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April 2008

April 23, 2008

Woe is They

The suits at Gannett, I mean — those dashing men and women charting the future of America's largest chain of "information centers," which includes The Burlington Free Press.

While we awaited a response — which never arrived — to the news that the Free Press had begun outsourcing advertising design to India, Gannett executives were releasing the company's latest quarterly performance report.

While holding their noses, presumably.

Here are the numbers: Publishing advertising revenue, down 13%; classified revenue, down 18%; real estate ad revenue, down 26%; help-wanted ad revenue, down 24%. The net result is that operating revenue for the first quarter 2008 is off more than 10 percent from first quarter 2007.

Over at Gannett Blog, former Gannett investigative reporter Jim Hopkins checks the financial wires and finds that the company's share price "has now traded down a whopping 8%, to a low of $25.17," the lowest since spring 1995.

Meanwhile, SmartMoney magazine has an interview with Gannett CEO Craig Dubow. The story notes, in the opening paragraph, that since Dubow took over the company  three years ago, its stock price has fallen by about 50 percent.  "Yet ask the affable 53-year-old about the industry and he'll use a word you might not expect: wonderful."

Well, for him, anyway — thanks to that $1.75 million bonus he received in 2007.

April 22, 2008

Moose Leaves Burlington

The Burlington Free Press reports that the moose on the loose earlier today has scampered safely away into South Burlington.

The Ken Lay Chair in Economics

Sounds like the punchline of a Motley Fool joke, doesn't it? It's not. As an alum and former member of the faculty at the University of Missouri — not to mention someone who documented Enron's crimes and the aftermath back in the day — I have to wonder what the hell MU hopes to accomplish by filling this position. Lay was convicted of fraud and conspiracy for his role in the loss of 4,000 jobs and about $2.1 billion in employee pension investments. He died, in July 2006, before he could be sentenced, so he never paid the full measure for his crimes. At MU, at least, he'll live on in a more favorable light.

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Why, I oughta . . . .

The art of David Dees.


Chicken Without the Bird

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is offering $1 million to anyone who can "produce meat in the laboratory — without killing any animals."

According to the New York Times, "the idea of getting the next Chicken McNugget out of a test tube is not new. For several years, scientists have worked to develop technologies to grow tissue cultures that could be consumed like meat without the expense of land or feed and the disease potential of real meat. An international symposium on the topic was held this month in Norway. The tissue, once grown, could be shaped and given texture with the kinds of additives and structural agents that are now used to give products like soy burgers a more meaty texture."

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Moose on the Loose!

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This morning we got a call about a moose sighting on Ledge Road in Burlington. Toffee Cowles called to tell us that she had a picture of the lanky beast. Sadly, it's on a disposable camera. And there are 23 pictures left, so she doesn't think she's going to get it developed anytime soon.

Cowles spotted the moose around 8:25 a.m. She says it looked "hungry and scared.""He was loping across the front of my garden," she says. "He was tall! My garden fence is at least 5 feet tall and it came up to his shoulders."

Cowles was able to grab her disposable camera for a photo. "I got a shot of his butt with his head turned to the left," she says. "If it comes out, it'll be a real beauty."

After a few minutes, the moose wandered off. "I heard great crashing and smashing of branches after he headed down the street," reports Cowles. For more on the moose sighting, see the WCAX website.

For Cowles, the experience was a reminder that "not all of the Burlington wildlife is in the bars."

April 21, 2008

Stuck on YouTube

Eva Sollberger's latest "Stuck in Vermont" video got featured on the YouTube homepage over the weekend. I turned on my computer this morning to find that it had more than 146,000 views. Yay, Eva!

Not surprisingly, this sudden popularity brought with it a flood of annoying, spiteful comments from the anonymous masses. I deleted a bunch of the really bad ones already. Please, feel free to use the thumbs up and thumbs down feature on the YouTube comments.

And if you like Eva's style, tune in to "Chatting with Eva" on Wednesday at 6 p.m. on Channel 17 in the Burlington area (317 if you're on Burlington Telecom). It's a 21-minute mini-doc of Eva on the job, filmed by famed local photographer Dan Higgins.

Talking Points TV

The New York Times steps up with a major piece of investigative reporting that does for television what the Judith Miller affair did for, well, the New York Times.

Reporter David Barstow mined 8,000 pages of emails and internal documents to explain how the Bush administration has tried to "shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks."

The piece describes how the military "analysts" you see regularly on cable and network television were "wooed" by the Pentagon with private briefings, government-funded trips to Iraq and even access to classified intelligence in a concerted effort to mislead the American people about the progress of the war. 

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.

A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.

“It was them saying, ‘We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you,’ ” Robert S. Bevelacqua, a retired Green Beret and former Fox News analyst, said.

April 18, 2008

Vote for Front Porch Forum

Everyone's favorite neighborhood email newsletter service is up for an award — Burlington-based Front Porch Forum is one of 20 finalists for a Make It Your Own Award from the Case Foundation. The foundation is trying to encourage people to "come together to create a vision and work toward the common good."

You might have heard tireless FPF founder Michael Wood-Lewis talking about this on VPR the other day. Or you may have come across this video about FPF, produced by the local cable access channels.

If FPF wins, Wood-Lewis gets a $25,000 grant to spend on upgrading his neighbor-to-neighbor service. He's already getting 10 grand for being one of 5000 applicants to crack the top 20.

So who's choosing the winners? You are.

Go to the Case Foundation website and cast your vote for your four favorite projects. The top four vote getters get 25 grand. Do it soon — voting ends April 22. That's next Tuesday.

Click here if you're having trouble with the ballot.

This just in: Ashlee Simpson is awesome.

I like that Ashlee Simpson. I liked her more with her more with her old nose, but I suppose when one is competing with the generic airhead antics of older sister Jessica, one doesn't learn to embrace their own individuality; ie: schnoz. But guess what, Ashlee? Generic airhead antics get old. And then John Mayer dumps you. Take a note. I know how she feels. I have the "family nose," a fate which my sisters both avoided.

But that Ashlee: she's sassy. She's sort of strange, in a crazy-but-not-sad way. She's engaged to a Fall Out Boy. Sometimes I get confused: is it Avril Lavigne who married some dude from Sum 41, or was that Good Charlotte? Oh, wait, that's Nicole Richie, right? So what boring band emulating the Emo aesthetic without any of the guts is dating which spunky  an ingenue? It's hard for a pop culture junkie like myself to keep straight. Rumors started flying that she's preggers lately, probably because people are confusing her with Jamie Lynn Spears. She's the younger sister of totally different airhead, but I can understand their confusion.

Unlike 99% of celebrities, these two crazy kids did something that is oddly awesome: they made a satirical YouTube video. Yes. Ashlee Simpson knows what satire is. I know, I was sort of surprised, myself. And here's the thing: it's actually funny. It made me laugh.

Right? Funny. And cute. They're cute and funny. I'm shocked, too. Maybe it's sleep deprivation, but I am officially rooting for team Simpson/Wentz.

And just because I went on a mini-rant about Emo kids back there...are you following my new favorite news story... possibly ever? The Mexican Emo Riots. A friend sent me a frenzied email two days ago to tell me to turn on NPR...NOW. They did a pretty awesome story about it, that had me inappropriately laughing to myself all day. Everyone keeps talking about how it's like the Mods vs the Rockers, which isn't a bad comparison. Mod chicks wore a bunch of eye-liner... Emo kids wear a bunch of eye-liner.

Stuck in VT (VIDEOS)

Solid State (Music)

Mistress Maeve (Sex)

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