Sunday, 30 September 2012

Shoring up Putin in Russian countryside

That message is being sounded ever more loudly as regional elections draw near. In Moscow, Putin has ordered the U.S. Agency for International Development out of the country by Monday, accusing it of meddling in Russia’s internal affairs because it offers financial support to election monitors and human rights activists. Out in the hinterlands, local officials have been showing who is boss, too.

Putin’s system of top-down control — he calls it “the vertical of power” — gives those in the governing rungs below him authority and privilege in return for steadfast allegiance.

In Izhevsk, 600 miles east of Moscow, officials are busily demonstrating their loyalty, pouring extra cement into the foundation of the power structure. For Putin’s allies, the Oct. 14 election for the regional legislature must serve as an affirmation of his presidency, which he reclaimed in an election in March, and not as an opportunity for voters to express discontent.

“They believe Putin’s victory is their victory and their politics are correct,” said Mikhail Estrin, a media analyst in Izhevsk. “So they have permission for whatever they want to do.”

Izhevsk is the capital of a 1.5 million-strong region called the Udmurt Republic, where Alexander Volkov is president. Out on the hustings, he carries with him a notebook showing how each community voted in the December elections for the national parliament.

During his tour of the countryside, local leaders told Vol­kov that they had been waiting for years for a playground.

“What did you give United Russia in the last election?” he asked, according to a published transcript of the meeting.

“Sixty percent,” a supplicant called out.

Volkov leafed through his notebook. “No,” he said, “it was only 59.89 percent. Okay, work on yourself, improve yourself, and then come back.”

Last winter, big demonstrations against vote rigging that favored United Russia had the Moscow political landscape ­reverberating. Anti-corruption activists had managed to brand United Russia the “Party of Crooks and Thieves.” It got 49 percent of the vote in December, down from 64 percent in 2007. The party was humiliated, pundits contended, and the vertical of power was endangered.

If Izhevsk — home of the manufacturer of the Kalash­nikov rifle and 628,000 citizens — is any indication, it will take more than that to challenge the system. Few people speak up about what they call “the power.” Some are afraid of reprisals, while others are cynical, convinced that what they say or do has no effect on a government they see as existing to serve itself instead of people.

A puzzling project

A few weeks ago, residents of a 50-year-old complex of five-story buildings on Kommunarov Street walked outside to find workmen measuring their courtyard. They were the lucky recipients of a public improvement, they were told, that would require cutting down 81 trees and laying two lanes of thick asphalt on each side of the courtyard.

Allie Mutch David Beckham

Stanley Tucci and Felicity Blunt Celebrate Marriage With Formal Wedding Ceremony

Stanley Tucci and Felicity Blunt have been married for almost two months now, but they still decided to throw a formal ceremony this weekend.

The newlyweds walked the aisle Saturday at Middle Temple Hall in London with Steve Buscemi as best man and the bride's sister, actress Emily Blunt, as bridesmaid, E! News confirms.

Stanley's Devil Wears Prada costar Anne Hathaway is married!

Felicity wore a Nanette Lepore wedding gown, while Tucci donned a Hugo Boss tux.

Guests included Emily Blunt's husband and The Office star John Krazinski, Meryl Streep, Patricia Clarkson, Julianne Moore, Colin Firth and Kenneth Cole. The reception was held at L'Anima restaurant and included a wedding cake was made of wheels of cheese. That's something new.

Tucci was previously married to Kate, mother of his three children, who died in 2009 from breast cancer.  

—Reporting by Marcus Mulick

Aren't celebrity weddings the greatest?

Paula Jones Josie Bissett

Serco takeover of NHS pathology labs 'led to clinical and financial failures'

st thomas' hospital
GSTS Pathology, a venture between Serco and King’s College and St Thomas’ hospitals, described itself as "an exemplar of public private partnership in the health sector". Photograph: Frank Baron for the Guardian

The takeover of the NHS's biggest pathology laboratories by the multinational Serco has led to a series of clinical and financial failures and saw London hospitals being forced to lend money to the company, it has emerged.

GSTS Pathology, a joint venture between Serco and King's College and St Thomas' hospitals, described itself as "an exemplar of public private partnership in the health sector", when it took over the hospitals' pathology services in 2009 – deals worth £800m over the next decade.

Pathology laboratories are a key part of the health service – analysing blood and tissue for doctors across the NHS and involved in 70% of all patient diagnoses.

But documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Corporate Watch, a not-for-profit research group, detail 400 clinical incidents in 2011 – including losing and mislabelling samples – at GSTS's St Thomas' labs. The service exceeded the agreed monthly turnaround times for tests 46 times in 2011, with critical risk levels breached 14 times.

The Corporate Watch investigation revealed a computer system caused problems. In January 2012 a patient "received inappropriate blood due to patient history not being flagged" – an incident the company says it took very seriously. In May 2012 kidney damage results were calculated incorrectly after a software fault which GSTS says was highlighted as a "near miss" and the appropriate action taken to learn from it. A month later, the lab's blood group analysers had to be shut for four days after being infected by a computer virus.

GSTS, in which Serco owns the majority stake, admitted an apparent increase in clinical incidents in a review of its performance in 2010, its first year in private hands. The documents said: "There have been a small but significant number of clinical incidents … some of which could have had serious consequences for patients." The incidents remained of "some concern".

It is understood that the company will make a statement on Monday about its pathology services – which it told staff would improve and break even this year.

Clinical failures have been matched by a slide in finances. GSTS accounts show it lost £5.9m last year owing to higher than expected laboratory costs – with the company kept afloat by cash transfusions from the hospitals. In a cost-cutting exercise the company has admitted, in documents seen by the Guardian, that it will have to withdraw from [certain] markets completely. Unions say that experienced staff who leave are not being replaced.

In a question and answer session with staff in July, GSTS management admitted the venture "did not get off to a great start" and "the corporate functions have not always provided a joined-up service".

Serco set up GSTS after a 2006 review of pathology services commissioned by the last Labour government. The report's author, Lord Carter, boss of a private healthcare company and chairman of the NHS Co-operation and Competition Panel (CCP), argued the £2.5bn spent by the NHS on pathology could be reduced if services were delivered by standalone pathology service providers" – and removed from the hospitals they were based in.

By 2009 Serco had set up GSTS with Guy's and St Thomas' hospitals in London and a year later picked up one of the NHS's best labs at King's College hospital – with ambitions to win a 30% share of the pathology services market in England. It won the right to run pathology services in Bedford Hospital in 2010. In GSTS accounts for that year Serco billed its subsidiary more than £8m for setting up the subsidiary, to recover bidding costs and for enacting a "transformation programme" meant to commercialise the operation.

In May this year senior managers admitted they had underestimated the challenges of running the service and now acknowledged clinicians' frustrations, in part due to lack of investment in new technologies.

A report by the Care Quality Commission in June said GSTS was not compliant with the regulation to ensure staff were properly trained and supervised, and have the chance to develop their skills. A month before the Health and Safety Executive found the competency levels of some staff to be "deficient" after a technician received preventative treatment for possible exposure to the Neisseria meningitidis bacterium that can cause meningitis.

In both instances the company says procedures have been tightened and that regulators are satisfied the labs are now fully compliant. Archie Prentice, president of the Royal College of Pathologists, said that it was "a concern that such actions had taken place. Frankly it's a bit bizarre. We have no problem with contracting out but there are worries because we know private firms are pulling back from pathology when there's less money on the table".

GSTS has installed a new management team and is bidding for the pathology contract for NHS East of England, with labs in Milton Keynes and Kettering as targets. Most services will be transferred to King's College, which the NHS paid £3m to update before it was privatised. Services such as toxicology will be lost from St Thomas'. One scientist speaking anonymously told of low morale and said: "Staff who used to work collaboratively together are now in competition with each other over jobs."

The company says it will turn the service round. In a statement, the company said: "The safety of patients and the quality of our services is the foremost priority of GSTS. The first two years of the partnership were operationally difficult and the necessary change did not happen as quickly as the partners had hoped. The organisation provides high quality pathology services, which it would be happy to measure against any other in the NHS."

Separately Richard Jones, chief executive of GSTS, said: "There were operational difficulties in the early period of GSTS. However, recent clinical, operational and financial performance make us confident that we have turned a corner. Modernisation of pathology is a national priority and GSTS exists to support the NHS in achieving that."

Ashley Greene Holly Sampson

Malin Akerman Talks Up Going Green at EMAs, Jokes That Being Pregnant Feels Like Being "Hungover"

Malin Akerman added host to her long list of talents Saturday evening at the 2012 Environmental Media Awards, where she hit the red carpet before taking the stage to host the event and talked not only about her recently announced baby news, but how the tabloids knew about her pregnancy and what she compares early stages of pregnancy to.

The Rock of Ages actress shared she "couldn't be more excited and happy" about expecting baby number one with her hubby of 10 years, Roberto Zincone.

Malin Akerman is pregnant!

As for how the news broke? Malin revealed that the press knew before she could've anticipated, adding: "I don't know how in the world, but tabloid magazines got a hold of me when I was only four weeks."

So just how does Malin describe pregnancy? For her, well—being hungover!

The actress laughed: "It's kind of like when you are hungover…but it's that kind of feeling where you want to eat everything greasy…so the diet is great i love it."

Check out the stars who've sported baby bumps best!

Speaking of diet, the green actress did note she's "gonna teach it all I know...[and] make it as green as possible." 

As for if Malin and Roberto are going to learn the sex of their baby, she shared: "[we're] still debating if we want to find out or keep it a surprise…we're both really eager…but we haven't quite made that decision yet." As for names: "We're all set on the girls names but the boys names we have a difference of opinions. "

 Here's to the future little Malin!

Check out other celebs who like to be, er, wear green!

Jennifer Garner Elena Anaya

Jones forced to eat words

Video will begin in 5 seconds.

Jones: You've got to 'man up'

Alan Jones issues an apology for his comments about Julia Gillard's father, admitting they were 'unacceptable... regardless of who the daughter is'

IN THIS toxic political climate, the appalling comment that shock jock Alan Jones made about the death of Julia Gillard's father has now become part of the wider battle between Labor and the Coalition.

The government is attempting to tar Tony Abbott with the behaviour of Jones, who told a Sydney University Liberal Club function that John Gillard had died ''of shame'' over his daughter's lies.

Cabinet minister Craig Emerson claimed this represented ''the culture that Abbott and his sidekicks seek to promote in the Liberal Party''.

Alan Jones at his press conference.

Alan Jones at his press conference. Photo: Dean Sewell

Jones is close to Abbott and the Liberals and his excesses are hard for them to deal with.

You are judged by your friends and your reactions in times like this. Malcolm Turnbull's response was instant and impeccable: Jones' remarks were cruel and offensive, he tweeted. In a more insipid reaction, Abbott called them ''completely out of line'' but by the time he got that on the record, Turnbull had had his say and the issue had gone wild on social media.

For the Liberals especially, there are several problems in taking a tough line towards Jones. Many fear crossing him because of his influence and his bullying tactics. He is one of them, in that he is part of their battering ram against the Labor government in general, and the Prime Minister in particular. And he is the medium to his audience, who are the ''battlers'' Abbott needs to win and hold.

Jones will stop at nothing (even if he later has to apologise) in what he will say about Gillard, and his constant attacks have done her damage. From the Liberals' point of view, they get the benefit without usually having the dirt on their own hands.

But when Jones goes over the top, as this time, he can drag Abbott into trouble vicariously.

No doubt Gillard is, as she should be, angry and upset over Jones' latest behaviour. He really had a nerve in then trying to get through to her on the telephone

to give her the long version of yesterday's tortured news conference apology.

A hard-eyed government, though, is also going to use the incident as a knife to slash at Abbott.

Some Liberals will console themselves that out in the western suburbs they won't be too preoccupied with the kerfuffle. But most Australians have a sense of decency and quite a few may feel Jones has offended that.

Should the Liberal Party ban Jones from being MC at fund-raising functions? No. Apart from any issue of principle, it would just make a martyr of him, and stir an argument not worth having.

Should Liberals organising such functions ask him to be MC? Definitely not. Do Liberals really want someone who's so lacking in sensibility as well as sense among them?

Well, some will. But hopefully a lot of self-respecting members of the party will think twice.

As for Jones himself, he was yesterday out to ''man up'' and say he got it wrong. But his apology came with all sorts of blather about the PM's emotional state and suggestions some breach of Chatham House rules had been committed in recording what he'd thought was a private function. As if it would have been more acceptable if there had been no audio record.

In judging his apology, one has to wonder how much Jones was driven by considerations of sponsors and radio station 2GB if he did not, to use his words, ''eat [ crow] while it's hot''.

Eliza Szonert Catherine Deelay

All Blacks: Jane cashes in on pack dominance

Cory Jane was the main beneficiary of the All Blacks forwards' impressive effort at Ciudad de La Plata stadium today.

Jane crossed the line three times, with Julian Savea, the other All Black wing, scoring a double as the New Zealanders ran amok in one of their best performances of the year.

"We talked all week about how we needed to start well, to try to take the crowd out of it. Obviously it wasn't a good start and you could hear them screaming and yelling but we just needed to stick to our game plan and not let it happen again," Jane said. "We started to do that, we started to turn it around and getting some points. We took the crowd out of the equation. They were playing a fast-paced game so the boys are a bit tired but we knew we needed to keep the tempo up and hope that things would go our way."

The Argentines were keen to play with pace and that suited the All Blacks, regarded as one of the fittest rugby teams in the world.

They scored an excellent try through halfback Martin Landajo after nine minutes thanks to a good break by fullback Lucas Gonazalez Amorosino but the All Blacks turned on the pace and the power in collecting seven tries.

Jane scored his first when finishing off a break by No8 Kieran Read, his second thanks to a run and offload in contact by Savea and his third in the last minute when intercepting and running in from 50m.

"We talked about being simple all week. Forwards and backs running the right lines, getting over the gain line. I think our strikes were good, getting over the gain line for a good cleanout, but they had a big step up from previous weeks," he said of the forwards.

Of Savea, he said: "He's playing well. When he gets the ball in his hands and goes into contact he's a big fella, he makes a lot of gains, a bit more than me in contact, but he always tells me that he's made a little big of a break here or scored a try there and he puts pressure on the old fella so to go out there and score one more than him, I guess I can get into him this week."

Savea, who was playing his fourth test, showed good composure to twice kick the ball ahead in scoring his first try. His second was to finish an All Blacks move which swept across the field.

All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster said Savea was progressing nicely.

"He'll be very pleased with that but he was in a unit that played well and got a lot of front-foot ball," Foster said. "He continues to make strides, he can get better, but it's nice to see him get over the line."

* Patrick McKendry flew to Argentina courtesy of LAN Airlines (


By Patrick McKendry of APNZ in Buenos Aires

Barbara Streisand Rebekah

NFL replacement refs to be paid for this weekend

The NFL has decided to pay its 112 replacement officials for this weekend even though they are no longer working games.

NFL Network and's Albert Breer reported that the league said Friday it will pay $3,500 to referees and $3,000 to other officials.

Sports Illustrated's Peter King first reported the decision on Twitter:

Laura Schlessinger more stories

Pollies condemn Jones' Gillard remark

Video will begin in 5 seconds.

Alan Jones: 'The old man died of shame'

Shock jock Alan Jones has sparked outrage with his comments about Prime Minister Julia Gillard's recently deceased father, John.

Political figures past and present, including Liberal frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull and NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell, have condemned comments made by radio shock jock Alan Jones about Prime Minister Julia Gillard's late father.

The 2GB breakfast show host was recorded saying Mr Gillard died of shame because his daughter was a liar during a speech to 100 members of the Sydney University Liberal Club President’s dinner.

Jones will be giving a press conference later this morning at the radio station.

Mr Turnbull has demanded that Jones apologise.

‘‘Alan Jones’ comments about the late John Gillard were cruel and offensive,’’ he wrote on Twitter.

‘‘He should apologise to the PM and her family.’’

Former federal Labor leader Mark Latham has told Sky News the comments were unsurprising from the radio station which had a long consistent hate session on Ms Gillard.

Mr Latham says it’s part of what former Australian Greens leader Bob Brown described as the hate media while Premier O’Farrell says politicians’ families are ‘‘innocent bystanders’’ and shouldn’t be dragged in to political debates.

Labor defence secretary Mike Kelly also wrote on Twitter: ‘‘Gillard’s father died of shame: Alan Jones. What can you say to this? How much lower can a shock jock go.’’

Rival broadcaster Derryn Hinch tweeted: ‘‘Alan Jones comments about PM and her father are a disgrace. Mortified to be in the same profession’’.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr said he expected Jones to apologise.

‘‘I’ve heard indecent things in politics but never something as thoroughly indecent as this,’’ Senator Carr told Network Ten.

But Senator Carr said Opposition Leader Tony Abbott also owed the prime minister an apology.

‘‘It is vital that Tony Abbott apologise for that utterance made at a Liberal Party meeting and do it today.’’

Senator Carr said Mr Abbott should also send a message to the Liberal Party extremists who cheered, applauded and laughed at Jones’ statement.

‘‘Tony Abbott ought to make it clear that those people are denounced by him as well.’’

The Australian Greens say they will not appear on Jones’ show and called on the other parties to make the same commitment.

‘‘The Australian body politic should disassociate itself from Alan Jones,’’ Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt said.

‘‘This is not political commentary, it’s hate media, pure and simple.’’

Fellow conservative commentator Andrew Bolt called the comments ‘‘shameful’’ and said Jones should apologise.

Former Liberal foreign minister Alexander Downer said Jones should ‘‘have a heart’’.

‘‘I’m sure there will be some sort of apology at some point,’’ Mr Downer said on Network Ten.

Jones, who works for Sydney-based 2GB, is no stranger to controversy.

In August 2011 he was referred to the media watchdog after saying that Ms Gillard, the then Greens senator Bob Brown and Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore should be thrown into the sea in a chaff bag.

He escaped censure for those comments but he was found guilty of breaching the radio code of practice by making unsubstantiated comments about climate change.


Christy Turlington John Goodman

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Fill In The Blank

kim kardashian kris jenner cheban miami boat festival

With Kim Kardashian taking control of the boat during the Miami Dragon Boat Festival, momager Kris Jenner whips her head and says ____________!

[Image via AKM-GSI.]

Tags: boat, cheban, kim kardashian, kris jenner, miami, miami dragon boat festival, photo

Nicki Minaj Mia Farrow

Meaning of 'tomahawk chop' discussed as Scott Brown spars with Elizabeth Warren over ancestry

By JAY LINDSAY, Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — The manager of the Atlanta Braves sees it as a harmless way to fire up his team. A spokesman for the Navajo Nation's president says it's a display of such profound ignorance, it's hard to be offended.

But for rivals in a tight U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts, the "tomahawk chop" is the latest flashpoint in a campaign weighted with questions about which candidate is more credible.

This week, the Democrat-leaning Blue Mass Group posted video online showing staffers from Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown's campaign performing the chop, along with war whoops and chants, while standing among supporters of challenger Elizabeth Warren.

Warren has made unverified claims of American Indian ancestry, and Brown has used that to question her trustworthiness and whether the Harvard professor used her claim for gain in the hyper-diversity-conscious academic world.

But after the video surfaced, Brown was on the defensive, and the chop was in the spotlight.

Warren said she was appalled, and the principal chief of Cherokee Nation called it "offensive and downright racist." Others had more tempered reactions. Erny Zah, spokesman for the president's office of the Navajo Nation, said, "The ignorance is just so blatantly obvious, it's not really worth getting upset about."

Even so, he added, it's a clear mockery of Indian culture.

"Whether they're trying to make fun of a political candidate ... or they're rooting for their sports team, it's based in ignorance," Zah said.

The tomahawk chop is a rhythmic up-and-down motion made in time with a "war chant." Florida State University takes credit for inventing the cheer, though it doesn't call it the tomahawk chop, which is a term associated with the Braves.

Back in the mid-1980s, the Seminole football boosters asked a student spirit group, then called the Scalphunters, to create a cheer to compete with the University of Florida's two-armed "Gator chomp," said Florida State alum Tom Desjardin.

Desjardin, a Scalphunter, said that, for lack of a better idea, they debuted the chop at a 1984 pep rally he was leading. Florida State boosters say the famous chant was added later, on a suggestion from a student from Natick High School in Massachusetts, where the chant was used to support the school's Redmen, a nickname since changed to the Red Hawks.

The chop really took off in a game at Auburn in 1985, when the Seminole band rolled out an intimidating drum beat and trumpet music to accompany it, said Desjardin, now a historian for the state of Maine.

Desjardin said the chop's violent imagery wasn't lost on the Scalphunters, but it wasn't what drove its creation. A main consideration was the fact it was a shoulder-up motion that could be seen in a crowd, he said.

Desjardin added there's a deep respect at Florida State for the Seminole tribe, which the school consults closely on all uses of tribal imagery and which in 2005 granted the school permission to use its name.

"If the tribe had ever said, 'We don't like that (the chop), you would have never seen it again,'" Desjardin said.

Instead, the chop spread to Atlanta. That city's Seminole Booster Club claims credit for starting it all when some members used it at a Braves game to catch the attention of outfielder Deion Sanders, an FSU alum who began playing for Atlanta in 1991.

When the Braves made the World Series that year against Minnesota, American Indian groups protested in Minneapolis and Atlanta, saying the cheer perpetuated racist stereotypes of Native Americans as war-obsessed savages. Some called out Braves owner Ted Turner and his wife at the time, Jane Fonda, for doing the chop.

But former President Jimmy Carter defended it, saying it was a way to note that the team was emulating the courage of American Indians.

The cheer outlasted the furor, and in the two decades since has popped up in other places, to little controversy.

"I find it as encouraging to the Braves or the Seminoles," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who also managed in Miami. "Even on the other side. I was never offended by that."

"It's (the fans') way of making the stadium loud and making it hard on the opposition," said Braves reserve Eric Hinske. "It gets us jacked up."

The Brown-Warren dustup has some people reconsidering the chop, but reactions to it will vary radically among American Indians, said Steven Denson, a member of Chickasaw Nation. He noted there are more than 500 tribes in the United States that speak their own language, and members are bound to view things differently.

For instance, "tomahawk" isn't a Chickasaw word, so Denson wasn't bothered when he watched Brown's people doing the chop. But their mock chants and war whoops got to him.

Authentic American Indian chants are often complex and freighted with tribal history, and Brown's people didn't respect that, he said.

"When I read about it, I thought, 'Ah, politics.' When I watched it, I started to get a little angry," said Denson, director of diversity at Southern Methodist University's Cox School of Business. Whether Warren has Indian blood or doesn't, he said, "you respect the culture."

"I think there's a lot of ignorance and a lot of stupidity, when it comes to Indian country," Denson said.

AP Sports Writer Charles Odum in Atlanta contributed to this report.

Nigel Hawthorne Jacinta Stapleton

Anne Hathaway's Wedding Dream Comes True Today!

anne hathaway adam shulman wedding

There's gonna be a new ring on the cat's claw by the end of the night!

Yes! Anne Hathaway and Adam Shulman are enjoying a big day of wedding excitement in the GORGEOUS coastal town of Big Sur, California!!

Donning a very special Valentino Garavani wedding gown, the Dark Knight Rises beauty will waltz down the romantic aisle all the way to the man of her dreams.

And they'll live happily ever after…. or so we hope! ;)


[Image via WENN.]

Tags: adam shulman, anne hathaway, big sur, dark knight rises, married, wedding

Andrea Thompson Jackie Chan

NFL replacement refs to be paid for this weekend

The NFL has decided to pay its 112 replacement officials for this weekend even though they are no longer working games.

NFL Network and's Albert Breer reported that the league said Friday it will pay $3,500 to referees and $3,000 to other officials.

Sports Illustrated's Peter King first reported the decision on Twitter:

Laura Schlessinger more stories

Woolworths' pokies 'target low-earners'

SUPERMARKET giant Woolworths is earning hundreds of millions of dollars a year from some of the country's poorest regions because of the concentration of its poker machines in low-income areas.

The first study of the locations of pubs and clubs owned by Woolworths shows it is making more than $300 million a year in net revenue from pokies in venues in seven Victorian local government areas with low average incomes.

''The fact is they have a lot of machines in areas which by anyone's standards are disadvantaged,'' the author of the report, Monash University gambling expert Charles Livingstone said.

''We are not talking about an accidental distribution. There seems to be careful planning … Woolworths is a massive Australian company which prides itself on being socially responsible, and this doesn't sit well with that.''

Woolworths owns or operates 6 per cent of the country's electronic gaming machines through the ALH Group, in which it is the major shareholder. This makes Woolworths the largest operator of pokies in Australia.

The 294 ALH venues across Australia contain 12,650 pokie machines, which bring in an estimated $1.2 billion in net revenue each year.

In Victoria, Woolworths operates or manages 93 hotels or clubs, of which 89 contain 5594 poker machines. The machines generate net annual revenue of $835 million, or 31.5 per cent of all revenue from pokies in Victoria.

Many of the machines are in local government areas with low personal incomes, including Brimbank, Greater Dandenong, Hume, Maribyrnong, Monash, Whittlesea and Wyndham.

Those seven areas contain nearly a third of the venues owned or operated by Woolworths in Victoria. The venues house 1867 poker machines, which bring in $313 million in net revenue a year.

Dr Livingstone's research was funded by GetUp!, which wants Woolworths to adopt a $1 bet limit at an extraordinary general meeting in November.

''The Woolworths board should get out there and see the impact their products are having on Australian families,'' GetUp! campaigner Erin McCallum said.

''Whether it's deliberate or accidental, you can't escape the conclusion that machines are targeting people who are most disadvantaged.''

A spokeswoman for Woolworths, Claire Kimball, rejected the suggestion the company deliberately placed venues in low-income areas.

''Most ALH hotels were established before poker machines were in pubs,'' she said. ''Each hotel now has a government-mandated cap on the number of machines, which are just one part of a pub's offer.''

Ms Kimball said the board had yet to finalise its position on the $1 bet limit proposal.

'''We take our responsibilities very seriously but don't believe restrictions that would single out just one operator in isolation will be effective when there are many others pubs, clubs and casinos, as well as other forms of gambling,'' she said.

Romane Bohringer Gisele Bundchen

CMA 2012 performers announced

Kelly Clarkson performs at the PNC Bank Arts Center on Aug. 26, 2012, in Holmdel, N.J.

/ Getty
(CBS/AP) Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson are among the first performers announced for this year's Country Music Association Awards.

The two stars, who teamed to win a trophy last year at the ceremony, will be joined by Dierks Bentley and Little Big Town on the broadcast.

Pictures: 2011 CMA Awards red carpet

Aldean is up for three awards this year, including top honor of entertainer of the year, and Clarkson has been nominated in the female vocalist of the year category, her first solo nomination.

Bentley is up for three CMAs, including album of the year for "Home," while Little Big Town also has three nods.

More performers will be announced later.

67 Photos

2011 CMA Awards arrivals

Eric Church leads this year's CMA nominations with five nods. The "Springsteen" singer is followed closely by Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton. The husband and wife have four nominations apiece.

Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley will host the Nov. 1 awards, which will air live on ABC from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.

Wendy Schumacher Melanie Alexander

Alicia Keys shows off her enviable derriere as she takes to the stage in tiny crop top and skin tight trousers

By Sarah Fitzmaurice


With the iTunes festival coming to a close the big music guns have come out to play.

Alicia Keys took to the stage at The Roundhouse in Camden to show off her stellar singing skills.

The American star showed off her trim shape in a figure-hugging outfit, consisting of a pair of high-waisted trousers and a cropped vest top.

Skimpy stage style: Alicia Keys performed in a cropped vest and a pair of tight high-waisted trousers at the iTunes festival at the Roundhouse in Camden tonight

Skimpy stage style: Alicia Keys performed in a cropped vest and a pair of tight high-waisted trousers at the iTunes festival at the Roundhouse in Camden tonight

The outfit accentuated her ample derriere, which she paraded around the stage as her set played out.

Alicia, 31, wore a gold serpent necklace around her neck and a pair of killer high heels to perform.

Following the performance Alicia tweeted: 'It was a packed house and I’m sure there were more of you watching at home! So blessed!!! #itunesfestival.'

She's got some curves: The 31-year-old singer showed off her impressive bottom in a pair of figure-hugging tight black trousers

She's got some curves: The 31-year-old singer showed off her impressive bottom in a pair of figure-hugging tight black trousers

Impressive talent: Alicia belted out some of her hit tunes at the Roundhouse in Camden

This morning Alicia paid a visit to Radio 1 to appear on the breakfast show to promote her latest album Girl On Fire.

Alicia appeared to have plenty of fun with new presenter Nick Grimshaw and the pair took a series of photo booth snaps as a memento of their time together.

The mother-of-one tweeted: 'Early morning radio in London rockin out w @grimmers!!! Tired but laughin!'

The singer has been in the UK all week and performed a free gig in Manchester's Cathedral.

Having fun! Alicia tweeted that she had a brilliant time on stage

Having fun! Alicia tweeted that she had a brilliant time on stage

Gina Hiraizumi Paula Jai Parker

Christina Aguilera Talks "The Voice" Departure on "The Tonight Show"

Closing out the another busy work week with a late night television appearance, Christina Aguilera was among the lineup of stars visiting "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" on Friday (September 28).

The 31-year-old looked fabulous as she took the NBC Studios stage in Burbank to promote both her hit Fox competition series, "The Voice," and her upcoming album "Lotus," which us set for a November 13th release date.

Talking about the disc's title, Aguilera explained that it represents “the unbreakable flower that withstands the test of time. Through the harshest of weather conditions and tough surroundings, it thrives and survive."

As for her small screen doings, Christina was asked by Jay whether reports telling that she won't be returning to her coaching role next season are accurate.

In response, the "Your Body" songstress said, "Yeah, its important. I think what makes the show really special and why people appreciate it is that the four of us are artists and we have to go out there and, you know, experience our fans, you know, do our shows, record our records and be artists ourselves so that we can be great coaches," adding, "So, it's important for me to take a moment, especially since now it is back to back seasons, like twice a year.... fortunately they understood and they've been supportive. So, I'm taking a little break and going out on the road for a minute and getting back to me as an artist."

As a followup, Leno queried, "So you'll be back? You're just off for a season or so?"

"Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. I mean, I love doing the show," Aguilera replied. "But I've got to keep it fresh and, you know, I have to fulfill my creative soul."

Enjoy the pictures of Christina Aguilera at "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" (September 28).

Allison Eastwood Allison Williams

Friday, 28 September 2012

2 Springfield charter school proposals win preliminary approval from state

SPRINGFIELD – Two local charter school proposals are among 12 statewide to win preliminary approval from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The schools – the Springfield Collegiate Charter School and the Phoenix Charter Academy – were selected from among 22 applicants in the latest round of charter school proposals.

Both schools were invited to submit formal applications by Nov. 7, the next step in the approval process. Following a review and recommendations by Commissioner Mitchell Chester, the new charters will be awarded by the state education board on Feb. 26.

As described in its initial proposal, Springfield Collegiate Charter will be grades K-8, with a maximum enrollment of 456 students; Phoenix Charter Academy will be grades 9-12, with a maximum enrollment of 250.

“We are very honored and humbled to be asked to submit a full application,” said William K. Spirer, one of Springfield Collegiate’s founder.

If approved, the school will start with kindergarten, adding one grade each year, according to Spirer, who said the focus will be college preparation.

“We believe that college begins on the first day of kindergarten,” he said.

Springfield has four charter school – Sabis International Charter School; New Leadership Charter School; Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School of Excellence; the Veritas Preparatory Academy, which opened in late August.

A fifth, Baystate Academy Charter School, is scheduled to open in 2013.

The Phoenix Charter Academy is affiliated with Phoenix Charter schools in Lawrence and Chelsea. School officials could not be reached for comment Friday.

Sabis International, which has a 3,000-student waiting list in Springfield, also won approval to submit an application to open a school in Brockton in 2014.

A Sabis charter school is scheduled to open in Lowell next year.

A proposal for a Classical Community Charter School in Longmeadow was one of 12 not invited to submit formal proposals.

Adrianne Curry Adrienna Posta

Flacco's passes central to streaking Ravens

Joe Flacco was born in New Jersey and went to college in Delaware, but he seems to have found a nice home in Baltimore.

With Thursday’s 23-16 win over the Cleveland Browns, Flacco is now 30-5 in his career at home. Since his rookie season in 2008, no other quarterback has more wins at home.

The Baltimore Ravens extended a few notable streaks after this victory. They have now won 13 straight home games, the longest active streak in the NFL, and are an NFL-best 18-1 at home since the start of 2010.

This is the Ravens’ 10th straight win against a divisional opponent, tied for the second-longest such streak since divisional realignment in 2002.

They have also won nine games in a row against the Browns since the start of the 2008 season. Baltimore is now 20-7 all-time against Cleveland, its most wins vs any opponent in franchise history.

Flacco improved his career record against Cleveland to 9–0. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only two other quarterbacks since 1970 were undefeated in at least nine starts versus a team: John Elway (10–0 vs. Patriots) and Daunte Culpepper (9–0 vs. Lions).

Flacco owns the middle
Before this season, Joe Flacco had passed for over 350 yards just twice in 64 career games. He’s now matched that total in the first four weeks of 2012, passing for 356 yards Thursday, after going for 382 yards in Week 3 against the New England Patriots. His four career games with 350 passing yards are the most in Ravens history, breaking a tie with Vinny Testaverde.

Flacco is the only quarterback this season with multiple games of at least 350 passing yards. He has thrown for an NFL-high 1,269 yards this year, which puts him on pace for 5,076 yards for the season.

Flacco picked apart the Browns secondary on passes inside the numbers. He completed 15-of-16 attempts for 156 yards with one touchdown on those passes to the center of the field.

The 94 percent completion rate on such throws is a career-best for Flacco. He entered the game completing only 70.8 percent of throws inside the numbers, ranked 13th out of 32 qualified quarterbacks this season.

Stat of Game
How important was this win for the Ravens, who now stand 3-1? Since 1990, almost 65 percent of teams starting 3-1 have made the playoffs. Only 35 percent of the teams that start 2-2 have reached the postseason in that same span.

Akira Fubuke AKON

'Meet me at the pub'

Tom Meagher , husband of Jill Meagher who was abductucted and murdered while walking home along Sydney rd , Brunswick last friday night talks to media with Jills brother Tom (hat) .

Tom Meagher (right) with his murdered wife's brother, Michael McKeon. Photo: Jason South

A GOOD homicide investigator is more marathon runner than sprinter. On-call detectives from the squad know that from the moment their mobile phones ring they may have a job that will absorb them for years. Usually homicide detectives are the last to arrive on site, knowing they will be there for the long haul.

In most cases the investigation begins at a static crime scene. There is a body that with careful forensic examination can often provide the necessary pointers to the direction the investigation should take.

Homicide detectives are trained to control their emotions while viewing the worst of human nature. Patience and thoroughness are prized while adrenalin surges are considered the enemy.

A rush of blood can lead to evidence being overlooked and a surge of anger in an interview can sabotage a prosecution.

The eye is always on the long-term goal: a date in the Supreme Court where the offender will be found guilty on the evidence they have unearthed.

But then there are the rare cases where the normal rules don't work. Such as Jill Meagher, who went missing around 1.40am last Saturday after she had been drinking with her ABC colleagues in Brunswick.

The Age News Flowers and Toys are left at the site of the shallow grave where Jill Meagher's body was found this morning in Gisborne.

Flowers on the Gisborne South grave site. Photo: Chris Johnston

At first it was just a missing person case. Someone who had a little too much to drink had not made it home.

By Saturday afternoon Homicide Crew Four - the suspicious missing persons unit - under Detective Sergeant Dave Butler began monitoring the situation.

Soon it became obvious this was not a matter of a night on someone's couch. Ms Meagher's phone had gone dead and she had not accessed her bank accounts, discounting thoughts that she had engineered her own disappearance.

So by late Sunday, more than 36 hours after she was last seen, Crew Four moved in.

But, at least initially, this was not a normal murder probe as police were not sure there had been a murder.

Still, there was an unspoken urgency. What if Ms Meagher had been abducted and was still alive?

When homicide detectives arrived in Brunswick that Monday morning, they didn't even have a crime scene.

What they did have was a starting point. They knew Ms Meagher had left Bar Etiquette to walk to her home in Lux Way. They knew she had refused a colleague's offer to accompany her for safety.

Eventually her handbag was found in Hope Street but police were sure it had not been there when they checked the area on Saturday, meaning it had been planted some time later.

This would have initially indicated the offender may have lived nearby. (The reality was a local found the handbag in the lane on Saturday morning then returned on Sunday evening to put it back as a result of the media publicity.)

The first step for police was to confirm that Ms Meagher had not reached her destination, which meant interviewing her husband, Tom.

He was told firmly, but politely, that the homicide squad begins with those closest to the victim and then works its way out in ever-increasing circles. The reality is that in the vast majority of murders the victim knows the offender and in most cases involving females they are killed by their partners.

They told Mr Meagher the quicker they could clear him as a suspect, the quicker they could move on.

Some of Mr Meagher's initial answers were contradictory and confused, hardly surprising considering his level of stress. He had fallen asleep in front of the television late on Friday night and missed a text from his wife saying, ''Meet me at the pub''.

Police corroborated much of his story, effectively removing him from the suspect list by Tuesday. He was as he appeared: a decent man subjected to grief beyond imagination.

Detectives began to troll through Ms Meagher's personal life to see if she had a boyfriend, was under work pressure, suffered depression or a medical condition that could explain her disappearance.

When these were discounted, the strongest theory became the most ominous: that she had been abducted off the street, that someone seeing a pretty, isolated woman bundled her off into the night.

This added to the urgency as the investigators knew that if it was a random attack the offender could strike again. In 1993, Frankston killer Paul Charles Denyer abducted and murdered three young women in just seven weeks. The killing stopped only when he was arrested.

Few crimes have grabbed the attention of Melbourne as much as the abduction of Jill Meagher.

And in the void came the theories. The husband had not reacted as he should. Why had she made her last call to her family in Perth and not to Tom? Why had he said she had not gone out with her handbag when she had?

This reflected not so much on Mr Meagher as our need to come up with acceptable alternatives to the awful possibility she was the victim of an opportunistic abduction.

When Jane Thurgood-Dove was shot dead in her Niddrie driveway in November 1997, the murder became the subject of similar speculation.

It was falsely suggested she had been gangster Alphonse Gangitano's mistress or was a secret police witness in a major armed robbery. The truth was even more dreadful. It was a case of mistaken identity. The paid killers shot the wrong woman.

But the rumours in the Meagher and Thurgood-Dove cases were perhaps driven by our desire to find alternatives to the thought that ''nice'' people can get killed through no fault of

their own. Because if that is the truth, we are all vulnerable.

On Wednesday morning homicide detectives had to make some tough decisions. They had sourced some CCTV footage from a Sydney Road boutique, which showed Ms Meagher outside the shop at 1.43am - her last known sighting just 450 metres from home. It also showed a man in a blue hoodie talking to her. From the moment police saw the images he became the number one suspect.

There was some debate over whether to make the footage public. Police knew the man would surely be identified once it was released but if Ms Meagher were still alive the consequences would be disastrous.

But the truth was police had concluded she was dead. There was further debate over whether releasing the vision could lead the man to destroy evidence, fabricate an alibi, flee or self-harm.

Perhaps in a normal homicide investigation police would have waited another 48 hours before releasing the film. But this was anything but normal and they decided to mount a public appeal to find the man. They feared they were hunting a predator who could strike again.

A telling consideration was that as his face was not shown clearly, the release of the footage could not be seen to bias a jury if the hoodie suspect was ultimately charged.

Newsrooms are full of people concentrating on delivering their own stories, but most journalists in The Age office stopped to watch the broadcast of Wednesday's press conference by the head of the homicide squad, Detective Inspector John Potter.

He urged pedestrians caught on camera walking past the shop to contact police. He also doused growing speculation that Tom Meagher was the hot suspect.

''I will say, Mr Meagher is not being treated in any way as a suspect. We've ruled no one out, but I will say we have no suspects at this time.

''We need to get it right, we need to make sure that everything we do is appropriate and that it gives us the best possible evidence, because ultimately we want to find out what happened to Jill.''

Tellingly, he was no longer talking of finding her alive.

The public's response was overwhelming, with 550 calls made to Crime Stoppers. Disturbingly, many told of similar abduction attempts in the area that had not been reported to police. This is now the subject of a separate investigation.

The suspect was ultimately identified internally by the homicide squad and by late Wednesday they had a name: Adrian Ernest Bayley, 41, of Coburg.

The surveillance squad, known as ''The Dogs'', was called in to watch Bayley for two reasons: to see if he acted suspiciously and to make sure he couldn't strike again.

From late Wednesday, homicide officers bunkered down and stopped talking to the media - a sure sign they were making progress.

By Thursday morning, Bayley was confirmed as the man in the blue hoodie.

Surveillance police observed him behave as an average guy from the suburbs, heading to work and following his normal routine. But his past showed another side. He was, as they say, ''known to police''. He had a history that fitted the likely profile and the CCTV vision showed him talking to the victim just before she disappeared.

As he was followed on Thursday morning by The Dogs, Crew Four started to rehearse the interview they would conduct with him later that day. They spoke to police who had previously dealt with him and carefully pre-prepared a strategy designed for his personality.

The interview room was arranged to be non-threatening. Gone were the desk, the notebooks and the straight questions of a formal record of interview. This was to be a friendly conversation rather than the third degree.

On Thursday afternoon Bayley was grabbed and taken to the St Kilda Road homicide office.

At first he was friendly but insistent. He was not in Sydney Road early on Saturday morning, had not spoken to the victim and was not the man on the CCTV footage.

After some hours police played their ace. They showed him evidence that he was the man.

Police will allege he eventually admitted he grabbed Ms Meagher, took her to a side street and sexually assaulted her.

They will produce the videoed confession in which he says he drove to Gisborne and used his own shovel to dig a shallow grave to hide his victim.

After initially denying any involvement he finally took police to the site where the body was recovered.

Yesterday he appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court charged with rape and murder.

It took six days to catch him. It took six minutes to remand him.

Angela Lansbury Angela Lindvall

EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS - Angelina Jolie Takes Her Brood For A Bounce!

kids supermarket park toy store boots ring brad pitt angelina jolie wedding
kids supermarket park toy store boots ring brad pitt angelina jolie wedding

Angelina Jolie took the kids to a fun-park in the south of France near the family's Chateau Miraval last weekend and it looks like the brood had a bouncin' good time!

Vivienne and Shiloh buddied up for a good part of the afternoon, on Saturday, hitting up a huge bounce house and a big bouncy yellow bubble with their other siblings. The oldest, Maddox, stayed home with dad Brad Pitt, while Zahara, Knox and Pax ran, climbed, bounced and laughed as they enjoyed the park.

Mama Angelina looked on, probably happy to be reunited with the kids after her recent humanitarian trip to Iraq, Turkey and Lebanon where she visited Syrian refugees. Brad's been busy promoting his new film Killing Them Softly in London.

The team refueled at MacDonald's after burning so many calories at the park. Wonder if they ordered the new McBaguette?!

Alexandra Bastedo Alexandra Nice

Paris Hilton And River Viiperi Return From Romantic Hawaiian Holiday

Paris Hilton River Viiperi dress sunglasses purse hand bag lax airport maui hawaii

Sunkissed and sexy!

Paris Hilton and her supermodel boyfriend River Viiperi returned to LA from their trip to Maui looking tan and so in love.

Princess P, whose been traveling the world promoting her handbag and shoe collection, enjoyed everything Hawaii had to offer ... gorgeous weather, waves and looking at her hot beau in boardshorts.

See video of their LAX arrival below. Adorbs!

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Kim Kardashian leaves Miami hotel with mother Kris Jenner wearing a VERY tight black skirt

By Kirsty Mccormack


She's no stranger to wearing tight clothes but on Thursday, Kim Kardashian also raised her hemline.

The 31-year-old reality TV star stepped out wearing a shorter outfit than usual in a skintight black mini skirt.

Showing off her famous curves in the sexy attire, Kim was joined by her mother Kris Jenner as she left a hotel in Miami, Florida.

Shorter than usual: Kim Kardashian leaves a Miami hotel wearing a tight black mini skirt

She teamed the tight garment with a black spotted peplum top, which was also very fitted, and wore black strapped heels too.

Her long dark hair was pulled back into a low slick ponytail and Kim was sporting her usual flawless complexion.

She walked ahead of her glamorous mother who stood out in a bright orange outfit.

Kris teamed her shirt dress with platform heels, a white handbag and large dark sunglasses as she followed her daughter.

Like mother, like daughter: The reality TV star was joined by Kris Jenner who also wore an eye-catching outfit

Like mother, like daughter: The reality TV star was joined by Kris Jenner who also wore an eye-catching outfit

Always working: Kris was accompanying her daughter as she filmed her latest reality TV show

It seems it may have taken a while for Kim to eventually leave the hotel as she tweeted: 'Finally about to head out for the day with @KourtneyKardash @KrisJenner!!! The whole fam is in Miami!'

Kim and Kourtney are in the sunshine to film the next series of their reality show, Kourtney and Kim Take Miami.

Kim's boyfriend Kayne West was spotted leaving the same hotel shortly after his girlfriend, but looked rather glum.

Why so serious? The pair failed to crack a smile as they emerged from the hotel

Why so serious? The pair failed to crack a smile as they emerged from the hotel

He was said to be getting into a car with TV personality, Jonathan Cheban, who is also taking part in the TV show.

'So excited your down here filming with us @JonathanCheban! Kourtney & Kim Take Miami is gonna be that much crazier lol,' Kim also tweeted.

Happy couple: Kim's boyfriend Kanye West was seen leaving the building shortly after her

Not so crazy! Despite promising fans that the new series would be 'much crazier' Kim and Co. were simply being filmed furniture shopping

Not so crazy! Despite promising fans that the new series would be 'much crazier' Kim and Co. were simply being filmed furniture shopping

Standing out! Kris and Kourtney wore matching orange outfits

This is fun! Kim, Kourtney and her partner Scott Disick discuss which furniture they're going to buy

This is fun! Kim, Kourtney and her partner Scott Disick discuss which furniture they're going to buy

However, Kim and Kourtney's actions that day didn't exactly reflect craziness as they were filmed going furniture shopping in Modani.

Kourtney showed off her slender figure, just weeks after giving birth, and wore a bright orange dress with nude heels.

The pretty siblings were joined by Kourtney's partner, Scott Disick, who certainly enjoyed testing out the furniture.

Getting a telling off? Kris looked like she was having a stern word with Kim at one point

Getting a telling off? Kris looked like she was having a stern word with Kim at one point

Wearing a bright blue polo top, striped shorts and suede loafers, he appeared to be in good spirits as he cuddled Kris and high-fived Kim.

However, the pair are also said to have had a disagreement inside the store, and the reason Scott was seen sitting on a large black chair was because he had stormed off.

Someone's not happy: Scott apparently stormed off after having a disagreement with Kim

Someone's not happy: Scott apparently stormed off after having a disagreement with Kim

They've made up! Scott was later seen high-fiving Kim and hugging Kris

But this didn't bother Kim one bit, and she continued to speak confidently in front of the camera as her sister looked on.

The family may have well been shopping for the Miami home that they will be staying in while filming the TV show.

Earlier this month it was reported that they were thinking of moving into a $6million Mediterranean-style mansion that featured six-and-a-half bedrooms and a swimming pool.

Say cheese! The siblings both showed off their legs in their sexy outfits

Say cheese! The siblings both showed off their legs in their sexy outfits

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Joe Flacco shows off full arsenal in Ravens win

Joe Flacco can make every throw. In the Baltimore Ravens' aggressively revamped offense, he can sometimes make them all in one drive.

Flacco's 23-16 victory Thursday night over the Cleveland Browns on a rainy night in Baltimore wasn't flashy. It was the kind of surgical performance we've come to expect from the Ravens. They are 3-1 and atop the AFC North, but they look more dangerous this year because the offense can score at any moment.

The Ravens' six-play, 85-yard, second-quarter touchdown drive in under three minutes showed what kind of quarterback Joe Flacco has become.

It started on third-and-6. Flacco pulled off a gorgeous touch pass to Tandon Doss for 39 yards. Not many quarterbacks have the big arm that Flacco possesses. Even fewer can loft a ball like this.

On the very next snap, Flacco found Torrey Smith up the sideline for a 34-yard throw. Two plays in 73 yards. Going into Thursday's game, Flacco led the NFL in throws over 20 yards. Smith has as many catches over 25 yards this year (6) as 24 teams in the NFL.

This has become a big-play offense. Flacco read the zone coverage perfectly and fit the ball in between the cornerback and the safety. The velocity on the pass doesn't allow the safety to make a play.

That velocity showed up repeatedly in Flacco's 356-yard outing. (Perhaps too much. Flacco threw 46 times to only 18 runs for Ray Rice.)

Two plays later, Flacco finished off the drive with an 18-yard score to Smith. The Ravens went backward with a false start and then suffered a four-yard loss to set up the play. In previous years in Baltimore, a second-and-goal from the 18-yard-line meant a field goal was coming. Now it just means Flacco has more room to operate.

Flacco again used his arm strength to fit a ball into a tight window between three defenders. The Ravens have lacked a No. 1 receiver for so long. They have one now. The Ravens have also lacked a difference-making quarterback for their entire franchise history.

They've got one of those now, too.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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Grey's Anatomy: Why Did [Spoiler Alert] Have to Die? Insiders Spill Scoop

by Kristin Dos Santos Thu., Sep. 27, 2012 9:59 PM PDT

Sob. Hiccup. Sob. Shake angry fists at the sky and scream, "Whhhhyyyyyyyy?"

Anyone feeling this reaction after watching tonight’s gut-wrenching episode of Grey’s Anatomy, in which yet another series regular was killed off?

Well, insiders close to the show have spilled a bit on the "why" part. But don’t you dare read if you don’t want to be spoiled!

Exclusive! Shonda Rhimes teases there may be more deaths on Grey's Anatomy

It was McSteamy, aka Mark Sloane, aka Eric Dane who died tonight. And it was heartbreaking. The kind of heartbreaking where Shonda Rhimes basically rips out your heart and feeds it to you with a spoon. (On a scale of one to Denny it was a Denny-minus.)

So for you keeping count, that's three major castmember departures on Grey's Anatomy, including Lexie (Chyler Leigh), who died in the plane crash in May, and Teddy (Kim Raver), who moved away to another hospital.

So why all the exits?

Did you check out Last Resort before Grey's? Love it or Hate it? Sound off!

According to insiders close to Grey's and ABC, the network requested budget tightening for the series going into the current season, and Rhimes was forced to cut down on the cast. "Some of the cuts were easy, and some weren't," according to one source.

According to show insiders, Chyler wanted to leave Grey's, and had been talking with Shonda for quite some time about a departure for Lexie. Raver, according to sources, would have preferred more screen time on Grey's, so the decision was somewhat mutual and Rhimes let her go with the possibility of a future series starring Raver. As for Dane, well, according to insiders, he did not ask to leave the show. However, before you Grey's fans get even more upset, please know that according to sources, there were "very legitimate reasons" for Shonda's decision to let him go.

Are you sorry to see Eric Dane go? Will you be watching Grey's this season? And holy bejeesus, how about that Scandal premiere tonight?

All your thoughts are welcomed in the comments…

More Grey's Anatomy OMG Moments

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Thursday, 27 September 2012

Pro Football Hall of Fame announces nominees for 2013 class

CANTON, Ohio -- John Lynch, Michael Strahan, Steve McNair and Morten Andersen are among 13 first-year eligible players for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Safety Lynch, defensive end Strahan, quarterback McNair and kicker Andersen join offensive linemen Jonathan Ogden and Larry Allen, defensive tackle Warren Sapp and 121 other total nominees for induction. The list will be whittled to 25 semifinalists in late November.

Fifteen finalists from the modern era will be announced in early January, with elections taking place Feb. 2, 2013, the day before the Super Bowl.

Between four and seven new members will be selected, with inductions next August.

Other first-time nominees are running back Priest Holmes, wide receiver Keenan McCardell, center Tom Nalen, defensive tackles Sam Adams and Ted Washington and defensive end Bryant Young.

Among the contributors nominated are former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and longtime team owners Bud Adams of the Tennessee Titans and Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots. Former Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell, who died this month, also is a nominee.

Other holdover nominees include receivers Cris Carter, Andre Reed and Tim Brown, running back Jerome Bettis, guard Will Shields, defensive end Charles Haley, linebacker Kevin Greene and defensive back Aeneas Williams, all finalists for the 2012 class.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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Cheryl Cole dons flimsy vest and tight leather skirt as she and Tre Holloway enjoy romantic dinner date

By Sarah Fitzmaurice


They are appear to be a couple who love nothing than heading out for a romantic dinner date.

And given Cheryl Cole and boyfriend Tre Holloway will need plenty of energy in the coming weeks as they embark on her A Million Lights Tour it's no surprise to see them indulging once again.

The couple enjoyed a meal at C restaurant last night and both Cheryl and Tre made considerable effort with their outfits.

Keeping up their strength: Cheryl Cole and boyfriend Tre Holloway were seen heading out to dinner at C restaurant in London last night

Keeping up their strength: Cheryl Cole and boyfriend Tre Holloway were seen heading out to dinner at C restaurant in London last night

The 29-year-old singer donned a leather skirt and a flimsy black vest for the occasion, which might have proved a little chilly given the autumnal temperatures in London's capital.

Geordie Cheryl also opted for bare legs despite the chilly weather and stepped out in a pair of shiny black boots.

With her tresses pulled back into a sleek style Cheryl added a flash of colour with bright red lips.

No coat needed? Cheryl braved the chilly autumn temperatures by stepping out without a jacket or any tights

Showing off his hevage: Tre had a plunging grey cardigan on which showed off he top of his chest

Showing off his hevage: Tre had a plunging grey cardigan on which showed off he top of his chest

American dancer Tre seemed to feel the cold a little more and stepped out in a plunging grey knitted jumper and a pair of smart trousers.

His cardigan showed off his toned chest which appeared smooth and hair-free.

The A Million Lights arena tour kicks off on October 3 in Belfast and the 10-date show finishes in Newcastle on October 17.

Cheryl's new man Tre will be giving her support on stage as a backing dancer and the pair have been working hard ahead of the first show next week.

Yesterday Cheryl tweeted: 'This time next week I will be soundchecking for the first night of my #AMillionLightsTour .. Who's ready ??? '

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Roger Goodell apologizes to fans as regular NFL refs return

The NFL's regular officiating crews are back, and Commissioner Roger Goodell has apologized to the fans who fretted about the replacements the last three weeks.

After two days of marathon negotiations — and mounting frustration across the league — the NFL and the officials' union announced at midnight Thursday that a tentative eight-year agreement had been reached to end a lockout that began in June. The regular refs' return couldn't have come soon enough for many players, coaches and fans.

"Obviously when you go through something like this, it's painful for everybody," Goodell said on a conference call about 12 hours after the deal was struck. "Most importantly, it's painful for fans. We're sorry to have to put fans through that. Sometimes you have to go through something like that in the short term for the right agreement for the long term."

The deal follows Seattle's chaotic last-second win over Green Bay on Monday night in which the replacement officials struggled. Goodell, who was at the bargaining table Tuesday and Wednesday, said regular officials would work the Browns-Ravens game at Baltimore on Thursday night.

The seven-man crew working the game is led by referee Gene Steratore, a 10-year NFL veteran.

"We are glad to be getting back on the field for this week's games," NFL Referees Association President Scott Green said.

The players' union is happy to have them.

"Our workplace is safer with the return of our professional referees," the NFLPA said in a statement Thursday. "We welcome our fellow union members back on our field."

Plenty of players chimed in, too.

"Never thought I would be excited for the refs to come back to work but it's about time it was definitely necessary!" Cleveland return specialist Josh Cribbs tweeted Thursday morning.

Added Minnesota punter Chris Kluwe: "It was a noble experiment, but I think ultimately a failed experiment, from what we've seen. It'll be good not to have to worry about that when we're on the field. It's good that it won't be a distraction anymore."

Shortly after the news broke, Buffalo running back C.J. Spiller tweeted, "Welcome back REFS."

The tentative deal must be ratified by 51 percent of the union's 121 members. They plan to vote Friday and Saturday in Dallas.

For the Packers, Redskins, Lions and other teams who voiced their displeasure with calls that might have swayed games, the agreement doesn't change their records. But after having replacements for the first three weeks, triggering a wave of outrage that threatened to disrupt the rest of the season, Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck probably spoke for his peers by simply echoing Spiller: "Welcome back."

The agreement hinged on working out pension and retirement benefits for the officials, who are part-time employees of the league. The tentative pact calls for their salaries to increase from an average of $149,000 US a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.

Under the proposed deal, the current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season or until the official earns 20 years' service. The defined benefit plan will then be frozen.

Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires, and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution arrangement. The annual league contribution made on behalf of each game official will begin with an average of more than $18,000 per official and increase to more than $23,000 per official in 2019.

Beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option to hire a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year round, including on the field. The NFL also will be able to retain additional officials for training and development, and can assign those officials to work games. The number of additional officials will be determined by the league.

"As you know, this has to be ratified and we know very little about it, but we're excited to be back. And ready," referee Ed Hochuli told The Associated Press by telephone. "And I think that's the most important message — that we're ready."

The longest contract with on-field officials in NFL history was reached with the assistance of two federal mediators.

Replacements have been used both to play and officiate NFL games before. In 1987, the players went on strike and three games were played with replacement players. In 2001, the first week of the regular season was officiated by replacements before a deal was worked out.

One big difference: The replacements 11 years ago generally came from the highest levels of college football. These officials were from lower college divisions or other leagues such as Arena Football.

After Seattle's 14-12 victory against the Packers, their ability to call fast-moving NFL games drew mounting criticism, with ESPN analyst Jon Gruden calling their work "tragic and comical."

The Seahawks beat Green Bay on a desperation pass into the end zone on the final play. Packers safety M.D. Jennings had both hands on the ball in the end zone, and when he fell to the ground in a scrum, both Jennings and Seahawks receiver Golden Tate had their arms on the ball.

The closest official to the play, at the back of the end zone, signaled for the clock to stop, while another official at the sideline ran in and then signaled touchdown.

The NFL said Tuesday that the touchdown pass should not have been overturned — but acknowledged Tate should have been called for offensive pass interference before the catch. The league also said there was no indisputable evidence to reverse the call made on the field.

That drew even louder howls of disbelief. Some coaches, including Miami's Joe Philbin and Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis, tried to restore some calm by instructing players not to speak publicly on the issue.

Fines against two coaches for incidents involving the replacements were handed out Wednesday.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was docked $50,000 for trying to grab an official's arm Sunday to ask for an explanation of a call after his team lost at Baltimore. And Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was tagged for $25,000 for what the league called "abuse of officials" in the Redskins' loss to Cincinnati on Sunday. Two other coaches, Denver's John Fox and assistant Jack Del Rio, were fined Monday for their conduct involving the replacements the previous week.

"I accept the discipline and I apologize for the incident," Belichick said.

Players were in no mood for apologies from anyone.

"I'll probably get in trouble for this, but you have to have competent people," Carolina receiver Steve Smith said. "And if you're incompetent, get them out of there."

And now they are out.

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Jay-Z: Beyonce is “Absolutely Not” Pregnant

Posted Thursday September 27, 2012 2:19 PM GMT

Despite recent pregnancy rumors, Jay-Z is assuring us that Beyoncé is definitely NOT pregnant.

On Wednesday night (September 26), the 42-year-old rapper opened up about his wife during the NBA 2K13 release party in New York City.

When E! Online asked if baby Blue Ivy will welcome a sibling, Jay responded, “Not tonight, not in nine months – absolutely not."

The 40/40 Club owner continued to assure us that the couple currently has no plans for baby number two by adding, “Not in one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight or nine months."

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Russian billionaire Lebedev punches businessman, charged with ‘hooliganism’ [video]

Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev, a former KGB agent, was charged with hooliganism Wednesday, ostensibly for getting into a fight with a businessman on national TV, as The Washington Post’s Kathy Lally reported.

Lebedev had been funding a Russian opposition newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, and the criminal charges against him come as Russian President Vladi­mir Putin has intensified his attacks on dissent.

In a video interview, Lebedev told Reuters that he had been “investigating fraud and corruption” for years in Russia and that the case is revenge for his attempts to expose corruption.

Hooliganism was also the charge levied against Pussy Riot, the feminist punk band that staged an anti-Putin concert in a Moscow church.

Foreign Policy explains why the Russian government refers to the charges against dissenters as “hooliganism.”:

“English-language readers  might assume this is a weird translation in the western media, but huliganstvo comes right from the original Russian. The word has been featured in the New York Times' Russia coverage since at least 1905, when the infamous ultra-nationalist "Black Hundreds" were described as uligani.”

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