East Coast earthquake poses significant engineering challenges

•August 24, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Tuesday’s earthquake in Virginia shut down two nuclear reactors. Seismic activity in the US is unlikely to cause a meltdown, but it poses significant engineering challenges.

The nuclear plants are all older than Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima plants that melted down after the March earthquake in Japan. About one third of the reactors in the US are boiling water reactors, using the same technology as the Fukushima Daiichi reactor in Japan.

Lynn Sykes, a noted seismologist with Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said in an interview that he’s particularly concerned about Entergy’s Indian Point Plants in Buchanan, N.Y., as well as FPL’s Seabrook Plant in Seabrook, N.H.

“We have to see how badly these North American plants have been shaken,” said Sykes. “These plants were not designed to withstand an earthquake of this magnitude.”

The Eastern Seaboard plants could also face potential risk from Hurricane Irene from power failures or flooding that could hamper operations.


Gaga’s promotional blitz for her third album offers new business model

•May 25, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The social media-powered blitz connected to this week’s drop of Lady Gaga’s new album, “Born This Way,” is bordering on epic, with partnerships ranging from Starbucks to FarmVille, and virtual giveaways of the album’s 17 tracks. It also represents the kind of bold, new business model that could help rejuvenate a deflated music industry.

Gaga announced on November 26, 2010 during the Monster Ball in Gdansk, Poland, that the album could have up to 20 tracks, and promised that it would be the album of the decade. The album was released on May 23, 2011, by Interscope Records. Preceding its release, the album’s eponymous lead single “Born This Way” debuted on February 11, 2011, the second single “Judas” was released on April 15, 2011, and the third “The Edge of Glory” on May 9, 2011.

Promotion for Born This Way began through a performance at the 53rd Grammy Awards on February 13 in Los Angeles where she performed the album’s title track and first single “Born This Way”. Gaga already had a slew of magazine covers, from Rolling Stone to Vogue, and appeared on every high profile show, from Oprah Winfrey to “American Idol” to “Saturday Night Live,” as well as her own HBO concert special.

But she hasn’t stopped there. Starbucks — typically home to easy-on-the-ears artists like Emmylou Harris — is selling her album as well as launching a “digital scavenger hunt” for Gaga-inspired goods; Google Chrome debuted a commercial with Gaga with a track from the album; the online fashion outlet Gilt Groupe partnered with Gaga to offer Gaga-inspired clothing and VIP performances; Best Buy is giving away the album to anyone who purchases a mobile phone with a contract; and Zynga, creator of the popular online game “FarmVille,” created “GagaVille,” which allowed fans access to exclusive Gaga songs.

As if that wasn’t enough, on Monday, Amazon sold “Born This Way” for just 99 cents as a promotion for their new music cloud service, creating a demand so strong it disrupted the online retailing giant’s servers for a time.

And it looks like the campaigns are paying off: Gaga’s album is estimated to sell anywhere between a half-million to a million copies when the top album charts are revealed next week.

Bill Werde, editorial director of Billboard, calls Gaga’s promotional efforts “more of a landmark campaign” for the new music industry.

“There’s nothing about Gaga that’s subtle, so I don’t see why her marketing campaign would be any different,” he added.

One of the more unusual promotions was Amazon’s decision to sell the MP3 version of Gaga’s album for 99 cents on Monday, the day of its release, as part of its Amazon Cloud Drive, which gives consumers personal digital storage space on a remote network or cloud; 20 gigabytes of cloud space came with the album. However, there was such a demand it caused delays for Amazon’s customers, a spokeswoman said.

Though some people questioned the decision to basically give the album away, Carter wasn’t concerned at all, calling the promotional idea “incredible.”

“I am more concerned about piracy and people stealing the music. If you can get somebody to experience the music at that sort of price for one day only, I think it gets a lot of attention for the album,” he added.

Werde said that’s key in an age where album sales are deflated and serve more as a promotional tool for the artist’s other money-making projects, including touring, in an industry more focused on what is called the 360-model of generating revenue.

“It’s one of first big superstar releases that really grasps the potential of the new music business that everybody is talking about,” he said. “For a superstar artist like a Gaga, the sale of recorded music – not the quality of the music, mind you, but the sale of recorded music – really gets sort of assumed as a marketing cost to drive this 360-engine.”

Born This Way was well-received by most music critics upon its release. BBC Music called the album a “marvelous record” and commended Gaga for “actually putting a bit of effort and imagination back into pop.” Rolling Stone praised Gaga’s vocals and musical style, saying, “There isn’t a subtle moment on the album, but even at its nuttiest, the music is full of wide-awake emotional details…the more excessive Gaga gets, the more honest she sounds.”

Sexy actor Bradley Cooper at “The Hangover Part II” Premiere

•May 21, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Screams echoed off the buildings as Bradley Cooper hit the black carpet in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood Thursday evening May 19, as his masses of female fans who were squashed behind barricades got a glimpse of him. And Cooper, who came out to help launch “The Hangover Part II” at the star-studded premiere, made sure to oblige the ladies. He shook hands, kissed cheeks and posed for photos with his fans, mindful of that fact that original “The Hangover” is the movie that made him an A-list star.

The Hangover is a 2009 American comedy film directed by Todd Phillips and written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. The film stars Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Heather Graham, Justin Bartha and Jeffrey Tambor. The Hangover was filmed on a budget of $35 million and was released in North America on June 5, 2009, becoming a critical and commercial success. It became the tenth highest-grossing film of 2009, with a worldwide gross of over US$467 million. The film won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and received multiple other accolades.

Arnold Schwarzenegger delayed his Hollywood comeback

•May 20, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has decided to put his acting career on hold as he braced for what could be a costly divorce prompted by revelations that he had an affair and child with a housekeeper who worked for his family for 20 years.

The former “Terminator” actor told his talent agency to postpone all his movie projects that are currently under way or being negotiated until further notice, a statement from Schwarzenegger’s office said.

“Gov. Schwarzenegger is focusing on personal matters and is not willing to commit to any production schedules or timelines,” the statement said.

His wife, Maria Shriver, the Kennedy heiress and former network TV anchor, stands to cash in big-time financially, according to prominent divorce attorneys. “Every judge would know about what happened, and I think would hold it against him,” said attorney Robert Nachshin, who has represented the ex-wives of a who’s who of entertainers that includes Will Smith, Rod Stewart and John Ritter. “Judges are human beings, and Maria will definitely be the sympathetic spouse.”

Schwarzenegger has been married to Maria Shriver for over 25 five years and the couple has four children together. On May 16, 2011, the Los Angeles Times revealed that Schwarzenegger had fathered a son more than thirteen years earlier with an employee in their household, Mildred ‘Patty’ Baena. “After leaving the governor’s office I told my wife about this event, which occurred over a decade ago,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement issued to The Times. What Schwarzenegger failed to mention was that he confessed to his wife only after she confronted him with the information, after confirming what she had suspected about the child, in an earlier confrontation with the housekeeper.

“It seems to me that he has gratuitously embarrassed her. This should greatly enhance settlement negotiations,” said Atlanta attorney John Mayoue, who has represented Chris Rock in a paternity suit, baseball star David Justice in his split with actress Halle Berry, and other celebrities.

Still, the most surprising thing about the case, the attorneys said, is the public found out.

“In my experience what Arnold did is not unusual,” said Nachshin, who has represented clients who hid the existence of children from their wives and others.

International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigns

•May 19, 2011 • Leave a Comment

International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn released his letter of resignation early Thursday. Dated Wednesday May 18, Strauss-Kahn’s letter says he feels compelled to resign to protect the institution.

Behind bars on New York’s Rikers Island since Monday, the beleaguered former IMF chief is scheduled to return to a Manhattan court Thursday afternoon to again ask for bail on charges he sexually assaulted a hotel maid – a move seemed certain to face vigorous opposition by prosecutors.

In court papers filed by his defense team Wednesday, Strauss-Kahn said he had surrendered his passport and wouldn’t flee the country. His attorneys proposed posting $1 million cash bail and confining him to the home of his daughter, Camille, a Columbia University graduate student, 24 hours a day with electronic monitoring.

Strauss-Kahn, 62, “is a loving husband and father, and a highly regarded diplomat, politician, lawyer, politician, economist and professor, with no criminal record,” his attorneys wrote.

A court official told reporters that a judge will hear arguments for bail at a hearing on Thursday. A judge ruled earlier this week that the wealthy, 62-year-old French national could be a flight risk.

Meanwhile, the hotel maid whom the IMF chief has been accused of assaulting was reported to have testified against him Wednesday. A lawyer for the 32-year-old woman said she would tell a grand jury in New York that there was “nothing consensual” about her encounter in Strauss-Kahn’s hotel room last week. The woman, a widowed mother originally from Guinea, alleges that Strauss-Kahn groped and assaulted her in his luxurious hotel suite.

Strauss-Kahn is one of France’s highest-profile politicians and was seen as a potential candidate for president in next year’s elections. His arrest shocked France.

Adele’s “21” claims an eighth week atop the Billboard 200 chart

•May 19, 2011 • Leave a Comment

“21” holds at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with 156,000 (up less than 1%) making the album the longest-running chart-topper since Taylor Swift’s “Fearless” spent 11 non-consecutive weeks atop the list between the charts dated November 29, 2008 and March 14, 2009.

21 is the British singer-songwriter’s second studio album. The album was released on 21 January 2011 in the UK and most of Europe, and on 22 February 2011 in North America. The follow-up to her 2008 debut 19, 21 was named after the age of the singer at the time of its production.

Since 2000, only eight albums have spent eight weeks or more atop the Billboard 200. “21” will probably be granted a ninth week at No. 1 next week, before likely stepping aside for Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” which is scheduled to be released on Monday, May 23.

“21’s” to-date sales total stands at 1.7 million – still the only album to have sold more than a million units this year.

Hot couples at the 2011 Golden Globe Awards

•January 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Hot couples at the 2011 Golden Globe Awards

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt

Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban

Megan Fox & Brian Austin Green

Christina Aguilera & Matthew Rutler