Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bo Diddley hospitalized after stroke

Bo Diddley hospitalized after stroke

56 minutes ago

Bo Diddley is in intensive care after suffering a stroke in western Iowa, a publicist said Wednesday.

The 78-year-old singer-songwriter-guitarist and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer was listed in guarded condition at Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, Neb., said Susan Clary, a publicist for the musician's management team.

Diddley, who has a history of hypertension and diabetes, was hospitalized Sunday following a concert in Council Bluffs in which he acted disoriented, she said.

Tests indicated that the stroke affected the left side of his brain, impairing his speech and speech recognition, Clary said.

Clary said she has no other details on Diddley's condition or how long he would be in intensive care.

Diddley, with his black glasses and low-slung guitar, has been an icon in the music industry since he topped the R&B charts with "Bo Diddley" in 1955. His other hits include "Who Do You Love," "Before You Accuse Me," "Mona" and "I'm a Man."

Diddley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and was given a lifetime achievement Grammy in 1998.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Bill's Comment: I wouldn't be surprised if either his diabetes or hypertension contributed to it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Congress Approval Down to 29%; Bush Approval Steady at 33%

Congress Approval Down to 29%; Bush Approval Steady at 33%

Both ratings are slightly lower than 2007 averages

by Joseph Carroll


PRINCETON, NJ -- A new Gallup Poll finds continued low levels of public support for both Congress and President George W. Bush. Twenty-nine percent of Americans approve of Congress, down slightly from last month's reading (33%) and this year's high point of 37%, while Bush's approval rating is holding steady at 33%. Both the ratings of Congress and the president are slightly lower than their respective 2007 averages. Approval ratings of Congress are higher among Democrats than Republicans, while Bush's ratings are much higher among Republicans.

Congressional Job Approval

According to the May 10-13, 2007, Gallup Poll, 29% of Americans approve and 64% disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job. Congressional approval is down 4 percentage points since last month, and is 3 points lower than the 32% average measured during the first five months of the year. The high point for the congressional approval rating so far this year was the 37% approval measured in February. Although ratings are quite low, Americans have been more positive in their assessments of Congress this year than last year, when an average of just 25% approved of Congress.

Even though Democrats now control both houses of Congress, the poll shows that only 37% of Democrats approve of the job Congress is doing right now. These marks are, however, significantly better than those given to Congress by independents (24%) and Republicans (25%). Democrats have been more likely than Republicans to approve of Congress this year, whereas Republicans expressed a higher level of approval prior to the change of power experienced after the midterm congressional elections in November 2006.

So far this year, Republicans' approval of Congress has gradually declined, from a high of 37% in mid-January to 25% in the latest poll. By comparison, ratings among Democrats have shown more fluctuation, ranging between 33% and 44% since January, and are down 6 points this month since early April. More generally, Democrats' ratings of the job the Democratic-controlled Congress is doing are down from a higher point of 44% in February, which is just after the control of Congress switched from the Republicans to the Democrats.

Presidential Job Approval

There has been little meaningful change in the public's rating of the president in quite some time. Thirty-three percent of Americans now approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president, while 62% disapprove. Bush's approval ratings have averaged 35% in 2007, and have fallen within a narrow range between 32% and 38%. Bush's ratings were slightly higher last year, averaging 38%. Bush has not received an approval rating above 40% in any Gallup polling since September 2006.

Republicans continue to be much more likely than independents or Democrats to support the president. Seventy-three percent of Republicans approve of Bush, substantially higher than the 27% approval among independents and the 9% approval among Democrats. Although the three party groups' ratings of Bush's job approval have been quite stable in recent months, since last May presidential approval ratings have shown somewhat more fluctuation among Republicans (ranging between 68% and 86%) than among independents (23% to 36%) or Democrats (4% to 15%).

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,003 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 10-13, 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Bill's Comment: Since you probably will not hear this anywhere but FOX News and conservative talk shows, I might as well share this with you.

Source of article- The Drudge Report

XM Radio Suspends Opie & Anthony

Source: The Drudge Report

XM Radio Suspends Opie & Anthony


XM Radio announced today that the company has suspended Gregg "Opie" Hughes and Anthony Cumia, hosts of "The Opie & Anthony Show" and ceased broadcast of the show for 30 days, effective immediately.

XM Radio deplored the comments aired on "The Opie & Anthony Show" last week. At the time, the company strongly expressed its views to Opie and Anthony, and they issued an immediate apology.

Comments made by Opie and Anthony on yesterday's broadcast put into question whether they appreciate the seriousness of the matter. The management of XM Radio decided to suspend Opie and Anthony to make clear that our on-air talent must take seriously the responsibility that creative freedom requires of them.

As a company, XM provides customers with tools to control what they listen to on XM. "The Opie & Anthony Show" appears on one of XM's explicit language channels (XL). Whenever a radio is tuned to an explicit language channel, the letters "XL" continuously appear on the screen. XM frequently mentions on its explicit language channels that the content may be inappropriate for certain listeners and tells how to "block" channels that feature this type of content. Channel blocking is available through or by calling 1-800-XMRADIO.

Television evangelist Falwell dies at 73

Television evangelist Falwell dies at 73

By SUE LINDSEY, Associated Press Writer
10 minutes ago

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, the television evangelist who founded the Moral Majority and used it to mold the religious right into a political force, died Tuesday shortly after being found unconscious in his office at Liberty University. He was 73.

Ron Godwin, the university's executive vice president, said Falwell was found unresponsive late Tuesday morning and taken to Lynchburg General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead about an hour later.

"I had breakfast with him, and he was fine at breakfast," Godwin said. "He went to his office, I went to mine, and they found him unresponsive."

Dr. Carl Moore, Falwell's physician, said the evangelist had a heart rhythm abnormality. He said Falwell was found without a pulse and never regained consciousness.

Falwell had made careful preparations for a transition of his leadership to his two sons, Jerry Falwell, Jr., now vice-chancellor of Liberty University, and Jonathan Falwell, executive the pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church.

One daughter, Jeannie Falwell Savas, Surgeon, Richmond, Va. Godwin said. "He has left instructions for those of us who had to carry on, and we will be faithful to that charge," Godwin said.

Falwell had survived two serious health scares in early 2005. He was hospitalized for two weeks with what was described as a viral infection, then was hospitalized again a few weeks later after going into respiratory arrest. Later that year, doctors found a 70 percent blockage in an artery, which they opened with stents.

"Jerry has been a tower of strength on many of the moral issues which have confronted our nation," fellow evangelist Pat Robertson said Tuesday.

Falwell credited his Moral Majority with getting millions of conservative voters registered, electing Ronald Reagan and giving Republicans Senate control in 1980.

"I shudder to think where the country would be right now if the religious right had not evolved," Falwell said when he stepped down as Moral Majority president in 1987.

The fundamentalist church that Falwell started in an abandoned bottling plant in 1956 grew into a religious empire that included the 22,000-member Thomas Road Baptist Church, the "Old Time Gospel Hour" carried on television stations around the country and 7,700-student Liberty University, which began as Lynchburg Baptist College in 1971. He built Christian elementary schools, homes for unwed mothers and a home for alcoholics.

Liberty University's commencement is scheduled for Saturday, with former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich as the featured speaker.

Sen. John McCain, the school commencement speaker last year, said Tuesday that his prayers were with Falwell's family.

"Dr. Falwell was a man of distinguished accomplishment who devoted his life to serving his faith and country," McCain said.

Last year, Falwell marked the 50th anniversary of his church and spoke out on stem cell research, saying he sympathized with people with medical problems, but that any medical research must pass a three-part test: "Is it ethically correct? Is it biblically correct? Is it morally correct?"

Falwell had once opposed mixing preaching with politics, but he changed his view and in 1979, founded the Moral Majority. The political lobbying organization grew to 6.5 million members and raised $69 million as it supported conservative politicians and campaigned against abortion, homosexuality, pornography and bans on school prayer.

Falwell became the face of the religious right, appearing on national magazine covers and on television talk shows. In 1983, U.S. News & World Report named him one of 25 most influential people in America.

In 1984, he sued Hustler magazine for $45 million, charging that he was libeled by an ad parody depicting him as an incestuous drunkard. A federal jury found the fake ad did not libel him, but awarded him $200,000 for emotional distress. That verdict was overturned, however, in a landmark 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision that held that even pornographic spoofs about a public figure enjoy First Amendment protection.

The case was depicted in the 1996 movie "The People v. Larry Flynt."

With Falwell's high profile came frequent criticism, even from fellow ministers. The Rev. Billy Graham once rebuked him for political sermonizing on "non-moral issues."

Falwell quit the Moral Majority in 1987, saying he was tired of being "a lightning rod" and wanted to devote his time to his ministry and Liberty University. But he remained outspoken and continued to draw criticism for his remarks.

Days after Sept. 11, 2001, Falwell essentially blamed feminists, gays, lesbians and liberal groups for bringing on the terrorist attacks. He later apologized.

In 1999, he told an evangelical conference that the Antichrist was a male Jew who was probably already alive. Falwell later apologized for the remark but not for holding the belief. A month later, his National Liberty Journal warned parents that Tinky Winky, a purple, purse-toting character on television's "Teletubbies" show, was a gay role model and morally damaging to children.

Falwell was re-energized after family values proved important in the 2004 presidential election. He formed the Faith and Values Coalition as the "21st Century resurrection of the Moral Majority," to seek anti-abortion judges, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and more conservative elected officials.

The big, blue-eyed preacher with a booming voice started his independent Baptist church with 35 members. From his living room, he began broadcasting his message of salvation and raising the donations that helped his ministry grow.

"He was one of the first to come up with ways to use television to expand his ministry," said Robert Alley, a retired University of Richmond religion professor who studied and criticized Falwell's career.

In 1987, Falwell took over the PTL (Praise the Lord) ministry in South Carolina after Jim Bakker's troubles. Falwell slid fully clothed down a theme park water slide after donors met his fund-raising goal to help rescue the rival ministry. He gave it up seven months later after learning the depth of PTL's financial problems.

Largely because of the Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart scandals, donations to Falwell's ministry dropped from $135 million in 1986 to less than $100 million the following year. Hundreds of workers were laid off and viewers of his television show dwindled.

Liberty University was $73 million in debt and on the verge of bankruptcy, and his "Old Time Gospel Hour" was $16 million in debt.

By the mid-1990s, two local businessmen with long ties to Falwell began overseeing the finances and helped get companies to forgive debts or write them off as losses.

Falwell devoted much of his time keeping his university afloat. He dreamed that Liberty would grow to 50,000 students and be to fundamentalist Christians what Notre Dame is to Roman Catholics and Brigham Young University is to Mormons. He was an avid sports fan who arrived at Liberty basketball games to the cheers of students.

Falwell's father and his grandfather were militant atheists, he wrote in his autobiography. He said his father made a fortune off his businesses — including bootlegging during Prohibition.

As a student, Falwell was a star athlete and a prankster who was barred from giving his high school valedictorian's speech after he was caught using counterfeit lunch tickets his senior year.

He ran with a gang of juvenile delinquents before becoming a born-again Christian at age 19. He turned down an offer to play professional baseball and transferred from Lynchburg College to Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Mo.

"My heart was burning to serve Christ," he once said in an interview. "I knew nothing would ever be the same again."

The day before he died, Falwell had been up on the Liberty campus hillside chatting with students, Godwin said. He was talking about plans for the future that day and over breakfast Tuesday morning, he said.

"Dr. Falwell was a giant of faith and a visionary leader," Godwin said. He "has always been a man of great optimism and great faith."

Falwell is survived by his wife, Macel, and three children, Jerry, Jonathan and Jeannie.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Bill's Comment: I have read (and still have) a copy of his autobiography, which was written in 1997. I highly recommend this to anybody who wants to read a good book. To me, he seemed to be a very decent human being, whether you liked him or not. He built both the Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University (amongst other entities) from the ground up by being both personable and persistent by reaching out to the community, regardless of race or religion. It is a shame that the biased liberal media keeps regurgitating his "Tinky Winky" comment. All of us have said something stupid at least once in our lives. Let it go!

In my opinion, he may be the second most influential minister in our lifetime, next to Rev. Billy Graham. Like Graham, his beliefs were based on the principles of the Bible and God's word. Even though I have never met either one, these two individuals may be two of the nicest human beings you would ever meet.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Cerberus to pay $7.4B for Chrysler stake

Cerberus to pay $7.4B for Chrysler stake

2 minutes ago

DETROIT - Chrysler's 80,000 workers may pay the price for German-based parent DaimlerChrysler's decision on Monday to turn over the keys of its U.S. car company to private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management for $7.4 billion.

Talks begin soon between the United Auto Workers' and Detroit's car makers on a national contract and analysts expect Cerberus, headed by former Treasury Secretary John Snow, to push for radical changes at its money-losing Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge operations.

The announcement sent shudders through much of Chrysler's work force, despite assurances from Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda that there are no major plans under discussion with Cerberus to cut jobs beyond a previously announced restructuring plan.

That wasn't good enough for Canadian Auto Workers' President Buzz Hargrove. He said he had "enormous concerns," noting that many private equity groups have a long-standing history of "job cuts as opposed to job creation."

The sale of 80.1 percent of Chrysler to Cerberus Capital Management LP unwinds the messy $36 billion marriage in 1998 that was set up to create the ultimate global automotive powerhouse.

Instead, the maker of the upscale Mercedes Benz brand of cars found itself, like competitors Ford and General Motors, battered by rising pension and retiree health costs in the United States as Toyota and other Asian manufacturers won the hearts of U.S. consumers with what many view as more reliable, fuel-efficient models.

Germany-based DaimlerChrysler AG said it would keep a 19.1 percent stake in the renamed Chrysler Holdings LLC. The private company will be run by Cerberus, which said it would keep the present management in place.

So anxious was DaimlerChrysler to end the trans-Atlantic tieup that it could be on the hook to pay as much as $650 million — in exchange for being absolved for $19 billion in retiree health care costs that will be the responsibility of the new Chrysler owners.

The $7.4 billion deal works this way: Cerberus will invest $5 billion in the new Chrysler's automotive operations, $1.05 billion in Chrysler's financial arm and pay $1.35 billion to DaimlerChrysler. But the German automaker agreed to absorb $1.6 billion in restructuring-related costs and loan the new company $400 million. Depending on whether the loan is repaid, its out-of-pocket costs could ultimately total $650 million.

Cerberus has steadily been building strength in the automobile business. It led a consortium that bought a majority stake last year in General Motors Acceptance Corp., the financial arm of GM, and planned to invest in ailing auto parts giant Delphi Corp.

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said Monday that after his pitch to keep Daimler and Chrysler together failed, it became clear that Cerberus was the best option for workers.

"So once that decision's been made, then you've got to deal with the cards that you're dealt," he said Monday afternoon, adding that he did not think the sale would have an impact on upcoming national contract talks.

Chrysler and the other Detroit automakers were caught flat-footed when gasoline prices spiked to around $3 per gallon after Hurricane Katrina, sending buyers away from the truck-based models on which they made most of their money.

Cerberus Chairman Snow tried to reassure workers during a news conference, saying his company is in the investment for the long term, with plans to keep Chrysler's management and work with unions to return the struggling automaker to profitability.

"We think at this particular point in Chrysler's history, there may be opportunities in the private world, the world of private investment, that create more room for growth and expansion, that allow management to focus with greater intensity on the day-to-day business of producing better cars," Snow said at a news conference in Germany.

Car buyers have little to fear from the transaction, according to one industry analyst, because warranties and spare parts requirements must be honored by law.

"From a consumer perspective, in the practical sense, there's no real downside. I think consumers are pretty well protected," said Jeremy Anwyl, president of the automotive Web site.

Consumers, he said, may benefit from the deal because Chrysler will have more money to invest in its products.

Investors also liked the news. DaimlerChrysler's shares rose $2.12, or 2.6 percent, to close at $84.12. They have traded in a 52-week range of $45.98 to $84.90.

Daimler will continue to work with Chrysler on drive systems, purchasing, sales and financial services outside North America. But it was clear that DaimlerChrysler and its chief executive Dieter Zetsche, had lost confidence in a Chrysler.

"We determined that DaimlerChrysler, as currently structured, would not provide the best" framework, Zetsche told reporters in Stuttgart.

Some analysts said Cerberus' entry into auto-making could be a plus for Ford and GM because Cerberus is more likely to be a catalyst for change in bargaining with unions.

Talks between the Detroit Three and the UAW on a new national contract formally are set to begin in July, with the master contract expiring in September. All three have said they need lower labor costs to compete in a global automotive market, mainly with Asian manufacturers.

With Cerberus, it's unlikely that the UAW would remain unwilling to give Chrysler the same health care concessions that it gave Ford and GM, Morgan Stanley analyst Jonathan Steinmetz said in a note to investors.

Yet Snow said at the news conference that he and his company respected organized labor.

"I think Cerberus has a good record of working successfully with companies that are organized and we respect the role of organized labor and we greatly appreciate the support the UAW has given to this transaction," he said.

The UAW's endorsement was a shift from earlier this year, when Gettelfinger warned that a private equity buyer would "strip and flip" the company by selling it off in pieces.

The deal, which is to be completed by the third quarter, probably will reduce Daimler's overall profit by as much as $5.4 billion for 2007, the company said. It still must be approved by Daimler's supervisory board, but that is seen as a formality.

Snow said that under Chrysler's leadership, the company's quality and productivity have risen and it has a variety of new products that will be well-received in the marketplace.

Private equity firms typically use money provided by pension and hedge funds and wealthy private investors to acquire all or part of public companies and take them private, often to reorganize and later sell at a profit.

Aaron Bragman, a research analyst for Global Insight, an economic research and consulting company, said fixing Chrysler and taking it public is one possibility for Cerberus to get its money back, along with keeping it or selling to another automaker.

Regardless of what path Cerberus takes, Bragman sees the firm keeping Chrysler for at least two or three years.

"It's going to take that long just to turn Chrysler around and follow through with the turnaround plan that's already in place," he said.

In addition to Cerberus, billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda Corp. and Blackstone Group, a private equity firm, were among those interested in Chrysler, along with Canadian auto parts maker Magna International Inc. and General Motors Corp.
AP Business Writer Matt Moore in Frankfurt, Germany and Associated Press writers Ken Thomas in Washington and Corey Williams in Detroit contributed to this report.
On the Net:

Cerberus Capital Management LP:

DaimlerChrysler AG:

McDonald's to expand Angus burger test

McDonald's to expand Angus burger test

By Nichola Groom
1 hour, 13 minutes ago

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - McDonald's Corp. (NYSE:MCD - news) plans to expand a test of premium Angus beef burgers this summer to some restaurants in the Northeastern United States, an executive said on Monday.

Karen King, who oversees McDonald's 5,200 restaurants from Key West, Florida to the Canadian border, said the company was "encouraged" by sales of the fancier Angus burgers in Southern California, where they have been test marketed since last year.

"We're going to be testing Angus burgers later this summer in one of the Northeast markets," King, McDonald's East Division president, said in an interview. "With all test products we want to get a sense of different geographies and demographics so we're going to take it around the block here in the East."

King declined to say which market would be getting the fancier burgers, and spokeswoman Danya Proud said a final decision had not yet been made.

The burgers are seen as a key way McDonald's is working to compete with rivals Burger King Holdings Inc. (NYSE:BKC - news) and Hardee's and Carl's Jr. parent CKE Restaurants Inc. (NYSE:CKR - news), both of which have been selling bigger, premium burgers for several years.

Expansion of the Angus burger test comes as McDonald's works to extend the success of a three-year-old turnaround that has revitalized sales at the world's largest restaurant chain. King, a 32-year McDonald's veteran, said new drinks like iced coffee and tea and new chicken and breakfast products would be key to sustaining the company's momentum.

King oversaw the introduction of iced coffee to McDonald's restaurants in New England and said she was optimistic about its addition to restaurants throughout the United States.

"It was a gap in our menu, and we've been tremendously surprised by the product," King said.

In addition to her regular job, King has also taken on a new responsibility -- convincing McDonald's restaurant employees and customers that a job at the restaurant chain offers opportunities for development and growth.

King, who started working at a McDonald's restaurant in Georgia in 1975, is appearing in a television commercial as part of a new campaign to emphasize career opportunities at the chain. It is the first time McDonald's has featured an executive in its advertising.

"We want to tell people externally that this is a great career no matter what your goals, and we're also talking to our current employees," King said.

The campaign is McDonald's latest effort to change the image of its restaurant jobs as low-paying and dead-end. In recent years, the company has improved pay and benefits for restaurant workers and has taken other measures to emphasize the opportunities a McDonald's job can offer.

As for King, who has overseen the East Division for two years, she said she is in no rush to move on to her next McDonald's job. Once that does happen, however, she said she might pursue an international opportunity as she has not yet had any experience outside the United States.

Her predecessor as head of the East Division is Tim Fenton, who now serves as president of McDonald's Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa business.