on Palestinian labor, and goods and services are exchanged. This successful assimilation can be a model for Isratine.
Israel is allowing Egypt to triple it's presence along the Gaza border.
Ha'aretz on Friday quoted Israeli officials and sources in southern Gaza as saying that the 750-man force appears to be ready to double or triple in a bid to prevent weapons smuggling.

Israel destroyed a majority of an estimated 400 tunnels on the border during the recent Gaza Strip war with Hamas, the terrorist group that controls Gaza.

Israel had in the past resisted allowing the expansion of the Egyptian force out of a reluctance to reopen the terms of its 1978 peace agreement with Egypt.
As far as the United States and Iran goes, the rhetoric of President Obama's nominees appear to show consistency with that of the Bush administration.
Adm. Dennis Blair, Obama's pick for director of intelligence, said in remarks prepared for his Senate confirmation hearings that the United States should reach out to sympathetic actors in Iran, consistent with the Bush administration's policies of cultivating Iranians who oppose the theocracy.

"While policymakers need to understand anti-American leaders, policies and actions in Iran, the intelligence community can also help policymakers identify and understand other leaders and political forces, so that it is possible to work toward a future in both our interests," Blair said, according to Reuters in a report Thursday.

Obama's Treasury pick, Timothy Geithner, praised his Bush administration predecessors for their efforts to isolate Iran's financial system in a bid to end the Islamic Republic's suspected nuclear weapons program.
This does not bode well for the peace process:
Also Sunday, Hamas official Osama Hamdan told a rally in Beirut that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah movement must end peace negotiations and security cooperation with Israel before any reconciliation talks between the two groups can start.
Finally, a report came out that expects a rise in anti-Semitism.
new wave of anti-Semitism is expected due to Israel's operation in Gaza and the global financial crisis, according to a new Israeli report.

The expected surge in anti-Semitism for 2009 was predicted in a report released Sunday by the Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism, the official Israeli forum against anti-Semitism. The forum is sponsored by the Jewish Agency, the Prime Minister's Office and the Ministry for Diaspora Affairs.

The 250 anti-Semitic attacks reported throughout the world during the three weeks of Israel's military operation in Gaza represented a more than 300 percent increase compared to the same period last year.

Kentucky Blizzard Watch

White Death Watch:
strong low-pressure system will produce significant snow and sleet accumulations beginning this evening through Tuesday night, according to the National Weather Service. Click here for the latest watches, warnings and forecast from the National Weather Service.

Across Southern Indiana the best chance for significant snow accumulations will be from late tonight through Tuesday afternoon. Accumulations of 3 to 5 inches are expected overnight tonight with an additional 4 inches of snow falling by Tuesday evening.

Across north central Kentucky and the Bluegrass region, 3 to 4 inches of snow is expected by Tuesday morning with another 1 to 2 inches of snow and sleet possible by Tuesday evening.

Further south across Central Kentucky, mainly a snow and sleet mixture is anticipated. Snow and sleet accumulations of 1 to 3 inches are expected overnight tonight with an additional 1 to 2 inches accumulation by Tuesday evening.
Just remember to drive carefully and if you must go to Krogers or another store, call first to see if they have what you need so you don't waste a trip!

Dr. Daniel Mongiardo to run for Senate race

Per the AP, Lt. Governor Daniel Mongiardo, MD, has announced his intentions to run for the United States Senate seat currently held by National Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning.
"The people of Kentucky deserve a senator that has the vision, energy and record to help improve our state and country," Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo said Monday in a written statement announcing his candidacy for the November 2010 election.

A longtime physician in the Kentucky coalfields, Mongiardo is the first to formally announce his intentions to challenge Bunning, although at least two others have said they are considering the race. Mongiardo said he will file the necessary paperwork later this week, setting up a possible rematch.[...]

"We have a senator who is simply not getting the job done," Mongiardo said. "He offers no ideas, no actions and no solutions. I believe today, as I did in 2004, that Jim Bunning continues to fail the people of our Commonwealth. Kentucky's families deserve better."

Attorney General Jack Conway and state Auditor Crit Luallen, both Democrats, have said they also are considering entering the race and that they will announce their decisions by spring.[...]

Mongiardo, elected lieutenant governor just over a year ago, said he made the decision to run for Bunning's seat based on a desire to improve health care.

"I have made fixing our broken health care system my life's mission," Mongiardo said. "I understand and see every day how the cost of health care is burdening families and damaging the ability of businesses to compete, to grow, and to create jobs."

His decision to challenge Bunning means Gov. Steve Beshear will likely have to choose a new running mate for his expected 2011 re-election bid. Before he can begin fundraising, Beshear has to name his running mate.

Beshear spokesman Jay Blanton said Monday the governor is not ready to discuss who his running mate will be.

"Right now, his focus in on the state budget crisis and the legislative session, she's not going to speculate on who that running mate might be," Blanton said.

Beshear said in a statement that Mongiardo would be an outstanding senator, calling him an "important voice for Kentucky's future."
Things will start heating up soon.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

15th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards

I'm going to be live-blogging the awards tonight.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series: Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series: Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series: 30 Rock
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role: Kate Winslet, The Reader
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series: Hugh Laurie, House
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series: Sally Field, Brothers and Sisters
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series: Mad Men
Screen Actors Guild Awards 45th Annual Life Achievement Award: James Earl Jones
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries: Laura Linney, John Adams
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries: Paul Giamatti, John Adams
Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture: The Dark Knight
Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Television Series: Heroes
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role: Meryl Streep, Doubt
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role: Sean Penn, Milk
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture: Slumdog Millionaire

Producers Guild Awards

These were announced last night.

The Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award Theatrical: Christian Colson, Slumdog Millionaire
Producer of the Year Award in Animated Theatrical Motion Picture: Jim Morris, Wall-E
Producer Of The Year Award in Feature Documentary: Simon Chin, Man On Wire
The David L. Wolper Producer of the Year Award in Long-Form Television: David Coatsworth, Frank Doelger, Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks, Steven Shareshian, John Adams
The Norman Felton Producer of the Year Award in Television - Drama: Matthew Weiner, Scott Hornbacher, Mad Men
The Danny Thomas Producer of the Year Award in Episodic Television - Comedy: Lorne Michaels, Tina Fey, Marci Klein, Robert Carlock, Jeff Richmond, Jerry Kupfer, David Miner, 30 Rock
Producer of the Year Award in Non-Fiction Television: Jeff Fager, 60 Minutes
Producer of the Year Award in Live Entertainment/Competition: Stephen T. Colbert, Jon Stewart, Allison Silverman, Richard Dahm, Meredith Bennett, Tom Purcell, The Colbert Report

Is Blago insane or just crazy?

Rod Blagojevich appeared on NBC's The Today Show this morning and apparently compared himself to human and civil rights heroes.
Impeached Gov. Blagojevich, on the first leg of his media blitz timed to the start of his impeachment trial, in an NBC interview broadcast on The Today Show Sunday compared himself to human rights heros Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.

On the press offensive, Blagojevich has lined up national interviews--NBC, ABC, "The View" to run as his impeachment trail starts Monday before the Illinois state senate in Springfield.

Blagojevich, wearing a blue ivy league shirt, told NBC's Amy Robach that he has not prepared mentally for possibly going to prison. The impeachment was triggered by Blagojevich's Dec. 9 arrest on criminal charges, including trying to auction off President Obama's vacant senate seat.

As Dec. 9 unfolded, Blagojevich told NBC, "I thought about Mandela, Dr. King and Gandhi and tried to put some perspective to all this and that is what I am doing now."
Yea, he's THAT insane.

Former Red Sean Casey to retire

Sean Casey is reportedly retiring.
Sean Casey, who hit .302 in 12 major league seasons, reportedly is retiring to join the MLB Network.

WEEI-Radio in Boston reported that Casey would retire and join the MLB Network in an unknown capacity.

Casey, who backed up at first base for the Red Sox in 2008, hit .322 last season in 69 games.

A longtime member of the Reds, Casey hit a career-best .332 in 1999 while with Cincinnati. He twice (1999 and 2004) drove in 99 runs with the Reds.

Kroger shelf watch

Louisville is under a winter storm watch, meaning that everyone will panic and buy stores out of milk and bread, or risk having nothing at all to eat!
There is a possibility of some light snow this evening before 1 a.m., with snow becoming is more likely — a 70 percent chance — tomorrow night. The forecast calls for a possible accumulation of as much as 2 inches.

An additional 2 inches of snow, sleet and freezing rain are being predicted for Tuesday when temperatures are expected to hit a high of 28.

A bit more snow — a tenth to a quarter of an inch is predicted for Tuesday night.

The weather service says more snow is possible on and off through Friday, but it has no estimates of accumulation at this time.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

81st Academy Award Nominees

The Oscar nominees were announced this morning. As is the usual case, I'm bolding who I think will win each award, judging by who took home awards in the other ceremonies. Granted, The Dark Knight was robbed of a best picture nomination. The movie brings in over $500 million and does not get nominated? This is a disturbing trend as of late. The past few Oscar ceremonies have seen films get nominated that usually open limited and none are a bonafide blockbuster. The last blockbuster movie that was nominated for Best Picture came during the 76th Academy Awards (televised in 2004, honoring the movies released in 2003).

Best Motion Picture of the year
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros)
A Kennedy/Marshall Production
Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall and Ceán Chaffin, Producers

Frost/Nixon (Universal)
A Universal Pictures, Imagine Entertainment and Working Title Production
Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Eric Fellner, Producers

Milk (Focus Features)
A Groundswell and Jinks/Cohen Company Production
Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, Producers

The Reader (The Weinstein Company)
A Mirage Enterprises and Neunte Babelsberg Film GmbH Production
Anthony Minghella, Sydney Pollack, Donna Gigliotti and Redmond Morris, Producers

Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight)
A Celador Films Production
Christian Colson, Producer

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, The Reader

Achievement in directing
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Gus Van Sant, Milk
Stephen Daldry, The Reader
Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Josh Brolin, Milk
Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Amy Adams, Doubt
Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler

Original screenplay
Courtney Hunt, Frozen River
Mike Leigh, Happy-Go-Lucky
Martin McDonagh, In Bruges
Dustin Lance Black, Milk
Andrew Stanton and Jim Reardon (Original story by Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter), WALL-E

Adapted screenplay
Eric Roth (Screen story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
John Patrick Shanley, Doubt
Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon
David Hare, The Reader
Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire

Best animated feature film of the year
Bolt (Walt Disney) Chris Williams and Byron Howard
Kung Fu Panda (DreamWorks Animation, Distributed by Paramount) John Stevenson and Mark Osborne
WALL-E (Walt Disney) Andrew Stanton

Best foreign language film of the year
The Baader Meinhof Complex, A Constantin Film Production, Germany
The Class (Sony Pictures Classics), A Haut et Court Production, France
Departures (Regent Releasing), A Departures Film Partners Production, Japan
Revanche (Janus Films), A Prisma Film/Fernseh Production, Austria
Waltz with Bashir (Sony Pictures Classics), A Bridgit Folman Film Gang Production, Israel

Best documentary feature
The Betrayal (Nerakhoon) (Cinema Guild), A Pandinlao Films Production, Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath
Encounters at the End of the World (THINKFilm and Image Entertainment), A Creative Differences Production, Werner Herzog and Henry Kaiser
The Garden, A Black Valley Films Production, Scott Hamilton Kennedy
Man on Wire (Magnolia Pictures), A Wall to Wall Production, James Marsh and Simon Chinn
Trouble the Water (Zeitgeist Films), An Elsewhere Films Production, Tia Lessin and Carl Deal

Best documentary short subject
The Conscience of Nhem En, A Farallon Films Production, Steven Okazaki
The Final Inch, A Vermilion Films Production, Irene Taylor Brodsky and Tom Grant
Smile Pinki, A Principe Production, Megan Mylan
The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306, A Rock Paper Scissors Production, Adam Pertofsky and Margaret Hyde

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
Alexandre Desplat, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
James Newton Howard, Defiance
Danny Elfman, Milk
A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire
Thomas Newman, WALL-E

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
"Down to Earth” from WALL-E
Music by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman, Lyric by Peter Gabriel

“Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire
Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Gulzar
“O Saya” from Slumdog Millionaire
Music and Lyric by A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam

Achievement in art direction
Art Direction: James J. Murakami, Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Art Direction: Donald Graham Burt, Set Decoration: Victor J. Zolfo
The Dark Knight
Art Direction: Nathan Crowley, Set Decoration: Peter Lando

The Duchess
Art Direction: Michael Carlin, Set Decoration: Rebecca Alleway
Revolutionary Road
Art Direction: Kristi Zea, Set Decoration: Debra Schutt

Achievement in cinematography
Tom Stern, Changeling
Claudio Miranda, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Wally Pfister, The Dark Knight
Chris Menges and Roger Deakins, The Reader
Anthony Dod Mantle, Slumdog Millionaire

Achievement in costume design
Catherine Martin, Australia
Jacqueline West, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Michael O’Connor, The Duchess
Danny Glicker, Milk
Albert Wolsky, Revolutionary Road

Achievement in film editing
Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Lee Smith, The Dark Knight
Mike Hill and Dan Hanley, Frost/Nixon
Elliot Graham, Milk
Chris Dickens, Slumdog Millionaire

Achievement in makeup
Greg Cannom, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
John Caglione, Jr. and Conor O’Sullivan, The Dark Knight
Mike Elizalde and Thom Floutz, Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Best animated short film
La Maison en Petits Cubes, A Robot Communications Production, Kunio Kato
Lavatory - Lovestory, A Melnitsa Animation Studio and CTB Film Company Production, Konstantin Bronzit
Oktapodi (Talantis Films) A Gobelins, L’école de l’image Production, Emud Mokhberi and Thierry Marchand
Presto (Walt Disney) A Pixar Animation Studios Production, Doug Sweetland
This Way Up, A Nexus Production, Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes

Best live action short film
Auf der Strecke (On the Line) (Hamburg Shortfilmagency), A Media Arts Cologne Production, Reto Caffi
Manon on the Asphalt (La Luna Productions), A La Luna Production, Elizabeth Marre and Olivier Pont
New Boy (Network Ireland Television), A Zanzibar Films Production, Steph Green and Tamara Anghie
The Pig, An M & M Production, Tivi Magnusson and Dorte Høgh
Spielzeugland (Toyland), A Mephisto Film Production, Jochen Alexander Freydank

Achievement in sound editing
Richard King, The Dark Knight
Frank Eulner and Christopher Boyes, Iron Man
Tom Sayers, Slumdog Millionaire
Ben Burtt and Matthew Wood, WALL-E
Wylie Stateman, Wanted

Achievement in sound mixing
David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Mark Weingarten, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo and Ed Novick, The Dark Knight
Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty, Slumdog Millionaire
Tom Myers, Michael Semanick and Ben Burtt, WALL-E
Chris Jenkins, Frank A. Montaño and Petr Forejt, Wanted

Achievement in visual effects
Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Tim Webber and Paul Franklin, The Dark Knight
John Nelson, Ben Snow, Dan Sudick and Shane Mahan, Iron Man

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tom and Jerry to get feature film

The cartoon characters, Tom and Jerry, are coming to the big screen. That's right, following the likes of Garfield and the blockbuster surprise Alvin and the Chipmunks, another cartoon property is coming to the big screen.
Warner Bros. is turning to Tom and Jerry to create its own "Alvin and the Chipmunks"-like family franchise.
Plans are to bring the constantly warring cat and mouse to life as CG characters that run around in live-action settings.

Studio-based Dan Lin, currently producing the upcoming "Sherlock Holmes" and exec producer on "Terminator: Salvation," will adapt the classic Hanna-Barbera property as an origin story that reveals how Tom and Jerry first meet and form their rivalry before getting lost in Chicago and reluctantly working together during an arduous journey home.

Eric Gravning is penning the script.[...]

Warners owns the rights to Hanna-Barbera’s slate of popular animated properties and has several of them in development for bigscreen adaptation.

Those include Robert Rodriguez’s version of "The Jetsons" and producer Donald De Line’s "Yogi Bear."

The live-action/animated combo has worked for Warners before.

The studio successfully turned "Scooby-Doo" into a live-action franchise with two films that earned a combined $457 million theatrically and a direct-to-DVD feature in the works. It cast the Looney Tunes characters opposite Michael Jordan in "Space Jam" long before that, and there was Joe Dante’s "Looney Tunes: Back in Action," starring Brendan Fraser, in 2003.[...]

Revenue potential from worldwide box office, DVD, games and merchandise sales, as well as the potential for sequels and earnings from TV and homevid spinoffs, is considered too good to pass up.

The built-in familiarity of the characters has studio bosses feeling they’re not taking the kind of risk associated with creating a new property marketing mavens must promote from scratch.

"Tom and Jerry" originated as a series of 114 animated shorts, produced by MGM’s toon studio between 1940 and 1960, and won seven Academy Awards. New toons were produced after that, and Warner Bros. released "Tom and Jerry: The Movie" in 1992 as a feature-length toon.

Obama retakes oath

President Obama deciding to retake the oath again, saying how much fun it was the first time doing so.
After the flub heard around the world, President Barack Obama has taken the oath of office. Again. Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the oath to Obama on Wednesday night at the White House — a rare do-over. The surprise moment came in response to Tuesday's much-noticed stumble, when Roberts got the words of the oath a little off, which prompted Obama to do so, too.[...]

Nevertheless, Obama and Roberts went through the drill again out of what White House counsel Greg Craig called "an abundance of caution."

This time, the scene was the White House Map Room in front of a small group of reporters, not the Capitol platform before the whole watching world.

"We decided that because it was so much fun ...," Obama joked to reporters who followed press secretary Robert Gibbs into the room. No TV camera crews or news photographers were allowed in. A few of Obama's closest aides were there, along with a White House photographer.

Roberts put on his black robe.

"Are you ready to take the oath?" he said.

"Yes, I am," Obama said. "And we're going to do it very slowly."

Roberts then led Obama through the oath without any missteps.

The president said he did not have his Bible with him, but that the oath was binding anyway.[...]

Craig, the White House lawyer, said in a statement Wednesday evening: "We believe the oath of office was administered effectively and that the president was sworn in appropriately yesterday. Yet the oath appears in the Constitution itself. And out of the abundance of caution, because there was one word out of sequence, Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the oath a second time."

The Constitution is clear about the exact wording of the oath and as a result, some constitutional experts have said that a do-over probably wasn't necessary but also couldn't hurt. Two other previous presidents have repeated the oath because of similar issues, Calvin Coolidge and Chester A. Arthur.

Biden pokes fun at John Roberts

Vice President Joe Biden poked some fun at Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
Today, after Mr. Obama praised his staffers as "an extraordinary collection of talent" who "inspire great confidence in me," the president asked his Number 2 if he wanted to administer the oath.

"Am I doing this again?" Vice President Biden asked. A few minutes before, he had sworn in seven individuals who had been confirmed by the Senate to Cabinet and Cabinet-level posts.

"For the senior staff," Mr. Obama said.

"For the senior staff?" Biden repeated. "Alright."

Biden tried to get a copy of the oath to read to the senior staffers.

"My memory is not as good as Justice Roberts," Biden explained, prompting some laughter and groans from the audience.
Here's video of the first Bidenism, taken at the expense of Justice Roberts:

The latest happenings

President Obama has strengthened his committment to stop arms smuggling by Hamas.
President Barack Obama told Ehud Olmert and three other Middle East leaders he is determined to stop Hamas from smuggling arms.

According to a statement from White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, the new president placed phone calls Wednesday morning to Olmert, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and King Adullah of Jordan.

The statement said that Obama "emphasized his determination to work to help consolidate the cease-fire by establishing an effective anti-smuggling regime to prevent Hamas from rearming, and facilitating in partnership with the Palestinian Authority a major reconstruction effort for Palestinians in Gaza."

Obama in the statement pledged that the United States, working with the international community, "would do its part to make these efforts successful."

He also communicated to the four leaders "his commitment to active engagement in pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace from the beginning of his term" and "his hope for their continued cooperation and leadership."
Seriously, South Africa? A boycott of Jewish-owned businesses?
An e-mail campaign is urging South Africans to boycott Jewish-owned businesses.[...]

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies condemned the campaign. Board chairman Zev Krengel said it was "a frightening thought that there are people with such hatred." Krengel adds later, "If you juxtapose the word Jew with black you get racism in its purest form."

The Palestine Solidarity Committee of South Africa labeled the e-mail "irresponsible" and "racist." ASpokesperson Na'eem Jeenah said that his organization's "solidarity action was against the State of Israel and Zionism, not against Jewish people."
And published articles in a Russian paper?

In France, um, Jews are starting to fear for their lives with a rise in anti-Semitic attacks.

The Butchering of the Oath

Here's the transcript of what actually went down yesterday afternoon:
Roberts: Are you prepared to take the oath, senator?
Obama: I am
Roberts: I Barack Hussein Obama
Obama: I Barack
Roberts: do Solemnly swear
Obama: I Barack Hussein Obama do solemnly swear
Roberts: That I will execute the office of President to the United States faithfully
Obama: that I will execute
Roberts: the off...faithfully the Pres the office of President of the United States
Obama: the office of President of the United States faithfully
Roberts: and will to the best of my ability
Obama: and will to the best of my ability
Roberts: preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States
Obama: preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States
Roberts: So help you G-d
Obama: So help me G-d
Roberts: Congratulations, Mr. President

The oath, as required by Article 2, Section 1 in the United States Constitution reads as follows: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What could have been...

What could have been...

Caption Contest

Come up with a caption for this photo.

Meanwhile, 26 candidates have chosen to run for his seat in the special election.
The Democrat who wins the primary will be heavily favored in the district, which stretches from the shores of Lake Michigan to the suburbs around O'Hare Airport. Barack Obama won nearly three in four votes in the district.

Democrats with an early head start include state Reps. Sara Feigenholtz and John Fritchey, Chicago Alderman Patrick O'Connor and Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley. Some expect attorney Tom Geoghegan to compete seriously for the seat.

Justin Oberman, a former top official at the Transportation Security Administration and a member of Obama's advisory committee on Homeland Security, and Pete Dagher, who ran against Emanuel in 2002 and aided Obama's presidential campaign, are also in the race. So is Frank Annunzio, the namesake and distant relative of the Chicago congressman who retired in 1992.

A poll conducted for Quigley shows Quigley sporting an early lead, with 19 percent of the vote. Feigenholtz and Fritchey hovered around the double-digit mark.

The poll, conducted Jan. 8 through Jan. 13 with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent, did not include either O'Connor or Geoghegan.

President Obama and his BlackBerry

John Podesta argues that President Barack Obama should keep his BlackBerry. Even if he doesn't use it for emailing purposes, he can still access the internet with it.
"Let the man have his BlackBerry."

I said that to a meeting of senior transition staffers in Washington last week. I've been working with Barack Obama since before the election, and I know that without his virtual connection to old friends and trusted confidants beyond the bubble that seals off every president from the people who elected him, he'd be like a caged lion padding restlessly around the West Wing, wondering what's happening on the other side of the iron bars that surround the People's House.[...]

Obama understands that he has to tap every possible source of ideas and support if he is to meet the hope he has inspired in tens of millions of Americans. As he said the other day in a news conference: "Democrats or Republicans, we welcome good ideas. ... This is not an intellectual exercise, and there is no pride of authorship."

That's why his first major political meeting took him not to the Congressional Democratic Caucus but to Independence Hall in Philadelphia, for a bipartisan meeting with America's governors and discussions that ranged far beyond the who's up and who's down concerns of the Beltway. It's also why he altered the tax provisions in his economic recovery plan simply because senators convinced him that more jobs would be created if money were invested somewhere besides a tax credit for companies hiring new workers.

He asks, he listens, he decides. Good traits for troubled times.

And he doesn't really hold grudges. He knew that he needed someone whose experience can help him reassert American leadership in a world that needs leadership badly, so he went outside the bubble and picked Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who had been through a brutal 15-round title fight with him for the nomination, to be his secretary of State.

I know that the capacity to reach out and stay in contact with the world beyond the bubble will remind President Obama that economic recovery isn't measured by the theoretical economic returns but in people employed in good jobs, with secure benefits and rising wages.

It will remind him that education policy is less about legislative victories or targeted grants and more about sending children into the world with the tools they need.

And energy policy is more than progressive ideas and editorial approval. It's protecting a beautiful nation for us and our children and putting people to work keeping it green.

Today, thousands of reporters, pundits and bloggers will produce instant analyses of the president's swearing-in. By dawn Wednesday, there will be a comprehensive document in President Obama's in-box summarizing the reaction, highlighting key opinion makers and linking to original sources across the Internet. Obama will surely flip through them.

But I know that he will have gotten his first feedback hours earlier, from a friend, far beyond the Beltway. On the Blackberry he's keeping. And knowing that gives me hope.
This article from ABC confirms that he's likely to keep his BlackBerry.
ABC News' Ann Compton reports that top confidantes David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett tell ABC News that Obama will keep his blackberry to keep up personal contacts "outside the bubble" of the White House. The two advisors confirm the president-elect wants to continue messaging political allies and personal friends such as his high school friends from Hawaii. "He's pretty determined," Axelrod says.

Sen. Ted Kennedy suffers possible seizure at luncheon

Sen. Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy suffered a possible seizure while attending the luncheon for President Barack H. Obama. I ask that you keep him in your thoughts and prayers.
Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was stricken Tuesday at an inauguration luncheon for President Barack Obama and wheeled away on a stretcher.

A Capitol police officer stood up at the luncheon and said medical attention was needed.

Kennedy collapsed and was wheeled out from the Capitol luncheon following the inauguration of the 44th president. Kennedy reportedly suffered convulsions.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a close friend of Kennedy’s, said the senator had a seizure that was “very upsetting” to onlookers.

Kennedy, 76, remained conscious and was able to say a few words, Hatch told MSNBC.

Prayers were spoken, and Obama went over to provide comfort, Hatch said, before Senate colleagues took Kennedy to the ambulance.

The Massachusetts Democrat was hospitalized in May after suffering a seizure. He was later diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.

Obama acknowledged Kennedy during his luncheon remarks, saying that his prayers are with the senator and his family.

Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., also left the luncheon after feeling discomfort. Byrd is the longest-serving senator in history.
Here's an update from Senator John Kerry via MSNBC:
Sen. John Kerry went to the hospital to see Sen. Ted Kennedy. Kerry said Kennedy will spend the night there to rest but is doing well.

"His Irish is up. He's in good shape, laughing and joking, anxious to get back to work," Kerry said, describing Kennedy's mood.

Kerry added that Kennedy expects to be back in the Senate and views this as a momentary interruption.

He also said that the kind of seizure Kennedy experienced today "goes with the territory" of the brain cancer he is battling.

Barack Obama's Inaugural Address

The following is President Barack Obama's Inaugural address, as prepared for delivery:

My fellow citizens:
I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the G-d-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that ` calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it)."

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and G-`d's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

The first joke of the presidency

This one has been going around for a while and since you really can't find much negative humor, if any about the new administration, it's a positive one.
New White House Staff

So far we have:
Rahm Emanuel - Chief of Staff - Jewish

David Axelrod - Senior Advisor to the President - Jewish

Ronald Klain - Chief of Staff to the Vice President of the United States - Jewish

Larry Summers - Economic Advisor to the President - Jewish

Paul Volcker - Economic Advisor to the President, Former Head of Federal Reserve - Jewish

Tim Geithner - Treasury Secretary - Jewish

Peter Orszag - Head of Budget - Jewish

Is Barack assembling an administration or trying to make a minyan?
JTA has a posting up on the subject and points out that Geithner is not Jewish.

Let's let President George W. Bush get the last laugh

Eight years are finally at an end and how else should we celebrate the end of an error (2000 was not as legit as 2004 obviously) by letting the outgoing president, George Walker Bush, get the last laugh.
In his final news conference as president, George W. Bush showed he hasn't lost his sense of humor. Some examples:

When thanking the press for their work, he poked fun himself, recalling one of his most famous word mix-ups: "Sometimes you misunderestimated me."

He teased CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux about his repeated mispronunciation of her name — it's correctly pronounced Soo-ZAHN — saying: "I finally got your name right after, how many years?" The final answer: eight years.

A reporter preceded a question with, "And I'm not trying to play gotcha." Bush's first response: "Gotcha."

Bush joked about his post-presidency plans, saying: "I just can't envision myself, you know, the big straw hat and a Hawaiian shirt sitting on some beach. ... Particularly since I quit drinking."

Bush simultaneously quipped about the all-consuming nature of the job as well as his regular mountain biking. He said: "And there's not a moment where you don't think about being president. Unless you're riding mountain bikes as hard as you possibly can, trying to forget for the moment."

Bush called the press conference the "ultimate exit interview."

The president humorously reminisced about his inauguration. "And the minute I got sworn in, I was started thinking about the speech."

While calling on one reporter, Bush teased her, asking if she was "asleep back there."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Politics, schmolitics

I don't know if this is true or not, but it's been reported that Michael Jackson has amended his will to give the rights to Beatles' songs back to Sir Paul McCartney.
Michael Jackson is rumored to have altered his will so that control of the Paul McCartney-written Beatles songs will revert to the man who penned them upon the King of Pop's death.
It is only January 2009 and the next federal elections won't take place until 2010. That's not stopping folks from talking about running for the United States Senate, especially in Kentucky where Jim Bunning is up for re-election. Here's the word from The Fix, from last December.
1. Kentucky (R): When Sen. Jim Bunning (R) narrowly escaped an upset defeat in 2004, most party operatives expected he wouldn't seek reelection six years hence. But Bunning insiders insist he is ready to run for a third term -- although doubts persist. Assuming he is running again, Bunning is in real trouble. While we don't expect Rep. Ben Chandler (D) to run -- he is perfectly happy sitting on Appropriations in the House -- Democrats are certain to field a strong candidate with Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo, who lost to Bunning 51 percent to 49 percent in 2004, probably having the right of first refusal. Among the other Democrats mentioned are state Attorney General Jack Conway and state Auditor Crit Luallen.
State Auditor Crit Luallen will decide by this spring as to what she decides to do. She's in her second term as state auditor.
"I am getting a lot of encouragement to consider the Senate race," Luallen told The Associated Press in an interview last week. "I'm certainly not ruling anything out."
Joe Gerth comments that April 15 will be the unofficial deadline to enter the 2010 race against Bunning.
Bunning, a Republican, maintains that he is running for re-election for a term that would end when he's 85 years old. He has created a fundraising committee and reportedly has begun calling and asking for contributions.

Some still don't believe he's going to run. We'll take him at his word. But there are other Republicans waiting if Bunning rethinks his decision. Secretary of State Trey Grayson is most often mentioned, but there are other names floating out there, including U.S. Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-1st District, and Geoff Davis, R-4th District.[...]

Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, who nearly beat Bunning in 2004, is seen as likely to enter the race. In an interview Friday, Mongiardo said he's still weighing his decision and expects to make an announcement in late March or early April.

But Mongiardo said fundraising now probably wouldn't be very successful because of last year's presidential race and the hard-fought Senate race between Mitch McConnell and Bruce Lunsford.

"There's just a fatigue in donors because of the races going on for the past 12 months," he said.

State Auditor Crit Luallen is on a similar timeline, saying she'll make her decision sometime around the end of March. She said she's laid out a plan to raise money and campaign and is now weighing personal considerations.

"I'm looking at it," she said. "It's important that the Democrats have a viable, strong candidate. … I believe it is a very winnable race."

But Luallen won't run if U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler or state Attorney General Jack Conway gets into the race, she said. The three Democrats will settle on one candidate.

Chandler has downplayed any interest in the race but hasn't ruled it out, saying he's happy in the House, where he has a coveted seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee. He's got a safe seat in Kentucky's 6th District, which hasn't turned out an incumbent in more than 30 years.

Some have speculated that a call from President-elect Barack Obama, whom Chandler endorsed during the campaign, might get him into the race, but unless Chandler signals some interest, a busy Obama probably wouldn't make the call.

Chandler didn't return phone calls.

That brings us to Conway, the 39-year-old attorney general who already has made his rounds in Washington, D.C., talking to folks with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee about a possible run.

Mark Riddle, his political adviser, said only that Conway is considering a run and is receiving encouragement from people in Kentucky and Washington.

Conway, Luallen and Mongiardo all agree on one thing: They hope there isn't a contested primary that would force Democrats to spend millions of dollars during the spring that would be better spent against Bunning in the fall.

If they can save the money for fall, all the Democrats will be popping corks.
In Evan Bayh news, here's a nice article on his former communications director, Dan Pfeiffer.

Dan Issel was happy that it was Jodie Meeks that broke his record.
It was late in the first half, after Jodie Meeks had made a shot from over there and another from over there and then yet another from way over there, that Dan Issel turned to his wife, Cheri, and made his prediction:

"Jodie has a heckuva shot to get the record. He's got that look in his eye. He's playing with an unbelievable amount of confidence. I think he's going to do it."

Issel could always make a shot -- and call one.
Daniel Kurtzman asks comedy writers how they will survive the Obama comedy crisis.

According to Jim, it's over

It's official. The Jim Belushi series, According to Jim, is finally over. It's about time, too, because ABC was slowly killing the show with bring it back at midseason the past few years.
The actor-producer-director’s amazingly durable ABC sitcom, “According to Jim” is officially over.

Rumors floating around the left coast this week that ABC had canceled the eight-year-old show aren’t true, according to Belushi.

“We had a contract for eight years and we completed the contract,” Belushi told us. “I’m moving on.”

Belushi says production wrapped in November.

So why hasn’t the network made an official announcement?

“I don’t really know,” Belushi said. “Probably because its not all that important.”

Plus, the network has 12 final unaired episodes of the series it can work into its schedule when one of its mid-season replacements wobbles in the ratings.

Belushi also dished on the series finale guest-starring Dan Aykroyd, Lee Majors and Erik Estrada.

“I directed it,” he previews. “We had a hell of a party.”

So how exactly does he leave his TV family?

Says Belushi: “Jim never changes, let’s put it that way.”

While “According to Jim” was never a critical darling, it proved a long-term utility player for ABC over the years even as the network continuously bounced the show around it’s prime-time schedule, taking it off the air for months at a time.

So how does Belushi explain the show’s longevity?

“There’s an audience out there that really likes it,” he explained. “It’s the chemistry that [co-star] Courtney [Thorne-Smith] and I share. It’s about the relationship between men and women, between friends and between a father and his children.”

Belushi says he set the show’s trademark tone back in the show’s 2001 pilot.

“The original script called for Jim to go to the wife and apologize,” he recalls. “I said to the writers ‘Why do we have to do a show where the guy is going to apologize at the end of every episode? Was he really wrong? He’s contrite, sure. But isn’t he just being a man?’”

Buzz was actually on the phone with Belushi to discuss his and buddy Aykroyd’s long overdue Blues Brothers reunion concert here next month at The Tabernacle downtown. The duo memorably performed two gigs at the historic venue during the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Much ado about...

Ron Kampeas analyzes the BBC parody that aired on the Israeli TV comedy program, Eretz Nehederet.

Robert Fisk has a very interesting read in The Independent on why you should leave WW2 out of the discussion.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

An Apatow or Rogen Update

It feels like it's been frickin' years since I posted something about Judd Apatow, or even Seth Rogen. Obviously, I've been a bit pre-occupied so, in a Steve Martin voice, excuse me!

Here's a look at some of the five best bits in a movie that was either produced or directed by Judd Apatow. The movies include Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Knocked Up, Pineapple Express, and a mere reference to the ending song sequence in The 40 Year Old Virgin.

In 2009, we shall see Funny People and Year One get box office release dates.

Last Tuesday, Judd Apatow hosted an event that will be featured in Funny People.

Speaking of 2009, what about those blockbusters? Just a brief disclaimer that Alvin actually was released at the end of 2007.
Fox's holiday 2006 smashes Night At The Museum ($575m worldwide) and Alvin And The Chipmunks ($360m worldwide) both have sequels in 2009. Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian sees Amy Adams join Ben Stiller and company in a new city and new museum on May 22, while Alvin And The Chipmunks - The Squeakuel arrives in theatres with a new director (Betty Thomas) but the same human star (Jason Lee) on Christmas Day.[...]

The comedies lined up for release in 2009 see some tasty talent teaming up, and should build on comedies' current market share.

Take Judd Apatow's next film, Funny People, which is set for release by Universal on July 31. Set in the world of stand-up, it features Apatow regulars Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann (aka Mrs Apatow) and Jonah Hill alongside Adam Sandler and Eric Bana. Apatow also produced ancient-world comedy The Year One with Jack Black and Michael Cera (Sony, June 19), while Rogen teams up with newcomer Jody Hill (The Foot Fist Way) on Observe And Report (Warner Bros, April 10).

Romantic comedy pairings are plentiful - from Sandra Bullock and Thomas Haden Church in All About Steve (Fox, March 6), to Bullock and Ryan Reynolds in The Proposal (Disney, June 12), Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner in The Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past (Warner Bros, May 1) and Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler in The Ugly Truth (Sony, April 3).

Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker have an untitled comedy at Sony (December 25), while a slew of stars including Jennifer Aniston, Scarlett Johansson, Drew Barrymore and Ben Affleck try to understand romance in He's Just Not That Into You (Warner Bros, February 6).

Other star vehicles include Eddie Murphy in family comedy Imagine That (Paramount, June 12), Dwayne Johnson as The Tooth Fairy (Fox, November 13), John Travolta and Robin Williams in Old Dogs (Disney, November 27), Zac Efron as a young Matthew Perry in Warner's story about a man reliving his youth in 17 Again (April 17), John Hamburg's I Love You, Man with Paul Rudd and Jason Segel (Paramount, March 20), and Isla Fisher in PJ Hogan's Confessions Of A Shopaholic (Disney, February 13).

Meryl Streep has two major comedies in 2009: in Nora Ephron's Julie & Julia (Sony, August 7) she plays a celebrity cook, and at Christmas she teams with Nancy Meyers for an untitled film in which Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin vie for her attention. Mamma Mia, indeed.
Don't forget Fanboys, due out on February 6.
The long delayed Fanboys will arrive in theaters February 6 and the first clip is now online, courtesy of Trailer Addict. The comedy, which follows a group of Star Wars fans as they travel to Skywalker Ranch to steal an early copy of Episode I: The Phantom Menace, stars Sam Huntington, Chris Marquette, Dan Fogler, Jay Baruchel, Kristen Bell, Carrie Fisher, Ray Park, Joe Lo Truglio, Danny Trejo, Billy Dee Williams, Seth Rogen, Christopher McDonald and William Shatner.

To give you an idea of how long the flick has been sitting on the shelf – Seth Rogen filmed his Fanboys role before Knocked Up, Superbad and Pineapple Express.
Well, there you have it.

Unilateral ceasefire delcared

The State of Israel has announced a unilateral ceasefire, with conditions of course.
Israel was set to begin a unilateral cease-fire in the Gaza Strip at 2 a.m. Sunday.

The National Security Cabinet voted Saturday night to approve the cease-fire. Seven ministers voted for the measure, two voted against and one abstained, according to reports.

The declaration came on the 21st day of Operation Cast Lead.

In a statement to the public and the media at 11 p.m. Saturday night, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that the objectives of the operation in Gaza, which included two weeks of ground operations in the coastal strip, "were fully achieved and more so."

Olmert made it clear that the decision to halt Israel's operations in Gaza was unilateral, based on agreements sought with the international community.

"It must be remembered that Hamas is not part of the arrangements we came to," Olmert said. "These are agreements involving many countries, and a terrorist organization like Hamas is not and need not be a part of them."

The prime minister said that he had received letters from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledging their assistance in ending arms smuggling from Egypt into Gaza.

Israeli troops will remain in Gaza for now, Olmert said. He added that if rockets continue to fall on southern Israel, then Israel would be prepared to respond.

Olmert noted that as he was speaking, a demonstration of hundreds of Israelis demanding that abducted soldier Gilad Shalit, who is believed to be held in Gaza, be released as part of any cease-fire.

"The intensive efforts to secure Gilad’s release began long before the operation, continued during it and will continue after as well," Olmert said. "The Government of Israel is working on many levels to bring him home, and during the operation we carried out various actions to bring us closer to this goal. Due to the sensitivity of the matter, I will not go into detail. I will only say that Gilad is at the top of our agenda, and we do not need any prodding or reminding in this matter."

Olmert praised Israel' soldiers, their families and the residents of the south for their "fierce spirit." The prime minister also expressed his regret to Gaza civilians: "We do not hate you; we did not want and do not want to harm you. We wanted to defend our children, their parents, their families. We feel the pain of every Palestinian child and family member who fell victim to the cruel reality created by Hamas which transformed you into victims."

Israel's announcement came a day after Israel and the United States signed a memorandum of understanding in which the United States and its NATO and regional allies pledged to will Israel in efforts to prevent weapons smuggling by terrorists into Gaza.

The memorandum of understanding, signed Friday in Washington by Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, and Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. secretary of state, enhances security cooperation.

Shortly after Olmert finished his announcement, a rocket from Gaza landed in Beersheba, one of more than 20 rocket and mortar attacks on the area Sunday. A rocket fired into Ashdod Saturday night caused power outages in the city. Earlier a rocket struck a synagogue in Tifrah, near Ofakim. The rocket hit during a break in Shabbat services and the synagogue was empty.

A seven-year-old boy struck in the head by shrapnel in Beersheba on Friday remained in critical condition.

Earlier on Saturday, nine soldiers were wounded during two separate incidents in Gaza. One of the incidents in which four soldiers were wounded is being investigated as a friendly-fire incident.