Sunday, March 30, 2008

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Rare Stradivarius on auction in NY


Rare Stradivarius on auction in NY

Friday, Mar 28, 2008

By Karen Brettell

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A 300-year-old Antonio Stradivari violin said to be sweet and feminine in its sound is expected to fetch more than $1 million (500,000 pounds) when Christie's puts it up for auction next week.

Known as "The Penny," the violin dates from around 1700 and is named after its previous owner, the pianist and violinist Barbara Penny. It will be the lead item in Christie's spring Fine Musical Instruments auction on April 4.

The auction will also include a violin made by fellow Italian Giovanni Guadagnini in 1755, known as "The Ex-Wollgandt," which is expected to fetch between $300,000 and $400,000, Christie's said.

"The Penny" was praised as being among the being one of Stradivari's more feminine pieces.

"This one has an especially good balance between the brightness and the sweetness," said Jesus Reina, a violinist from the Manhattan School of Music who played the precious instrument at a press preview on Thursday.

Stradivari's instruments are praised for their sound, which projects clearly with rich tones, and are considered easy to play as they are highly responsive to a musician's touch.

He made around 1,100 instruments in his lifetime, most of them violins, and around 650 of his instruments survive today.

Christie's estimates "The Penny" will raise $1 million to $1.5 million, below the $3.54 million sale of "The Hammer" in 2006, which remains the most paid at auction for a Stradivarius.

"The Hammer" dates from 1707, during Stradivari's gold period between 1700 and 1720.

"The Penny" has "a sweeter sound, more bell-like," than "The Hammer," which is more masculine, said Kerry Keane, specialist head of musical instruments at Christie's.

Penny owned the Stradivarius from 1929 until her death last year. She was the first woman accepted to the strings section of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

(Editing by Daniel Trotta and Doina Chiacu)

Musicians start social networking sites


Musicians start social networking sites

Saturday, Mar 29, 2008

By Jennifer Netherby

NEW YORK (Billboard) - 50 Cent has more than 1 million friends on MySpace, but if the rapper ever decides to leave the social network, he'll be leaving behind those friends, too. So like a growing number of artists, he's started his own social networking site.

On, fans can create profiles and friend lists just like on MySpace, but 50 Cent has direct access to the site's users and their e-mail addresses.

More and more acts, from Kylie Minogue to Ludacris to the Pussycat Dolls, are launching their own social networks, which are becoming a sort of next-generation version of artist Web sites.

The social networking component gives fans a reason to hang out on a site and visit more often than they would a standard Web site. And artists can sell advertisements on their sites and offer downloads and merchandise for sale -- options they don't have on MySpace or Facebook. Plus, they own the content and data on how fans use their site, which they don't get on other social networks.

"The thing that separates Thisis50 from MySpace is we control the e-mail database," says Chris "Broadway" Romero, director for new media at G-Unit Records, which handles Thisis50. "We can e-mail members if we want to."

Thisis50 isn't meant to be a fan club, but rather a platform for 50 Cent to showcase his music and music he likes, and comment on news and user profile pages. Ludacris', on the other hand, is more of a hub for aspiring artists to upload their music.

The artist networks aren't meant to replace MySpace or Facebook, which tend to attract a broader audience and more users.

"(Artists) think about MySpace and Facebook as funnels for their own social networks," says Gina Bianchini, CEO of Ning, a company that provides social networking tools for Thisis50, Sara Bareilles and others. "They take and use services where they don't know the users, don't have access and don't have full control, and funnel those fans to something they do control."


The key to getting users coming back to the sites is artist involvement, either through blogs or comments on user pages or exclusive footage and other content.

"The biggest thing we push to artists is, 'Embrace the site,'" says Evan Rifkin, CEO of, a social networking platform partly owned by MTV.

It's relatively inexpensive to create a social network if artists use one of the growing number of companies that provide the tools and hosting. For instance, Ning charges $34 (17 pounds) per month for a site and hosting. And Flux works with artists and labels on a revenue-sharing basis. Artists can set up their main site for free and pay a percentage of revenue from advertisements and sales on additional pages.

Artists also tend to pay for labour to run the sites. But if fans get involved and add things to the site to share with others, it can reduce the need for staff to constantly provide new content, Romero says.

In addition, many artists are simply turning their main Web site into a social network. Suretone Records director of new media Ashley Jex says the label is working with Flux to incorporate social networks into all its artists' sites to cater to the hardcore fans and keep them clicking around.

With Flux, which also has deals with Universal Music Group and Virgin, users create one profile and with one click they can join the network of any artist using it, rather than having to create new profiles for each.

Ice Cube and DJ Pooh added a twist earlier in March, launching UVNTV, a broadband TV and social networking site where artists and brands can create their own channel and subscribers can create profiles and chat with one another. Artists get detailed information on their users and can sell advertisements, merchandise, downloads or even subscriptions to their channel. They also own and control the content.

"You know the demographic of anybody watching your content," DJ Pooh says. "You know what they watched and clicked on." The service is in beta and free to artists and is expected to formally launch in January 2009. So far, Snoop Dogg has a channel there, as does Ice Cube and such brands as RockStar Games and Source.

Even more important: Fans seem to be buying directly from the sites. On Minogue's KylieKonnect, launched in fall 2007 through U.K.-based New Visions Mobile, nearly 25 percent of users have made a ringtone, download or merchandise purchase, company director Julia McNally says.


Nokia music store online

Dave Stewart and Nokia envision new mobile world

Saturday, Mar 29, 2008

By Antony Bruno

DENVER (Billboard) - At first glance, Nokia's Tero Ojanpera and Dave Stewart might seem like an odd pair.

As executive vice president of entertainment and communities for Nokia, Ojanpera oversees all of the company's music, gaming, video and social networking initiatives, including the Nokia Music Store and Comes With Music.

Stewart is a musician/producer best known as one half of the Eurythmics. In February, Stewart was named founding member of Nokia's new Artist Advisory Council, an initiative created to foster an artist-friendly environment within the company.

But the two have more in common that meets the eye. Stewart has strong ideas on how technology and digital business models should benefit acts and their fans, and, in fact, was the driving force behind the council's creation. Ojanpera, meanwhile, aims to combine Nokia's entertainment content services with its social networking capabilities to help fans and artists better connect and communicate to promote and distribute new content.

For Nokia, the effort is central to its reinvention from a handset vendor with 40 percent of the global mobile phone market share to a Web services company. For Stewart, the technologies of today and tomorrow represent a new stage of creative and professional development he hopes to share not only with musicians but also with filmmakers and others in the creative community.

Q: Can you give us a better idea what the vision of the Artist Advisory Council is?

Dave Stewart: It's a vision of the future where people would want to dig deeper in the world of an artist and where artists would be willing to be more experimental because the payment systems would be more transparent and different than they are today. It's about artists linking together and being collaborative.

Tero Ojanpera: If you think about the artist's point of view, it's not about selling one track or selling a ringtone or wallpaper. It's about how you create a discovery mechanism (that) represents the artist in a way that gives justice to their work. It's not just putting something online in a digital format -- the technology will enable us to make a rich world where things come together in a really new fashion.

Q: How do you plan to achieve this?

Ojanpera: At this point it's about understanding the artist and understanding the consumer and making that connection. The rest will sort itself out. It may need some facilitation, but we should worry about those two things first. If you can bring value to the consumer and to the creative talent, I'm sure we will do well.

Stewart: Imagine a future where you have a little cloud above your head and in that is everything you think is groovy, and you can carry that along with you and pull it down to either watch or share ... and it's all controlled by this little device in your pocket. The other part of it is that there are artists all over the world who don't want to share much more than what they can control -- there are filmmakers who want to make 10-minute short films. So you can't put everything into one bag. What you can do is create a facility that can put all that work -- whatever it is -- into a context and in a way (that) consumers can access it.

Q: Dave, what is your perspective as an artist on the current digital/mobile business constructs?

Stewart: What I'm talking about is dropping a neutron bomb on the old paradigm of the entertainment industry and the way in which it functions. It's completely insane. In America, it's all gotten completely strangleholded by these providers. Nobody ever talked to artists about what they wanted to do. Steve Jobs didn't talk to me about selling music online -- it just went straight to the music labels.

Artists make their work, and people come along and treat it like something you can chop up into bits and sell into other bits. They say ringtones is a $3 billion business; I still haven't seen one cent on a "Sweet Dreams" download. There's always been a bit of foggy accounting. There's ways and means through technology and through common sense to create a way in which the consumer gets a fair deal and the creator gets a fair deal and business is good.

Q: So it sounds like the vision is to try to use mobile phones as a way of distributing content directly to fans without all the other layers.

Stewart: I'm not going to try to do that. I am going to do it. It's also about trying to get artists to understand that, in the new world, it's not about making an album or a film that has to fit the exact demographic and exact length. It's going to be a completely different world. I can send you clips of what I'm working on and you can pre-order it. There's a dialogue going on so you actually know who your fans are and where they are.

Q: Do phone manufacturers have more power in the mobile value chain now that entertainment services have made the phone more of a consumer electronics device and less a mere network access device?

Ojanpera: This is a great opportunity for the whole industry to grow: device manufacturers, carriers and the content companies. The fact that content is coming to mobile will enable us to continue to innovate for the industry. We have the strength to invest in this space, and that's valuable to the content industry. This is not about who has more power or less power -- this is about, Can we attract the consumer to really use these services?

Q: So on that note, how is the Nokia Music Store doing?

Ojanpera: We're not sharing any specific data. But the service is live in the U.K. and Germany, and we are launching (in) additional countries in Europe and Asia. So one could describe it as a store rollout phase for the next month or two and getting the catalogue in place. The feedback from the U.K. store is good; people are using it and seeing that there's an easy way to get music on your device, both side-loading and (over the air). We're currently seeing about 75 percent side-loading and 25 percent OTA. We think once the Comes With Music service is in place later this year, it will make the purchase decision easier, and we believe that can and will really scale the music market up.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hugh Jackman teams with Virgin for new comic books"

Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hugh Jackman, who plays the mutant Wolverine in the "X-Men" action movies, is pairing with Virgin Comics to create a comic book series called "Nowhere Man," Virgin said on Tuesday.

The series, a futuristic science-fiction odyssey set in an era when men have traded their privacy for safety and security, will be written by Jackman and Marc Guggenheim, who wrote Marvel comics' "Wolverine" series and "Amazing Spider-Man."

Australian actor Jackman said in a statement that the hope is "Nowhere Man" will be popular enough that it might later become a movie.

"X-Men" and other film series based on comic book characters such as "Spider-Man" and "Batman" have been among Hollywood's biggest hits for more than a decade.

Three films starting with "X-Men" in 2000 and including "X2: X-Men United" and "X-Men: The Last Stand" have sold more than $1.1 billion worth of tickets at worldwide box offices.

A fourth film, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," also featuring Jackman, is set to open in theatres next year.

(Reporting by Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Xavier Briand)

Smashing Pumpkins sue Virgin Records over Pepsi ads

Tuesday, Mar 25, 08

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The alternative-rock band Smashing Pumpkins have sued Virgin Records, saying their former record label damaged the Grammy-winning band's image and reputation for artistic integrity by using it in a worldwide promotional campaign.

The Pumpkins claim in their breach-of-contract lawsuit, filed on Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, that Virgin used the band's name, music and image without its permission in a "Pepsi Stuff Promotion" to market the soft drink and Amazon.

"Its a frustrating situation honestly to be treated so poorly by a label where we had so much success," the band's singer, Billy Corgan, said in a written statement.

"Recently they have ignored our pleas to give our fans special editions of our old albums, telling us they weren't interested so there is a tremendous amount of hypocrisy involved with them turning around and using us like this," Corgan said

The lawsuit asserts that Smashing Pumpkins "worked hard for over two decades" to build goodwill with fans damaged by Virgin's use of its music and image in the campaign.

"Virgin has deceived and confused the public into believing that (the Pumpkins were) affiliated with the promotion," the lawsuit says.

A spokeswoman for Virgin, now a boutique label that forms part of closely held EMI Group's Capitol Music Group, has been at odds with the band over the years and no longer releases its material, declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing a policy against discussing pending litigation.

The civil complaint seeks unspecified damages and an injunction against Virgin from using its name or material in future promotions.

The Pumpkins, which formed in Chicago in the late 1980s, achieved mainstream success with such albums as "Siamese Dream" and "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness." The band won Grammy awards for best hard rock performance in 1996 and 1997.

Pepsi, marketed by PepsiCo, is based in Purchase, New York., an Internet-based business specializing in the sale of books, CDs, DVDs and video games, is based in Seattle. (Editing by Todd Eastham)

David Beckham's England career

FACTBOX-Soccer-Beckham's England career highs and lows

Wednesday, Mar 26, 2008 (Reuters) - Factbox on David Beckham's England career with the midfielder expected to make his 100th appearance for his country in Wednesday's friendly against France in Paris:

* Beckham made his England debut on September 1, 1996 in a 3-0 away win over Moldova in a qualifier for the 1998 World Cup finals.

* He scored his first goal for England after 30 minutes of his 17th international, a trademark free kick against Colombia in the opening round of the World Cup in Lens, France, on June 26, 1998.

* In the next match, a second-round tie against Argentina in St Etienne four days later, he was sent off two minutes into the second half for kicking Diego Simeone. He was largely vilified at home for his dismissal as it was seen as a contributory factor to England's loss on penalties after the match ended in a 2-2 draw.

* Caretaker manager Peter Taylor named him as captain for the first time for the friendly against Italy in Rome in November 2000.

* Sven-Goran Eriksson appointed him the permanent captain when he took over as England boss in January 2001. In the next game, Beckham's 39th international, he scored his second goal for England, against Finland at Anfield. He went on to captain England 58 times.

* On October 6, 2001 at his home ground of Old Trafford, he scored one of the most famous goals of his career -- a free kick deep into stoppage time that gave England a 2-2 draw against Greece and effectively sealed their place at the 2002 World Cup finals.

* He won his 50th cap in the opening game of the 2002 World Cup finals on June 2 in Saitama but was replaced after 63 minutes of the 2-2 draw with Sweden.

* In what he describes as one of the highlights of his England career, Beckham scored with a penalty to give England a 1-0 win over Argentina in the enclosed dome of Sapporo in their second group match.

* The 2003-04 season brought him mixed luck from the penalty spot, scoring against Croatia and Macedonia and missing against Turkey and France -- the latter miss in England's opening Euro 2004 finals match in Lisbon. He also missed a penalty in the shoot-out against Portugal in the quarter-finals when England went out of the competition.

* Became the first England player to be sent off twice when he was dismissed against Austria in a 1-0 World Cup qualifying victory at Old Trafford on October 8, 2005.

* Scored to give England a 1-0 win over Ecuador in their final group match in Stuttgart on June 25, 2006 to become the first English player to score a goal in three World Cup finals tournaments.

* Missed the first nine matches of Steve McClaren's reign as England boss but returned for his 95th cap against Brazil in the first full international played at the re-built Wembley Stadium on June 1 last year.

* Won his 99th cap against Croatia at Wembley when he came on as a halftime substitute for Shaun Wright-Phillips but even though he provided a stunning cross for Peter Crouch to equalise, England eventually lost 3-2 and failed to qualify for the Euro 2008 finals.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

"Harry Potter" wins YouTube award

Saturday, Mar 22, 2008

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A puppet show version of "Harry Potter" featuring a naked Dumbledore and an enigmatic song called "Chocolate Rain" by a Minnesota graduate student were among the winners of YouTube's second annual video awards, the Web site said on Friday.

Tay Zonday, a 25-year-old baritone PhD student in American Studies, won best music with his original song "Chocolate Rain," a rhythmic electric keyboard-backed number whose curious lyrics could be a political statement or humorous nonsense.

The song, one of about 30 videos Zonday has posted, has been covered by singer John Mayer and rockers Green Day, and he has performed it live on Jimmy Kimmel's late night talk show.

"I would say basically (I started) just like millions of other people making videos in their living rooms," Zonday told Reuters. "That's become so much a part of our lives."

A homemade version of the special effects-laden Harry Potter movies, called "The Potter Puppet Pals in 'The Mysterious Ticking Noise' captured the comedy award.

The puppet show features an a capella song with an appearance by a naked, but not anatomically correct, Professor Dumbledore and an explosive ending.

Despite a huge number of views and worldwide media attention, "I Got a Crush on Obama" lost the politics award to "Stop the Clash of Civilizations", about mutual prejudices held in Islamic and Western worlds, by the "global web movement"

The short film winner, "My Name is Lisa" by Shelton Films, focuses on a teenager coping with a mentally ill mother, while commentary winner "LonelyGirl15 is Dead!" by "What the Buck Show" gave a gossipy, arch review of the demise of the popular Web character.

Winners were chosen from among six nominees in 12 categories, including "Adorable", commentary, eyewitness, instructional, politics, short film, comedy, creative, inspirational, music, series, and sports.

Nominees and winners were selected by a combination of ways including the number of people who viewed and selected the short, user-generated videos as their favourites, as well as "general buzz," YouTube spokesman Aaron Ferstman said.

The videos in this year's contest received a quarter-billion views, Ferstman said.

(Reporting by Gina Keating)

Gibson guitar sues MTV and EA over "Guitar Hero"

This article was sent from

Friday, Mar 21, 2008

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Gibson Guitar said on Friday that it filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Viacom's MTV networks and Harmonix as well as Electronic Arts relating to the wildly popular "Guitar Hero" video games.

The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Tennessee, relates to the same patent involved in another suit Gibson filed earlier against various retailers, the Tennessee-based guitar maker said in a statement.

The "Guitar Hero" series has sold more than 14 million units in North America and raked in more than $1 billion since its 2005 debut.

Gibson said the games, in which players use a guitar-shaped controller in time with notes on a television screen, violate a 1999 patent for technology to simulate a musical performance.

Harmonix developed the first "Guitar Hero" game and was later bought by MTV. Electronic Arts and another company, Activision Inc, as well as several retailers, either develop, distribute or sell one or several of the games in the "Guitar Hero" series.

A spokesperson for MTV and Electronic Arts could not be immediately reached for comment.

Earlier this month, Activision filed a pre-emptive suit against Gibson, which had complained that the games infringe upon one of its patents.

Activision filed a lawsuit asking the U.S. District Court for Central California to declare Gibson's patent invalid and to bar it from seeking damages.

Gibson, whose electric guitars are used by legendary blues and rock artists such as Eric Clapton, B.B. King and Slash, has been a high-profile partner in the "Guitar Hero" games.

Activision licensed the rights to model its video controllers on Gibson guitar models and to use their likenesses in the game.

Activision has said that by waiting three years to raise its claim, Gibson had granted an implied license for any technology.

intimate lessons of making love

Singapore students get intimate in lessons of love making

Thursday, Mar 20, 2008. SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Wanna know what love is? Ask a Singaporean lecturer.

In an effort to boost the city-state's low birth rate, Singapore's Ngee Ann Polytechnic has launched a government-backed course teaching students about flirting and relationships. Subjects include love song analysis, speed-dating and online chatting.

"My teacher said if a guy looks into my eyes for more than five seconds, it could mean that he is attracted to me and I stand a chance," 18-year-old student Isabel Seet was quoted as saying by the local Straits Times newspaper.

The course, "Understanding Relationships: Love and Sexuality", is taught by an official from the Social Development Unit, the government's match-making agency.

It has become so popular since its inception in October last year that the school has had to recruit another trainer, the polytechnic's spokeswoman told Reuters.

The course is intended to provide an "understanding of the fundamentals of human relationships" and is one of two offered by Singapore's polytechnics to encourage young Singaporeans to get married, the newspaper said.

Fearing that an ageing population will hurt economic growth, Singapore's government has been trying for years to encourage educated young people in particular to have children, with incentives ranging from tax breaks to "baby bonuses".

There has also been more hands-on encouragement for university students in the form of parties and trips organized by the Social Development Unit.

"By learning the dynamics and intricacies of diverse relations, they can effectively apply strategies and techniques to cultivate fulfilling lifelong relationships," the spokeswoman said.

The course is modeled along general elective classes that students from all faculties can take.

Student Kamal Prakash told the Straits Times that while his relationship with his parents has improved since taking the course, he is still single.

"I think most people who take the course would find it easier to get a girlfriend," Prakash was quoted as saying. "But I'm not really looking for a girlfriend now as I want to concentrate on my studies."

(Reporting by Melanie Lee, editing by Neil Chatterjee and Sophie Hardach)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

WB turns last "Harry Potter" picture into two movies

Thursday, Mar 13, 2008 By Borys Kit

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The final "Harry Potter" book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," will be adapted into two films, Warner Bros. said Wednesday.

Titled "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," the movies are set to be released in November 2010 and May 2011.

They will be shot back-to-back by David Yates, who is directing the adaptation of the sixth novel, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," due in theatres November 21. Steve Kloves, who has written all but one of the "Potter" movies, also is returning to write the two-parter.

"Hallows," which sold more than 11 million copies in its first 24 hours of release, is J.K. Rowling's biggest book, weighing in at 784 pages. Adapting the novel would have resulted in truncating large swaths of it or making an extra-long feature in order to fit everything in.

The decision makes financial sense for Warners because the movies are surefire hits, and the "Potter" franchise has brought in billions of dollars for the studio.

The five "Harry Potter" films released to date make it among the most lucrative franchises, bringing in $4.8 billion at the box office worldwide.

It has been confirmed that the cast of the sixth movie, led by Daniel Radcliffe, will return for the final adaptation.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

Britney Spears is animated superhero

This article was sent from Reuters Mobile Site. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Pop star Britney Spears releases a music video on Wednesday that features the troubled singer as an animated superhero in a futuristic world.

The music video will premiere on Wednesday on dedicated Web site ( at 6:30 p.m. EDT and accompanies her latest single "Break The Ice" -- the third from her 2007 album "Blackout."

The release of the video, along with an upcoming acting role on U.S. television comedy "How I Met Your Mother," marks something of a comeback for Spears, 26, whose career has been sidelined by psychiatric problems and months of bitter child custody battles.

Spears' Jive record company said the video was made in South Korea in Japanese anime style. Spears last year released two singles from the "Blackout" album which has sold more than 2 million copies worldwide but whose commercial success pales in comparison to the singer's heyday six years ago.

In the past year, Spears has been in rehab, lost custody of her sons to ex-husband Kevin Federline and been hospitalized twice for psychiatric evaluation.

Management of her personal and business affairs have now been handed over by court order to her father.

Television executives said on Monday that Spears had been cast in an episode of "How I Met Your Mother." The episode is expected to air on March 24 and according to insiders Spears will play a receptionist in a doctor's office.

Spears got her first role in a prime-time U.S. television series in March 2006 when she played a Christian conservative talk show host in a guest appearance on "Will & Grace."

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and David Wiessler)

McCartney campaigns against kangaroo cull

Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 By Rob Taylor

CANBERRA (Reuters) - A British animal protection group is using the face of Paul McCartney in an international campaign against a planned cull of hundreds of kangaroos on an Australian military base.

As demonstrators on Wednesday promised human shields to protect the animals, McCartney appeared on a website set up by the animal welfare group Viva! to condemn the cull of up to 500 animals using tranquilizer darts and lethal injection.

"There is an urgent need for action to protect kangaroos from a barbaric industry which slaughters them for meat and leather," McCartney said in an undated message.

"Please do all you can to help Viva! end this shameful massacre."

The eastern grey kangaroos, which feature on Australia's coat of arms, are living on a military communications base in the nation's capital Canberra.

Authorities say the animals, on death row since May last year, threaten other local species through overgrazing.

Wildlife Protection Association spokesman Pat O'Brien said the cull of animals synonymous with Australia could damage tourism and promised human shields to protect them, with barricades and demonstrations to be set up on Thursday.

"I'm sure there will be people standing in front of the dart guns," O'Brien told Australian radio.

Viva!, or Vegetarians International Voice for Animals, said it had launched a Europe-wide campaign against the cull and by Wednesday had gathered more than 1,300 protest signatures from 36 countries on an Australian-based web page.

The petition, which had photographs of kangaroos in rifle crosshairs, included supporters from Spain, England, the United States, Switzerland, France, Canada, South Africa and Germany.

In 2004 there was an international outcry over the shooting of 900 kangaroos at a dam supplying water to Canberra. The animals were causing erosion problems through grazing.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett, a former head of Australia's conservation movement, said he would not intervene.

"Programs like this, humanely and properly administered, are sometimes necessary," he told reporters.

The cull, Garrett said, would not damage Australia's anti-whaling campaign, which has angered Japan amid international efforts to close a loophole permitting scientific whaling.

But Australian Greens Senator Bob Brown said it would bring "further notoriety" for Australia's treatment of wildlife.

"(Prime Minister) Kevin Rudd could begin by saving those kangaroos and making sure they are transported to a safe haven ... rather than be given a deadly injection and left as a heap on the ground," he said.


Eddie Van Halen in rehab??

Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actress Valerie Bertinelli has said her ex-husband Eddie Van Halen is not in rehab, but she declined to say exactly what is ailing the rock guitarist, reported on Wednesday.

"The reports about him being in rehab are wrong. Eddie is sober," Bertinelli said at a New York luncheon hosted by cable TV's Hallmark Channel, according to the Web site of celebrity magazine People.

This month rock band Van Halen, which Eddie co-founded with his brother Alex, cancelled its tour dates until April 19 and said the 53 year-old guitarist is undergoing medical tests. But the band has not divulged details of his illness.

In the 1990s, Eddie Van Halen had hip replacement surgery and was treated for oral cancer. He also has battled alcohol abuse with a stint in rehab, which led to current speculation about a return to treatment.

Bertinelli on Wednesday said "he's being proactive about his illness" but declined to be more specific.

Van Halen had a string of hits including "Runnin' with the Devil" and "Panama" starting in the late 1970s. In August the group unveiled plans for its current 25-city North American tour that began in September 2007.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to induct Madonna, Cohen

Monday, Mar 10, 2008

By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pop star Madonna, folk singer Leonard Cohen, rocker John Mellencamp, British pop band The Dave Clark Five and instrumental group The Ventures will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Monday.

The five artists have been chosen by 600 music industry professionals, and beat out disco queen Donna Summer, New York-based funk group Chic, rap pioneer Afrika Bambaataa and hip-hop group The Beastie Boys for the 23rd annual induction.

Artists become eligible for the Hall of Fame 25 years after the release of their first single or album and are represented in an exhibition at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum in Cleveland, Ohio.

"The 2008 inductees are trailblazers -- all unique and influential in their genres," said Joel Peresman, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation president. "From poetry to pop, these five acts demonstrate the rich diversity of rock and roll."

For '60s British band The Dave Clark Five -- Dave Clark, Lenny Davidson, Rick Huxley, Denis Payton and Mike Smith -- the induction will be bittersweet after lead singer Smith, 64, died late last month from pneumonia. He had been paralyzed from the waist down after suffering a spinal cord injury in 2003.

"He was extremely excited and honoured to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and I am glad that he will be remembered as a Hall of Famer because he was in so many ways," Smith's agent, Margo Lewis, said when he died.

The Dave Clark Five topped the British charts in 1965 with "Glad All Over" and were described by the foundation as "an enormous pop phenomenon" before disbanding in 1970. The group has sold more than 50 million albums to date.

The band will be inducted by actor Tom Hanks and there will be a special performance in its honour.


While The Dave Clark Five and Mellencamp had been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame before, this was the first year Madonna was eligible. She will be inducted by pop star Justin Timberlake and Iggy & The Stooges will perform on her behalf.

Madonna, 49, made her debut in 1982 and her first album "Madonna" included hits such as "Holiday," "Borderline" and "Lucky Star" which helped her become one of the best-selling pop artists, with more then 200 million albums sold worldwide.

Mellencamp released his first album in 1976 and has often sung about the flawed American dream, which led the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation to dub him a "symbol of the hopes, struggles and passions of America's heartland."

"I'm very honoured and pleased to be recognized this way, especially among people whom I greatly admire," Mellencamp said on his Web site, He will be inducted by entertainer Billy Joel and will perform at the ceremony.

Cohen, a gravel-voiced Canadian whose songs tell of love and sex, faith and betrayal, is among the most literary of songwriters. He published four books of poetry and two novels before trying music, partly to escape life as a starving artist.

The foundation described him as "folk rock icon of the singer songwriter movement." He will be inducted by Lou Reed and Irish folk singer Damien Rice will perform for him.

Hits by the Ventures -- Bob Bogle, Nokie Edwards, Gerry McGee, Mel Taylor, Don Wilson -- include "Walk Don't Run" and "Hawaii Five-O" and the foundation credits the band with defining instrumental guitar rock in the 1960s.

The group will be inducted by John Fogerty and will perform at the New York City ceremony.

Along with the five performers, the song writing and producing team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff will be inducted in the non-performer category and the late Little Walter in the "sideman" category for his "pioneering use of the microphone (that) helped establish the modern blues harmonica."

Britney Spears to return to prime-time TV

This article was sent from Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:

Tuesday, Mar 11, 2008

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Pop star Britney Spears, embroiled in a bitter custody dispute with her ex-husband and legal battle for control of her assets, plans to take time out from her personal troubles to return to prime-time television.

Spears, 26, will appear as a guest star on an upcoming episode of the CBS sitcom "How I Met Your Mother," a network spokeswoman said on Monday. No details of her role or an air date were immediately disclosed by CBS.

A source close to the show said the episode would be taped this week and likely air on March 24, adding that Spears took part in a "table read" rehearsal for the segment on Monday.

According to the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the production, Spears will share scenes with the show's lead character, Ted, played by Josh Radnor, as a somewhat ditsy woman who works in his doctor's office and becomes smitten with him.

The show would mark Spears' first role in a prime-time TV series since a March 2006 guest spot on the NBC comedy "Will & Grace," in which she played a Christian conservative talk show host opposite series regular Sean Hayes.

That appearance marked her first public performance after giving birth to the older of her two sons, now 2.

News of Spears' latest TV turn coincided with a hearing in Los Angeles family court where she was again denied a bid to regain custody of her children from her ex-husband, Kevin Federline, or an expansion of her visitation rights.

Spears' career as a performer has been mostly on the skids since her personal life plunged into turmoil following her breakup with Federline in November 2006.

She has been in and out of rehab, and her highly publicized comeback performance on the MTV Video Music Awards in September last year was widely panned as an embarrassing flop.

Spears was hospitalized twice for psychiatric evaluation in January, and a Los Angeles judge has since granted her father control over the singer's personal and business affairs.

On Monday, a judge in the conservatorship case granted Spears an allowance of $1,500 (750 pounds) a week for spending money.

"How I Met Your Mother," a comedy that tells the retrospective tale of how Ted found true love, has been in reruns since mid-December because of the recently settled Hollywood writers strike. It returns with fresh episodes starting next Monday.


Nicolas Cage lookalike takes Real Madrid for a ride

Sunday, Mar 09, 2008

MADRID (Reuters) - A prankster pretending to be
Oscar-winning American actor Nicolas Cage fooled Real Madrid
into thinking he was the real thing and enjoyed red carpet
treatment at this week's Champions League match against AS

The lookalike, Italian television presenter Paolo
Calabresi, watched Wednesday's game from the directors' viewing
area at the Bernabeu and was taken into the team dressing room
afterwards, Spanish sports daily Marca reported on Saturday.

He was even photographed being presented with a
personalised Real shirt by club president Ramon Calderon.

Calabresi organised the stunt by using the name of an
agency in the United States that had recently arranged a
similar meeting at the Bernabeu for another actor, Sylvester

Roma won the last-16, second-leg tie 2-1 to progress to the
Champions League quarter-finals with a 4-2 aggregate victory.

(Reporting by Mark Elkington; Editing by Sonia Oxley)