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William Pfaff is a globally respected political commentator and author on international relations, contemporary history and U.S. policy. He ...

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William Pfaff

William Pfaff

Ukraine and Russia have created an international disorder

April 8, 2014

An international disorder unmatched since the interwar 1930s has been created by the drama of Ukraine and the Russians, combined with the inherent self-destructive forces of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the developing civil war over theological as well as political issues inside the Islamic states, and the serious risk of collapse in the European Union.

  • Outcome of the French municipal elections

    April 2, 2014

    The outcome of the French municipal elections last weekend contributed to the general European unease about the future of the European Union. In May European Parliament elections will take place in the troubled circumstances of economic crisis everywhere but Germany, with tension between the EU, the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine contributing to the uncertainties that exist about the future of the Union, with a notable rise in support for separatist parties in several important countries, one of them -- of course -- France.

  • What do Washington and the West now want?

    March 26, 2014

    Here again in the Ukrainian affair we see the Manichean habits of mind of the Cold War, still the most powerful precedent in the last 50 years of American and Western political history and policy studies.

  • Ukraine only promises trouble for Russia

    March 18, 2014

    After Vladimir Putin's speech in the Kremlin justifying and welcoming Russian annexation of Crimea, the western press now asks what next will Putin do? How far will he go?

  • To achieve peace, past must not be forgotten

    March 11, 2014

    The Ukraine crisis has slowed to a temporary halt as none of the significant actors will speak directly to anyone else in a position to break the stalemate.

  • What happens now in Ukraine?

    March 4, 2014

    What did Washington expect to gain from a successful coup d'état in Ukraine? It gained little enough from the "Orange Revolution" in 2005, that first put Viktor Yuschenko and Yulia Tymoshenko into power in independent Ukraine. Their power produced rivalry, as well as a return of corruption to national government (the Orange Revolution, so-called, was itself inspired by popular protests against corruption in the preceding government of Viktor Yanukovych, causing his ouster). Yanukovych, of course, returned to power in 2010 (with 48 percent of the vote), after which Yulia Tymoshenko was conveniently charged and imprisoned on corruption charges.

  • Obama's disposition: combine threats with accommodation

    February 25, 2014

    The Obama government has taken a Cold War stand on the crisis in Ukraine. The White House has warned Russia not to intervene, which they have not threatened, and has ordered U.S. military precautions. This seems unnecessary, since the Europeans seem to have matters in hand. Moreover, events last week were the second effort in a decade to bring the Ukraine into the Western camp, wrenching it away from its historical ties to Russia, a provocative and risky project.

  • American departure will leave behind carnage and ruin

    February 18, 2014

    This is probably, but not certainly, the year that sees the end to the United States' three-decades-long effort to establish permanent American strategic bases in the Muslim Middle East and in Muslim Asia. This effort began before the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington in 2001. The attacks were revenge for Washington's refusal to remove the airbase and troops it had installed in Saudi Arabia, the Holy Land of Islam, following the Gulf War to liberate Kuwait, following Iraq's invasion and occupation of that country.

  • Switzerland and the growing resistance in Western Europe

    February 12, 2014

    The narrow majority vote in Switzerland against the "massive immigration" foreseen as a consequence of accepting the European Union's commitment to free passage within the borders of "Schengen Europe" has left the Brussels authorities in "stupor," according to the European press.

  • Switzerland and the growing resistance in Western Europe

    February 11, 2014

    The narrow majority vote in Switzerland against the "massive immigration" foreseen as a consequence of accepting the European Union's commitment to free passage within the borders of "Schengen Europe" has left the Brussels authorities in "stupor," according to the European press.

  • Dispute of Ukraine's relationship with Russia rages on

    February 4, 2014

    Last weekend when British Prime Minister David Cameron was insisting, once again, this time to François Hollande, that the European Union will have to consent to remake itself before 2017 if it expects to keep Britain from quitting the Union, Ukrainians were in uproar about how to force their distressed government (and its Russian neighbor, another story) to accept the majority will in Ukraine to join Western Europe, via association with the European Union. Their effort has produced rebellion and spilled into violence.

  • Hollande-Trierweiler split and the question of marriage

    January 28, 2014

    The Hollande-Trierweiler passage in the rich history of French scandals has ended badly for both, contributing to morbid forces of disunion at work in contemporary French society.

  • Postwar era has ended, but not appetite for war

    January 21, 2014

    The supposed decline of the United States. The impending crisis of the European Union this year when it becomes 30 states, while Britain contemplates leaving and making it 29. It confronts promised referenda on continuing EU membership and Scottish independence. The collapse of the postwar Mediterranean order -- in 1945, a colonial order. All bears witness today to the end of the post-second-world-war Western system, built in 1947-1949.

  • Why are governments not looking after themselves?

    January 14, 2014

    What more than a decade ago was believed by Americans to be the omnipotence of the United States in the Middle East and Central Asia (the "Greater Middle East" as the Bush administration called it) is today being replaced by a fear that the United States not only has decisively lost its power in the region, but is also responsible for why everything seems to be going wrong.

  • Isolationist instincts of Americans are sound ones

    January 7, 2014

    The Washington Post and the International New York Times had the same front-page headlines today. Both had to do (as the Times put it) with the "Power Void" in the Mideast, deploring that America's decade of attempting to create a new order in the region now is blowing up in its face.

  • We need your prayers this season, Pope Francis

    December 24, 2013

    Christmas this year seems more the occasion of religious war than of the peace to which the greeting cards routinely allude. Peace talks, such as the "5 plus 1" talks seeking reconciliation with Iran to eliminate the threat of war from or against that country, are the subject of sectarian and political attack inside the U.S. Congress and in Israel. Who wants peace if you can have the rewarding destruction of a rival?

  • Invitation for America to go home is inevitable

    December 18, 2013

    PARIS -- The Ukraine crisis and the German-American dispute over American intelligence and National Security Agency practices are without much doubt the beginning of the end of the American-dominated Europe we have known since the collapse of Communism. The breakup may be dramatic, or polite and prolonged, but it certainly will come.

  • Obama's remembered qualities loom of disappointment and dissidence

    December 10, 2013

    PARIS -- Action begets reaction in foreign policy as in physics, and action unconsidered for its possible consequences has been responsible for many results for which statesmen (or their unqualified counterparts) are eventually sorry, as are multitudes (as it may be) who pay the price. That, sententious as it may be, is my holiday message to Barack Obama. I continue:

  • U.S. determined to mend fences with Iran, critics notwithstanding

    December 3, 2013

    PARIS -- It's not only most Israelis, led by their Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the policy-community hawks in Washington and acolytes of AIPAC in the Congress who hate the interim nuclear agreement signed by Iran in November with the United Nations Security Council "5 plus one."

  • Ukraine halts eastward expansion of NATO

    November 27, 2013

    PARIS -- Russia's relations with the Western countries are troubled and dangerous in the Ukraine dispute, and an important opportunity may be lost. Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently made a spectacular return to great power politics in the Middle East, at considerable expense to the United States, and now he has humiliated the European Union. Friday's meeting between Ukraine and the EU may be critical.

  • U.S. pushing new treaties at expense of national sovereignty

    November 20, 2013

    PARIS -- The foreign reaction to the National Security Agency revelations that I have heard most has been not only how arrogant Washington has been in spying on its allies but, worse than that, how arrogant everyone in Washington and most of the American press and television has been about foreigners.

  • U.S. pushing new treaties at expense of national sovereignty

    November 19, 2013

    PARIS -- The foreign reaction to the National Security Agency revelations that I have heard most has been not only how arrogant Washington has been in spying on its allies but, worse than that, how arrogant everyone in Washington and most of the American press and television has been about foreigners.

  • NSA megalomania accomplishes little beyond alienating allies

    November 13, 2013

    PARIS -- It is the nature of bureaucracies to expand and accumulate prerogatives. The National Security Agency, a dusty post-Second World War institution of routine habits and outdated technology, focused on the remnants of the Soviet Union and its East European satellites, did not waste an opportunity when the 9/11 attacks occurred in New York and Washington.

  • Discredited economic theory holds Europe in deflationary thrall

    November 5, 2013

    PARIS -- This week the notorious "troika" representing the three major lenders to severely indebted European Union nations -- officials from the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank -- once again descended upon Athens to consider new Greek proposals for dealing with its debt. (The IMF has recently expressed some doubts about all this but is still in the game.) The three were asked to approve a new Greek government plan to complete its 2014 budget in a way that would justify the next scheduled payment of troika loans needed for Greece's national "bailout."

  • Spying scandal makes clear that Europe must declare independence

    October 29, 2013

    PARIS -- The crisis caused in Europe by American intelligence interceptions of its allies' electronic communications derives from a problem Europeans have known and put up with since the Second World War. The time has come to call a halt.

  • House GOP, news media fail to inform American public on budget deficit

    October 15, 2013

    PARIS -- Readers scarcely need to be told that this article will be distributed on the eve of the global economic crisis generally foreseen as the consequence of the United States' apparently imminent failure to meet the legal limit of its national debt.

  • House GOP shutdown an exceptionally reckless waste of time

    October 9, 2013

    PARIS -- Abroad, what is happening in Washington remains to most a mystery of very little interest. It is back pages stuff. If the American government ceases to function because the Republican majority in the House of Representatives refuses to pass a budget bill that does not include a rider disabling President Barack Obama's health reform program, already law of the nation, well that is America for you. Americans are always telling the world they are an exceptional people.

  • Govt. shutdown, tectonic shifts in Middle East could strain Israeli-US relationship

    October 2, 2013

    PARIS -- The shutdown of the American government has been devastating to the United States' international credibility. It undermines the American ability to make a promise, give a guarantee or claim the position of international leadership that conservatives in particular have until now believed to be the nation's modern manifest destiny. The facts of what has happened are not responsible for this so much as the pettiness and irresponsibility that now seem endemic qualities of legislative government in the United States.

  • Corporate citizenship a dying concept

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- One of the interesting questions that resulted from the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case in 2010, which assigned political personhood to corporations, is whether this corporate personhood carries responsibilities. It used to, in another age, but does it now?

  • Islam's walls of language

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The cultural comparisons by which Mitt Romney distinguished himself when recently in Israel, flattering as they were to his Israeli audience and insulting to Palestinians, resulted mostly in global comment on Mr. Romney's own cultural and intellectual limitations. They nonetheless introduced a subject few other American politicians know anything about, nor do, it seems, the staffs of NSA, CIA and other American political and military planners.

  • Super PAC era links back to early James Burnham

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- At a time when corporate America is exploring and exploiting its new Supreme-Court-bestowed role in the management of American election results, an earlier transformation in the composition and political role of American business leadership should be recalled. This was the replacement of the Gilded Age capitalists and industrialists -- audacious, rapacious and innovative, who created the post-Civil War American industrial economy -- by the early 20th-century professional managers who took their place.

  • Egypt's president reasserts his country's sovereignty in world affairs

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The interview given The New York Times by the new president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, on the eve of his trip to New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting, was notable for its moderation, but more than that, for its calm and well-founded -- and if you will, friendly -- advice to the United States about its relations with Egypt and the Middle East.

  • Shifting US foreign policy reflective of new world view

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- Counterinsurgency is out. Drones, assassination teams, targeted killings and special forces are in. A New York Times report on May 27 described the "existential debate" going on inside the faculty at West Point, the national military academy. Counterinsurgency doctrine from Vietnam -- and the Philippines "insurgency" of 1899-1902 -- was refurbished by Gen. David Petraeus in the closing period of the Iraq War, and, combined with a sharp increase in troop strength (the "surge"), it was credited with ending the war there by confirming the Nouri al-Maliki Shiite government unsteadily in place.

  • Greece's Balkan inheritance is heavy

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The Balkans are historically apart from Europe for two reasons, one religious and the other political.

  • While Russia offers peace, US grasps at credibility

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- President Obama's speech on Syria Tuesday evening was a curious affair, a call to go to war that ended by saying: yes, but not now. He might as well have said, "But as for the future, if ignored, I shall do such things as to make the world tremble!" A perfect example of how to say yes and no in the same speech.

  • Assad baits Obama as the world waits

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- It would seem a piece of wisdom picked up on the school playground not to start a fight that you don't know how to finish.

  • Syrian chemical weapons threat eerily familiar?

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- Since the beginning of December, military gas (sarin, a nerve agent) has claimed a major place in discussion of the civil war in Syria. The Syrian government has admitted to holding major stocks of (unidentified military) gas in or near the areas of fighting the insurrectionary movement.

  • New century is off to a wobbly start

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- This certainly is not the best of times, nor can it be called the worst of recent times, considering the years of totalitarianism, war and cold war the world lived through in the 20th century, recently closed. But the years since 2000 have provided no auspicious start to the 21st century.

  • The path of hubris and war

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- Great power rivalries created the conditions in which the First World War became possible, but the war itself was set off by an isolated and intrinsically unimportant act of terrorism by a Serbian nationalist. All that followed was driven by nationalism in the warring countries, except in Russia and the United States from 1917 on -- both of which became victims of the illusions of internationalism.

  • Military interventions rarely fulfill their goals

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- Military interventions by powerful nations into lesser ones, such as now continues in Mali (and Afghanistan), and is being urged by many into the Syrian civil war, are inherently reckless since even the most powerful states can have the whole project blow up on them.

  • Swiss curb executive greed, will anyone follow?

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- Switzerland just had a referendum in which it voted to give company and bank shareholders veto rights over the salaries, bonuses and overall compensation packages of senior executives and board directors.

  • Tensions between Germany and Greece run deep

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The most important European casualty of the international financial crisis has been the solidarity that until recently existed within the European Union, whose foundation and continuing raison d'etre has been to consolidate nations and peoples formerly driven by nationalism and destructive national ego.

  • Petraeus yet another high-ranking military official mired in scandal

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- "Duty, Honor, Country" is the West Point motto, but it seems to have lost what once was its compelling power over the men of the Long Gray Line, as they pursue the military careers that follow graduation. I am not speaking primarily about the marital and extra-marital entanglements of the generals and naval flag-officers who enjoy the luxuries, and there are many, that accompany the duties of assuring the American nation's security.

  • Obama's place in history already assured

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The overall failure of American foreign policy during the first Obama presidency was foreseeable. Mr. Obama had been a law professor and an urban organizer. He took his foreign policy views from reading the newspapers, and he appointed as his advisers and officials figures from past administrations and the academy representing the conventional liberal views of the period. Original thinking was not evident. In military matters, he inevitably was the prisoner of the Pentagon.

  • Jihadism in N. Africa gets US attention

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- I watched some of the Washington Sunday political talk shows this week on international television. The participants' main foreign preoccupation seemed to be the potential threat to America of al-Qaida of the Islamic Maghreb and the other bands of Islamic jihadists, kidnappers, smugglers and bandits active in the Sahara.

  • Global governance at heart of failed foreign policies

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The first time I heard there was a "war" against Westphalia was in a talk given to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in 2003 by George W. Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice. She said that the Westphalian system of sovereign international relations -- agreed upon at that German city in 1648, as part of the treaty that ended the terrible and wasteful Thirty Years' War -- was now outdated and should be discarded. Since then, it has more and more been dismissed in academic and policy discussions devoted to new proposals for "global governance."

  • Syrian intervention can only lead into yet another war

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- When Barack Obama foolishly remarked last fall that if the Bashar al-Assad government in Syria made use of chemical weapons in its fight to suppress the insurrection in that country, it would cross a "red line" so far as the American government was concerned. His statement implied that the United States is in charge of international war and peace.

  • Endless war on terror far from noble cause

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- It was George W. Bush who reacted to the 9/11 attacks as a manifestation of Evil, imposing upon the United States the duty to extirpate the Foul Fiend and his offspring Terror, so as to restore Virtue by means of global war.

  • What does evacuation of Yemen say about American policy?

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The war against terror now being conducted from the White House, with the increasing use of drones, obviously is a self-perpetuating and self-enlarging undertaking that of its nature guarantees that the United States is the creator and perpetuator of the very war it fights.

  • Arab spring best left alone

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The cry from the Obama administration's policy desks since last week is how "we" can "get this revolution back on track."

  • Snowden leaks reveal American Trojan Horse in Europe

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- I am surprised that in the Edward Snowden affair no one I've yet seen has quoted the American statesman Henry L. Stimson. He was twice (1911-'13 and 1940-'45) U.S. secretary of war (we had such a cabinet officer in an America less abandoned to hypocrisy) and once secretary of state (1929-'33). In the last-named office, he closed down Washington's post-World War I code-breaking service, saying "Gentlemen do not read others' mail." I suppose the difference between a time when the country was governed by gentlemen and the present day is so colossal as to make such a sentiment impossible to credit.

  • Conflicts within Islam complicate US foreign policy

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The unforeseen consequences of American Middle Eastern policy since the Second World War are now making themselves apparent. In the beginning, American policy was to control the principal oil-producing Muslim states. Negotiations between Franklin D. Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia aboard the American cruiser USS Quincy, following FDR's participation in the wartime Yalta conference, ended in an agreement by which the U.S. developed Saudi oil production and guaranteed Saudi Arabia's security.

  • Global domination and databases

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- Global domination is a relatively recent ambition of nations. Wars of religion and ideology existed in Europe, notably the wars of religion, which ended with the Treaties of Westphalia and established the system of state sovereignty, and the French revolutionary wars, which ended with Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo and the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

  • More union in the EU doubtful

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel has consistently said that the answer to Europe's problems is more political integration, and this is a view held elsewhere among those trying to find a way out of the conundrum that the economic crisis has presented to the European Union.

  • As Hollande struggles, so does the opposition

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- France has a double crisis. Its ruling political party, Francois Hollande's Socialist, is in a state of catatonia, usually defined as a condition of incoherence with alternate periods of stupor and activity. More below about that.

  • A right and proper death of the euro

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- When the proposal was initially made for a common European currency, it seemed to this writer to be a good idea, with the flaw that it wouldn't work. Although inexpert in economics (being a product of the age of arithmetic), it struck me as an effect of a false analogy with the United States that was common in Europe at that time.

  • Snowden leak reveals the ridiculous reach of federal power

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- There is no reverse gear on the machine of governmental power. If power exists, it will be seized and exploited. To do what? That will be revealed in the course of this power's employment. Its potential uses will automatically be discovered by those who have it or seize it and may provide surprises.

  • Siena conference further evidence of stalemated euro zone

    September 30, 2013

    SIENA, ITALY -- The European Union is at risk of being destroyed by the euro. The credit crisis founded upon the swindle by Wall Street that was retailed to Europe's banks has created divisions in Europe which are undermining what was supposed to be mutual confidence and solidarity among the 17 members of the euro zone.

  • US policy is to keep the veil of secrecy in place

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- For some 20 years, in another and more youthful phase of my life, I was one of the (apparently) several hundred thousand Americans who possessed a "top secret" security classification.

  • Can the EU be saved?

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- It is not simply the euro zone that is threatened by the dramatic economic discrepancies that now exist among its members, as well as the large indebtedness gap that exists between the southern members of the zone and the German-led bloc of northern countries. Now it is the European Union itself that is in danger, mainly but not entirely because of the economic crisis inherited from Wall Street abuses. The EU has contributed to its own misfortunes.

  • EU better off as concentric powers, not US imitation

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel is not the only European convinced that the European crisis, now a political as well as economic crisis, can only be solved by pressing forward -- ever forward! -- to an ever more closely unified European Union, with ever-strengthened institutions of federalism and centralized authority.

  • Hague Tribunal controversy hints at US-Israeli aims

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The irresistible impulse to aggrandize power, which has been evident in American foreign policy since (at least) the fall of the East-West bipolar system in 1991, was demonstrated last week by the NSA revelations of Edward Snowden. Now there is a new manifestation of apparent illicit power assertion revealed by a devastating front-page report in the International Herald Tribune on June 15.

  • Europe bails itself out, for now

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The latest, and 20th, European "summit" meeting, held last week in Brussels, was symbolically a defeat for Germany's Angela Merkel, who agreed that Europe's permanent bailout fund could directly recapitalize certain troubled euro-zone banks after weeks of obstinate resistance to such concessions to what in Germany are regarded as the irresponsible and profligate "southerners" -- Greeks, Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese -- held responsible for the European debt crisis (with a little help from Goldman Sachs). She also, in the Greek case, agreed to a growth fund.

  • The honorable absurdity of a soldier's role

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- Ten years ago, invading American troops were moving through stifling dust storms towards Baghdad from Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, which British forces were fighting to secure.

  • Obama's lame attempt to justify his old, new war

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The remarkable May 23 address by President Barack Obama was primarily an effort to establish the legality of actions taken by himself and his administration, notably the targeted drone killings, to settle his conscience in his continuing prosecution of what George W. Bush named the global war against terror.

  • Half-baked theories continue to direct global history

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The blood runs cold when one fully appreciates how vulnerable official policymakers and the Western policy community is to slogans and to magical thinking. The Reinhart-Rogoff case is the latest, and certainly will not be the last, in which the credulity and carelessness of experts wreak havoc among ordinary people -- in this case, ordinary people by the millions.

  • Euro must have reform, not Americanization

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- More than two decades ago, the Delors plan for European currency union was initially proposed. Some of us asked whether eight, 12 or 15 different European economies, with their distinct budgets (and budget priorities), fiscal situations and national debts, could really operate with a single currency.

  • Syria's turmoil is internal, but meddling could inflame Middle East

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The unclarified mystery about the struggle in Syria is what it is all about. Did it begin in repercussion to the Arab uprisings elsewhere? Or is there a sinister external explanation?

  • Americans fear Iran, but there is much to learn from Cuba

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- A Gallup poll issued this month says that 99 percent of the American public now has become convinced that Iran's civilian nuclear program will threaten "the vital interests of the United States in the next ten years." Eighty-three percent say this will be "a critical threat." Why?

  • Bin Laden's influence lives on after him

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- A day will undoubtedly come when Osama bin Laden will occupy the same place in 21st century history books as Gavrilo Princip holds in the histories of the 20th Century. Both committed acts that provoked great wars, brought down empires and profoundly altered their times.

  • To the brink again for Israel and Gaza

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Syrian President Bashar Al Assad have an important thing in common: When a part of the populations under their control rise up against them, they do not negotiate or compromise; they bomb the rebel civilians, even when this violates international law, which they then shrug off.

  • Continued American presence in Afghanistan a recipe for more disaster

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The United States has adopted the mission of "global security provider," according to the most recent Defense Department quadrennial strategy statement. This is a self-nominated role as custodian of a (prospective) global order based on American democracy and capitalism, meant to replace the Westphalian system of absolute national sovereignties and the tradition and institutions of international law as these used to be observed (before the arrival of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and, regrettably, Barack Obama).

  • Romney's foreign policy a puzzle that doesn't fit together

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The principal problem with Mitt Romney's foreign policy statements is not that his position swings widely, or that he often reverses himself, according to the audience and the daily news. This is no surprise in American presidential campaigning. But is there an underlying scheme lurking in what he says? Does Mr. Romney actually possess a serious understanding of American foreign relations, their past, present and the problems they will present to a new administration? Is he capable of assembling what he says into a coherent national policy?

  • Would a stronger European federation even help?

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The belief widely held is that enlarged federalism is the appropriate response to the economic crisis provoked by the Wall Street credit crash. Why? Fundamental to the crisis is the degree of federation it already has. Seventeen economically disparate nations bound their fortunes together in creating the euro zone, and it is exactly this that has thrown the European project into crisis.

  • Anonymous murder from a safe distance

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- War is war and murder is murder. The law draws the distinction. The American armed drone is a weapons system of war, not of policemen. And even if it were a police weapon (as it may, one fears, become in the future), the United States Department of Defense and the CIA are not police forces, nor has the United States a commission to police the world of its radicals, jihadists and religious fanatics, although for too many years it has acted as if it did.

  • Drone warfare foretells an ever-expanding and illegal war

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The disclosure that current American drone warfare operations are directed from the presidential office in the White House, with the president himself selecting persons to be assassinated by unmanned American drone aircraft in the Muslim countries where the United States now is militarily engaged, has ignited protests on moral, legal, political and strategic grounds.

  • What exacly would Israel like to do with its Palestinian population?

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- What exactly is it that Israel intends to do with the Palestinians now in the territories that it has just opened for home construction for Jewish settlers, thereby extending its policy of occupying and annexing what are legally Palestinian lands?

  • Obama reelection the result of increasingly diverse electorate

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- Abroad, the widely noted aspect of Barack Obama's reelection victory was its social and class character. The president was reelected by a majority of American minorities. He won 93 percent of the African-American vote, which is hardly surprising, but also 71 percent of the Hispanic electorate, while his part of the white active electorate diminished about 10 percent from the share he carried four years ago.

  • US weighs Syrian intervention, despite the consequences

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The present debate in the United States over making policy for a Middle East that has been profoundly changed by the events of the past three years unhappily echoes past policies that failed. They were intended to promote democracy and usually took the form of military intervention.

  • U.S. and Israel push the boundaries of international law

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- In 2009, the former head of the international law department of Israel's military establishment, Daniel Reisner, said that "International law progresses through violations. We invented the targeted assassination thesis and we had to push it. At first there were protrusions that made it hard to insert easily into the legal molds. Eight years later, it is in the center of the bounds of legitimacy."

  • America's pivot to Asia a misguided one

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- When the Barack Obama administration announced that American foreign policy would "pivot" from Europe and the Middle East to Asia, some European commentators interpreted the announcement as a return to that isolationism which characterized the United States from its foundation to the two world wars. This interpretation made little sense. If anything, the decision was the result of the notion that China was America's new rival, and even might become an enemy in the future.

  • Any international Syrian solution is tangled up in Russia

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- International sentiment favoring foreign intervention in Syria's crisis can only have been strengthened by recent evidence of how divorced Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seems now to be from the reality of what is taking place in his country.

  • When are goals ever truly realized in international affairs?

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- It is, I suppose, too discouraging to face the fact that in international affairs (and indeed in national affairs; but that is another subject) paradox and contradiction rule the world. Policymakers and politicians consistently get what they don't want.

  • Time for the West to cease intervention

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- We have today entered a new political -- or politico-religious -- period in which the Muslim peoples of the Middle East are seizing control of their own fortunes, a control lost as a result of the First World War and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, which, with its Arab Caliphate predecessors in Crusader times, traces back to the very origin of Islam in what now is Syria, Iraq and Arabia proper.

  • Petraeus yet another high-ranking military official mired in scandal

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- "Duty, Honor, Country" is the West Point motto, but it seems to have lost what once was its compelling power over the men of the Long Gray Line, as they pursue the military careers that follow graduation. I am not speaking primarily about the marital and extra-marital entanglements of the generals and naval flag-officers who enjoy the luxuries, and there are many, that accompany the duties of assuring the American nation's security.

  • Romney and Ryan project vague foreign policy

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate for the American presidency confirms that this campaign is going to be mainly about domestic issues -- barring a not-impossible Israeli attack on Iran between here and there. It is likely to count for zero that is intelligent concerning American foreign policy during the next administration. Yet foreign affairs will be the most important issue of all to address as the United States staggers forward into the void.

  • Need for straight talk from US Defense Department

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- Christmas has provided a day of distraction from war, the usual condition for most of the world, and the steady-state of the modern American nation, so to speak.

  • New century is off to a wobbly start

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- This certainly is not the best of times, nor can it be called the worst of recent times, considering the years of totalitarianism, war and cold war the world lived through in the 20th century, recently closed. But the years since 2000 have provided no auspicious start to the 21st century.

  • Arab outrage should come as no surprise

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- "How could this happen?" Hillary Clinton demanded to be told, after the demonstrations and the attack upon the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi that killed the American ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. "How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction?"

  • Campaigns touch briefly on the wars

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- Politics tends to wring all seriousness out of speech. Sometimes this is a demonstration of unforgivable ignorance. Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan thinks that "Now is the time to lock in the success that is within reach" in Afghanistan. Ryan's comment seems like it's grasping to be completed by a call to get out of Afghanistan now. That would shake up the presidential campaign.

  • Elections could shift EU away from austerity, but should they?

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The weekend elections in France and Greece seem widely to have been taken, at least on the European and American left, as a solution to the great European economic crisis.

  • French election's first round narrows the field

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The French elections have settled one question, that of the two finalists for the presidency. There were some who believed that the nationalist right candidate, Marine Le Pen, might outdo President Nicolas Sarkozy, who, in the campaign polls, trailed his Socialist challenger, Francois Hollande.

  • Scandals in China intensify possible Communist Party crisis

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- Events suggest that the long-overdue crisis of China's Communist Party has arrived. Evidence is provided by the affair of the Chinese police chief who tried to defect to the United States and was turned away, the sensational murder of the mysterious Englishman, about whom Britain's foreign secretary seems to have known more than he told us at the time of the murder, and more than he should have known, had the mysterious Englishman been merely the innocuous expatriate he purported to be, and the British government had claimed that he was.

  • Regardless of Obama's gaffe, nuclear missile defense remains a useless endeavor

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- One might hope that when President Barack Obama misspoke in front of an open microphone at the Seoul nuclear security conference on Tuesday, he knew he would draw attention to the need to end what has always seemed to be one of the biggest policy frauds of the present day: the scheme purporting to defend Europe and the United States from Iranian nuclear missiles.

  • Presidential election in France reveals plenty of jaded voters

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- In France's presidential election, which takes place on April 22 and May 6, the incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy is running far behind his challenger, Francois Hollande, in a contest that has more to do with personal character than issues. Sarkozy has always been a man of action rather than theory or ideology, and the French Socialist Party, which Hollande headed for more than a decade, has been intellectually moribund for years.

  • Karzai's Bagram demands add stress to US policy

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The Afghan government's order a week ago to the United States to close its prison at Bagram Air Base near Kabul, where it holds unidentified prisoners, came as a shock to Washington, although President Hamid Karzai has before invited the U.S. to cease its operations in his country because of what he considered infringements upon Afghan sovereignty.

  • Ron Paul's popularity in Iowa a sign of a war-weary America

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The opinion polls' forecast that Rep. Ron Paul would do well in the Iowa Republican caucus has surely not been evidence of a surge in Iowa of hostility to the Federal Reserve and to free trade. If Paul comes out at or close to the top in the vote, it will demonstrate that Robert Naiman was right in writing on Monday (in the web magazine Truthout) that non-Republican crossover voters would determine the Iowa outcome.

  • US national debate is a disgrace

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- As the American presidential election approaches, the dominant conviction expressed by members of both parties is that the country is gravely in decline. If the wrong man is elected, the nation's spin out of control will accelerate and disasters will follow.

  • U.S. policy as global security provider built on Plymouth Rock

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- Earlier this month, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Philip Gordon visited London to give Prime Minister David Cameron his instructions: Washington wants Britain inside the EU, so it can blunt Europe's anti-American impulses and the idea of an independent European quasi-state.

  • Drone warfare an illegal tactic sure to perpetuate US-Muslim war indefinitely

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- It is a profound but nearly universal mistake among Americans (and others) to think that the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan in 2013 or 2014 will end the American war with the Muslim world that began on September 11 in 2001. It seems that the current administration in Washington and much of the American foreign policy community are determined to validate a version of Samuel Huntington's unfortunate forecast in 1993 that the "next" world war would be a war between civilizations.

  • Arab Awakening and a failed European aeronautics merger

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- It has been a bad week for American policymakers concerned with the Middle East (as for the Middle Easterners themselves), and it will be important to see what Mitt Romney and Barack Obama make of it in their second debate (which occurs after this writing).

  • An America in decline

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- Is the United States in decline? You would certainly think so from the publishers' lists, although some of the new books, written by determined neo-conservatives resisting indictment for complicity in causing the decline, such as Robert Kagan, are arguing that it's only a very little decline, and temporary, and will end in November when the teapot boils. Certainly President Barack Obama forswears declinism. Anyone who says that America is in decline, "or that our influence has waned, doesn't know what they are talking about," he said in his State of the Union address.

  • Talks on post-2014 presence in Afghanistan built on shaky premise

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The United States has since the 1990s become increasingly the victim of an "exceptionalist" ideology that claims world leadership for the nation and an obdurate militarism, corrupting to American historical institutions and values.

  • Drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan recognition of futility, or retreat from the coming storm?

    September 30, 2013

    DOHA, QATAR -- Located between the sea of sand that is Saudi Arabia and Iran, where Central Asia begins, Qatar is a coastal appendage of the former and faces the latter across the Persian Gulf. Bahrain -- home port of the U.S. 5th Fleet -- is its close neighbor on the Gulf, and Qatar itself hosts advanced elements of U.S. Central Command, responsible for American operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan. The miniscule state of Qatar is at the nexus of America's collision with titanic national military and political failure.

  • *William Pfaff is on vacation this week and will not be filing a column. His next column will move next Tuesday, February 28, 2012.

    September 30, 2013

  • Brussels agreements increase Germany's role in EU

    September 30, 2013

    VIENNA -- The great economic crisis has given birth to a smaller and tighter monetary union in Europe, under the influence of a Germany that is undergoing a certain estrangement from its European partners. This amounts to a possibly dangerous wager on what the European Union will ultimately become, which all may not like.

  • Catholicism and the GOP: An awkward tango

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- A novel aspect of the Republican campaign for the party's presidential nomination has been the importance placed by some candidates, their admirers and some voters on the Catholic religion and certain claims to formal academic certification or endorsement.

  • Wars and potential wars abound

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The two most recent American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have failed or are disastrously failing.

  • Greek unrest the result of suppressed democracy

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- When the first international effort to impose an economic austerity regime upon Greece was completed, George Papandreou, the prime minister, surprised and infuriated the negotiators from the IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank by proposing that the draft agreement be submitted to a popular referendum in Greece. The negotiators and their governments knew very well that the Greek people would reject it.

  • Trans-Atlantic military cooperation gets complicated in Afghanistan

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The annual Munich Security Conference is regularly the scene for the complaints of American official and semi-official participants deploring Europe's failure "to pull its weight" in defense, "free-riding" on American efforts, and failing to spend more money on trans-Atlantic arms purchases. Instead they spend money on their own-make arms and military aircraft, such as the French Rafale and EADS' Eurofighter, which they sell to such overseas markets as India that might otherwise buy American.

  • American decline could worsen with focus on Iran and China

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The framework in which most Americans, including the foreign policy specialists, see the world has totally changed in a decade. In February 2002, the United States and Afghanistan's Northern Alliance had just won their Blitzkrieg unseating the Taliban government of Afghanistan, and a new client government was being set in place. The Economist was to say of it a year later that optimists believed Afghanistan to be "more stable than at any time in the past 24 years." Another war, against Iraq, was confidently being prepared to avenge the Trade Towers and Pentagon attacks (to which, it was to turn out, Iraq had no connection), and to create a "New Middle East."

  • Is a nuclear Iran really to be feared?

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The obsession of the American foreign policy community, as well as most American (and a good many international) politicians, by the myth of Iran's "existential" threat to Israel, brings the world steadily closer to another war in the Middle East.

  • Calls for a Democratic Obama challenger, while based in history, seem ill-advised

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- A week ago, in the Providence Journal newspaper (in Rhode Island), the publisher of Harper's Magazine, John R. MacArthur, wrote that President Barack Obama, through expedient political compromises, has lost the moral authority that an American president must command, and therefore has lost his right to a second presidential term. Mr. MacArthur quotes in support of his argument the veteran journalist Bill Moyers, who was a member of President Lyndon Johnson's staff from 1965 to 1967, and since has become a prominent commentator on public television and in liberal and Democratic Party circles.

  • The fog in our future

    September 30, 2013

    MONTPELLIER, FRANCE -- The most dramatic contemporary event from which one can attempt to extrapolate future world change is the political and social uprising of the Arab peoples of the Mediterranean basin. The consequences are unpredictable, highly political in the short run, and wholly unfathomable in the longer term since the immense energy resources of the Middle East, put to work to industrialize (or "post-industrialize") the region, could prove of enormous consequence to the international role of Islamic societies -- and that of their neighbors.

  • Secret intelligence court a precursor to tyranny

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The current of awkward revelations concerning the clandestine or publicly misrepresented practices of the present and recent American administrations goes on. A long exposition in the New York Times and International Herald Tribune from July 8 concerns a widely unknown American secret court dealing with intelligence actions. The court decides whether certain actions are or are not legal, issues its rulings in secret and creates a new body of American law (or lawlessness, when it contravenes established public and constitutional law, which it is accused of doing). This is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

  • US must accept Russian-delivered Syria

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The Washington debates about the Syrian chemical weapons, and whether there is an Obama "Plan B" by which the United States may yet bomb Syria, seem deaf to what really happened last week.

  • Possible stalemate in Syria lesser of two evils

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The major threat in the Middle East to international peace is Syria's civil war, not the rhetorical battles between Iran and an Israel that claims to be straining against its American leash.

  • Major European aerospace merger sends shockwaves around the globe

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The first of the presidential debates is supposed to be confined to domestic American issues, which is nearly all that the candidates have talked about during the campaign until now.

  • Final presidential debate offers unclear choice of troubling policies

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The third American presidential debate was of negligible interest as a test of the qualities of the candidates, whatever it did or did not do to the presidential horserace odds -- probably not much.

  • Renewed US focus on Pacific region intended to distract from unrest at home?

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- One might think that a bitter Central Asian war in Afghanistan, spilling into Pakistan, with no sign of ending, and an as yet ambiguous military commitment to a defeated and incompletely reconstituted Iraq, now overshadowed by Iran and the Arab Awakening across the Middle East, would be enough for President Barack Obama to cope with.

  • Fiction and fantasy in finance: What's to become of the euro?

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- The American rating agency Standard and Poor's warned 15 European nations on Monday, including Germany and France, that unless they solve their currency problems this week, to the satisfaction of S&P, a business corporation, this company will "downgrade" them, with the effect of increasing the interest they must pay on their sovereign debt and on foreign funds placed on loan to their economies.

  • Arab Awakening could begin to resemble European Enlightenment

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- There are only three valid reasons why the Middle East, the focus of international attention as 2012 begins, is important to the United States and the European nations. These are energy, immigration and Israel. Beyond that, there is no evident cause for paying more attention to this region than to other areas in the world, such as Africa, Latin America or Western Asia.

  • Election will decide which new wars will be waged

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- Now that America's primary elections have eliminated the more implausible contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, it is possible to take a clearer look at what the electorate will be up against when the conventions are over next fall, and when the newly elected president assumes (or resumes) command of American foreign policy.

  • Toulouse killings send tremors through French presidential election

    September 30, 2013

    PARIS -- What had seemed a long, tranquil current of political success that was conveying Francois Hollande to the French presidency (first-round consultation April 22) has run into turbulence during the past few days, and while his canoe is still buoyant, Mr. Hollande has suffered a touch of mal de mer. He seems too reasonable and nice a fellow to be a great success as a politician -- not accusations anyone makes about President Nicolas Sarkozy.

  • Single dad coping with two mortgages and other consumer debt

    September 16, 2012

    Q: I will try to make a long story short. I have credit card debt of about $12,000, a car loan of $20,000 and a ton of mortgage loans.

  • Montreal World Film Festival unveils its slate: Of 432 pics, 110 are world or international preems

    August 9, 2012

    MONTREAL -- The Montreal World Film Festival announced its full slate of 432 films from 80 countries on Tuesday, including 110 world or international preems.

  • Rick Ross bosses album chart: 'God Forgives, I Don't' sees rapper notch fourth No. 1

    August 9, 2012

    Rapper Rick Ross gave a much-needed lift to the U.S. album chart this week with the No. 1 debut of his fourth album "God Forgives, I Don't."

  • At 70, Foreign Press org expands its reach: Showbiz Philanthropy Leader Report 2012

    August 9, 2012

    Like Hollywood itself, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. has grown over the decades, from humble beginnings in the 1940s -- members initially held informal gatherings in private homes -- into the influential org it is today. And that growth has mirrored the increasing importance of foreign film markets for today's studios and production companies and their international business models. According to Judy Solomon, a journalist (for Israel's Maariv) who joined the HFPA back in 1956, the early years were "difficult for us, because you couldn't find a publicist in the 1960s or even the 1970s who knew more than two or three foreign magazines -- usually the obvious ones like Vogue -- outside the U.S. market. And most people at the studios weren't that interested in the foreign markets that we all covered. Now, that's all changed completely, especially as some two-thirds of a big blockbuster's income comes from foreign markets. And those markets are expanding every year, while the domestic market is shrinking." She goes on to note that Hollywood's "growing recognition" of the importance of foreign markets also coincided with the rise of the Golden Globes Awards. The first Globes were handed out in 1944. But, "The decision to create separate categories for drama, and musical or comedy (in 1951) and then the Cecil B. DeMille Award a year later were also key moments, along with including television (in 1955)," says Jorge Camara, a six-time HFPA president who joined in 1964 and writes for Mexico and the Dominican Republic markets. The show, which was first televised in 1958 locally in L.A., and then nationally from 1964 onward, has subsequently become a popular predictor of the Oscars. "Going on national TV was a key moment in our history," says Solomon, "because it instantly became much more recognized and important. Our show was always well-attended by all the top stars, but now audiences could see them having fun and relaxing in a casual atmosphere. There's not all the pressure of the Oscars." With the gradual decline of the studio system, the HFPA faced another challenge, says Solomon. "We couldn't get interviews or coverage with a lot of big stars, which is why we began our press conferences in the 1970s. We invited the stars to come and talk and organized everything. The first one was done at the Beverly Hilton, and we've done them ever since." While stars dutifully attend press junkets and tours, the HFPA often manages to get access to talent often denied to other outlets and organizations. When exiled director Roman Polanski did a rare interview for "The Pianist," "we got him live via satellite," Camara says. "And for 'Carnage,' we actually flew to Paris to talk to him -- the first time most of us ever met him." The HFPA will have to continue adapting to the rapidly changing media and cinematic landscape. "Who knows what it'll look like in even a few years?" says Camara, "with the Internet and all the new ways films are being distributed now. And maybe like celluloid, print journalism will be extinct. I hope not, but our members will have to deal with all these new issues." New technology While younger members know smart phones and email, older HFPA members can still recall typewriters and Telex. "I used to fax a lot, and also FedEx big, heavy Betacam tapes back to Finland, along with my stories and color slides three times a week," reports Erkki Kanto, who writes for the Finnish market, and who has been the HFPA's IT director since 2000. Now 66, the 20-year member says technology has been, "a huge benefit for all journalists filing abroad. It's easier and faster." The only drawback? "The high speed of today's global communications means that it's also far more competitive, in terms of filing stories," adds Kanto. Husam "Sam" Asi, 42, who writes for U.K. Screen and Al-Quds Al-Arabi, says he embraced new technology "from a very young age" and it has made his HFPA coverage far more efficient. "When I go to one of our press conferences, I use my iPhone as a recorder or video camera, I have a pocket keyboard and I can transcribe the interviews and file a story before it's even over," he says. For Asi, even email is often outdated and too slow. "When I write stories, I'll use Google Docs, and instead of emailing them, I'll share them online with my editor in London," he says. "We can then work on it together live, he can make comments and so on, and I can instantly modify or change anything. That way, you avoid all the usual back and forth with email." Asi, who began using this system two years ago, says it, "expedites the whole writing and editing process immensely," and adds that he "can't even imagine" what it was like using Telex and fax.

  • Liberty to spin off Starz: Revenue, operating income are flat

    August 9, 2012

    Starz CEO Chris Albrecht is about to get a fiefdom all his own, at least until Starz is picked off by a bigger fish.

  • Doors open for six pic projects: Films from western Africa win backing at Locarno co-pro lab

    August 9, 2012

    Six film projects from western Africa won coin at the Open Doors co-production lab held during Switzerland's Locarno Film Festival. On Tuesday "Pieces of Lives," by Madagascar's Laza, "The Eye" from Mali's Daouda Coulibaly, "Fire Next Time" by Mati Diop from Senegal and "Faso Fani, the End of the Dream" by Burkina Faso's Michel K. Zongo, were awarded funds for development and post-production ranging from 6,000 Swiss francs ($6,200) to $15,467. "The Fire Next Time" and "Faso Fani, the End of the Dream" received additional grants from the National Center of Cinematography and the Moving Image and German-French web Arte, respectively. In all, 12 projects, selected from 200 applicants, participated in the lab, which this year focused on cinema from Francophone sub-Saharan Africa. The lab is organized with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Co-operation of the Federal Dept. of Foreign Affairs, the city of Bellinzona and by Visions Sud Est with the collaboration of the fest's industry office The fest, which has worked for the past eight years to aid filmmakers and films from countries in which cinema is still developing, also featured a four-day workshop that helped selected directors and producers find co-production partners to complete their projects.

  • NBC wins week by historic margins: Olympics sweep top slots, continue to best recent Games

    August 9, 2012

    NBC ran circles around the competition last week, riding the Summer Olympics to the most lopsided primetime ratings victory for any network on record. The net's wall-to-wall coverage from England easily claimed the week's top seven spots in the rankings in every Nielsen category. And through 10 nights, the average primetime aud for the London Games -- 33.6 million -- was well above Beijing in 2008 (29.9 million) and is the most for any non-U.S.-based Summer Olympics since Montreal in 1976. NBC's primetime average in adults 18-49 last week of 10.2 was the net's best for any frame since February 2002 during the Salt Lake City Olympics and is the highest for any network since Fox's 11.5 with the Super Bowl and "American Idol" in early 2011. For a summer week, it's the best for any net since summer 1996 when NBC aired the Atlanta Olympics. In total viewers, NBC rolled up an average aud of 32.2 million last week -- its highest since the 2002 Summer Games and the highest for any network since Fox during Super Bowl week in 2008. And since the Olympics remain impressively strong at a time when summer numbers have never been lower for the top broadcast shows, the distance between the Peacock and everybody else was historic. In fact, NBC's margins of victory over the No. 2 network (8.9 ratings points over Univision in adults 18-49 and 28 million viewers over runner-up CBS in overall audience) are the largest in Nielsen's people-meter history going back 25 years. To put the Peacock's dominance in perspective, consider that it averaged more adults 18-49 during any minute of primetime last week (13.09 million) than the combined delivery of the next 18 networks -- Univision, CBS, Fox, ABC, USA, TBS, TNT, A&E, Telemundo, Adult Swim, FX, Tru, Disney, History, ABC Family, AMC, Syfy and Food. NBC saw its best numbers from London last week for Team USA's monster showings on Tuesday (12.8/35 in 18-49, 38.72 million viewers overall) and Thursday (11.9/35, 36.80 million), which included gold medal-winning perfs by Michael Phelps, the women's gymnastics team and others. But even its lowest rated night, Saturday, drew well (8.6/28, 27.96m). Outside the Olympics, the week's top draws among young adults were HBO's "True Blood" (2.7/7 in 18-49, 4.50m) and the three telecasts of CBS' "Big Brother" (top score was Sunday's 2.1/6, 5.72m) -- both of which held up well despite the tougher competish. Some summer broadcast shows opted for repeats, including all three of Fox's reality competition series and ABC's Thursday drama "Rookie Blue." Other than "Big Brother," the top firstrun performer was ABC's "Wipeout" on Thursday with a lowly 1.4/4 score in the demo. Univision ranked second in adults 18-49 thanks mostly to hot 10 p.m. novela "La Que No Podia Amar" (The One Who Couldn't Love), which was the No. 1 series in the hour Monday through Friday last week. Its top score came Wednesday (2.0/6 in 18-49, 5.13m). The week's highest-rated shows on basic cable aired Monday, with VH1's "Love and Hip-Hop: Atlanta" (1.8/5, 3.21m) and USA's "WWE Raw" (1.5/4, 4.72m) tops among adults 18-49 and TNT's "The Closer" (1.0/3, 5.77m) leading the way in total viewers. Also of note, TruTV moved up to seventh place among all cable networks in adults 18-49 -- rising about 10% in various categories vs. the same week a year ago despite facing the Olympics. Setting the pace were "Lizard Lick Towing" on Monday (1.1/3, 2.36m) and "Hardcore Pawn" on Tuesday (0.9/2, 2.67m).

  • Ergen says he'd make deal for AMC net alone: Dish profits fall 33% to $226 mil as programming costs hurt

    August 9, 2012

    Dish Networks chairman Charlie Ergen wanted AMC but not its three sister networks and said Mark Cuban is more fun to do business with in any case.

  • 'Musica,' 'Elephant' play Europe-Latin America Forum: Co-production event adds industry heft at San Sebastian

    August 9, 2012

    TAULL, Spain -- Colombian Carlos Moreno's "Que viva la musica!," Peruvian Javier Fuentes-Leon's "The Vanished Elephant" and Argentinean Ana Katz's "Mi amiga del parque" are among 17 projects selected for the first Europe Latin America Co-Production Forum.

  • Olympics bounce back Tuesday for NBC: Univision again second opposite ABC, CBS and Fox reruns

    August 9, 2012

    One night after NBC saw its lowest-rated night of the London Games, audiences returned Tuesday as the net bounced back nicely on a night featuring gymnastics, track and field and beach volleyball.

  • Japan's Gaga bows VOD service: Arthouse market suffers from theatrical decline

    August 9, 2012

    TOKYO -- Gaga, one of Japan's biggest indie distribs of foreign arthouse and other specialty pics, is to bow Gaga Theater, a VOD service for PCs, smartphones, tablets and other devices.

  • US national debate is a disgrace

    August 9, 2012

    PARIS -- As the American presidential election approaches, the dominant conviction expressed by members of both parties is that the country is gravely in decline. If the wrong man is elected, the nation's spin out of control will accelerate and disasters will follow.

  • Scribe trains on Rocky Marciano biopic: Mark Wheaton to write first authorized take on boxer's life

    August 9, 2012

    Morris S. Levy's Mega Films has landed a heavyweight to pen the first authorized Rocky Marciano biopic. Mark Wheaton has signed on to script "Undefeated: The Rocky Marciano Story," a bigscreen indie drama that follows the legendary boxer from childhood through his 49 winning fights to his 1969 death in a plane crash. Wheaton, best known for scripting the Kristen Stewart-toplined Screen Gems thriller "The Messengers" and the story behind 2009's "Friday the 13th" reboot, will include never-before-revealed details given to producer Levy by the fighter's younger brother and occasional sparring partner, Lou Marciano. "Wheaton was so passionate and had such a great handle on boxing and the era," said Levy. The scribe will have access to rare articles, memorabilia and more than 600 pages of notes on the late boxer's life from Lou Marciano, who will receive a story credit. "Rocky Marciano came along at a time when the sport of boxing was going through monumental changes," said Wheaton, who explained that factors like the advent of televised fights, the rising influence of organized crime and the monopoly of the Intl. Boxing Club of New York make Marciano's rise from a one-punch neighborhood fighter to never-defeated heavyweight champion a fascinating story in sports. Levy plans to attach a director to "Undefeated" when Wheaton completes his script in late fall. Principal photography, including location shooting in the fighter's Brockton, Mass., hometown, is slated to begin next year. Levy is exec producing James Toback's upcoming feature doc on the film finance world, "Seduced and Abandoned," starring Alec Baldwin. Under his Mega Films banner, Levy produced "The Ten" starring Paul Rudd, the Rosario Dawson-toplined "Descent" and Kevin Asch's now-filming "Affluenza" with Samantha Mathis and "Glee" star Grant Gustin. Wheaton is repped by Verve, Kaplan/Perrone and attorney Stewart Brookman. Lou Marciano is repped by attorney John Daniels. Levy is repped by attorney John Hughes.

  • NHK to air news service in Myanmar: Channel to be offered by local provider Skynet

    August 9, 2012

    TOKYO -- NHK, Japan's giant pubcaster, launched its NHK World English-language service in Myanmar on Wednesday.

  • Kids' toon producer Brown Bag bows Icehouse: New shingle will concentrate on adult animation

    August 9, 2012

    LONDON -- Tyke animation studio Brown Bag Films has launched Icehouse, focusing on "entertainment for grown-ups."

  • James Cameron inks Chinese j.v. pact: Venture to develop 3D technology, boost training

    August 9, 2012

    BEIJING -- James Cameron's Cameron Pace Group has set up a joint venture in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin to develop 3D film equipment and provide training for making movies, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

  • Ted Hope named exec director of S.F. Film Society: Producer will relocate from Gotham

    August 9, 2012

    Gotham producer Ted Hope will take over as head of the San Francisco Film Society, which runs the San Francisco Film Festival. Starting Sept. 1, he'll

  • Akerman in talks to join 'Breacher': Thesp to co-star with Schwarzenegger, Worthington

    August 9, 2012

    Malin Akerman is in negotiations to co-star with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sam Worthington in David Ayer's "Breacher." QED International is financing "Breacher," which will be distributed stateside by Open Road Films. A testosterone-heavy riff on Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians," the Skip Woods-scripted film follows an elite DEA task force that robs a dangerous drug cartel under the guise of a tactical raid on one of its safe houses. They think they've gotten away with millions in merch, until team members begin getting bumped off one by one. Akerman plays a member of the team. QED's Bill Block and Paul Hanson are producing with Joe Roth and Palak Patel of Roth Films, as well as Albert Ruddy. Alex Ott of Ayer's Crave Films will serve as exec producer. Akerman remains one of the busier actresses in town in the last year having already shot a handful of roles in movies such as "CBGB" where she portrays Debbie Harry and "The Numbers Station" with John Cusack. The WME and Sanders Armstrong Caserta Management repped Akerman, who was most recently seen in New Line and Warner Bros. "Rock of Ages."

  • Butz joins Holmes on Broadway: Actor will co-star in Rebeck's 'Dead Accounts'

    August 9, 2012

    Norbert Leo Butz has signed on to co-star with Katie Holmes in the Broadway run of "Dead Accounts," the new play by Theresa Rebeck.

  • Helsinki goes wild for Southern Gothic: 'Beasts,' 'Killer Joe' unspool in Finnish fest

    August 9, 2012

    BERLIN -- Benh Zeitlin's "Beasts of the Southern Wild" will open the 25th Helsinki Film Festival on Sept. 20.

  • Hollywood goes global to help a continent in need: Showbiz Philanthropy Leader Report 2012

    August 9, 2012

    The Hollywood/Africa axis has never been greater. A-listers are not only using their influence, they're rolling up their sleeves and lending a hand to help solve the continent's devastating problems. The good news: Charlize Theron, Alicia Keys, Ben Affleck, Jeffrey Wright, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Sigourney Weaver are all seeing real results for their efforts. In 2007, Theron, a U.N. Messenger of Peace, launched the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Program. The mission: to help prevent HIV among African youth by supporting community-based orgs. The program has provided funding to Mpilonhle, a community-based South African non-profit that provides mobile health services to secondary schools. "And the newly created Home Field Advantage complements the mobile health programs, and includes clean water sources, soccer fields, sanitary toilet blocks, laundry facilities and school food gardens," thesp says. In South Africa alone, more than 300,000 people die of AIDS each year. An estimated 5.6 million are living with HIV or AIDS. Has progress been made? "Definitely," Theron says. "HIV prevention among youth is not a quick fix. But the youth are talking about sexual health openly with peers, which is something that wasn't happening five years ago." Keys is another powerful force in the fight against AIDS. Launched in Kenya in 2002, Keep a Child Alive provides life-saving AIDS treatment, care, nutrition, support services to children and families affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India. Only 44% of the 15 million people who need treatment have access to it. Keep a Child Alive works to increase access by providing free treatment through the clinics they support. Wright, co-founder and chairman of Taia Peace Foundation, first traveled to Sierra Leone in May 2001, toward the end of the country's civil war. Through a hybrid of commercial and philanthropic investment, the org and its sister company, Taia Lion Resources, have built a new model for mining in Africa that focuses equally on mineral rights and human rights. "The organization raises funds to assist local communities in addressing development challenges that they've identified as most urgent and also provides these communities a commercial partner in co-developing the natural resource potential of their land," he says. Founded by Affleck in 2009, the Eastern Congo Initiative is a U.S.-based advocacy and grant-making org involved solely on working with and for the people of eastern Congo. "We fundraise in the U.S. and the money goes directly to the grass-roots organizations," says Affleck, who has testified before Congress. Not on Our Watch focuses global attention and resources towards putting an end to mass atrocities. Co-founded by Clooney, Damon, Cheadle and Pitt, the org generates humanitarian assistance and encourages governing bodies to take immediate action in such places as Darfur, Sudan. On May 16 Clooney, the NAACP's Ben Jealous and others were arrested during a protest at the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. "We are here really to ask two very simple questions," Clooney said at the time. "The first question is something immediate -- and immediately, we need humanitarian aid to be allowed into the Sudan before it becomes the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. The second thing is for the government in Khartoum to stop randomly killing its own innocent men, women and children. Stop raping them and stop starving them. That's all we ask." Ed Norton, through his Crowdrise.com fundraising platform, advocates for the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust. "It's a fantastic community conservation effort working the Maasai people of Kenya to preserve their ecosystem and create sustainable benefits for local people," he says. Sigourney Weaver has been involved with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Intl. since her 1988 film "Gorillas in the Mist." "I wanted to do what I could to save the mountain gorillas," Weaver says. "Dian had initially envisioned the fund as a fund to save gorillas. But our vision has changed. We know that animals can only survive where people are not under too much stress. So our vision is of gorillas and people thriving together in sustainable forests." The org, founded by Fossey in 1978, not only works on poaching, habitat destruction, disease transmission, animal trafficking, but also supports people so they don't participate in those activities. "Often people are ill with the same parasites that gorillas are, so we've built clinics, and encouraged people to get heath care so that we can reduce the number of parasites in the area, in whoever has them. "After Dian died in 1985, we had to understand that we could only work in concert with the Rwandan government. We're also tying to work with the Congolese government -- to work on these things that not only affect the gorillas, but the people and the habitat."

  • Shalhoub, Numrich are 'Golden': Strahovski also will star in Broadway play

    August 9, 2012

    Tony Shalhoub, Yvonne Strahovski and Seth Numrich are among the thesps lined up to star in "Golden Boy," the upcoming Broadway revival of the 1937 Clifford Odets play from Lincoln Center Theater.

  • Bruno Gunn joins 'Catching Fire': 'Bad Teacher' thesp cast as Brutus

    August 9, 2012

    Bruno Gunn has been cast in Lionsgate's "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" as Brutus, a former victor of the Hunger Games.

  • Islam's walls of language

    August 9, 2012

    PARIS -- The cultural comparisons by which Mitt Romney distinguished himself when recently in Israel, flattering as they were to his Israeli audience and insulting to Palestinians, resulted mostly in global comment on Mr. Romney's own cultural and intellectual limitations. They nonetheless introducedrinting system, helped create its first website and established its new media and technology department. He also served as the first chairman of digital distribution standards org Digital Data Exchange.

  • Toronto announces Canadian slate: Pics include 'Antiviral,' 'Laurence' 'Stories'

    August 9, 2012

    TORONTO

  • Zemeckis pacts with Fox TV Studios: Helmer and partner Jack Rapke to develop projects for cable

    August 9, 2012

    Helmer Robert Zemeckis and producing partner Jack Rapke have signed an overall deal with Fox Television Studios to develop projects for cable networks.

  • HFPA shares its Golden Globes wealth with arts orgs: Showbiz Philanthropy Leader Report 2012

    August 9, 2012

    Bizzers might not know about the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.'s philanthropic contributions, and, until recently, this included three-time Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais, says org prexy Aida Takla-O'Reilly. "When I met Ricky Gervais last year in Paris to talk, he said, 'You give all that money away? Why doesn't anybody know about it?'" Takla-O'Reilly recalls. "I said, 'Speak about it when you come to the Golden Globes.' " This year, the HFPA will donate more than $1.2 million to 40 industry-related schools and orgs, as selected by the trustees. Representatives will receive those grant checks today at the org's annual installation luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The Film Foundation, founded by Martin Scorsese to preserve classic movies, receives the largest donation at $250,000. For the first time, the trustees have also set aside funds to be used throughout the year, says Takla-O'Reilly, who, as president, will be able to disburse $30,000 in discretionary funds. With these additional contributions, the org plans to match last year's record-breaking sum of $1.5 million in donations. "Things happen throughout the year," says Takla-O'Reilly, citing disaster relief efforts as an example. "People are left out, and we'll find out that a project is great." While most of the 2012 grant recipients also received HFPA funds last year, Visual Communications, the Gingold Theatrical Group and the Young Storytellers Foundation are recent additions. It's not always the movies. For example, funds for GTG will go toward the Gotham org's productions of George Bernard Shaw plays. The non-profit was recommended by TCM host and film historian Robert Osborne. The HFPA originally planned to donate money to the TCM Classic Film Festival, but after learning the event was well-funded, they asked Osborne for suggestions. The donation to Visual Communications will go toward an Asian-American film and TV pros conference. The NPO is dedicated to films by and about Asian-Americans. Encouraging positive, thoughtful images of minority groups remains important to the Takla-O'Reilly and the HFPA. "All throughout the industry, you'll find movies that demean minorities and give the wrong impression," she says. "We want to defuse that." Especially with a struggling economy, the continual support of the HFPA provides an important boast to the film industry. "We've received many letters from students and people who said, 'Without your gifts, we could not have done this,' or 'I could not have graduated,' " Takla-O'Reilly says. "We're very happy to be able to get the money from NBC and give it away."

  • WB eyeing Ben Affleck to direct 'Justice League': Thesp also mulling offer to topline Greg Berlanti's 'Replay'

    August 9, 2012

    With Christopher Nolan declaring himself out of the running for "Justice League," Warner Bros. has approached another of its go-to directors in Ben Affleck, who's expected to discuss the project with studio brass in the coming days, multiple sources tell Variety. Since guiding WB's "The Town" to commercial success and critical acclaim from both sides of the camera, Affleck has ascended high on the studio's list of filmmakers who can be trusted with prime properties. Thus far, Affleck is the only candidate who's been sent Will Beall's "Justice League" script, which the "Gangster Squad" scribe was hired to write last summer. DC Comics' answer to Marvel's Avengers, "Justice League" is expected to bring together marquee characters Batman and Superman, as well as Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and The Flash. Affleck has made it clear that going forward, he's only interested in directing films in which he also stars -- "The Town" and "Argo" are proof of that -- so its likely that if this pairing ever came to fruition, he would likely don a suit of his own. DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. and Affleck's reps declined to comment. One possible hesitation on Affleck's part is that any involvement with "Justice League" would take him out of circulation as a director for a few years. He could, however, still fit in an acting gig at Warners. Affleck has spent the last several weeks mulling an offer to star in topline Greg Berlanti's long-gestating sci-fi drama "Replay," which WB has spent more than a decade developing. Based on Ken Grimwood's 1987 bestseller, story follows a man who dies and gets the chance to relive his life over and over again, changing partners and professions each time. As a director, Affleck is also keen to bring another epic adaptation to the bigscreen: Stephen King's "The Stand," a potential two-part pic that will be a co-production between CBS Films and Warners. Should Affleck sign on for "Justice League," it remains unclear whether WB would wait for him to move forward on "The Stand" or bring on another filmmaker. Warner Bros. took control of DC Comics in 2009, folding the comicbook company into the studio and re-launching it as DC Entertainment to better manage how its characters wind up on the big and small screens. The CW will air "Arrow," based on the Green Arrow character this fall, but the studio hasn't greenlit any new films since "Man of Steel," which bows summer 2013. Other pics based on Wonder Woman and the Flash also are in development, but are only in script stages. "Justice League" won't likely be ready for release until summer 2015, which could put it up right against Marvel's "Avengers 2," which has Joss Whedon returning to helm. Since making his directorial debut in 2007 with "Gone Baby Gone," Affleck has been balancing acting and directing duties. After "The Town," he signed on to work with Terrence Malick on "To the Wonder" before returning to Warners for "Argo," which preems at Toronto next month. Multihyphenate recently wrapped New Regency's online gambling pic "Runner, Runner," and is also developing a movie about Boston crime boss Whitey Bulger with fellow "Good Will Hunting" Oscar winner Matt Damon. Affleck is repped by WME and Ziffren, Brittenham. (Marc Graser contributed to this report)

  • Davis: Her carousel of hope never ends: Showbiz Philanthropy Leader Report 2012: Honoree Barbara Davis

    August 9, 2012

    When Barbara Davis comes knocking, Hollywood always answers, that includes George Clooney and Frank Sinatra. "The Carousel of Hope Ball is a real testament to her," Clooney says. "She's able to really put together a great group of people who all love her. Obviously, a big part of this is that you don't want to disappoint her. She works so hard at this, and she's really good at it. And I really care about her. She's a really nice, smart, hardworking woman who I believe very much in." Clooney will be on hand to keep Variety 's Philanthropist of the Year happy (and accept her Brass Ring Award for "unprecedented humanitarian undertakings") at Davis' gala Oct. 20 at the BevHilton. It's the legendary fete that has raised more than $75 million in the past 35 years for the octogenarian's two personal causes, the Children's Diabetes Foundation and the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes, both established in Denver after she and her late husband, billionaire businessman and one-time 20th Century Fox owner Marvin Davis, discovered their daughter Dana had childhood diabetes. It's the huge party that Davis only puts on every other year, because of its massive size. Arguably the biggest philanthropic event held in this town, Davis' bash always draws A-list celebrities and power players from every era, as 2012's "blue ribbon committee" proves, boasting Sidney Poitier, Tom Cruise, Scarlett Johansson, Leslie Moonves, Barbra Streisand, Brad Grey, Denzel Washington and a host of others. And it's an eclectic group. Always. Davis recalls, "The year Michael Bolton -- he's adorable -- sang at the Carousel Ball, he was going with Nicollette Sheridan. I remember the president, Ronnie Reagan, was sitting next to me, and then Nancy and opposite us was Michael and Nicollette, and they were continually making out at the table! And Ronnie said to me, 'Can you believe it? I can't look any further than right in front of me!' Anyway, they broke up later." No wonder everyone in Hollywood wants to attend, even the newest kids on the block who have probably all heard the oft-said adage about this party, that "women who go to the Oscars borrow their jewels, but women who go to the Carousel of Hope simply open their safe-deposit boxes and take out their own statement pieces to wear." "It was many years ago that I went, and I was really intimidated by it," Clooney says, recalling the 1996 gala. "Everybody was a big star, and I had been famous for about five minutes at that point. I was very intimidated by how many famous faces were there. I had never been to the Oscars, never been to anything like it before. So for me, that was the biggest event I had ever been to and I was very impressed by it." And Davis' Carousel of Hope continues to impress, especially since Clive Davis (no relation) joined forces with the hostess with the mostest in that same year, signing on as her music chairman. "When she asked me to recruit Whitney Houston for the Carousel Ball in 1996, I obeyed the command!" jokes the famed recording executive. "Whitney immediately responded affirmatively and the three of us got to know each other very well." Even prior to her ongoing relationship with Davis, she'd already established the Carousel as the one fundraiser where top musical acts always performed, with Frank Sinatra leading the pack. How does she get such headliners? "I call everybody myself," says Davis. "I call their publicists, I call their managers, I call their agents. And the ones that I know, like J. Lo and Marc Anthony last time, I know them, so I just called them and asked." Regarding Sinatra, she didn't even have to ask. "We had a house in Palm Springs, we used to go every weekend. And the Sinatras were on one side of us and the Annenbergs were here, on the other," Davis recalls. "So ... one night Frank said to Dana, she was 7 years old, 'Why don't you tell your mom to have a party with a lot of people, and I'll sing at the party and they will pay a lot of money.' And Dana said, 'Who would pay to listen to you sing?' He was just our neighbor! And he did come, and he sang three times at the event."

  • DGA taps labor lawyer as assistant exec director: Daniel Bush to focus on contract enforcement and organizing

    August 9, 2012

    The Directors Guild of America has tapped labor attorney Daniel Bush as assistant exec director.

  • ASIFA sets Annie Awards on Jan. 26: Org adds student film category for 40th annual kudofest

    August 9, 2012

    ASIFA-Hollywood has set the date for its 40th annual Annie Awards. The big night for the animation biz will be Jan. 26, at UCLA's Royce Hall.

  • Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson ink FX Prods. pact: Color Force shingle expands into TV with first-look deal

    August 9, 2012

    Color Force, the production shingle headed by Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson, is gearing up for the small screen with a first-look production deal with FX Prods. Color Force will develop projects from writer-producers and secure rights to content that can be adapted to television skeins.

  • Newman legacy at Weinstein Co.: Showbiz Philanthropy Leader Report 2012

    August 9, 2012

    Paul Newman was Harvey Weinstein's Westport, Conn., neighbor. The kind of neighbor who stops by just to drop off a loaf of bread. As Weinstein remembers it, "So Paul called me one day and said, 'Come on up to the camp.' I said, 'How far is it?' Paul said, 'An hour.' I looked on the map. It was like three hours." The movie star arrived in his innocent-looking Volvo. "As I strapped in, I said to myself, 'This is definitely going to be a long trip,' " recalls Weinstein. And so the threesome shot off for the dense woods of Ashford, Conn., -- Harvey in the front seat, brother Bob in the back. "We went like 190 miles an hour," Harvey says. "Literally. I looked at that speedometer and thought I was going to pass out. We get out of the car. Bob and I are shaking. We're dizzy." Founded by Paul Newman in 1988, the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp serves seriously ill children. Here, 1,000 kids can have fun -- swim, fish, ride horses, camp, play mini-golf. "We walk into this camp," says Weinstein. "And these kids have big smiles on their faces. And everybody's wearing cowboy hats. It's like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid's Hole in the Wall.' "Then I see a bunk, and I go, 'Is that Julia Roberts or a woman who looks like Julia Roberts?' It was Julia Roberts. She was a counselor at the camp, and had just spent two weeks living with these girls who all had cancer. "The great Bob and Harvey, the noted tough guys, we couldn't walk five feet without crying. These kids really broke us down." The Weinstein brothers have "easily" donated in the seven figures to Newman's camp. Harvey can't recall the exact date of that first visit, saying, "It was when I had a full head of hair." Bob, who has served on the camp's board for six years, chose to support the org because of Newman. "Paul always said he felt that luck played a great part in his life," Bob says. "He felt that he had led a lucky life, and it was his obligation to use his good fortune to give something back. I responded to that basic philanthropic message. It really made an impression on me." As well as the camp, Harvey would get calls from Newman on environmental issues. "He'd just call me and say, 'I need 50 grand,' or whatever the hell it was," recalls Harvey. "I loved Paul and I would like to do one-tenth of what he did with Hole in the Wall." Along with Gwyneth Paltrow, Brian Williams and Jeff Zucker, Harvey Weinstein serves on the board of the Robin Hood Foundation, an org that funds and creates programs in New York's poorest neighborhoods. Since 1988, the foundation has granted more than $1.2 billion to those New Yorkers living in poverty. "David Salzman and Paul Tudor Jones started Robin Hood along with John Kennedy Jr., who recruited me," says the studio head. "But the credit goes to David and Paul who run it." Then there's AmFAR, which first came together over a lunch. "We started with Johnny Depp, Sean Penn, Dr. Mathilde Krim and myself," says Harvey. "And we raised 300 grand. Then, over the years we got Elizabeth Taylor and Sharon Stone. AmFAR, dedicated to ending global AIDS, is now in its 25th year."

  • The Variety Guide to Entertainment Philanthropy: Showbiz Philanthropy Leader Report 2012

    August 9, 2012

    When Paul Newman received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Oscars in 1994, he remarked that Hollywood was "the most generous" community in the world. In the intervening years, the entertainment industry's commitment to philanthropic endeavors has only increased. Herewith are just a few initiatives and projects, among many other charitable contributions, that various entertainment companies have created to aid the local and world community.

  • Real Estate Matters: Ask the Lawyer

    July 23, 2012

    Q: I purchased a home in early 1997. I have since paid off my mortgage and have a question I hope you can answer.

  • FilmBuff picks up 'Knuckleball!': Docu to be released on digital, VOD platforms in September

    June 23, 2012

    FilmBuff has acquired digital distribution rights for the documentary "Knuckleball!" from filmmakers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg ("Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work").

  • Is the worm turning?

    June 23, 2012

    Those "cannibals" who recently turned up in Miami aren't the only people eating their own. Following President Obama's 54-minute snoozer of a speech in Ohio last week, eRIS -- At a time when corporate America is exploring and exploiting its new Supreme-Court-bestowed role in the management of American election results, an earlier transformation in the composition and pole union telling members that they could not provide services until further notice.

  • State legislative analyst questions prod'n incentives: Report asserts California's program doesn't offset tax decline

    June 23, 2012

    California's Legislative Analyst Office has poured cold water on the purported economic benefits of the state's three-year-old tax credit incentive program.

  • BBC topper Bennett to leave: Commercial arm BBC Worldwide to be restructured

    June 23, 2012

    LONDON -- Jana Bennett, one of the BBC's top execs for the past 10 years and credited with "steering the BBC into the digital age," is to leave the U.K. pubcaster. Bennett, who is prexy of Worldwide Networks and the Global BBC iPlayer at the corp.'s commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, will exit in the autumn following a restructuring of the org, announced Friday. The make-over, which will take effect on Oct. 1, will see BBC Worldwide re-configured along geographic rather than divisional lines. P&L ownership and commercial accountability will be assigned to seven regions: North America, U.K., Australia/New Zealand, Western Europe, Asia, Latin America, and CEEMEA (Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa). The regions will report into four presidents, and there will also be global chiefs for content, sales, brands and digital, all of whom will report to BBC Worldwide CEO John Smith. Since joining BBC Worldwide last year, Bennett has overseen its channels business, which has added 13 channel services in that time. She is responsible for 33 owned and operated thematic channels across 100 countries, and is also responsible for the Global BBC iPlayer, which launched as a pilot in July 2011 and is now in 16 countries. She also has financial responsibility for BBC Worldwide's 50% interest in UKTV, the owner of 10 branded channels in the U.K. Bennett started at the BBC as a programme-maker, working as editor of "Horizon" and then becoming head of BBC Science. From 1999 to 2002, she was exec VP and g.m. at Discovery Communications in the U.S. She returned to the BBC in 2002 as director of television, and led the corp.'s digital television strategy, launching channels BBC Three and BBC Four, and two kids' webs. Under Bennett, BBC launched a raft of new programs, including the rebirth of "Doctor Who," the import of "The Apprentice," and the introduction of "Strictly Come Dancing," known in the U.S. as "Dancing with the Stars." Her title changed to director, BBC Vision, in 2006, after which she focused on turning BBC Television into a fully multi-platform division. Mark Thompson, BBC director-general and chairman of BBC Worldwide, said: "As a director of television, and later director of Vision, she was second to none, with a record that speaks for itself in both reach and appreciation across the many services she was responsible for. He added, "Over the past decade, she has played an important role in steering the BBC into the digital age."

  • Twenty Twelve

    June 23, 2012

    If the aura of "Downton Abbey" is destined to follow Hugh Bonneville around for awhile, perceptions of him as a stiff-upper-lipped British lord well serves "Twenty Twelve," a decidedly modern, dry-as-a-shaken-martini BBC mockumentary about the organizing committee for this summer's Olympics in London. Exec produced by Jon Plowman (whose credits include the original "The Office"), the show comes close to that tone, and in many ways feels like what HBO's "Veep" should have been. While light on laugh-out-loud moments, this clever half-hour earns the gold in the category of "wry and bemused."

  • Iceberg

    June 23, 2012

    The weirdly dislocated lives of four troubled teens are the focus of Gabriel Velazquez's challenging but extremely rewarding "Iceberg." Set mostly on the river that runs through the helmer's hometown of Salamanca, Spain, this minimalist yet moving film sees Velazquez allying himself with such experimentalists of Spanish cinema as Jaime Rosales and Jose Maria de Orbe, evoking with memorable power and compassion the enormous trauma that hides beneath the surface of his young protag's lives. "Iceberg" has made a decent showing at Euro fests, its distinctiveness and formal bravery suggesting that further collisions with festivals are likely.

  • The Last Ride

    June 23, 2012

    Bearing all the hallmarks of a small-budget labor of love, "The Last Ride" is a leisurely paced but modestly engaging road trip that gets considerable mileage from the byplay between its two lead characters: country-music great Hank Williams, persuasively played by Henry Thomas as a feisty reprobate ravaged by illness and self-indulgence, and small-town naif Silas (Jesse James), who's hired as driver for the ailing superstar during the final days of 1952. Pic doubtless will sell more soundtrack CDs than firstrun admission tickets, but could connect with Williams devotees as homevid fare.

  • Pinewood moves stock to AIM: Share price up 6.5 cents to $5.48

    June 23, 2012

    LONDON -- Blighty's Pinewood Shepperton Group is plowing forward with its proposal to cancel its listing on the main market of the London Stock Exchange and move toward trading on the Alternative Investment Market for smaller companies.

  • Daydream believers: Daytime Emmys 2012

    June 23, 2012

    Gameshow host Defending champ Ben Bailey ("Cash Cab") will have a tough act to follow if he is victorious again; in 2011, his ill-timed trip to the men's room delayed his arrival to the winners' podium. He'll compete against Meredith Vieira ("Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"), a previous winner in this category who displays genuine empathy for her show's contestants, energetic Wayne Brady ("Let's Make a Deal") and easy-going Todd Newton of the Hub's "Family Game Night."Overlooked: Drew Carey, who consoles losers and cheers on winners daily on "The Price Is Right."

  • Geddie buffs his way to lifetime honor: Daytime Emmys 2012

    June 23, 2012

    Bill Geddie, longtime producing partner of Barbara Walters on ABC's award-nabbing talk show "The View" -- and this year's Lifetime Achievement Honoree at the Daytime Emmys -- got a rather inconspicuous start in the biz. "I was buffing the floors of KOCO-TV, the ABC affiliate in Oklahoma City," says Geddie of his first stint in television. "The position involved running studio cameras part time, but my main job was to clean things." Over the next decade, loftier posts followed, and Geddie landed plum editorial gigs at the NBC affiliates in Atlanta and Cleveland, Ohio, and at the syndicated series "P.M. Magazine," working alongside Maria Shriver. "At one point, I got tired of producers pushing me around and decided to become one of them," he explains. In 1983, Geddie took the reigns as producer of "Good Morning America," traversing the globe with "GMA" host David Hartman. Highlights of the pairing included an Emmy-winning five-part series on Africa (tracking gorillas in Rwanda and shadowing a doctor as she made the rounds treating patients in Somalia), accompanying the USO to entertain American troops at Thule Air Base in northern Greenland, and profiling a test pilot for the B1 Bomber, a story for which they earned a second Emmy. "You name it, I did it," recalls Geddie of the experience. Then, in 1991, the opportunity to work with Barbara Walters arose. "There were many people in line before me," says Geddie of the chance to produce "The 50th Barbara Walters Special," a two-hour, greatest-hits retrospective of Walters' most memorable sit-downs with celebrities. "During my interview with Barbara, I said something to her, which was the best possible thing I could have said," he says. "I said to her, 'Assume after one show that I'm fired. I'll do this one show, and then you can hire anyone you want.' " Fast-forward two decades, and Geddie and Walters have together left an indelible mark on daytime TV. Along the way, Geddie gleaned what would become his greatest lesson in daytime TV. "Often in this business people will say things like, 'Well, so-and-so is doing something really interesting. Why don't you try that?' " he says. "And my response is, 'If somebody else is doing something, then why in hell would I want to do that?' If we're chasing other people's ideas, we're finished." In 1997, Geddie approached Walters with a fresh idea for a talk show that would feature a multigenerational panel of women discussing the most pressing topics of the moment. "I really felt that women at home deserved a show like 'The View,' " he says. "TV was offering lots in the way of really silly, pure entertainment programming and also the inspirational stuff on 'Oprah,' but there was nothing that kept women in touch with their daily lives." Walter agreed to give the show a go, but neither she nor Geddie anticipated its staying power. "Barbara worried about her credibility, but I told her I really wanted to do it," says Geddie. "I didn't think it would last long. We didn't have great numbers at the beginning. I figured we'd get two years out of it." Since then, "The View" has welcomed everybody from Justin Bieber to President Obama and has garnered a plethora of industry accolades, including the 2009 Emmy for talkshow host, an unprecedented honor shared by Walters, Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Sherri Shepherd and Elisabeth Hasselbeck. "Our show has to keep evolving," Geddie says. "The show you're going to see in three years will be very different than the show you see today. If we make the right decision about 'The View,' it will still be going strong when I'm retired and playing golf. The show is designed to outlast us all."

  • Shelved soaps set for a swan-song salute: Daytime Emmys 2012

    June 23, 2012

    Erika Slezak will make history if she wins her seventh statuette for drama lead actress Saturday at the Daytime Emmys. But the former "One Life to Live" leading lady is looking forward more to being reunited at the kudofest with her ex-castmates and co-workers from the canceled ABC soap, which wrapped production in November. "The things that I miss most about 'OLTL' are the work and the people," says Slezak, who played Victoria Lord (and her many alter-egos) for more than 40 years. Slezak will be joined by seven-time lead drama actor nominee Robert S. Woods, who won an Emmy for playing Bo Buchanan on "One Life" in 1983. "He's a wonderful guy," she says. "I called him as soon as I heard he was nominated. He's quite happy being a farmer up in the country now." "One Life" exec producer Frank Valentini moved from New York to Los Angeles soon after the show finished taping its last episode, so he could assume exec producer duties at "General Hospital," ABC's remaining soap. But he hasn't completely put "One Life" to rest. "It's been challenging living in a different city and moving my life out to the West Coast," Valentini says. "I don't think I've fully mourned the end of 'One Life.' I'm trying to prepare myself for seeing everyone again." Melissa Claire Egan, nominated in supporting actress for her role as Annie on "All My Children," which went off the air after a 41-year run in September, now has a life very similar to the one she lived for six years in Pine Valley. The actress is one of many former "All My Children" players who've been hired over the past several months at CBS' "The Young and the Restless." Therefore, the actress feels, the Emmys won't be so much of a reunion as it will be an instance in which "Children" can be honored. "It's so exciting for the show to be nominated for outstanding drama series,'" says Egan, who remains in regular contact with her "Children" pals. "People won't be saying goodbye -- they'll be saying, 'Wow, job well done!' " If Slezak wins, she plans on thanking the show's many fans. Valentini, a nominee as one of the show's directors, says veteran director Larry Carpenter will deliver the speech if they're victorious. "Larry's a great guy -- he said if we win it'll give him a chance to say something nice about me," Valentini says with a smile, "which will make my mother very happy." The broadcast is set to air tributes to the two canceled shows, but Valentini is hoping that this actually isn't the final farewell for either program -- and not just because "One Life," which aired two weeks of episodes in January, may be eligible for awards next year. "Both shows will live on for years to come," says Valentini. "There's still incredible equity in both of those brands. Maybe you haven't seen the last of them. Keep your fingers crossed."

  • Lifetime orders Marc Cherry's 'Devious Maids': Sudser was originally developed as pilot for ABC

    June 23, 2012

    Marc Cherry's "Devious Maids" has found a new home at Lifetime. The cabler has given a series order to the ABC Studios skein, originally produced for the ABC network during the most recent pilot season. The 13-episode order was confirmed Friday by Rob Sharenow, Lifetime's exec veep of programming. Deal marks a big win for Cherry and ABC Studios, which had high hopes for the project landing a series order from the Alphabet. Talks with Lifetime began days after the network passed on the project in May (Daily Variety, May 31). "This show and Marc Cherry's unique storytelling voice perfectly articulate Lifetime's strategy of attracting top-tier creatives with their most original and exciting projects," Sharenow and Lifetime prexy and g.m. Nancy Dubuc said in a statement. Series is based on a Mexican telenovela "Ellas son la Alegría del Hogar." The English-lingo adaptation stars Susan Lucci, Ana Ortiz, Judy Reyes, Dania Ramirez and Roselyn Sanchez. Cherry, Sabrina Wind, Eva Longoria, Paul McGuigan, Larry Shuman, David Lonner, John Mass, Paul Presburger and Michael Garcia are exec producers.

  • Tim Burton feted at Moscow fest: Event screens 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter'

    June 23, 2012

    MOSCOW -- Tim Burton added some Hollywood star power to the red carpet late Thursday at the opening of the 34th edition of the Moscow Film Festival.

  • Aaron Eckhart joins 'Olympus Has Fallen': Thesp to play U.S. prez in Millennium Films' Gerard Butler starrer

    June 23, 2012

    After playing Gotham's district attorney, Aaron Eckhart is getting a promotion to commander in chief in Millennium Films' "Olympus Has Fallen." Pic stars Gerard Butler. Antoine Fuqua will helm from a script by first-time scribes Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt. Described as "Die Hard" in the White House, story follows a former Secret Service agent who becomes America's only hope when the White House is overtaken by terrorists. Butler and his manager Alan Siegel will produce with Millennium prexy Mark Gill, while Avi Lerner will exec produce with Trevor Short. Production is skedded to start in September. The pic is the one of two White House takeover films in the works with Sony's "White House Down" set to go into production soon as well. The CAA-repped Eckhart can be seen next in Radius-Weinstein Company's "The Expatriate."

  • The Last of the Haussmans

    June 23, 2012

    You can tell a lot from a curtain call. Taking their bows at the end of "The Last of the Haussmanns," the strong cast look exhausted but not in a good way. That's because they've spent 2 3/4 hours adding energy to the initially flavorsome but overextended and largely dramatically inert family squabbles that constitute Stephen Beresford's playwriting debut.

  • FANS.TV unveils online platform: 'Battle Mode' gives fans interactive experience

    June 23, 2012

    Reality TV junkies will have a new way to tune in as FANS.TV unveils its latest product, an online platform that allows users to up the competitive ante on their favorite programming.

  • Wake up to 'Today'-'GMA' showdown: Daytime Emmys 2012

    June 23, 2012

    As NBC's "Today" and ABC's "Good Morning America" continue the battle for ratings dominance, the two shows are poised for a golden faceoff at Saturday's Daytime Emmys. The veteran breakfast chatfests are both nominated for top morning program and, considering their increasingly heated rivalry, the category promises to be one of the most closely watched when trophies are handed out during the ceremony, to be telecast on HLN. Not that those involved in the morning-show wars need a reminder of the stakes. "In television, there are a lot of different awards," says "Today" exec producer Jim Bell. "But this is the one that tends to stand out for most people. It's the one that people that don't work in television are aware of." Considering the award's high-profile nature, it's hard to believe it didn't exist a few years ago. The morning show category was only established in 2007, after Brent Stanton became director of the Daytime Emmys for the New York-based National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and realized there was no specific recognition for excellence in morning programming. "I was astounded," says Stanton, who notes that the ayem shows had previously been lumped into the special class program category, where the competition included everything from "Talk Soup" to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Bell says, "I shared that disbelief. I was like, 'How can there not be?' (Morning shows) are a hugely popular part of the television landscape. They're one of the most-watched, most competitive, most diverse and hardest (kinds of) television to produce. I mean, you go from war zones to Wall Street to cooking to concerts. That doesn't happen anywhere else." Even with the Academy's recognition of morning shows as a special breed, the category can still be difficult to break into. According to Stanton, seven programs were submitted for consideration this year, though only "Today" and "GMA" emerged with nods after being scored by a panel of judges on a 10-point system based on three criteria: content, creativity and execution. "It really does depend on the raw scores that come back from the judges (to) determine how many nominees there are going to be in any given year," Stanton says. "Today" and "GMA" have dominated the category in victories, with one or the other winning every year (and sharing bragging rights with a tie in 2007). While NBC's genre pioneer was still the undisputed ratings champ in 2011, the calendar year on which nominees are being judged, it may be hard for voters to ignore all the recent buzz surrounding ABC's "GMA," which in April beat "Today" in the weekly ratings for the first time in 16 years and has since come out on top several times. "Momentum is what it's all about," says "GMA" senior exec producer Tom Cibrowski. "You get the momentum, you want to keep the momentum. You can't let your foot off the gas pedal. "We know our competition is very strong in this category," he adds. "But it's a super-charged time filled with energy and excitement for the on-air team and the entire staff here at 'GMA.' " Daytime Emmy producers are no doubt hoping some of that excitement rubs off on their own broadcast, which has suffered ratings woes in recent years with the decline in popularity of daytime dramas. In an effort to stay relevant, the awards are featuring more categories in the live show - - 21 as opposed to 15 last year -- including morning program. "We love soaps," says Gabriel Gornell, who's producing this year's telecast. "At the same time, we need to acknowledge the shift in programming from daytime dramas to daytime content. So many people start their day with a cup of coffee and a morning show, and we want to pay tribute to that."

  • NBA Finals clincher on ABC tops Thursday: CBS repeat comedies fare best among non-sports shows

    June 23, 2012

    ABC would have loved to see a sixth game in the NBA Finals , which always means a ratings spike , but preliminary numbers show that the Miami Heat's Game 5 series-clinching victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder was another ratings winner for the net. According to Nielsen, ABC's stations averaged a 6.4 rating/19 share in adults 18-49 and 15.5 million viewers overall from 9 to 11 p.m., with these numbers expected to rise by at least 10% in the nationals when the game's full duration and West Coast viewing are accurately reflected. This would make it easily the night's No. 1 program, drawing more than three times the demo score of any entertainment telecast. Last year's sixth and final game between the Heat and Dallas Mavericks spiked up to a 9.7/26 in 18-49 and 23.9 million viewers overall , an indication of the kinds of numbers the Alphabet might have seen if this year's Finals had been extended. In Nielsen's metered-market overnights, Thursday's Game 5 earned a 12.6 household rating, on par with last year's contest, which produced an average national audience of 18.3 million. Overall, this year's NBA Finals averaged an 11.8 overnight household rating , up 5% from the first five games of last year (11.2) and the highest five-game ratings average since 2004. Elsewhere, CBS did well in the night's opening hour , before the game in much of the country , with encores of ''The Big Bang Theory'' (2.2/8 in 18-49, 8.2 million viewers overall) and ''2 Broke Girls'' (2.1/7 in 18-49, 7.3 million viewers overall). They were followed by repeats of crime dramas ''Person of Interest'' (1.4/4 in 18-49, 7.0 million viewers overall) and ''The Mentalist'' (1.1/3 in 18-49, 6.2 million viewers overall). At Fox, ''Take Me Out'' (1.2/4 in 18-49, 3.1 million viewers overall) was up a tick and ''The Choice'' (1.5/5 in 18-49, 4.2 million viewers overall) was down a tick week to week. And NBC had a quiet night even with all original programming, courtesy of special ''Justin Bieber: All Around the World'' (0.8/3 in 18-49, 3.1 million viewers overall), drama ''Saving Hope'' (0.5/2 in 18-49, 2.6 million viewers overall) and newsmagazine ''Rock Center'' (0.8/2 in 18-49, 3.8 million viewers overall). Univision had the top-rated non-sports broadcast program in key demos at 10 p.m. with ''La Que No Podia Amar'' (1.6/5 in 18-49, 4.1 million viewers overall). Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: ABC, 5.3/16; CBS, 1.5/5; Fox and Univision, 1.3/4; NBC, 0.7/2; CW, 0.3/1. In total viewers: ABC, 12.9 million; CBS, 7.0 million; Fox, 3.7 million; Univision, 3.6 million; NBC, 3.2 million; CW, 0.8 million.

  • BBC chief eyes New York Times post: Mark Thompson to leave pubcaster in fall

    June 23, 2012

    LONDON -- Outgoing BBC director general Mark Thompson is negotiating with the New York Times with a view to becoming its new CEO.

  • 'Salesman' lands Moon at Cinema Jove: Mota, Jenner receive Future of Cinema kudos

    June 23, 2012

    VALENCIA -- "The Salesman," from Canada's Sebastien Pilote, took the Golden Moon at Valencia's 27th Cinema Jove Film Festival, which wrapped Friday.

  • Metrodome to release 'Reverend': Pic stars Rutger Hauer, Tammar Hassan

    June 23, 2012

    LONDON -- Brit indie distrib Metrodome Distribution has acquired U.K. and Ireland rights for horror pic "The Reverend."

  • Virtual lines blurry for celeb estates: Perf of virtual Tupac at Coachella raises rights questions

    June 23, 2012

    The efforts at creating a "holographic" Tupac, a new Marilyn, and a synthetic Elvis either inspire excitement for the future, or sadness over cultural mining of the past. But before you start imagining a Las Vegas Strip of real-life performers displaced by digital legends, there's the very present reality of legal hurdles that are a restraint or check on a full spate of 21st century Lazarus projects. Right of publicity laws have generally gotten stronger for artists in the past two decades, expanding to account for performers' value after they are deceased. California's law applies to 70 years after a performer's death, and several years ago the law was revised to make it clear that it applied retroactively. What's more, many more celebrities have become aware of what happens to their reputations after they are long gone, and it's not all that easy for digital creators to revive stars without going through all sorts of clearances to use underlying source material, like songs or film clips, not to mention the rights from the estate to exploit a likeness. As Mark Roesler, chairman and CEO of CMG Worldwide, which specializes in representing the estates of the famous, says, "Very seldom is there a one-stop shop. It is a very case- sensitive analysis of who owns what rights." The issue isn't even all that new. In the mid-1990s, when Coke introduced an ad that featured the images of Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney and Louis Armstrong as the real Elton John sang "Just for the Taste," it inspired a whole bevy of stories -- and worries -- about what was in store for the future. The more recent digital Tupac, featured at the Coachella Music Festival in April, took the notion of a revived celebrity to a new level: a legendary figure "performing" an entirely new work. The new Tupac, created by Digital Domain, sang "Hail Mary" but also "What up, Coachella?," a reference to the event that started three years after his death. Nick Smith, the president of AV Concepts, which staged the image, told MTV that the technology will allow them to "take people that haven't done concerts before or perform music they haven't sung and digitally recreate it." The intent of post-mortem rights of publicity laws was to allow estates to enjoy the benefits of the commercial exploitation of an artist's likeness, a response to the bonanza of merchandising of things like Groucho T-shirts and Marilyn Monroe trinkets, or ads featuring legends of the past. But California's right of publicity law exempts plays, books, magazines, newspapers, musical compositions, film, radio or television programs, with an eye to the First Amendment. So what is to stop a brazen group of producers from casting a digitally recreated Elizabeth Taylor in a cameo role, even without the permission of her estate? Jonathan Faber, attorney and founder of licensing agency Luminary Group, says that perhaps the common law right of publicity, which exists simultaneously, would help protect estates. There also is the argument that, even though such an appearance is not a product or ad, it is still "commercial exploitation," as California's law also limits the extent to which even media that falls under the exemptions can exploit their creations. The 1977 Supreme Court decision in Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard Broadcasting Co. held that the First Amendment did not protect a TV station when it broadcast a complete human cannonball act, as the broadcast undercut the money the performer could have made. "I submit that there should not be any difficulty in determining that a digitally recreated musician being made to perform, or a digitally recreated actor being made to act, should absolutely require permission based on that person's right of publicity," Faber said. "If that notion is not defensible, one would have to wonder about the long term efficacy of the right of publicity as a distinct doctrine." He predicts licensing opportunities, and litigation when the uses happen without permission. Other issues involve where a star kept as an official residence at the time of his or her death, as it affects whether a state has a port-mortem right of publicity. New York, for instance, does not, an issue that has arisen with the Marilyn Monroe estate. And in Nevada, there is a post mortem right of publicity, too, but it doesn't apply to "an attempt to portray, imitate, simulate or impersonate a person in a live performance." Given the expense of creating digital celebrities, companies like Digital Domain have chosen to avoid the headache of threats of legal action. It recently entered a deal with Core Media Group and Elvis Presley Enterprises to make a virtual Elvis for a variety of appearances. Gary Hovey, executive VP of Elvis Presley Enterprises, said the whole idea of such electronic recreations is "just a new medium." The future of digital personas, he adds, "depends on what gets created. This is the beginning of something new." As protective as estates may be over their loved ones, what can't be forgotten is that even in death, there is a need for a celebrity to stay in the public eye. In other words, better to work with them than against them. As Faber says, "The genie is out of the bottle. You can't pretend it doesn't exist." Want to comment or suggest a column topic? Email ted.johnson@variety.com

  • U pushed 'Bourne' one week to Aug. 10: Pic avoids 'Total Recall' reboot and gets breathing room from 'Dark Knight Rises'

    June 23, 2012

    In effort to avoid what is expected to be a big box office run by "The Dark Knight Rises," Universal Pictures has pushed the release date of "The Bourne Legacy" from Aug. 3 to Aug. 10.

  • Hajdu, Bodzsar pix share $2.2 mil: Hungarian fund focuses on mainstream movies

    June 23, 2012

    MOSCOW -- Hungary's national film fund, which relaunched two years ago under the direction of Hollywood producer Andy Vajna, has announced grants worth $2.2 million to two features.

  • Ted

    June 23, 2012

    Having thoroughly subverted the sitcom formula on TV, "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane targets bigscreen romantic comedies with "Ted," a predictably irreverent satire that's sweeter and, sadly, less funny than you might expect. Mark Wahlberg plays an overgrown kid who can't seem to take the next step with dream-girl Mila Kunis, thanks to the constant distraction and ongoing bad influence of his talking teddy. More surreal than the film's ill-behaved bear is the fact this loony concept was greenlit by Universal and produced with CG instead of sock puppets, though the gamble brings another R-rated funnymaker to Judd Apatow's home studio.

  • Elections could shift EU away from austerity, but should they?

    May 8, 2012

    PARIS -- The weekend elections in France and Greece seem widely to have been taken, at least on the European and American left, as a solution to the great European economic crisis.

  • Catholicism and the GOP: An awkward tango

    May 1, 2012

    PARIS -- A novel aspect of the Republican campaign for the party's presidential nomination has been the importance placed by some candidates, their admirers and some voters on the Catholic religion and certain claims to formal academic certification or endorsement.

  • French election's first round narrows the field

    April 25, 2012

    PARIS -- The French elections have settled one question, that of the two finalists for the presidency. There were some who believed that the nationalist right candidate, Marine Le Pen, might outdo President Nicolas Sarkozy, who, in the campaign polls, trailed his Socialist challenger, Francois Hollande.

  • Scandals in China intensify possible Communist Party crisis

    April 17, 2012

    PARIS -- Events suggest that the long-overdue crisis of China's Communist Party has arrived. Evidence is provided by the affair of the Chinese police chief who tried to defect to the United States and was turned away, the sensational murder of the mysterious Englishman, about whom Britain's foreign secretary seems to have known more than he told us at the time of the murder, and more than he should have known, had the mysterious Englishman been merely the innocuous expatriate he purported to be, and the British government had claimed that he was.

  • An America in decline

    April 10, 2012

    PARIS -- Is the United States in decline? You would certainly think so from the publishers' lists, although some of the new books, written by determined neo-conservatives resisting indictment for complicity in causing the decline, such as Robert Kagan, are arguing that it's only a very little decline, and temporary, and will end in November when the teapot boils. Certainly President Barack Obama forswears declinism. Anyone who says that America is in decline, "or that our influence has waned, doesn't know what they are talking about," he said in his State of the Union address.

  • Toulouse killings send tremors through French presidential election

    April 3, 2012

    PARIS -- What had seemed a long, tranquil current of political success that was conveying Francois Hollande to the French presidency (first-round consultation April 22) has run into turbulence during the past few days, and while his canoe is still buoyant, Mr. Hollande has suffered a touch of mal de mer. He seems too reasonable and nice a fellow to be a great success as a politician -- not accusations anyone makes about President Nicolas Sarkozy.

  • Regardless of Obama's gaffe, nuclear missile defense remains a useless endeavor

    March 28, 2012

    PARIS -- One might hope that when President Barack Obama misspoke in front of an open microphone at the Seoul nuclear security conference on Tuesday, he knew he would draw attention to the need to end what has always seemed to be one of the biggest policy frauds of the present day: the scheme purporting to defend Europe and the United States from Iranian nuclear missiles.

  • Talks on post-2014 presence in Afghanistan built on shaky premise

    March 20, 2012

    PARIS -- The United States has since the 1990s become increasingly the victim of an "exceptionalist" ideology that claims world leadership for the nation and an obdurate militarism, corrupting to American historical institutions and values.

  • Wars and potential wars abound

    March 13, 2012

    PARIS -- The two most recent American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have failed or are disastrously failing.

  • Presidential election in France reveals plenty of jaded voters

    March 6, 2012

    PARIS -- In France's presidential election, which takes place on April 22 and May 6, the incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy is running far behind his challenger, Francois Hollande, in a contest that has more to do with personal character than issues. Sarkozy has always been a man of action rather than theory or ideology, and the French Socialist Party, which Hollande headed for more than a decade, has been intellectually moribund for years.

  • Drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan recognition of futility, or retreat from the coming storm?

    February 28, 2012

    DOHA, QATAR -- Located between the sea of sand that is Saudi Arabia and Iran, where Central Asia begins, Qatar is a coastal appendage of the former and faces the latter across the Persian Gulf. Bahrain -- home port of the U.S. 5th Fleet -- is its close neighbor on the Gulf, and Qatar itself hosts advanced elements of U.S. Central Command, responsible for American operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan. The miniscule state of Qatar is at the nexus of America's collision with titanic national military and political failure.

  • Greek unrest the result of suppressed democracy

    February 15, 2012

    PARIS -- When the first international effort to impose an economic austerity regime upon Greece was completed, George Papandreou, the prime minister, surprised and infuriated the negotiators from the IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank by proposing that the draft agreement be submitted to a popular referendum in Greece. The negotiators and their governments knew very well that the Greek people would reject it.

  • Trans-Atlantic military cooperation gets complicated in Afghanistan

    February 7, 2012

    PARIS -- The annual Munich Security Conference is regularly the scene for the complaints of American official and semi-official participants deploring Europe's failure "to pull its weight" in defense, "free-riding" on American efforts, and failing to spend more money on trans-Atlantic arms purchases. Instead they spend money on their own-make arms and military aircraft, such as the French Rafale and EADS' Eurofighter, which they sell to such overseas markets as India that might otherwise buy American.

  • American decline could worsen with focus on Iran and China

    January 31, 2012

    PARIS -- The framework in which most Americans, including the foreign policy specialists, see the world has totally changed in a decade. In February 2002, the United States and Afghanistan's Northern Alliance had just won their Blitzkrieg unseating the Taliban government of Afghanistan, and a new client government was being set in place. The Economist was to say of it a year later that optimists believed Afghanistan to be "more stable than at any time in the past 24 years." Another war, against Iraq, was confidently being prepared to avenge the Trade Towers and Pentagon attacks (to which, it was to turn out, Iraq had no connection), and to create a "New Middle East."

  • Is a nuclear Iran really to be feared?

    January 24, 2012

    PARIS -- The obsession of the American foreign policy community, as well as most American (and a good many international) politicians, by the myth of Iran's "existential" threat to Israel, brings the world steadily closer to another war in the Middle East.

  • Election will decide which new wars will be waged

    January 17, 2012

    PARIS -- Now that America's primary elections have eliminated the more implausible contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, it is possible to take a clearer look at what the electorate will be up against when the conventions are over next fall, and when the newly elected president assumes (or resumes) command of American foreign policy.

  • Karzai's Bagram demands add stress to US policy

    January 10, 2012

    PARIS -- The Afghan government's order a week ago to the United States to close its prison at Bagram Air Base near Kabul, where it holds unidentified prisoners, came as a shock to Washington, although President Hamid Karzai has before invited the U.S. to cease its operations in his country because of what he considered infringements upon Afghan sovereignty.

  • Ron Paul's popularity in Iowa a sign of a war-weary America

    January 3, 2012

    PARIS -- The opinion polls' forecast that Rep. Ron Paul would do well in the Iowa Republican caucus has surely not been evidence of a surge in Iowa of hostility to the Federal Reserve and to free trade. If Paul comes out at or close to the top in the vote, it will demonstrate that Robert Naiman was right in writing on Monday (in the web magazine Truthout) that non-Republican crossover voters would determine the Iowa outcome.

  • Arab Awakening could begin to resemble European Enlightenment

    December 29, 2011

    PARIS -- There are only three valid reasons why the Middle East, the focus of international attention as 2012 begins, is important to the United States and the European nations. These are energy, immigration and Israel. Beyond that, there is no evident cause for paying more attention to this region than to other areas in the world, such as Africa, Latin America or Western Asia.

  • Calls for a Democratic Obama challenger, while based in history, seem ill-advised

    December 20, 2011

    PARIS -- A week ago, in the Providence Journal newspaper (in Rhode Island), the publisher of Harper's Magazine, John R. MacArthur, wrote that President Barack Obama, through expedient political compromises, has lost the moral authority that an American president must command, and therefore has lost his right to a second presidential term. Mr. MacArthur quotes in support of his argument the veteran journalist Bill Moyers, who was a member of President Lyndon Johnson's staff from 1965 to 1967, and since has become a prominent commentator on public television and in liberal and Democratic Party circles.

  • Brussels agreements increase Germany's role in EU

    December 13, 2011

    VIENNA -- The great economic crisis has given birth to a smaller and tighter monetary union in Europe, under the influence of a Germany that is undergoing a certain estrangement from its European partners. This amounts to a possibly dangerous wager on what the European Union will ultimately become, which all may not like.

  • Fiction and fantasy in finance: What's to become of the euro?

    December 6, 2011

    PARIS -- The American rating agency Standard and Poor's warned 15 European nations on Monday, including Germany and France, that unless they solve their currency problems this week, to the satisfaction of S&P, a business corporation, this company will "downgrade" them, with the effect of increasing the interest they must pay on their sovereign debt and on foreign funds placed on loan to their economies.

Editorial Poll


THE EDITORIAL BOARD


Andy Green, the opinion editor, has taken the "know a little bit about everything" approach in his time at The Sun. He was the city/state editor before coming to the editorial board, and prior to that he covered the State House and Baltimore County government.

Tricia Bishop, the deputy editorial page editor, was a reporter in the business and metro sections covering biotechnology, education and city and federal courts prior to joining the board.

Peter Jensen, former State House reporter and features writer, takes the lead on state government, transportation issues and the environment; he is the board's resident funny man and capital schmooze.

Glenn McNatt, who returned to editorial writing after serving as the newspaper's art critic, keeps an eye on the arts, culture, politics and the law for the editorial board.

Physician-assisted suicide [Poll]

Do you support making physician-assisted suicide legal in Maryland, as gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur has proposed?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Not sure

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