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    Friday, May 9, 2008

    Reuters - Oliver Stone movie on Bush set for October release

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    Oliver Stone movie on Bush set for October release

    Friday, May 09, 2008 9:18PM UTC

    By Steve Gorman

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Director Oliver Stone has landed a distribution deal with independent studio Lionsgate to get an upcoming film about President George W. Bush into U.S. theaters in October, shortly before the presidential election.

    The political biography, to be called "W" and featuring "No Country for Old Men" star Josh Brolin as Bush, is slated to begin shooting in Louisiana on Monday, Lionsgate said on Friday.

    Lionsgate is the distributor behind director Michael Moore's commercially successful political documentaries "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "Sicko."

    The film will open on October 17 in North America, said Lionsgate, which also will distribute the movie in Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

    Brolin's father James Brolin, who is married to leading Hollywood Democratic activist Barbra Streisand, played another two-term Republican president in the controversial TV movie "The Reagans" in 2003.

    In addition to Brolin, the film stars Elizabeth Banks ("Seabiscuit") as first lady Laura Bush; James Cromwell ("The Queen") as former President George H.W. Bush; and Ellen Burstyn ("Requiem for a Dream") as his wife, Barbara Bush.

    Rounding out the cast are Thandie Newton ("Crash") as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Jeffrey Wright ("Syriana") as former Secretary of State Colin Powell; Scott Glenn ("The Bourne Ultimatum") as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; and Ioan Gruffud ("Fantastic Four") as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

    Still to be cast are the roles of Vice President Dick Cheney and former White House political adviser Karl Rove.

    "Despite a meteoric, almost illogical rise to power, and a tremendous influence on the world, we don't really know much about Mr. Bush beyond the controlled images we've been allowed to see on TV," Stone said in a statement. "This movie's taking a bold stab at looking behind that curtain."

    Stone's earlier political movies included "Nixon" and a highly controversial film about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, "JFK," both of which earned him Oscar nominations. He won Oscars for directing Vietnam War dramas "Platoon" and "Born on the Fourth of July."

    But he suggested in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly magazine that his big-screen take on Bush may be more comical than those movies.

    "This movie can be funnier because Bush is funny," he was quoted as saying. "He's awkward and goofy and makes faces all the time. He's not your average president. So let's have some fun with it."

    (Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and David Storey)

    Reuters - R. Kelly on trial for child pornography charges

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    R. Kelly on trial for child pornography charges

    Friday, May 09, 2008 6:50PM UTC

    By Andrew Stern

    CHICAGO (Reuters) - Six years after he was charged with videotaping himself having sex with an underage girl, R&B superstar R. Kelly went on trial on Friday, with his alleged victim prepared to deny she is the person on the tape.

    Kelly has been charged with 14 counts of videotaping, producing or soliciting child pornography. Prosecutors argue he knew, or should have known, the girl was a teenaged minor.

    If convicted of all charges, the 41-year-old performer, whose given name is Robert Kelly, could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

    As Kelly arrived at the Cook County Criminal Courthouse, fans cheered and critics waved signs and called the prolific songwriter, singer and producer a pedophile.

    Judge Vincent Gaughan rejected a request from Kelly's lawyers to delay the trial because of recent publicity. The proceeding, already postponed numerous times, is expected to last up to seven weeks, with jury selection continuing Monday.

    Prosecutors say the lurid 26-minute tape was made between January 1998 and November 2000 when the girl was 13 or 14.

    The alleged victim, who is now in her 20s, has denied she is the girl on the tape and could testify in Kelly's defense, according to court records. Kelly's lawyers have argued it is not him on the tape either.

    In a 2003 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Kelly said he was no pedophile, saying: "I've always loved women. ... But I don't have a bag with little suckers in it, hiding behind some tree talking about, 'Come here, little girl.' Not me."

    The story came to light in early 2002 when the Chicago Sun-Times turned over to police a copy of the widely bootlegged videotape.

    The Chicago Sun-Times and the Tribune both reported last week another woman would testify that she and the girl had engaged in sex together with Kelly, and will identify her as the person on the tape, which will likely be played in court.

    The accusations prompted some radio stations to stop playing Kelly's songs, but it didn't derail his career. He has earned millions from concert tours and album sales while being free on $750,000 bond.

    After singing for change on Chicago subway platforms, Kelly shot to fame in the early 1990s with rhythm and blues hits like "Sex Me" and "Bump n' Grind."

    The carnality of his early lyrics gave way to wholesomeness with the 1996 single "I Believe I Can Fly," which earned Kelly three Grammy Awards. He has received 20 other Grammy nominations.

    The Chicago-born singer produced "Age Ain't Nothing But a Number" for young protege Aaliyah in 1994. The pair married, but Aaliyah, then 15, and her parents had the marriage annulled. She died in a plane crash in 2001.

    He later married a dancer and has three children.

    Reuters/Nielsen

    Reuters - "Sopranos" creator signs deal for first film

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    "Sopranos" creator signs deal for first film

    Thursday, May 08, 2008 10:9PM UTC

    By Steve Gorman

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - David Chase, creator of the acclaimed TV mob drama "The Sopranos," has signed a deal with Paramount Pictures to write, produce and direct his first feature film, the studio said on Thursday.

    Adhering to the kind of mystery surrounding some of Chase's past work, the studio offered no details of the project except to describe it as "an original drama," and a spokesman said the film was not an adaptation of "The Sopranos."

    Chase, 52, has a long-standing relationship with Paramount Studios chairman Brad Grey, who was his producing partner on "The Sopranos" and occasionally played himself on the series.

    The show, which ended a six-season run in June 2007 with its famously ambiguous blackout finale, earned Chase two Emmys as best drama series and two others for his writing on the show.

    Centered on the fictional life of a conflicted New Jersey mob boss, played by James Gandolfini, the HBO series was regarded by many critics as the finest drama ever to air on U.S. television.

    "David is one of the great storytellers of our time, and his debut as a filmmaker is both highly anticipated and long overdue," Grey said in a statement issued by the Viacom Inc-owned studio.

    A spokesman said a time table for the film's production and release have not been set.

    Chase's television career spans three decades and includes work on such series as "The Rockford Files," "I'll Fly Away," "Northern Exposure" and the made-for-TV movie "Off the Minnesota Strip."

    Reuters/Nielsen

    Reuters - Paper is passe for tech-savvy South Koreans

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    Paper is passe for tech-savvy South Koreans

    Friday, May 09, 2008 11:50AM UTC

    SEOUL (Reuters Life!) - Young, tech-savvy South Koreans are making coupon clipping a thing of the past and turning to their mobile phones instead.

    Some of the fastest-growing mobile phone services in the country let retailers send discount coupons and users send gift certificates for anything from lattes to movie tickets through their handsets.

    The merchandise vouchers have a barcode embedded in the message. Users show the coupon on the screen and retailers scan the barcode to apply the discount.

    "People can actually receive products from places just by showing their phones," Ryu Mina, a spokeswoman with mobile service provider SK Telecom.

    She said people may forget their coupons but always carry their cell phones.

    SK Telecom rolled out a service a little more than a year ago called a "gifticon" that allows users to send gift vouchers for items such as convenience store merchandise and pizzas via mobile phones. The sender is billed for the cost of the goods.

    South Korean companies started sending coupons via text messages about six years ago, but the service never caught on because most users saw the messages as spam and deleted them.

    The main users of the new coupon service with the embedded barcodes are usually in their 20s and younger and often use Internet functions on their mobile phones for communication, according the industry sources.

    (Reporting by Lee Jiyeon, writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Valerie Lee)

    Reuters - Academic says gadgets threaten Internet's future

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    Academic says gadgets threaten Internet's future

    Thursday, May 08, 2008 12:27PM UTC

    By Peter Griffiths

    LONDON (Reuters) - The rise of gadgets like the iPhone, Blackberry and Xbox threatens to unravel the decades of innovation that helped to build the Internet, a leading academic has warned in a new book.

    Professor Jonathan Zittrain says the latest must-have devices are sealed, "sterile" boxes that stifle creativity and turn consumers into passive users of technology.

    Unlike home computers, new Internet-enabled gadgets don't lend themselves to the sort of tinkering and collaboration that leads to technological advances, he says.

    The mix of gadgets, over-regulation and Internet security fears could destroy the old system where mainstream technology could be "influenced, even revolutionized, out of left field".

    "I don't want to see a two-tier world where only the experts can survive ... and the non-experts are stuck between something they don't understand and something that limits them," Zittrain told Reuters in an interview.

    Zittrain, professor of Internet governance and regulation at the Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University, says the Internet's simple, open architecture is key to its enormous success and also its flaws.

    Amateur enthusiasts have come up with scores of new ideas by tinkering with the Internet on home computers. However, hackers have caused huge disruption by exploiting its loose structure.

    Zittrain contrasts one of the first mass-produced home computers, the Apple II from the 1970s, with Apple's latest gadget, the iPhone. He says the iPhone is typical of what he calls "tethered appliances".

    "They are appliances in that they are easy to use, while not easy to tinker with," he writes. "They are tethered because it is easy to for their vendors to change them from afar, long after the devices have left warehouses and showrooms."

    They are a world away from the "generative Internet", a term Zittrain uses to describe the open, creative, innovative approach that helped build the Internet.

    The rise of viruses and fraud has also led to tighter controls on PCs, particularly those in schools, universities, offices and public places, Zittrain says.

    People are often blocked from experimenting with shared computers and their input is severely limited.

    There is still time to save the Internet, he believes, although the answer lies in social rather than technological changes.

    Society should resist more regulation and place its trust in the Internet's users. The success of Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia written and edited by its readers, shows how self-governance can work.

    Internet users should see themselves as "netizens", active participants in the online world rather than passive consumers.

    "The community itself exercises a form of self-restraint and policing," he said. "You see it in Britain when you try to jump a queue, you see it on Wikipedia when a page is vandalised.

    "The challenge to the technologists is to build technologies to let people of good faith help without having to devote their lives to it."

    * The Future of the Internet and How To Stop It, http://futureoftheinternet.org , is published by Penguin.

    (Editing by Steve Addison)

    Reuters - Kick the oil habit and make your own ethanol

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    Kick the oil habit and make your own ethanol

    Friday, May 09, 2008 5:19PM UTC

    By Timothy Gardner

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - A new company hopes drivers will kick the oil habit by brewing ethanol at home that won't spike food prices.

    E-Fuel Corp unveiled on Thursday the "MicroFueler" touting it as the world's first machine that allows homeowners to make their own ethanol and pump the brew directly into their cars.

    The portable unit that sells for $10,000 resembles a gasoline station pump and nozzle -- minus the slot for a credit card, or the digital "SALE" numbers that whir ever faster at retail pumps as global demand pushes fuel prices to record levels.

    Instead of tapping gasoline from an underground tank, the pump's back end plugs into home power and water supplies to make ethanol for as little as $1 a gallon (3.8 liters), according to E-Fuel.

    The company says one of the machine's top selling points is its sweet tooth. It ferments fuel from sugar, the price of which is historically cheap as global supplies are glutted.

    That means it avoids the Achilles heel of today's U.S. ethanol system -- reliance on corn -- which has been blamed for helping to spike global food prices.

    "There's no mother in America crying that their kids aren't getting enough sugar," Tom Quinn, CEO and founder of E-Fuel said in an interview.

    Regular table sugar alone is too expensive, so E-Fuels says it will link customers to cheaper surplus supplies, including inedible sugar from Mexico that sells at a fraction of the price. It also hopes to get users to help pay for feedstock by selling carbon credits for using the machine, since making ethanol from sugar emits fewer greenhouse gases than making it from corn.

    "We will break the traditional ethanol system," said Quinn a California computer and computer games inventor, who has bankrolled the company with what he calls "millions, but not multimillion" of dollars.

    He said despite the steep upfront costs, the machines will pay for themselves quickly. For a two-car family that drives about 34,500 miles a year, the MicroFueler will pay for itself in less than two years, assuming average gasoline prices of $3.60 per gallon, the company said. The unit makes up to 35 gallons (132 liters) of 100 percent ethanol per week.

    Others are not so sure that the MicroFueler is a good investment.

    "I doubt it will work," said David Pimental, a professor at Cornell University who has studied the economics of ethanol for decades. He said the history of the fuel has been one of moving to greater and greater scales to increase the efficiencies of making the fuel.

    E-Fuel says the machine is efficient in a way that big ethanol plants aren't because it removes water from the fuel with special fine filters that reduce the fuel costs of distilling the water out.

    (Reporting by Timothy Gardner, editing by Marguerita Choy)

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