Week In Review – News, Pop Culture Tech & More. December 1, 2011
Compiled By Gary West @ Mr Pop History & Mr Pop Culture
Al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of a 70-year-old American aid worker in Pakistan in August, and issued a series of demands for his release. In a video message posted on militant websites, al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri said Warren Weinstein would be released if the United States stopped airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. He also demanded the release of all al-Qaida and Taliban suspects around the world. “Just as the Americans detain all whom they suspect of links to al-Qaida and the Taliban, even remotely, we detained this man who is neck-deep in American aid to Pakistan since the 1970s,” al-Zawahri said, according to a translation provided by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant messages.
Ignoring a presidential veto threat, the Democratic-controlled Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a massive, $662 billion defense bill that would require the military to hold suspected terrorists linked to al-Qaida or its affiliates, even those captured on U.S. soil, and detain some indefinitely. The vote was 93-7 for the bill authorizing money for military personnel, weapons systems, national security programs in the Energy Department, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Reflecting a period of austerity and a winding down of decade-old conflicts, the bill is $27 billion less than what President Barack Obama requested and $43 billion less than what Congress gave the Pentagon this year.
The Senate on Thursday sidetracked rival plans to extend a Social Security payroll tax cut, in dueling votes that pave the way for negotiations on a compromise on a core component of President Barack Obama’s jobs program. First, Republicans defeated Obama’s plan to extend the payroll taxcut through the end of next year while also making it more generous for workers.
Camp Victory Handed Back To Iraq – On Friday, the base that at its height was home to 46,000 people was handed over to the Iraqi government as part of American efforts to move all U.S. troops out of the country by the end of the year. “The base is no longer under U.S. control and is under the full authority of the government of Iraq,” said U.S. military spokesman Col. Barry Johnson.
Several overturned semis on a Utah highway. Hundreds of thousands without power in California. A wind gust reaching 123-mph in Colorado. The powerful winds that tore across Western states Thursday created a path destruction that closed schools, left neighborhoods with a snarl of downed trees and power lines, and prompted some communities to declare emergencies. The system brought high wind warnings and advisories for California, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, Arizona and New Mexico. The blustery weather is expected to eventually hit Oklahoma, Missouri and Indiana.
A roadside bombing killed three NATO service members Saturday in eastern Afghanistan, the U.S.-led coalition said. The coalition recently shifted its focus from southern Afghanistan to the east, where militants are fighting Afghan and coalition troops along the long, porous border with Pakistan. The exact location of the bombing was not disclosed, nor were the nationalities of the dead. So far this year, 519 NATO service members have been killed in Afghanistan, including at least 389 Americans.
A surveillance drone flying over western Afghanistan had gone out of control late last week and may be the one Iran said it had shot down over its own airspace, theInternational Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said on Sunday. “The UAV to which the Iranians are referring may be a U.S. unarmed reconnaissance aircraft that had been flying a mission over western Afghanistan late last week. The operators of the UAV lost control of the aircraft and had been working to determine its status,” an ISAF statement said.
Facing bankruptcy, the U.S. Postal Service is pushing ahead with unprecedented cuts to first-class mail next spring that will slow delivery and, for the first time in 40 years, eliminate the chance for stamped letters to arrive the next day. The estimated $3 billion in reductions, to be announced in broader detail on Monday, are part of a wide-ranging effort by the cash-strapped Postal Service to quickly trim costs, seeing no immediate help from Congress.
Americans spent a total of nearly $6 billion in online purchases during ‘Cyber Week’ 2011, according to a report from market research firm comScore. This includes three days — Nov. 28 (a.k.a. ‘Cyber Monday’), Nov. 29 and Nov. 30 — that saw more than $1 billion in sales each. These numbers make this year’s Cyber Week the most spending-heavy period for e-commerce ever. By comScore’s count, Cyber Monday sales reached $1.25 billion. Tuesday saw sales of $1.12 billion, and Wednesday sales reached $1.03 billion. For the 32 days from Nov. 1 through December 2, online spending was up 15 percent from the previous year, to reach a whopping $18.7 billion spent this holiday season. But it remains
A suicide bomber struck a crowd of Shiite worshippers who packed a Kabul mosque Tuesday to mark a holy day, killing at least 56 people, and a second bombing in another city killed four more Shiites. They were the first major sectarian assaults since the fall of the Taliban a decade ago.
Chinese police have busted two huge child trafficking rings that spanned 10 provinces, arresting more than 600 suspects and rescuing 178 children, the government said Wednesday. Child abductions and trafficking are rife in China, despite repeated police crackdowns — a problem that many experts blame on the nation’s strict “one-child” policy and lax regulations on adoption.
Former Penn State assistant football coach (Vide0) Jerry Sandusky was arrested at home today by Pennsylvania state police in the wake of new sexual assault charges filed by a grand jury against him. Sandusky was handcuffed and taken out of his home by state police and brought to an arraignment before a judge in Centre County, Pa., for the new charges, which include assaulting two boys involved in his Second Mile charity. The men came forward in the wake of the earlier allegations against Sandusky, including 40 counts of child molestation, for which he was charged on Nov. 5.
A federal judge today sentenced impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to 14 years in prison, giving little weight toBlagojevich’s first-ever apology this morning since his arrest three years ago. “The jury didn’t believe you and neither did I,” U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel said. Blagojevich was convicted on 18 corruption charges, including the scheme to peddle the vacated Senate seat of Barack Obama. Blagojevich started the day telling the court that he was “unbelievably sorry” for his “terrible mistakes,” his last chance to convince the federal judge that he deserved some mercy when he was sentenced on corruption charges.
Russian authorities should annul the results of the parliamentary vote and hold a new one, former Soviet leaderMikhail Gorbachev urged Wednesday as popular indignation grew over widespread allegations of election fraud. United Russia won less than 50 percent of Sunday’s vote, a steep fall from the 64 percent it won four years ago. But opposition parties and independent observers say even that result was inflated by vote-rigging, including alleged ballot-box stuffing and false voter rolls. Gorbachev told the Interfax news agency that authorities must hold a fresh election or deal with a rising tide of discontent.
If you used Ticketmaster’s website to buy tickets between October 21, 1999 and October 19, 2011, you’re in for a windfall. Well, a $1.50 per ticket order windfall. Because of a proposed class action settlement, Ticketmaster is being forced to credit $1.50 per ticket order (up to 17 orders) to customers due to the fact that they profited off of “processing fees” without declaring as much. And despite the reparations, Ticketmaster can continue to profit off transactions — they just have to say they’re doing so on their website. According to court documents, the original claim, filed October 21, 2003, also implicates UPS’ delivery price for expedited delivery of tickets as deceptive. Those part of the UPS subclass of the suit are entitled to an additional $5.00 credit per ticket. Both credits are in the form of vouchers, which can be redeemed a maximum of two at a time.
Former NHL forward Matthew Barnaby was fired by ESPN as the cable network’s hockey analyst on Monday, a day after being charged with drunken driving for being found behind the wheel of an SUV that was missing its front tire.
The Washington Redskins lost more than just their eighth game of the season on Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field, an improbably fourth quarterback comeback giving the New York Jets a 34-19 win— they may have lost the biggest part of their offense for the rest of the season. It’s repored that tight end Fred Davis(notes) and left tackles Trent Williams(notes) will be suspended for the rest of the season for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. Both players started Sunday’s loss for the 4-8 Redskins.
Packers linebacker Erik Walden(notes) was charged Wednesday with misdemeanor disorderly conduct-domestic abuse following a fight with his girlfriend. Walden did not appear for a Brown County Circuit Court hearing and defense attorney Steve Richards entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. Walden remains free on bond and is due back in court Dec. 27.
Facebook has acquired location sharing service Gowalla for an undisclosed sum, according to a source close to Gowalla. Launched in 2009, Austin-based Gowalla went head-to-head with direct rival Foursquare — and lost. Badly trailing Foursquare in user adoption, Gowalla recently shifted directions, recasting itself as a travel guide. The site had raised around $10 million over the years from backers including the Founders Fund, Greylock Partners and a collection of angel investors.
New YouTube – We already knew about YouTube’s redesign, which tech-savvy readers have been enabling for the past 10 days. As of now, however, the new YouTube is available to everyone. Unlike parent company Google, which tends to roll out redesigns over a period of days, YouTube pressed the button and switched the homepage for every user worldwide at 4:30 p.m. ET Thursday. So what’s the change all about? One word: channels. The world’s most popular online video service now sees itself as a descendent of cable TV, with millions of channels rather than hundreds — and it’s doing its darndest to encourage you to use it that way.
App On Smartphone Tracking Every Move – On Monday, researcher and developer Trevor Eckhart posted a 17-minute YouTube video apparently showing how the software — designed as a diagnostic tool to find and help fix mobile network problems — runs on his smartphone and logs every keystroke, every text and the full URL of every website he visits. News of the app’s existence on millions of phones had bounced around on tech blogs for a while. But attention skyrocketed this week when Eckhart posted his video.
Comedy Central is honoring the late Patrice O’Neal by airing his stand-up special, “Elephant in the Room,” twice on Wednesday night. The comedian, who died on Tuesday from complications from a stroke he suffered on October 19, aired his first, and only, hour-long stand-up special on Comedy Central in February, and tackled such topics as race, football and typing classes.
CBS’ “Early Show” is ending early in the new year, and now its successor has a name. CBS News announced on Thursday that the replacement morning broadcast will be called “CBS This Morning.” The program will be hosted by Charlie Rose, Gayle King and Erica Hill. It is being pitched as a serious-news alternative to ratings leader “The Today Show” on NBC, and ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the audience runner-up.
Barbara Walters’ Most Fascinating People This Year – Would you call the Kardashian family the most fascinating people in the world? Barbara Walters would. She’s picked the Kardashians, Pippa Middleton, Simon Crowell and others among the top 10 fascinating people of 2011. Hosted by Walters, she will present the special on Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 9:30 p.m. on ABC.
Justin Bieber was the major draw for the Wednesday night event that brought tens of thousands of fans out to Rockefeller Center to watch Bieber and his celebrity friends kick off the holiday season. Yes, there were plenty of other stars out for the night of music, but the screaming throng of fans only had eyes for the man-boy of their dreams. Joining him for the night of seasonal holiday music were Tony Bennett, Neil Diamond, Carol King, and Cee Lo Green.
Donald Trump, former presidential hopeful has teamed with Newsmax, a conservative magazine and news web site, to moderate a presidential debate in Des Moines, IA on Dec. 27.
Chelsea Clinton makes her NBC News debut Monday, Dec. 12, on Rock Center with Brian Williams. Clinton, 31, will report on a nonprofit organization based in her home state of Arkansas. The piece will be part of NBC’s recurring “Making a Difference” feature. Clinton was hired last month, but the network emphasized that the former first daughter would not report on politics.
Passing – Alan Sues, who brought his flamboyant and over-the-top comic persona to the hit television show “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” in the 1960s and 1970s, has died, a close friend said Sunday night. He was 85. Sues died of cardiac arrest on Thursday at his home in West Hollywood. (See Video Alan Sues On Laugh-In)
Universal Studios will spend several hundred million dollars to build a Harry Potter attraction inside its existing Hollywood theme park in hopes of mimicking the success of a similar park in Orlando, Florida. Executives announced the project Tuesday with much fanfare, spraying confetti and hoisting mugs of the wizardly brew butterbeer.
Rosie O’Donnell and girlfriend Michelle Rounds just made their public debut as a couple in September, and O’Donnell announced to her Rosie Show audience on Friday, December 2, that they are now officially engaged.
It’s Madonna – NBC and the NFL announced last night that the Material Girl would be the headlining performer for the upcoming Super Bowl in February of next year. The game is being played in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Jennifer Carpenter and Michael C. Hall finalized their divorce on Friday. The Dexter costars, who play siblings on the show, wed on New Year’s eve in 2008.
“Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer” was the most-watched special of last week, with more than 12 million viewers, with the advantage of being on CBS’ powerful Tuesday night. The Victoria’s Secret special, also on CBS on Tuesday, was second with 10.4 million viewers. The Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Rockefeller Center had 9.4 million viewers, one of NBC’s strongest shows for the week. Specials highlighting the Grinch and Santa Claus, both on ABC, each had fewer than 8 million viewers.
Alec Baldwin says he was kicked off a plane Tuesday at Los Angeles International Airport after having words with a flight attendant over an “addicting” word game he was playing on his cellphone. The “30 Rock” actor was asked to get off a New York City-bound flight for playing “Words with Friends” while the plane idled at a gate Tuesday, said Baldwin’s spokesman, Matthew Hiltzik. “He loves ‘Words with Friends’ so much that he was willing to leave a plane for it,” said Hiltzik, who added that Baldwin boarded another American Airlines flight to New York.
Music News – Metallica Is Back! The first of Metallica’s four 30th anniversary concerts took place last night at their hometown San Francisco’s Fillmore, and on top of a 20-song set that spanned the heavy metal gods’ entire catalog — except, thankfully, Lulu — the biggest surprise of the evening came when the band welcomed former bassist Jason Newsted onstage. Newsted, who abruptly left Metallica in 2001 to pursue other musical projects, previously rejoined his former bandmates when they were all inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, but last night was the first time in a decade that the bassist performed with the group at an actual Metallica gig.
Passing – Singer and songwriter Dobie Gray, who had a top 5 hit in 1973 with the song “Drift Away,” has died. The news came on the evening of Dec. 6 via his official website, although no cause of death was listed. Many remember his first hit, 1965’s, “The In Crowd.”
Passing – Harry Morgan, (Video) the actor who played strait-laced U.S. Army Colonel Sherman T. Potter on the television series “M*A*S*H” through eight of its 11 celebrated seasons, has died. He was 96. He died today at his home in Los Angeles, the New York Times reported, citing his son, Charles Morgan. No cause was given.
At the movies –
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Down Part 1
Happy Feet Two
Jack and Jill
Puss in Boots
Hot Hits -
We Found Love – Rihanna fea. Calvin Harris
Sexy And I Know It – LMFAO
It Will Rain – Bruno Mars
Without You – David Guetta fea. Usher
Good Feeling – Flo Rida
Stereo Hearts – Gym Class Heroes fea. Adam Levine
The One That Got Away – Katy Perry
5 O’Clock – T-Pain fea. Wiz Khalifa & Lily ALlen
You Make Me Feel… – Cobra Starship fea. Sabi
Party Rock Anthem – LMFAO fea. Lauren Bennett & GoonRock
Headlines – Drake
Pumped Up Kicks – Foster the People
Ni**as in Paris – Jay Z Kanye West
Mr. Know It All – Kelly Clarkson
Top TV –
1. NFL Football: Pittsburgh at Kansas City NBC
2. Dancing With the Stars ABC
3. Dancing With the Stars Results ABC
4. NCIS CBS
5. 60 Minutes CBS
6. Two and a Half Men CBS
7. Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick NBC
8. NCIS: Los Angeles CBS
9. Mike & Molly CBS
10. Modern Family ABC
11. 2 Broke Girls CBS
12. Castle ABC
13. Football Night in America NBC
14. Once Upon a Time ABC
15. Hawaii Five-0 CBS
16. Unforgettable CBS
17. The Big Bang Theory CBS
18. Amazing Race 19 CBS
19. How I Met Your Mother CBS
20. The X-Factor” (Tuesday) FOX