Earlier this month, the suicide of Russell Armstrong brought severe scrutiny to the unscripted Bravo TV series, "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills." Armstrong's failing marriage with real housewife Taylor Armstrong was featured as a constant theme in the hit show. Viewers and critics can't help but wonder whether his suicide was precipitated by living in the fishbowl of reality TV. This tragedy is only the latest in a long line suffered by reality TV participants. Part of the problem is self-selecting: casting calls hunt for wild, abnormal, struggling, outrageous or narcissistic personalities that can deliver drama, a formula that has ensured on-screen success for The Real World, Survivor, The Bachelor, Jersey Shore and more. But what happens off screen to the nouveau famous? How do they adjust to their own new realities? One entertainment critic wants producers to bear a lot of responsibility for their Frankensteins. National Public Radio blogger, Linda Holmes, is calling for a Code of Ethics for producers to abide by. Among her proposals to protect the real people of reality TV: aftercare and counseling; fully disclosed contracts; limits on liquor; guaranteed shut-eye during production; some guaranteed access to friends or family; built-in salary increases; and recourse for disputes. How contrary does this code run to the status quo? Should this latest tragedy be a Jenny Jones moment for unscripted television? Would you be more inclined to watch a show if it was code-compliant? Do you feel guilty watching TV that marries borderline personalities with entertainment? Should producers be required to protect the stars of reality TV from themselves?
The broad strokes of President Barack Obama's new jobs plan are being revealed. Sources close to the administration say half of an estimated $300 billion package will go to tax credits -- including an extension of the payroll tax cut and benefits to employers of new hires. In speech before a joint session of Congress tomorrow afternoon (4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET), the President is also expected to announce new infrastructure spending -- targeting money for renovating schools and laying down roads, according to various news reports. Extending benefits for the unemployed and a strategy to prevent teacher lay-offs is reportedly part of the package, too. Eager ears await the President's plan as new polls out this week show Americans are not happy with the current direction of the country. What else is in the jobs package? Who does the President have to sell it to? And will it work?
“Let’s not pretend otherwise,” reads an ad in this morning’s Los Angeles Times, “adult material…accounts for over 10% of online searches.” The ad, placed by ICM Registry, goes on to say that the industry itself needs to be recognized for taking a proactive stance to provide safe, secure access to adult entertainment. To that end, ICM Registry has created a new internet extension – XXX – that will readily identify adult entertainment sites. XXX sites will be electronically labeled as adult in nature, allowing for easy filtering by parents, schools and libraries. They’ll be scanned daily for malware and spyware, and will be able to take secure, age-verified payments through a third-party service. And the creators of XXX pledge to donate a portion of each domain fee to the International Foundation for Online Responsibility - a non-profit organization that the CEO of ICM Registry is apparently the chairman of. ICM touts this as great news for users, families and the adult entertainment industry alike, and urges operators of such sites to register their domains as XXX right away. But is creating a virtual “red light district” such a good idea? Is this an altruistic solution to the ongoing battle to keep porn from popping up on our – and our children’s - computers? Do you welcome an “easily recognizable, safe and relaxed” environment in which to responsibly enjoy adult entertainment? Or do you see this a shameless money-grab by online profiteers?
A recent survey finds that nearly half of wealthy baby-boomers don’t feel the need to leave any of their wealth behind for their kids when they die. Instead, they’re planning on spending their hard earned cash on themselves. The survey respondents gave a couple different reasons for keeping their cash. Some feel like they’ve done enough for their kids with expensive educations and down payments on homes, that there’s no need to keep on giving. Others say there’s no way of knowing when they’re going to kick the bucket and their kids will get whatever’s left in the coffers when they do any, so no need for extra planning. And finally, a full one quarter of boomers say they’re worried kids will get lazy if they know there’s money coming to them later on. Is this the ultimate act of selfishness from the “me” generation? Or after a lifetime of coddling their kids, are boomers leaving them high and dry without a safety net? Do parents owe their kids anything after death?
Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, took out a full page ad in last Sunday’s New York Times to make a plea for action on the economy and for an end to partisan bickering. Using his cultural capital as the head of one of America’s most popular companies, he is organizing a nationwide town hall meeting Tuesday night. The event, hosted by the non-partisan group No Labels, was billed by Schultz as an opportunity for concerned citizens to speak out and persuade politicians in Washington to abandon hyper-partisan tactics and sincerely work together for the good of the country. Schultz has published several ads recently in newspapers voicing his dismay at the lack of progress being made in Congress and inviting Americans across the country to call into the meeting via teleconference. This comes on the heels of Schultz’s push last month to get other CEOs to hold back contributions to politicians until lawmakers agree on a compromise which effectively addresses the economic problems the country faces. With the backing of AOL’s Tim Armstrong, J Crew’s Millard Dextrer, JC Penney’s Myron Ullman and over 100 other businesses, it appears that Schultz’s philosophy and movement resonate not just with the average voter, but with economic leaders as well. What do you think of the Schultz plan for overcoming partisanship? Is it bold to ask wealthy business leaders to hold back political contributions or is it an unrealistic request doomed to failure? Do you think this kind of movement can change the political climate? Is this grass roots or astro turf?
The father of Kelly Thomas held a press conference this morning to reveal how and why his son died a few days after a police beating in Fullerton. Frustrated by the Orange County District Attorney’s pace in determining the cause of death, Thomas wants to reveal through computer-generated animation a detailed version of the cause of Kelly Thomas’ death. Earlier this week, the D.A. Tony Rackauckas said that his office was more than halfway finished with its investigation into Thomas’s death. But their office is still missing key pieces of evidence, including the cause of death and toxicology reports, which the Orange County Coroner’s office has yet to conclude. Kelly Thomas’ medical records from the hospital where he died show doctors found head trauma to be cause of death. They also believed the taser gun, which officers used repeatedly to shock Thomas, was directed at his heart, according to one of his lawyers, Garo Mardirossian. But since the Orange County coroner’s office has yet to report the official cause of death, an official conclusion can not be made yet. So how did Kelly Thomas die? Did the police use a necessary amount of force against him? Or was it too excessive? Why has the coroner’s office not released the official cause of Thomas’ death?