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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The War to End All Wars fades away into memory...

The Very Last World War I Veteran Has Died

A British woman who served with the Royal Air Force for the last two months of World War I was the last known veteran of the war when she died in her sleep Saturday night. Florence Green joined the RAF at the age of 17 and died just before her 111th birthday, which would have been Feb. 19. She had been a mess steward with the air force, the BBC reported, serving in two U.K. air bases after she joined up on Sept. 13 1918. The Allies signed the armistice with Germany on Nov. 11, 1918. Green follows Claude Choules, a Royal Navy sailor who was the last WWI combatant before he died in May 2011, and Frank Buckles, the last American veteran of the war, who died in February 2011. All were 110 years old.

Source: Atlantic Wire (click here)

Tea Party Jesus: Choose Your Jesus

A Pulpit For The Masses: YouTube

Videos Below are posted as a part of this story and not for any political or religious commentary.
Audio for this story from All Things Considered
Created by liberal Christians, the YouTube video "Tea Party Jesus" is a spoof on conservative politics.
Enlarge AmericanValuesNet/YouTube Created by liberal Christians, the YouTube video "Tea Party Jesus" is a spoof on conservative politics.

The video is spare. A young man dressed in leather jacket and jeans looks into the camera. Then, 22-year-old Jefferson Bethke, a churchgoing Christian and rap artist, voices what much of his generation is thinking.

"What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion?" he begins. "What if I told you voting Republican really wasn't his mission? What if I told you Republican doesn't automatically mean Christian — and just because you call some people blind doesn't automatically give you vision?"

The video is called "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus" and it's a YouTube sensation. In the four-minute poem, which Bethke and his friend shot in a couple of takes, Bethke takes apart religion and religious people for what he sees as their hypocrisy — building churches but not feeding the poor, caring more about rules than about grace.

"Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrums," he says. "See, one's the work of God, but one's a man-made invention. See, one is the cure, but the other's the infection."

See videos below including: Created by 22-year-old spoken word artist Jefferson Bethke, the video "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus" has gone viral on YouTube.

Click on "read more" below for information on various videos and the debate about religion and the use of You Tube and Social Media. Videos Below are posted as a part of this story and not for any political or religious commentary.

Tea Party Jesus--Sermon on the Mall (Teaser Trailer)

Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus || Spoken Word

Videos are posted as a part of story above and not for any political or religious commentary.

For The Record : Muslim Inventions

Videos are posted as a part of story above and not for any political or religious commentary.

Caucus Counting Troubles Plague Primaries


Republican caucus vote counters seem to be having trouble this primary season. In Iowa, they said Romney won by eight votes, then revised that figure and said Santorum won. In Nevada, they couldn't count 2,000 votes for a day and a half, and then got into a fight about who could vote after sundown at a special caucus for Orthodox Jews.

The question is does a caucus make sense in a computer primary era? Many say "yes" as it leaves selecting a candidate to those whose goal is to elect someone who is  party regular and who can win. Primaries, it is argues, are too populist in cross over votes and "issue of the day."

In reality caucus's were a major reform from the back smoke filled room deals by party "bosses" that dominated politics in the world of Gore Vidal's "The Best Man."

Prop 8 Overturned...Gay Marriage issue expected to go to the High Court

This is so great. I'm relieved and pleased.
Prop 8 Trial Tracker is a project of the Courage Campaign Institute. The Prop 8 Trial Tracker has covered the trial live from the courthouse and responded to right-wing attacks on the process.

For Obama, The SuperPAC Rubber Has Met The Road

President Obama telegraphed his campaign's reversal on superPAC funding during an interview aired Monday with NBC's Matt Lauer.
View caption Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

For Obama, The SuperPAC Rubber Has Met The Road

Faced with a GOP fundraising advantage, the president's decision to reverse course and throw his support behind a pro-Democrat superPAC may be politically risky but also realistic.

President Obama telegraphed his campaign's reversal on superPAC funding during an interview aired Monday with NBC's Matt Lauer.
NBC "Today" show screenshot
President Obama telegraphed his campaign's reversal on superPAC funding during an interview aired Monday with NBC's Matt Lauer.

The late conservative writer William F. Buckley Jr. once said that "idealism is fine, but as it approaches reality, the costs become prohibitive."

That seems to be the political calculation being made by President Obama and his campaign team when it comes to opposing superPACs.
  Team Obama reversed course late Monday when campaign manager Jim Messina urged donors to help pro-Obama superPACs raise supermoney, and said administration officials will be free to help with the fundraising.

The math was an apparent wake-up call for Democrats: Priorities USA Action, which was founded by two former Obama aides, pulled in just $4.4 million last year, while the superPAC supporting GOP front-runner Mitt Romney raked in nearly $18 million.

More broadly, new fundraising reports show pro-Republican superPACs have pulled well ahead of those supporting Democrats. The biggest GOP groups raised more than $50 million last year, while Democratic groups — including Priorities USA — garnered less than $20 million.

The Evolving Language On SuperPACs

January 2010, President Obama in State of the Union speech:
" ... last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections. I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities."

July 2010, President Obama ahead of Senate vote on bill promoting greater financial disclosure for campaign money:
"A vote to oppose these reforms is nothing less than a vote to allow corporate and special-interest takeovers of our elections. It is damaging to our democracy. It is precisely what led a Republican president named Theodore Roosevelt to tackle this issue a century ago."

October 2010, President Obama at Democratic National Committee rally in Philadelphia:
"And thanks to a Supreme Court decision called Citizens United, [Republicans] are being helped along this year by special interest groups that are spending unlimited amounts of money on attack ads."

Feb. 6, 2012, President Obama in interview with NBC:
"One of the worries we have, obviously, in the next campaign is that there are so many of these so-called superPACs, these independent expenditures that are going to be out there, there's going to be just a lot of money floating around. And I guarantee you a bunch of that's going to be negative."

Feb. 6, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina on campaign blog:
The president "... continues to support a law to force full disclosure of all funding intended to influence our elections, a reform that was blocked in 2010 by a unanimous Republican filibuster in the U.S. Senate. And the president favors action — by constitutional amendment, if necessary — to place reasonable limits on all such spending. But this cycle, our campaign has to face the reality of the law as it currently stands."

Obama's campaign had formerly kept Priorities USA at a distance as the president himself railed against the superPAC establishment.

The climb down from that perch has been a steep one.

Days after the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision that abolished some limits on campaign donations, Obama said in his State of the Union address — as the black-robed justices looked on — that the ruling had "reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections."

Six months later, as Obama pushed a bill that would have barred foreign funding in federal elections and firmed up disclosure requirements, he was even more explicit in his opposition, saying the court's ruling allowed the purchase of millions of dollars in political TV ads with no disclosure on who was paying for them.

"Now, imagine the power this will give special interests over politicians," he said. "Corporate lobbyists will be able to tell members of Congress if they don't vote the right way, they will face an onslaught of negative ads in their next campaign. And all too often, no one will actually know who's really behind those ads."

But Monday's missive from Messina said Democrats couldn't afford to "unilaterally disarm" as the GOP nominee enjoyed the fruits of unlimited spending. "Therefore," he wrote, "the campaign has decided to do what we can, consistent with the law, to support Priorities USA in its effort to counter the weight of the GOP Super PAC."

Obama himself laid the groundwork for the reversal during an interview with NBC's Matt Lauer that aired earlier Monday.

"If you ask me, would I love to take some of the big money out of politics, I would," the president said. "Unfortunately, right now, partly because of Supreme Court rulings and a bunch of decisions out there, it is very hard to be able to get your message out without having some resources."

In the end, there was essentially zero political upside to standing on principle and not trying to maximize campaign cash, says Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

"It was inevitable," he says. "As we begin to see the Romney general election take shape and the willingness of donors to contribute in denominations of millions of dollars to that effort, you can't ignore that reality.

"I would say this is all about pragmatism and political expediency."

While the superPAC about-face opens the president up to accusations of hypocrisy, it's more likely to hurt him with Democrats than Republicans, says Nathaniel Persily, a Columbia University professor who specializes in election law.

"It's not that [Obama] will pay a price from his Republican rivals, but that the good-government groups that otherwise support Obama might be uncomfortable with this."

On Tuesday's All Things Considered, NPR's Peter Overby also notes that good-government groups have found "a bright spot" in the Obama campaign's statement that the president would back a constitutional amendment to undo Citizens United.

Overby also raises another question: "Will wealthy donors deliver" for Obama?

"There is this self-loathing relationship that Democrats seem to have with outside independent activity that has got to have an impact ... on donor attitudes," says Steven Law, head of American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, organizations founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove. The groups spent millions last year attacking Obama's policies.

As Overby notes, "it's those attitudes that the Obama campaign hopes to reverse, just nine months out from the election."

Source: NPR News All Things Considered (click here)

Sandoval Unveils Economic Development Plan

Source: KOLO-TV., Reno 

Gov. Brian Sandoval said he wants to create 50,000 jobs by 2014, a challenge he issued Tuesday in unveiling a statewide economic development strategy that focuses on regionalizing development efforts and broader marketing of Nevada's business attributes.

The plan is "a blueprint for building a vibrant, sustainable economy for all Nevadans," Sandoval said at a news conference at the University of Nevada, Reno. "It puts us in a better position to succeed in the hyper-competitive push to champion a strong economy that creates good jobs."

Click here to find out more!
"Moving Nevada Forward: A plan for Excellence in Economic Development," is the result of AB449, a law pushed by the first term Republican governor to overhaul the state's economic
development efforts.

It comes as Nevada continues to lead the nation in unemployment, bankruptcies and foreclosures.

Nevada's jobless rate fell to 12.6 percent in December - down from a record 14.9 percent a year
earlier - but 166,000 remained out of work.

The law, which had bipartisan support, elevates the state's economic development director to a cabinet level position and provides for a coordinated approach with regional agencies. It also
provided for a $10 million "catalyst fund" to create economic growth.

The plan sets out goals for the next three years and a framework to coordinate efforts between government agencies, the private sector and education systems.

"We have one of the most attractive business climates in the United States," Sandoval said. "It's up to us to capitalize on that fact."

To that end, the plan calls for the Governor's Office of Economic Development to focus on "branding and communicating" Nevada's economic advantage.

The office, led by Economic Development Director Steve Hill, "will strive to ensure that the state's regulatory environment does not inappropriately hamper business or impede job creation," the document said, and a working group will be formed to "provide advice about proposed laws and existing regulations."

By July 1, the office also intends to hire at least five industry specific specialists to help regional development agencies better target their efforts.

Past economic development strategies have focused primarily on convincing out-of-state businesses to relocate to Nevada, a strategy that typically generates less than 5 percent to 7 percent of job creation, Hill said.

The other 95 percent comes from helping existing business to grow and new businesses to start, he said.

"We are asking these new regional development authorities to take on that responsibility in the regions," Hill said.

The plan follows a report release last fall that highlighted Nevada's strengths and key industries, but also pointed out familiar weaknesses, such as an underperforming education system and a narrow and volatile economic base susceptible to extreme boom-or-bust cycles.

That report also identified core industries as having "plausible potential" for economic growth and diversification: tourism, health and medical services, business information technology, clean energy, mining and manufacturing, logistics, and aerospace and defense.

Source: KOLO-TV., Reno

Why does Mitt Romney want to be president?

When the empire strikes back, it hits hard. The Republican establishment is deploying every weapon and every soldier — even Bob Dole — in an increasingly desperate attempt to pulverize the Newt Gingrich rebellion. Eventually, the shock-and-awe campaign may work.

But then what? In the establishment’s best-case scenario, the party is left with Mitt Romney, a candidate whose core message, as far as I can tell, seems to be: “Yes, I made a ton of money. You got a problem with that?”

It is remarkable that the well-orchestrated blitzkrieg to save Florida for Romney was designed solely to raise doubts about Gingrich’s character and electability — rather than convince voters that Romney, on the merits, should be president. It makes you wonder whether the GOP luminaries supporting this guy really believe in him.

A statement issued last week by elder statesman Dole began by arguing that “if Gingrich is the nominee it will have an adverse impact on Republican candidates running for county, state and federal offices.” Dole went on to criticize Gingrich as highhanded and erratic, before ending his brief missive with another dose of realpolitik.

“In my opinion if we want to avoid an Obama landslide in November, Republicans should nominate Governor Romney as our standard-bearer,” Dole wrote. “He has the requisite experience in the public and private sectors. He would be a president we could have confidence in.”

“Requisite experience” isn’t much of a hallelujah, yet it’s typical of the pro-Romney chorus that has been singing so loudly since Gingrich won the South Carolina primary. Meanwhile, the voices of some key potential choristers haven’t been heard at all: Two of the most prominent Republicans in Florida, former governor Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio, have declined to endorse anyone for the nomination.
But what has Romney given his supporters to work with? Yes, he served as governor of Massachusetts and implemented health insurance reforms that became the model for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Yes, he earned a quarter of a billion dollars as a private-equity mogul. These résuméitems are supposed to be a compelling reason to send him to the White House?

Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul have all laid out bold visions — more properly, hallucinations — of where they would take the country. But where is Romney’s shining city on a hill? What’s his “compassionate conservatism,” his “hope and change”? What is it that Mitt Romney, deep in his heart or down in his gut, really believes in?

“Free enterprise” seems to be what he’s most passionate about, but that’s not really an answer to the question of core beliefs. Who doesn’t believe in free enterprise? Obama would advocate a bit more regulation of markets than Romney would; Santorum and Paul, less. Gingrich, of course, wants free-market spaceships to fly us to the moon.

Obama wants to rearrange our priorities to make the nation more prosperous, competitive and humane. Gingrich basically has the same goal, except he would do it in a completely different way — and there would be a much bigger role for space travel. Santorum’s policy positions add up to a return to “compassionate conservatism” and, perhaps, a war with Iran. Paul wants to decimate the federal government and force the few remaining workers to surrender their computers and use quill pens.
And Romney? Well, he has a 160-page economic plan. What he doesn’t seem to have is a compelling narrative about the kind of America he envisions and the road he will take to get us there.

This is not to say that he is necessarily incapable of developing such a narrative — or, for that matter, that he is incapable of beating Obama. The president and his advisers have at times done a mediocre job of telling the administration’s story. They need to better explain how individual decisions, such as delaying the controversial Keystone pipeline, fit into a coherent Big Picture of where the country needs to go.

Romney has become a very good debater, and his attack lines about Obama are honed and barbed. The only reason he still has a fight on his hands for the nomination, really, is that he let his opponents reduce his argument for the presidency to a defense of how he earned and manages his great wealth.
No matter how much he claims otherwise, the fact is that few people are envious of Romney’s business success. We just want to know if that’s all he has to offer.

California gay marriage ban overturned

Billy Bradford waves flags outside City Hall after a judge lifted the Proposition 8 stay on same sex marriages at City Hall in San Francisco, California August 12, 2010.    REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

(Reuters) - An appeals court on Tuesday found California's gay marriage ban unconstitutional in a case that may lead to a showdown in the Supreme Court.

Supporters of the ban said they would appeal the judgment, calling it "out of step with every other federal appellate and Supreme Court decision." Their appeal is likely to keep gay marriage in the state on hold pending future proceedings.

But the lawyers who won the appeals court round called the decision a milestone, and outside City Hall in San Francisco, a center for gay rights, dozens of same-sex couples hugged and kissed in public, cheering the ruling.

"It means we are included in the American Dream," said Joe Capley-Alfano, who married his husband, Frank, in the summer of 2008, a window of legal same-sex marriage in California.

The majority in the 2-1 decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that California's Proposition 8 ban did not further "responsible procreation," which was at the heart of the argument by the ban's supporters.

"Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples," the ruling reads.

But the appeals court did not address whether marriage was a fundamental right available to same-sex couples as well as heterosexuals, focusing instead specifically on Prop 8.

Some lawyers predicted that the narrow ruling would lead the Supreme Court to limit itself to deciding on the California measure or to refusing the case altogether.

Gay rights supporters have traveled a bumpy road since the first legal U.S. gay marriage was conducted in Massachusetts in 2004. Some courts and legislatures have extended those rights, but voters have consistently opposed gay marriage.

California, the most populous state, joined the vast majority of U.S. states in outlawing same-sex marriage in 2008, when voters passed the ban known as Proposition 8.

That socially conservative vote by a state more known for hippies and Hollywood was seen as a watershed by both sides of the so-called culture wars, and two gay couples responded by filing the legal challenge currently making its way through the federal courts.

A federal judge in San Francisco struck down Proposition 8 in 2010, and gay marriage opponents appealed that ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Opponents of gay marriage have not decided whether to ask a larger 9th Circuit panel to hear the matter, or appeal directly to the Supreme Court, Andrew Pugno, general counsel for Protect Marriage and a lawyer on the team, said by email.

Court rules allow at least two weeks before a ruling takes effect, so same sex marriages cannot immediately resume in California, court spokesman Dave Madden said.

In the ruling, Judge Stephen Reinhardt focused on the unique circumstances of Prop 8 in California, and whether voters had a legally valid reason for passing it.

Backers of Prop 8 had said that it would advance better child-rearing, but Reinhardt said the only effect of the measure was to deny same-sex couples the right to describe their relationship as a "marriage."

"Proposition 8 therefore could not have been enacted to advance California's interest in childrearing or responsible procreation," he wrote, "for it had no effect on the rights of same-sex couples to raise children or on the procreative practices of other couples."

Judge Michael Daly Hawkins joined Reinhardt's opinion, while Judge N. Randy Smith dissented from the main constitutional findings. Hawkins and Reinhardt were appointed by Democrats, and Smith by a Republican.

"The optimal parenting rationale could conceivably be a legitimate governmental interest" for passing the gay marriage ban, wrote Smith. "I cannot conclude that Proposition 8 is 'wholly irrelevant' to any legitimate governmental interests."

Ted Boutrous, a lawyer on the anti-Prop 8 team, said at a news conference that the focus on California's specific circumstances might lead the Supreme Court to avoid the case.

"The way the court wrote the decision will make it that much harder for the proponents to get Supreme Court review," he said.

But Jesse Choper, a University of California, Berkeley, Constitutional law professor disagreed that the ruling would affect whether the high court took the case. However, the Supreme Court justices also might prefer a chance to limit any ruling to California, he said.

About 40 of the 50 U.S. states had outlawed gay marriage before a California state court ruled in 2008 that a ban was unconstitutional, leading to a summer of gay marriages. But California voters that November decided to change the state constitution to limit marriage to a man and woman.

That provoked some gay rights activists to take a matter that had been waged on a state-by-state basis to federal court, essentially staking the entire agenda on one case.

The U.S. Supreme Court is seen as a more conservative body than the lower courts that have been considering the case. Should the high court eventually decide to hear the case, much may depend on Anthony Kennedy, a Republican-appointed justice who has written important pro-gay rights decisions but has not explicitly endorsed gay marriage.

Six states - New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Iowa - allow gay marriage, as does Washington, D.C. In addition, about 18,000 same-sex couples married in California during the summer of legalization in 2008, and their unions are valid regardless of the outcome of the Prop 8 case.

New Jersey, Maryland and Washington state are considering legislation to legalize same-sex marriage, and gay rights activists in Maine say they plan to bring the issue to voters in a referendum in that state.
(Additional reporting by Malathi Nayak in San Francisco and R.T. Watson in Los Angeles; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Jackie Frank)

Super Superbowl. CA Tax Credit Debate. English Language News for Hispanic Americans. Oscars Sold Out. MGM is Back? Lions Gate may Spin off "Juno" Pictures.

Natalie Portman accepts her Academy Award for lead actress for her performance in "Black Swan" at last year's Oscar ceremony.  Credit:  Al Seib / Los Angeles Times
From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for the latest industry news.

The Oscars are sold out. Commercial time in this month's Academy Awards broadcast is a hot ticket.
Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Bob Iger said Tuesday that the ABC network last week sold the remainder of its available advertising time — several weeks earlier than usual.

"There was demand for even more spots than allowed in [our] contract," Iger said in an earnings conference call with Wall Street analysts. Iger said the network squeezed in a few additional spots before it hit the contractual cap.

ABC fetched an average of $1.7 million per 30-second spot for the 84th annual Academy Awards broadcast on Feb. 26, a slight uptick from last year's rate.

The strong demand by advertisers bodes well for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which relies on television revenue to stage its annual Oscar festivities as well as finance its operations.  Some observers have fretted that the field of nominees, led by "The Artist" and "Hugo," lacks a mainstream blockbuster film that would help lure mass numbers of viewers to the awards telecast. The biggest box-office draw of the major nominated films was "The Help," which had four nominations.
Billy Crystal will host this year's awards ceremony.

The Academy Awards historically is one of the top television events of the year — often second only to the Super Bowl — and has become advertisers' favorite vehicle to reach women. The show is typically the second most-expensive network TV buy, too, after the Super Bowl. In the advertising world, the event is known as the "Super Bowl for women."

The Oscar audience is also typically upscale, representing viewers with plenty of disposable income, making it all that more attractive to advertisers.

The Oscars ceremony also has drawn high advertiser interest because — like the Super Bowl or the "American Idol" finale — it is broadcast live and viewers watch the commercials rather than speeding through them with their digital video recorders. That makes the ad time more valuable to companies.

War Horse Spielberg DreamWorks

'War Horse' tapped veteran trainer Bobby Lovgren Horses have long played lead roles in cinema, from the classic movie “National Velvet” to 2010’s “Secretariat,” a drama based on the Triple Crown-winning thoroughbred. But rarely have they taken center stage as much they do in “War Horse,” Steven Spielberg's Oscar-nominated epic about an English farm boy's lasting relationship with a horse that is sold to the cavalry during World War I.

For chief horse trainer Bobby Lovgren, it was one of the veteran’s toughest jobs to date.  Lovgren has trained horses for movies that have included “Seabiscuit,” “Cowboys and Aliens” and “The Legend of Zorro.”

The locally based 46-year-old trainer, however, says nothing has compared to the scale of work on “War Horse,” the DreamWorks Pictures movie that has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture. The film, which cost about $70 million to make, was adapted from Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 children’s novel that inspired successful stage productions in London and on Broadway.

While the acclaimed play utilized life-sized puppets for horses, Lovgren’s task was to oversee the training of more than 150 live horses used in the film. He recruited a team of seven trainers from Australia, Spain and the U.S. as well as groomers, handlers, transporters -- even an equine hair and makeup unit.

“What made ‘War Horse’ so special was that it was a combination of everything I’d done before with horses all put into one movie," said Lovgren in an interview from New Mexico, where he is working on the Disney film “The Lone Ranger,” starring Johnny Depp. “It’s the biggest horse movie I’ve ever done.”

Lovgren is among a select group of animal handlers, trainers and wranglers in the industry, many of whom live in the northern L.A. County community of Acton, where he owns a small horse ranch.  Teamsters Local 399 has 130 union members who are animal trainers, handlers and wranglers, down from as many as 500 members in the 1970s, reflecting the decline in the western movie and television genre and widespread use of computer effects that has lessened the demand for live animals in films, said Steve Dayan, a business agent for Local 399.

Nonetheless, animal trainers like Lovgren remain essential and often unheralded behind-the-scene players in Hollywood.  “There are only a handful of guys left like Bobby," Dayan said. “What they do is a very special art and skill that is a huge part of our history.”

Lovgren came to Hollywood via South Africa, where his parents owned one of the largest riding and jumping stables in the country.  He moved to Los Angeles in 1989, learning the ropes of the business from renowned horse trainers Corky Randall and his father, Glenn Randall Sr., who worked on such movies as “Ben Hur” and “Black Stallion.”

He went on to work as a trainer in dozens of movies, including “The Mask of Zorro,” “Running Free” and the 2005 comedy “Racing Stripes,” in which he trained zebras as well as horses.

On “War Horse,”  which has grossed $77 million domestically since its Christmas Day release, Lovgren spent two and a half months training actors to ride and feel comfortable with the horses before filming began in various English locales, including South Devon.

Lovgren and his team also had to discern how each of the horses responded differently to smoke, gunfire and other distractions. Trainers used body language, hand signals and repetitive exercises to train the horses to perform certain tasks and assess their individuals skills, such as jumping, chasing or pulling.

Fourteen different horses to play the title character of “Joey,” each depicting different stages of his life. One of them was Lovgren’s own horse Finder, whom he purchased after training him in “Seabiscuit.” Lovgren said Finder has a special ability to convey his feelings and connect with audiences. “He’s quite a ham in front of the camera," he said.

Lovgren closely collaborated with Barbara Carr, a representative of the American Humane Assn., which monitors the welfare of animals used in films. “I found him to be a wonderful horse trainer," said Carr, adding that no horses were injured during filming.  “He seemed to have a real feeling for the horses.”

While most of the scenes involved living horses, Spielberg used an animatronic horse for parts of a graphic battle scene in which Joey gets trapped in barbed wire. In the film’s production notes, Spielberg said of Lovgren: “Bobby and his team literally performed miracles with the horses in this film.”

Scene from Disney's upcoming film "John Carter"

Theupcoming Disney movie "John Carter," starring Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkas, center, and Taylor Kitsch, as John Carter, at right. Credit: Disney

A rebound at Walt Disney Co.'s domestic theme parks and strong performances by ESPN and the Disney Channel helped drive a 12% increase in the company's first-quarter net income compared with a year earlier.

The Burbank media giant reported that revenue for the quarter ended Dec. 31 was essentially flat at $10.8 billion, up 1% from a year earlier. Net income rose to nearly $1.5 billion for the period, up from $1.3 billion a year earlier. Earnings per share rose 18% to 80 cents, from 68 cents in the prior year's first quarter.

"We're off to a good start in this fiscal year," Disney President and Chief Executive Bob Iger said in a statement.

Before Disney reported its results, media analysts said they would be watching advertising trends at ESPN, the powerhouse cable sports network that Morgan Stanley estimates contributes approximately 8% of the company's revenue.

ESPN's primetime ratings tumbled 15% in the December quarter, compared with a year earlier, according to TV ratings firm Nielsen. Viewership for "Monday Night Football" fell "due to an underwhelming lineup," according to Morgan Stanley.

The sports network's advertising revenue was essentially flat in the quarter, Disney reported. ESPN was negatively affected by the NBA player lockout, which delayed the start of the professional basketball season. The network carried just two games played in the quarter, versus 29 a year earlier, ESPN said. (Revenue resulting from the Rose and Fiesta college football bowl games will be reflected in the second quarter.)

Nonetheless, Disney's media networks group, which includes its cable channels as well as its ABC television network and locally owned stations, continued to fuel the company's bottom line. Revenue for the quarter rose 3% to $4.8 billion and segment operating income rose 12% to nearly $1.2 billion, compared with the same quarter a year earlier.

Morgan Stanley analyst Benjamin Swinburne had expected theme park margins to improve, as new attractions opened and the effect on Tokyo Disneyland royalties from last year's devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan fades.

Disney said revenue for parks and resorts rose 10% to $3.2 billion in the quarter, compared with a year earlier, and that operating income increased 18% to $553 million. The company said visitors were spending more at its domestic parks. The Disney Cruise Line also reported higher operating income.

The film studio's revenue fell 16% to $1.6 billion for the quarter, but operating income grew 10% to $413 million. Though the company scored with "The Muppets" and the late third quarter re-release of "The Lion King," and acted as distributor for movies including DreamWorks' "War Horse," the studio had fewer Disney-branded movies in theaters over the holidays, the company said. DVD sales fell.

ABC's "World News" anchor Diane Sawyer. Credit: ABC. 

An English Language Spanish News Channel is in the works for the millions whose primary language is English. The Walt Disney Co. and the nation's leading Spanish-language broadcaster are in talks to launch an English-language cable news channel, according to people familiar with the matter.
A new 24-hour channel would represent a move by both companies to enter new territory. Disney's ABC News could compete for viewers with established around-the-clock cable news operations such as News Corp.'s Fox News, Time Warner's CNN and Comcast Corp.'s MSNBC. Until now, ABC has shown little appetite for joining the cable news wars.

Univision Communications, which owns the nation's fifth-largest TV network, could use the channel to reach more acculturated viewers that advertisers prefer: Latinos who predominately speak English.  Univision has already announced plans to launch a cable news network, this one a Spanish-language channel, later this spring.

A Univision spokeswoman declined to comment, as did an ABC spokesman.

ABC has struggled to be more competitive and has shed hundreds of staff members from its ABC News division because the network produces only a few newscasts. NBC News correspondents provide coverage to multiple channels, allowing the network to better monetize costs.

The discussions were first reported Monday by The Wall Street Journal, but no deal is imminent, said one knowledgeable person.

The nation's Latino population is sizable and fast-growing. Nearly 50 million people described themselves as Hispanic or Latino in the 2010 U.S. Census, up 43% from a decade ago.

Second- and third-generation Latinos also have greater disposable income than their parents or grandparents, making them an atrractive and underserved audience. Targeting these viewers would help differentiate the channel from more established cable competitors.

Cesar Conde, president of Univision Networks, addressed his desire to court bilingual viewers in a keynote speech he gave last month during the National Assn. of Television Program Executives convention in Miami. Univision has begun offering English captions for all of its prime-time telenovelas.

As envisioned, ABC and Univision would share news gathering and production costs. Disney would also stand to collect subscriber fees from cable operators, helping to underwrite the heavy cost of a television news operation.

"This Means War" stars Chris Pine, left, Reese Witherspoon and Tom Hardy
Chris Pine, left, Reese Witherspoon and Tom Hardy in "This Means War." Credit: Kimberly French / Fox.

Valentines Day delays "This Means War." In an unusual move, 20th Century Fox is pushing back the official opening of the romantic action-comedy "This Means War" from Tuesday, Feb. 14 to Friday, Feb. 17. The move may be designed to let the studio avoid reporting what likely would have been weak box-office receipts on Valentine's Day.

 However, the movie will still get a "sneak preview," playing once Tuesday evening at between 2,000 and 2,500 locations nationwide. "This Means War" will then disappear from theaters for two days and officially open on Friday.

Pre-release surveys indicate audiences are less interested in "This Means War," which stars Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, and is directed by McG, than other movies opening in the next week. In particular, the romantic drama "The Vow" starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum is proving popular with women, who are also a target audience for "This Means War." Research shows that women often dictate moviegoing choices on Valentine's Day.

"The Vow" is expected to open to at least $30 million from Friday through Sunday, while "This Means War" is on track to take in about half that much on its first weekend.

By playing the movie as a "sneak preview," Fox will not be expected to publicly report its grosses for Tuesday and potentially disclose that it came in No. 2, if not lower, generating negative press attention going into the weekend. Instead, the only public discussion around the film will be whether people who attended the sneak screening liked "This Means War."

"Word of mouth is great on this movie, and this gives people more time to talk about it," said Fox executive vice president of distribution Chris Aronson. "Sometimes you’ve got to let the movie speak for itself."

Typically, sneak previews happen a week or more before a movie debuts. Fox's "We Bought a Zoo," for instance, was previewed over Thanksgiving weekend but didn't officially open until Christmas Day.

Fox's last-minute gambit with "This Means War" is a gamble, in part because widespread advertisements have proclaimed that it opens Feb. 14.

Fox is betting that positive buzz will help boost the box-office tally for the approximately $65-million production on the weekend of Feb. 17.

Brad Pitt MoneyballWhile
Brad Pitt in a scene from the movie "Moneyball," which received a California film tax credit. Credit: Melinda Sue Gordon

UCLA gives only qualified approval to Film Tax Credits. California's film tax credit is providing an economic benefit to the state, it may not be providing as much of a return to taxpayers as an earlier study claimed.

That's one of the main conclusions from a new study conducted by UCLA's Institute for Research on Labor and Employment about a program the state adopted in 2009 to help curb runaway production. The state sets aside $100 million annually for the program, under which filmmakers can receive a credit of 20% to 25% of qualified production expenses (salaries of actors are excluded). They can apply the credit to offset any sales or business tax liability they have with the state.

The UCLA study concludes that the California tax credit "is creating jobs and is likely providing an immediate economic benefit to the state," but finds that some claims about the program's value have been exaggerated.

In particular, the study takes issue with some aspects of a report by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. and financed by the Motion Picture Assn. of America that found that for every $1 the state allocated in a tax subsidy, the state recouped as much as $1.13 in spending.

That LAEDC estimate assumes that all productions applying for a subsidy will leave the state if they don't receive one. However, the UCLA researchers found that some of the productions that didn't get a credit, which is awarded on a lottery basis, still opted to shoot their films in California. Taking those projects out of the mix reduces the fiscal impact to as much as $1.04 per $1 of tax allocated, not $1.13, according to the UCLA report.

Nonetheless, the study, which included a survey of filmmakers, highlights the important role that state tax credits play in determining where they choose to shoot.

"Even though there is likely a small benefit to the state, I think the California film and television tax credit is a worthy program because, without it, in the long run, California is likely to lose dominance in an industry that is very important to the state's economy," said Lauren Appelbaum, research director for the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment.

The UCLA study was commissoned by Headway Project, a new think tank headed by former magazine publishing executive Michael Kong. In a separate report he authored, Kong makes several recommendations to improve the state tax credit program, including removing restrictions that forbid the sale or transfer of tax credits to third parties (except for low-budget independent movies) and doubling the funding of the current credit to $200 million a year.

Christine Cooper, author of the LAEDC report,  said she and her colleagues had made a “reasonable assumption” that the productions that received the tax credit wouldn’t have  occurred without the incentive. “We are happy to see that the UCLA study confirms our finding of a net positive fiscal impact,’’  Cooper added. “While we can quibble over pennies -- $1.04 versus $1.13 in net positive fiscal impacts -- states like Louisiana are setting production records at our expense.”

Joe Drake Lions Gate
Joe Drake. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Spin Off at Lions Gate? Mandate Pictures, the Lions Gate Entertainment-owned film finance and production company behind such movies as "Juno," "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle," and "Young Adult," may soon regain its independence -- under the management of Joe Drake.

As part of the executive's planned departure from the Santa Monica studio next month, Lions Gate senior management has held preliminary talks with former motion picture group chairman Joe Drake about partially or entirely spinning off Mandate, which he co-founded nine years ago, two knowledgeable people not authorized to speak publicly confirmed.

Drake's plans have been unclear since Lions Gate acquired Summit Entertainment in January and installed its co-chairmen, Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger, in Drake's job. At the time, Lions Gate Chief Executive Jon Feltheimer said Drake would stay on to oversee the March 23 release of "The Hunger Games," the studio's most expensive and highest profile production to date.

It now appears that Drake could reclaim his old seat at Mandate. The executive helped launch Mandate in 2003 and ran it until 2007, when he sold the independent studio to Lions Gate for $60 million and assumed his role as motion picture group chairman.

However, Drake always maintained his title as CEO of Mandate  while leaving the day-to-day operations of the venture to president and fellow co-founder Nathan Kahane.

Now Drake and Kahane may take back control of Mandate and run it independently from Lions Gate, the two people familiar with the situation said.

It's not yet clear exactly what form that separation would take. One person close to the matter said the two firms would probably maintain a business relationship. In addition, Lions Gate would keep some control of Mandate's library of nearly 30 pictures.

A separation agreement has not been finalized, however, and it's not yet certain that one will be reached, people close to the matter cautioned.

With Lions Gate's acquisition of Summit bringing together two film companies with separate production and marketing staffs, some in the industry have questioned whether Lions Gate would need a third movie division under the same roof.

Since it was acquired by Lions Gate, Mandate has developed a small slate of pictures that it co-financed with other studios, including Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures and even Summit. The upcoming Sam Raimi-produced horror thriller "The Possession" is the first film Mandate will release in partnership with its new parent company.

Other planned 2012 Mandate releases include the comedies "Great Hope Springs," with Meryl Streep and Steve Carell, and "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World," starring Carrell and Keira Knightley. 

The Super Bowl set a new viewership record
New York Giants quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning. Credit: Jamie Squire / Getty Image 

The Daily Dose: Once again a Super Bowl halftime performer (M.I.A.) has tried to upstage the game itself. Now NBC and the NFL are pointing fingers at each other for who goofed -- NBC says the NFL oversees the act while the NFL says the network's delay should have worked and spared us from the performer's middle finger. Seems logical, though, that if the NFL wants to make sure this kind of stunt never happens again, it needs to put a clause in its contract that will hit the performer with a huge financial penalty if any unscripted action mars the game or potentially puts the show in trouble with advertisers and regulators. Certainly the league has enough lawyers to come up with that. And if they did do that already, they should donate the fine to a charity to help retired players.

Big numbers. NBC's telecast of Sunday's Super Bowl thriller between the New York Giants and New England Patriots drew a record audience of 111.3 million viewers, barely topping last year's previous high of 111 million. Does that make the $3.5 million that advertisers spent on commercials worth it? To answer that question, ask yourself how many of those ads you remembered 10 minutes after they aired. More on the ratings from USA Today.

A foot in both camps. On Monday, word emerged that Verizon was teaming with Red Box on a video streaming service that would try to take on Netflix. But Red Box, whose claim to fame is its kiosks outside supermarkets and 7-Elevens where people can rent movies on the cheap, isn't ready to throw in the towel on that business. Red Box parent Coinstar said it would spend up to $100 million to buy up Blockbuster's in-store DVD business, acquiring 9,000 or so DVD kiosks currently in use by the rental chain. Details from the Los Angeles Times.

Roaring again? MGM, which has struggled almost as long as the now-red-hot Los Angeles Clippers (yes, I was struggling for an analogy), is suddenly flush with cash. According to Deadline Hollywood, the historic studio has a new $500-million credit line ready to spend on new movies. Of course, this isn't the first time we've read the "MGM is back" story so I'll wait a little longer before saying that the lion's bite is bigger than its roar.

New money. Bruno Wu, a well-known Chinese media mogul whose wife, Yang Lan, is a popular TV personality there, is joining in a new $800-million fund that will invest in entertainment opportunities. Details on where Wu's partnership is looking to spend from the New York Times.

Inside Los Angeles Times: The fastest growing digital music service you've never heard of is MuveMusic from Cricket Wireless, a small San Diego-based phone company. Robert Lloyd on ABC's new drama "The River."

-- Joe Flint and others