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Tom Brokaw Pronounces His “L”‘s Well Enough to Slam Mitt Romney for Ads

Via POLITICO’s Reid Epstein, NBC News and Tom Brokaw are loudly objecting to the Mitt Romney campaign’s use of footage from the 1990s in an ad blasting Newt Gingrich over his House ethics charges.

Brokaw, whose statement noted he was speaking on his behalf, said, “I am extremely uncomfortable with the extended use of my personal image in this political ad.  I do no want my role as a journalist compromised for political gain by any campaign.”

“The NBC Legal Department has written a letter to the campaign asking for the removal of all NBC News material from their campaign ads,” NBC News said in a statement, which added, “Similar requests have gone out to other campaigns that have inappropriately used Nightly News, Meet the Press, Today and MSNBC material.”

Romney aides said they hadn’t yet heard from NBC News.

On a basic level, the flap around the spot simply calls more attention to it, which is presumably part of Team Romney’s calculus.

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Guess the Coin Toss & Eat for Free on Super Bowl Sunday $PZZA

(via BusinessWire.com)

Papa John’s to Give Free Pizza to America If Fans Correctly ‘Call’ Super Bowl XLVI Coin Toss 

No National Football League sponsor knows a quality “toss” like Papa John’s founder, Chairman and CEO John Schnatter, but he’s counting on America to call the coin toss for Super Bowl XLVI so that the country can flip over free pizza.

Papa John’s, the Official Pizza Sponsor of the NFL, today unveiled its Super Bowl XLVI Coin Toss Experience, which includes a free large one-topping pizza and 2-liter Pepsi MAX for the millions of fans enrolled in Papa John’s Papa Rewards program … if America correctly “calls” the Super Bowl coin toss. No matter which team wins the Super Bowl, Papa John’s fans have skin in the game.

“Papa” John Schnatter, who started Papa John’s in 1984 out of the back of his father’s tavern in Jeffersonville, Ind., has recruited Super Bowl champions Peyton Manning and Jerome “The Bus” Bettis to help spread the word and “coach” America on the coin toss vote.

Bringing this powerful threesome together is the crescendo of Papa John’s NFL season-long marketing strategy that has surprised and delighted millions of Papa John’s customers. Papa John’s, the only national pizza chain with a system-wide rewards program, will continue this blitz the next two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl XLVI coin toss. The integrated campaign includes a national television commercial featuring Manning and Bettis that first aired during yesterday’s NFC and AFC Championship games, digital media advertising, social media (#freepapajohns), and interactive, video-rich Web pages at www.papajohns.com.

America will make its “heads” or “tails” call for the Super Bowl XLVI coin toss by voting at www.papajohns.com today through Feb. 1. Schnatter will announce the result of America’s vote Feb. 2 on the NFL Network in Indianapolis and via social media and at www.papajohns.com.

If America’s call is correct, everyone enrolled in Papa Rewards as of 6 p.m. ET Super Bowl Sunday will receive an email the following day with instructions on how to claim their pizza and Pepsi MAX prize.

“This won’t be an easy call for America, but as the Official Pizza Sponsor of the NFL, it’s an easy call for Papa John’s to offer a promotion like this to our loyal customers,” Schnatter said. “The Super Bowl is the largest stage in all of sports, and it’s the biggest sales day of the year for us. We’re going all out with quality players like Peyton Manning and The Bus to make sure our customers have a great experience with the highest-quality pizza.”

“I’m thrilled to be part of the Papa John’s team and this exciting promotion that revolves around the biggest day of the year – the Super Bowl,” said Manning, who won Super Bowl XLI. “I really didn’t expect to be a referee this year, but – like I said in the commercial — ’a man’s gotta work.’”

“The pressure is on, America,” said Bettis, who is a finalist this year for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “It’s hard to believe there could be an NFL coin toss with bigger stakes than what I experienced Thanksgiving Day 1998 … but with free Papa John’s and Pepsi MAX on the line for millions of fans in Super Bowl XLVI, this certainly is huge!”

Occurring between the singing of the National Anthem and kickoff, the Super Bowl coin toss puts viewers on the edge of their seats … and players and coaches simply on edge. In fact, the NFC is on an incredible 14-year winning streak with Super Bowl coin tosses (Super Bowl XXXII – Super Bowl XLV). Some additional interesting Super Bowl coin toss statistics:

  • In 45 Super Bowls, heads has been called 23 times and tails 22
  • 24 of the 45 tosses have come up heads, and 21 tails
  • The NFC has 24 Super Bowl wins, with a dominating 31 coin toss wins
  • The AFC has 21 Super Bowl wins, compared to only 14 coin toss wins

Last year for Super Bowl XLV, Papa John’s set a single-day sales record by selling more than one million pizzas, driven in part by offering a free large pizza to everyone in America if the game went into overtime. In the fourth quarter, the teams were separated by only 3 points, but the game did not go into overtime. In fact, no Super Bowl has ever gone into overtime.

This year, America’s odds of winning free Papa John’s are much better … on the toss of a coin.

Papa John’s is in the second year of a multi-year sponsorship with the NFL.

Headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, Papa John’s International, Inc. (NASDAQ: PZZA) is the world’s third largest pizza company. For 10 of the past 12 years, consumers have rated Papa John’s No. 1 in customer satisfaction among all national pizza chains in the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). Papa John’s also was honored by Restaurants & Institutions Magazine (R&I) with the 2009 Gold Award for Consumers’ Choice in Chains in the pizza segment. Papa John’s is the Official Pizza Sponsor of the National Football League and Super Bowl XLVI and XLVII. For more information about the company or to order pizza online, visit Papa John’s at www.papajohns.com.

© 2012 NFL Properties LLC. All NFL-related trademarks are trademarks of the National Football League.


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Donald Trump Considering Run as Independent

via BreakingNews.com

Donald Trump tells ‘Face the Nation’s’ Bob Schieffer he would run as an independent if he runs for US president – from broadcast

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How Big-Time Sports Ate College Life

(via NY TIMES)

IT was a great day to be a Buckeye. Josh Samuels, a junior from Cincinnati, dates his decision to attend Ohio State to Nov. 10, 2007, and the chill he felt when the band took the field during a football game against Illinois. “I looked over at my brother and I said, ‘I’m going here. There is nowhere else I’d rather be.’ ” (Even though Illinois won, 28-21.)

Damian Strohmeyer/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

BUCKEYE NATION Unbridled enthusiasm reigns at Ohio State games.

Sporting News, via Getty Images

K-VILLE This is not Occupy Duke. It’s annual tenting outside Cameron Indoor Stadium for the best seats at a basketball game

Tim Collins, a junior who is president of Block O, the 2,500-member student fan organization, understands the rush. “It’s not something I usually admit to, that I applied to Ohio State 60 percent for the sports. But the more I do tell that to people, they’ll say it’s a big reason why they came, too.”

Ohio State boasts 17 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, three Nobel laureates, eight Pulitzer Prize winners, 35 Guggenheim Fellows and a MacArthur winner. But sports rule.

“It’s not, ‘Oh, yeah, Ohio State, that wonderful physics department.’ It’s football,” said Gordon Aubrecht, an Ohio State physics professor.

Last month, Ohio State hired Urban Meyer to coach football for $4 million a year plus bonuses (playing in the B.C.S. National Championship game nets him an extra $250,000; a graduation rate over 80 percent would be worth $150,000). He has personal use of a private jet.

Dr. Aubrecht says he doesn’t have enough money in his own budget to cover attendance at conferences. “From a business perspective,” he can see why Coach Meyer was hired, but he calls the package just more evidence that the “tail is wagging the dog.”

Dr. Aubrecht is not just another cranky tenured professor. Hand-wringing seems to be universal these days over big-time sports, specifically football and men’s basketball. Sounding much like his colleague, James J. Duderstadt, former president of the University of Michigan and author of “Intercollegiate Athletics and the American University,” said this: “Nine of 10 people don’t understand what you are saying when you talk about research universities. But you say ‘Michigan’ and they understand those striped helmets running under the banner.”

For good or ill, big-time sports has become the public face of the university, the brand that admissions offices sell, a public-relations machine thanks to ESPN exposure. At the same time, it has not been a good year for college athletics. Child abuse charges against a former Penn State assistant football coach brought down the program’s legendary head coach and the university’s president. Not long after, allegations of abuse came to light against an assistant basketball coach at Syracuse University. Combine that with the scandals over boosters showering players with cash and perks at Ohio State and, allegedly, the University of Miami and a glaring power gap becomes apparent between the programs and the institutions that house them.

“There is certainly a national conversation going on now that I can’t ever recall taking place,” said William E. Kirwan, chancellor of the University of Maryland system and co-director of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. “We’ve reached a point where big-time intercollegiate athletics is undermining the integrity of our institutions, diverting presidents and institutions from their main purpose.”

The damage to reputation was clear in a November survey by Widmeyer Communications in which 83 percent of 1,000 respondents blamed the “culture of big money” in college sports for Penn State officials’ failure to report suspected child abuse to local law enforcement; 40 percent said they would discourage their child from choosing a Division I institution “that places a strong emphasis on sports,” and 72 percent said Division I sports has “too much influence over college life.”

Has big-time sports hijacked the American campus? The word today is “balance,” and the worry is how to achieve it.


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U.S Falls to 47th in Press Freedom Rankings after Occupy Crackdown

By Ellen Connolly

Sweeping protests around the world made it an extremely difficult year for the media, and tested journalists as never before, the annual report into press freedom reveals.

The annual report by Reporters Without Borders has been released, showing the United States fell 27 points on the list due to the many arrests of journalists covering Occupy Wall Street protests.

The slide in the United States places it just behind Comoros and Taiwan in a group with Argentina and Romania.

Read the rest here.

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In Punishing Year for Hedge Funds, Biggest One Thrived

(via NYT DealBook)


Ray Dalio, the head of Bridgewater Associates, at Davos this week. Bridgewater is bullish this year on gold as a hedge against inflation.Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg NewsRay Dalio, the head of Bridgewater Associates, at Davos this week. Bridgewater is bullish this year on gold as a hedge against inflation.

The world’s biggest hedge fund is also one of the best performers.

Bridgewater Associates, which manages nearly $120 billion, posted returns of 23 percent in 2011 — a year when the average hedge fund portfolio lost 5 percent.

Against the backdrop of fear over European debt and stagnant global growth, the hedge fund, led by one of Wall Street’s more enigmatic titans, Ray Dalio, sidestepped the mess. The fund did it with bets on United States Treasuries, German bonds and the Japanese yen, according to people familiar with the firm’s investment strategy, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information is private.

Such performance adds up. Over the last 20 years, Bridgewater had annualized returns of 14.7 percent, amounting to $50 billion of gains for investors. Over the same period, the Standard & Poor’s index of 500 stocks returned about 8.7 percent a year.

A big chunk of Bridgewater’s gains came in recent years, a volatile period that felled many funds. As the financial crisis wreaked havoc, Bridgewater notched positive, albeit modest, returns in 2008 and 2009. The next year, the firm had gains of 45 percent versus about 10 percent for the average hedge fund.

The firm has managed to post big numbers even as assets have swollen, defying conventional wisdom and industry experience. Investors poured money into Paulson & Company in recent years, after the founder, John A. Paulson, earned billions of dollars betting against subprime mortgages. Assets at Paulson topped $38 billion at the beginning of 2011, but many of his portfolios suffered last year, with one of the main funds losing 50 percent.

Bridgewater has been able to avoid that fate, in part, because it follows a go-anywhere strategy. The fund’s managers assess the political, economic and regulatory environments around the world, and then make bets using commodities, currencies and other assets.

“It’s become a more macro world,” said Charles T. Cassidy of Cambridge Associates, a consulting firm that advises more than 900 investors with more than $3 trillion in overall assets.

This year, Bridgewater is bullish on gold as a hedge against inflation. The managers are said to believe that governments will need to print more money to help reduce mounting sovereign debt, which could hurt the dollar but help gold. Bridgewater is also betting against the Australian dollar and several emerging-market currencies.

The success comes as Bridgewater finds itself under the microscope for its peculiar culture and odd rules. Mr. Dalio, a graduate of Harvard Business School, is a fervent disciple of radical transparency, a set of beliefs that preaches the pursuit of truth at all costs. For instance, midlevel employees can criticize top management if they think a certain market position is foolish.

In an embodiment of his principles, Mr. Dalio wrote a roughly 120-page treatise, called “Principles,” that is part diary, part philosophical musing and part self-help guide. New employees are required to read it, and it is available to the public online. Mr. Dalio, the son of a homemaker and a jazz musician, writes of his poor grades in high school and a subpar ability to remember names or grasp foreign languages.

Bridgewater’s office in Westport, Conn., has a Big Brother vibe, employees say. Overhead videocameras tape employees throughout the day. To root out problematic behavior, employees are subjected to withering critiques from co-workers. These sessions are recorded and, in the interest of transparency, anyone can pull a copy of the video from the hedge fund’s library.

Former employees say that while it can be an intense and unpleasant place to work, the intellectual environment is invigorating. Ideas are tested vigorously for their soundness. And employees are constantly pushed to improve their investment skills, even if that can be painful at times.

In the wake of some negative publicity that portrayed the firm as strange and inflexible, Bridgewater has begun an unofficial image campaign. Last year, Mr. Dalio appeared on CNBC, where he called the reports “a misunderstanding” and said they had “affected employment.”

Bridgewater also began conducting focus groups at Ivy League schools with students bound for Wall Street. Participants in the 90-minute sessions received $100 gift certificates for voicing their opinions on the firm. In true Bridgewater spirit, they were asked to be as honest as possible.

“Bridgewater has done an extremely good job with its culture, where they challenge each other openly to come up with the truth,” said Dick Del Bello, a senior partner at Conifer Group, a brokerage firm and hedge fund administrator. “Their track record over 20 years is pretty compelling.”

Kevin Roose contributed reporting.

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How Pimps Use the Web to Sell Girls

(via NY TIMES)

In November, a terrified 13-year-old girl pounded on an apartment door in Brooklyn. When a surprised woman answered, the girl pleaded for a phone. She called her mother, and then dialed 911.

The girl, whom I’ll call Baby Face because of her looks, frantically told police that a violent pimp was selling her for sex. He had taken her to the building and ordered her to go to an apartment where a customer was waiting, she said, and now he was waiting downstairs to make sure she did not escape. She had followed the pimp’s directions and gone upstairs, but then had pounded randomly on this door in hopes of getting help.

Baby Face said she hurt too much to endure yet another rape by a john. She told prosecutors later that she was bleeding vaginally and that her pimp had recently kicked her down a stairwell for trying to flee.

That 911 call set in motion the arrest of Kendale Judge, then 21. Judge has pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking, kidnapping, rape and compelling prostitution. He is in jail, and we haven’t heard his side of the events yet.

The episode also shines a spotlight on how the girl was marketed — in ads on Backpage.com, a major national Web site where people place ads to sell all kinds of things, including sex. It is a godsend to pimps, allowing customers to order a girl online as if she were a pizza.

Lauren Hersh, the ace prosecutor in Brooklyn who leads the sex-trafficking unit there, says that of the 32 people she and her team have prosecuted in the last year and a half — typically involving victims aged 12 to 25 — a vast majority of the cases included girls marketed through Backpage ads.

“Pimps are turning to the Internet,” said Hersh. “They’re not putting the girls on the street so much. Backpage is a great vehicle for pimps trying to sell girls.”

Craigslist backed out of this sector after public protests. Pimps then moved toBackpage.com, which is owned by Village Voice Media, owners of The Village Voice weekly newspaper.

Attorneys general from 48 states wrote a joint letter to Backpage, warning that it had become “a hub” for sex trafficking and calling on it to stop running adult services ads. The attorneys general said that they had identified cases in 22 different states in which pimps peddled underage girls through Backpage.

The attorneys general cited a 15-year-old girl who was being forced to have sex with men last year in Dorchester, Mass. The pimp marketed the girl through Backpage.

But Backpage isn’t budging. Indeed, it has fought back with personal attacks on those,such as Ashton Kutcher, who have linked it to human trafficking.

Steve Suskin, legal counsel to Village Voice Media, gave me a lengthy statement in which he argued that the company is already cooperating closely with law-enforcement authorities. He cited a 16-year-old girl in Seattle who was rescued as a result of a tip the company had made.

“Censorship will not rid the world of exploitation,” Suskin asserted.

It’s true that there’s some risk that pimps will migrate to new Web sites, possibly based overseas, that are less cooperative. But, on balance, that’s a risk worth taking. The present system is failing. Pimps aren’t the shrewdest marketers, and eliminating a hub for trafficking should at least chip away at the problem.

Backpage suggests that it is battling censors and prudes. In fact, what drives it seems to be greed. In their letter, the attorneys general said that Backpage earns more than $22 million annually from prostitution advertising.

On Backpage, the pimps claim adult ages for the girls they market, but Hersh scoffs. “I see 19,” she said, “and I immediately think 13.”

“I’m not seeing a lot of cases where there’s not coercion,” she added. “The average age where a girl is forced into prostitution is 12 to 14. And most of these 16- or 17 year-olds are being run by pretty vicious pimps.”

While there are no reliable figures for human trafficking, the more we look, the more we find. The Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, says that in the year before he set up a sex-trafficking unit in June 2010, his office prosecuted no trafficking cases. Since then, the office has become a national model, indicting 32 people, with 10 convictions and no acquittals so far.

Among those rescued was Baby Face, who had run away from home in September. Judge allegedly found her on the street, bought food for her and told her that she was beautiful. Within a few days, he had posted her photo on Backpage and was selling her five to nine times a day, prosecutors say. When she didn’t earn enough money, he beat her with a belt, they add.

When Baby Face ran away from her pimp and desperately knocked on that apartment door in Brooklyn, she was also in effect pounding on the door of the executive suites of Backpage and Village Voice Media. Those executives should listen to her pleas.

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Economists vs. Americans

By Sudeep Reddy

The Financial Trust Index has been tracking public sentiment toward the financial system for more than three years. And sentiment isn’t good.

In the latest release today, the survey found that just 23% of Americans say they trust the U.S. financial system. That’s as low as the earliest months of the economic crisis. And 62% describe themselves as angry, or very angry, about the nation’s economic situation — the highest level since March 2009. (The index is a joint project of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management.)

For its latest quarterly survey, the Financial Trust Index took its responses from average Americans to a series of economic assertions and put them up against the responses from an expert panel of economists. The results are striking:

Read the rest here.

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