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Monday, March 5, 2012

The Most Expensive Election Year Yet, and it is only March 5th

 
Restore Our Future, the superPAC supporting Mitt Romney, is running negative ads about Newt Gingrich in Ohio ahead of Super Tuesday on March 6, 2012.

SuperPAC Ads Fill Airwaves On Eve Of Super Tuesday

The candidates are spending modestly, but the super-PACs are out in full force in Ohio and elsewhere. They've already shelled out $12 million for ads — most of them negative — in Super Tuesday states.

More than 12 million dollars in advertising has been spent by special interest PACs on Super Tuesday alone, more than half of that by those that "support" Mitt Romney.


A former employee of Bain Capital talks about how Mitt Romney once helped him find his lost daughter, in an ad made by Restore Our Future, the superPAC supporting Mitt Romney.
A former employee of Bain Capital talks about how Mitt Romney once helped him find his lost daughter, in an ad made by Restore Our Future, the superPAC supporting Mitt Romney.

With ten states holding Republican primaries or caucuses on March 6 — Super Tuesday — a lot of money is being spent on TV ads. The superPACs supporting the remaining GOP candidates have doled out some $12 million for ads in those states.

Leading the way is Restore Our Future, the superPAC that backs former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. According to Federal Election Commission numbers, Restore Our Future has spent some $6.9 million on the Super Tuesday states.

"The groups have clearly taken the lead in advertising for the whole Republican primary. They're very much taking the lead in advertising for Super Tuesday. It's mostly the 'Restore Our Future show,' followed by Winning Our Future, which is the Gingrich group, and Red, White and Blue, which is the Santorum group," says Ken Goldstein, who tracks political ad spending for Kantar Media CMAG.

Red, White and Blue has spent some $1.3 million on Super Tuesday, and has been running an ad in Ohio that goes after Romney for his alleged similarities to the man all Republicans want to defeat in November: President Obama. Ohio is perhaps the most contested of all of Tuesday's primaries.

On The Attack

The first ad, from the Red, White and Blue fund, which backs Rick Santorum, attacks Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. The second ad, from Restore Our Future, which backs Romney, goes after Gingrich. 

"How can Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama, when on the vital decisions they're not much different?" the ad asks. "Like Obama, Romney drastically increased spending, increased state taxes and fees. Even worse, 'Romneycare' is the blueprint for 'Obamacare.' Who can win? Rick Santorum, the principled leader who's fought against big government."

Restore our Future, meanwhile, has targeted Santorum in an ad running in Ohio that uses the former Pennsylvania senator's explanation during a debate last month for why he voted to give Planned Parenthood federal funds.

"Santorum says he's the principled conservative, but that's not how he voted," says the ad. "Here are Santorum's own words on voting to fund Planned Parenthood: 'While I have a personal moral objection to it, even though I don't support it, ... I voted for bills that included it.' Twenty years in Washington changed Santorum's principles."

Newt Gingrich, who hasn't had a victory since South Carolina in January, has pretty much focused all his efforts on winning Georgia, the state he represented in Congress. The superPAC that backs him, Winning Our Future, has spent some $1.1 million in the state, a little less than a third of the dollars it has spent overall on Super Tuesday.

"We're looking at 5- or 6-dollar-gas," says a woman in an ad by Winning Our Future. "Romney's not the type to pump his own gas. Newt's got a plan for American-made energy. More American jobs. Get the government out of the way. Newt's for paychecks, not food stamps. Newt's my man, no doubt about it."

While most superPAC ads throughout the primary season have been attacking candidates, Restore Our Future has been running a positive message in Ohio about Romney, whose approval ratings have plummeted since the primary season began. It highlights an episode when, as CEO of Bain Capital, Romney suspended the company's operations to find a missing girl, the daughter of an employee.

"Mitt's done a lot of things people say are nearly impossible, but for me, the most important thing he's ever done is to help save my daughter," says the employee. The ad closes with a voice saying, "Restore Our Future is responsible for the content of this message."

Kantar Media's Goldstein says it will be interesting to see, if Romney does restore his mantle of inevitability on Tuesday, how his ads and those of the superPAC that supports him might change.
"What's the strategy of the Romney campaign?" Goldstein asks. "What's the strategy of Restore Our Future? Do they go after President Obama, or do they take this chance to reintroduce their own guy to the American people after a pretty rocky last couple months?"

It's not just Republicans who have been spending money on Super Tuesday. Priorities USA Action, the superPAC that backs President Obama, spent a relatively small amount, some $77,000, on TV ads in Ohio, which will be a key swing state come the general election in November.

From NPR's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

The six elements that comprise your emotional style.




Resilience: how slowly or quickly you recover from adversity

Outlook: how long you are able to sustain positive emotion

Social Intuition:  how adept you are at picking up social signals from the people around you

Self Awareness: How well you perceive bodily feelings that reflect emotions

Sensitivity to Context:  how good are you at regulating your emotional responses to take into account the social context you find yourself in

Attention: how sharp and clear your focus is
 
 
Click here for link to NPR Player and program

Sharon Begley, science journalist at Reuters and Richard J. Davidson, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who co-wrote The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live--and How You Can Change Them, talk about their discoveries about emotions and the brain and the implications for treatment.


Guests:

Sharon Begley and Richard J. Davidson

The Brain, foreign policy and civic engagement


Monday, March 05, 2012

February 24th, 2012
A Letter to the Obama Campaign
Mr. Jim Messina
Campaign Manager
Obama for America

Dear Mr. Messina:

Because every American has the right to take part in the public discourse on matters that affect the future of our country, I feel compelled to respond directly about a fundraising letter you sent out on February 24 denouncing Koch. It is both surprising and disappointing that the President would allow his re-election team to send such an irresponsible and misleading letter to his supporters.
For example, it is false that our “business model is to make millions by jacking up prices at the pump.” Our business vision begins and ends with value creation — real, long-term value for customers and for society. We own no gasoline stations and the part of our business you allude to, oil and gas refining, actually lowers the price of gasoline by increasing supply. Either you simply misunderstand the way commodities markets work or you are misleading your supporters and the rest of the American people.
Contrary to your assertion that we have “committed $200 million to try to destroy President Obama,” we have stated publicly and repeatedly since last November that we have never made any such claim or pledge. It is hard to imagine that the campaign is unaware of our publicly stated position on that point. Similarly, Americans for Prosperity is not simply “funded by the Koch brothers,” as you state — rather it has tens of thousands of members and contributors from across the country and from all walks of life. Further, our opposition to this President’s policies is not based on partisan politics but on principles. Charles Koch and David Koch have been outspoken advocates of the free-market for over 50 years and they have consistently opposed policies that frustrate or subvert free markets, regardless of whether a Democrat or a Republican was President.
[...]

Sincerely,
Philip Ellender
President, Government & Public Affairs
Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC

Source: DailyKOS.com

8 Ways to Return to Present Moment



Projecting in future and thinking about the past can make you feel miserable. Staying in present moment can not only help with reducing suffering, but also give you these three advantages:

·        Clarity. When you are in the moment you have a much better focus and things flow naturally out of you. This is very useful in conversations, at work, while writing or when doing recreational activities, like playing tennis.
·        Calmness. You feel centered, relaxed, and whatever you do more easily. Since you are not projecting into a possible future or reflecting on previous experiences there is very little fear holding you back.
·        Positivity. Since there is little fear, there are few negative emotions when you are in the present. Instead you move around on positive part of the emotional scale.

6 Ways to Return to Present Moment:


1.     Focus on what’s right in front of you.
Or around you. Or on you. Use your senses. Just look at what’s right in front of you right now. Listen to the sounds around you. Feel the fabric of your clothes and focus on how they feel.  Notice the weather, listen to the birds, cloudy or sunshine.

2.     Focus on your breathing.
Take a couple of dozen belly breaths and just focus your mind on your inhaling and exhaling. This will align you with the present moment once again.

3.     Focus on your inner body – your energy.
As an example, focus on your hand. Feel energy going through your hand.

4.     Pick up the vibe from present people.
If you know someone that is more present than most people then you can pick his/her vibe of presence.  You can sit quietly with someone, or walk with someone, or talk with someone.

5.     Surrender to the emotion that is already there.
Its easy to get stuck in a loop of old memories. You may want to move away from them but there is a feeling there that brings them back over and over. So you need to decrease the power that feeling has over you.  And you don’t do it by fighting it. You do it by surrendering to it.

The feeling is a loop within your mind that you are feeding with more energy by resisting. When you accept the feeling then you stop feeding it and it vanishes. Say yes to the feeling.

Surrender and let it in. Observe the feeling in your mind and body without labeling or judging it.

6.     See things as for the first time.

This one pretty similar to the first way. But it can be useful when you have a hard time just observing your surroundings. Look at things with fresh eyes, pay attention and really look, hear. Be open.

From Positivity Blog
 

Feel Free to Comment on my other blog as well..

Mormon Leaders Warn Followers To Stop Controversial Baptisms

A change in the policy of baptising the dead. The top leaders of the Mormon Church have composed a letter that will be read to every congregation today as the faith struggles with a controversy about one of its most important religious practices.  The letter instructs the faithful to stop posthumous baptisms of celebrities, Holocaust victims and anyone else who is not a direct ancestor.  In recent weeks, the Mormon practice of baptizing the dead has attracted criticism that has even touched the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney, a member of the faith. This is a reversal of previous LDS policy, and comes while Mitt Romney, the first Mormon to have a real chance at being a major party candidate for president. Romney has not addressed Holocaust survivors concerns.

The sun sets behind the Mormon Temple, the centerpiece of Temple Square, in Salt Lake City.
Enlarge Douglas C. Pizac/AP The sun sets behind the Mormon Temple, the centerpiece of Temple Square, in Salt Lake City.
Mormons around the world are getting this warning Sunday: Stop posthumous baptisms of "unauthorized groups, such as celebrities and Jewish Holocaust victims."

"Our preeminent obligation is to seek out and identify our own ancestors," says a letter to be read in every Mormon congregation. "Those whose names are submitted for proxy [baptisms] should be related to the submitter."

Mormons who continue to embarrass the faith by submitting the names of celebrities and Holocaust victims for the proxy baptism rite will lose access to the Mormon genealogical records, the letter warns. "Other corrective action may also be taken," it says.

The letter is signed by church President Thomas Monson and his two "counselors" in the Mormon First Presidency, the top leadership of the faith.

The warning follows an avalanche of criticism about the Mormon practice of baptizing deceased souls into the faith. In recent weeks, an excommunicated Mormon who continues to do genealogical research in church baptism records has found the names of prominent Jews and Holocaust victims, including Anne Frank and Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter captured and killed by terrorists in Pakistan in 2002.

"We welcome this as an important step," says Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League and a Holocaust survivor.

"Church members should understand why proxy baptisms are so offensive to the Jewish people," Foxman adds, citing "near annihilation during the Holocaust simply because they were Jewish" and "forced conversions throughout history."

Jewish leaders first raised concerns about the practice and the inclusion of Holocaust victims in 1992. Several meetings with Mormon leaders in the two decades since have resulted in promises to remove the names of Holocaust victims from Mormon baptism rolls and to screen baptism lists for those who died in concentration camps.

But some Mormons continued to place the names on baptism lists and conduct proxy baptisms in which the name of the deceased is read aloud while a living proxy is immersed in water.
The controversial practice has even touched the presidential campaign of Republican Mitt Romney, a faithful Mormon. Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel called on Romney to denounce inappropriate baptisms after discovering Wiesel family members had been posthumously baptized.
Romney's campaign referred questions about Wiesel's statement to the Mormon Church.

Mormons believe the ceremony has no effect if the deceased soul rejects it.

Mormon policy, as the letter restates, is to confine the baptisms to ancestors, but as recently as 2009, one of the highest-ranking leaders of the church indicated otherwise.

Quentin Cook is one of the faith's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the group at the top of church leadership. During a tour of a new Mormon Temple in Draper, Utah, Cook described the posthumous baptism practice and belief.

"We concentrate first of all on our ancestors and then for the people in the world at large," Cook told NPR.

In recent weeks, Mormon officials said they had punished at least two followers who had violated Church policy by baptizing prominent Jews who were not among their ancestors. The members involved lost access to the baptism system and a church spokesman said more serious sanctions are possible.

Proxy baptism is a fundamental tenet of the Mormon faith and followers are encouraged to participate. Millions of Mormons have gathered and placed billions of names into church genealogical records. Volunteers travel to Mormon Temples to conduct the baptism ceremony.

Mormons believe the rite offers deceased souls the opportunity for eternal salvation, but Foxman says the Mormon Church should "reconsider all the implications of continuing the practice of posthumous baptism, as it has re-evaluated other of its traditions."


From National Public Radio's Weekend Edition Sunday (click here)

Fox takes on Telemundo and Univision. Development Season in full swing. Lorax rules box office. New Troubles for FOX/NewsCorp. Bruce Springsteen has another "hit" album (out tomorrow).



MundoFox launches this fall
From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for latest entertainment news.

KHWY LA to be Spanish Network Flagship. Fox has struck a deal with Meruelo Group’s KWHY-TV Channel 22 in Los Angeles to be the flagship station for the Spanish-language network it is launching later this fall.

MundoFox, a joint venture between Fox and Columbia broadcaster RCN Television, also unveiled deals with TV stations in more than 10 cities including Miami. It still does not have an outlet in New York City, one of the largest Latino markets, but plans to at some point.

With plans to program 16 hours a day, MundoFox will bet on a mix of telenovelas and teleseries, which are soap opera-type shows aimed at a more male audience.

Overall, MundoFox hopes to differentiate itself from Univision and Telemundo by targeting primarily younger Latino viewers, as opposed to Latinos of all ages.

“We intend to be different in a way that the Fox network was different,” said Hernan Lopez, president and chief executive of Fox International Channels, adding that MundoFox shows will strive to be “edgier and bolder.”

Many of the shows on MundoFox will be imports that air elsewhere around the globe. The network will also carry sports and reality programs.

Although Fox parent News Corp. owns an independent station in Los Angeles, KCOP-TV Channel 13,  that in theory could have been a home for MundoFox, Lopez said the network went with KWHY because it already carries Spanish-language programming and thus is known to that audience.

While the content from MundoFox will cut into hours available for KWHY's own content, KWHY President Xavier Gutierrez said the “vision of the station is to be Los Angeles’ local Spanish-language channel.” The station, which now has two hours of local news during the week and one hour on weekends, wants to expand, Gutierrez said.

The move conforms with an overall media market trend that seeks to capitalize upon the nation’s growing Latino population, now estimated to be more than 50 million. Univision is the dominant player, followed by Telemundo. ESPN, Univision and Fox all have sports channels for Latino viewers as well. Last month Comcast Corp. announced two new cable networks looking to tap the growing market.

Slimfix? Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire and media mogul, wants to build a Netflix-like service there. However, Slim will need government approval before he can enter the streaming business. Details from Bloomberg.

The Skinny:Did you watch Lindsay Lohan on "Saturday Night Live?" Was it just me or did the cameras seem to be pulled really far back in every skit she was in? Monday's headlines include the weekend box office results, new troubles for News Corp. and a look at TV's development season.

The Lorax and Danny DeVito are number one at the box office
 Photo: Danny Devito is the voice of the Lorax. Credit: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images. 

Seeing green. Universal's "The Lorax" took in more than $70 million in its debut weekend, the biggest opening of the year. That figure almost doubles the previous best opening of 2012, the romantic movie "The Vow." Also getting off to a solid start was Warner Bros. R-rated teen comedy "Project X," which took in almost $21 million. Box office recaps from the Los Angeles Times and Movie City News.

Daily Dose:Brian Williams, NBC's news anchor and host of its struggling news magazine "Rock Center," will have Gawker Media chief Nick Denton on the show this Wednesday. Wonder if Williams will bring up his own cozy relationship with Denton and his tendency to email the Web gossip king with his own media observations. That habit that got the anchor in trouble when Denton's Gawker published one in which he ripped singer Lana Del Rey's performance on NBC's "Saturday Night Live."

From Russia with love. The FBI is looking into whether News Corp., when it operated a Russian billboard marketing company, bribed officials to approve its advertisements, according to the Wall Street Journal. The FBI's probe is more bad news for the media giant, which is already battling accusations of bribing officials in Britain in return for scoops for its tabloid newspapers. Though News Corp. no longer owns the Russian unit, if found guilty the company could still get in hot water with lawmakers in the U.S. over violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which says it's a no-no for individuals or corporations doing business in America to bribe foreign officials.

Looking for laughs. The broadcast networks are wrapping up what is known in the industry as "development season," the period in which new scripts are bought and TV pilots are made for the fall. Given the success of sitcoms this season, it's no surprise that the networks are betting heavily on that genre. USA Today says CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox have a combined 46 comedy projects in the work. Meanwhile, here's the latest on who's getting cast in all these pilots from Variety.

Rushing for cover. Several advertisers have pulled out of Rush Limbaugh's radio show after the talk show host mocked a law school student over her views on the White House's push to make health insurance plans cover birth control products. Limbaugh has since apologized for his attack on Sandra Fluke, but critics of his show are continuing to put heat on his sponsors. Coverage from the New York Times and Washington Post.



Sumner Redstone at the Academy Awards
Photo: Viacom Executive Chairman Sumner Redstone at the Academy Awards on Sunday in Hollywood. Credit: Paul Buck / European Pressphoto Agency

Sumner Redstone to attend Viacom Meeting. Viacom Executive Chairman Sumner Redstone has decided he's not too busy to attend his media company's annual shareholders meeting after all.
On Friday, just 24 hours after Viacom said Redstone had an "unavoidable conflict" that would prevent his traveling to New York to preside over next week's meeting, the octogenarian apparently had a change of heart.

"Mr. Redstone very much wanted to attend the Viacom annual meeting. He was able to change his commitment and will participate in person at the meeting," Viacom spokesman Carl Folta said late Friday in a statement.

Folta declined to identify Redstone's now-averted "unavoidable conflict."

Thursday's news of Redstone's planned absence from the shareholders meeting raised questions in the investment community about the aging media mogul's health. The billionaire, who lives in Los Angeles and turns 89 in May, has been limiting his travel in recent years.

Viacom annual meetings typically are sparsely attended affairs, primarily because Redstone owns nearly 80% of the voting stock. But Redstone has not been one to miss the gatherings.
Viacom's widely traded B shares closed Friday at $48.48 a share, down 35 cents. Viacom A shares, which are the preferred voting shares, continue to rise in value above the price of the non-voting shares, in part because some investors anticipate an eventual change in control. Viacom A shares closed Friday at $54.22, down 29 cents.

Redstone, who collected $21 million last year in executive compensation from Viacom, also is the controlling shareholder of CBS.  Last year he attended both the Viacom and CBS annual shareholder meetings.

He appeared with his grandson at the Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood on Sunday. Redstone also plans to partake in the festivities when he receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this month.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Randall Roberts on Bruce Springsteen's new release "Wrecking Ball."
-- Joe Flint
Follow me on Twitter. I won't steer you wrong. Twitter.com/JBFlint



 From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for latest entertainment news.

How to park a car

How did parking garages come into being? Would you believe they were once engineering innovations for the future? NPR's All Things Considered has a story worth listening to.

Mission Quest: Capitalism, America and Las Vegas Mushroom Clouds in a 2 hour Musical

Las Vegas is destroyed again...this time on an off-Broadway New York stage."Mission Drift" is a two hour experimental musical created by a New York theatre collective known as The Theater of the Emerging American Moment or The Team. 

The musical Intertwines the real story of two teenage pioneers in New Amsterdam with the creation and destruction of contemporary Las Vegas. There's the atom bomb, mystic gods and more. Mission Drift attempts to get at the tension between creation and violence:  the love and ambivalence of Americans toward constant expansionism and growth.  
 
For NPR Weekend Edition Sunday coverage and music from the show click here. 

Gossip Girl with Chinese Actors. Zynga launchs new social platform. Ouija back on but at far lower budget.



China is getting its own version of Gossip Girl
Photo: The CW's "Gossip Girl." Credit: Giovanni Rufino/CW. 



From the LA Times Company Town blog. Click here for the latest industry news.

China is about to get gossipy. Warner Bros.' international television unit is teaming up with two Chinese production companies to create a Chinese teen drama series inspired by "Gossip Girl," which airs in the United States on the CW Network. "Gossip Girl," about a group of wealthy back-stabbing Manhattanites, has been a cult hit for the cable channel for the last five years and launched the careers of actresses Blake Lively and Leighton Meester.

Tentatively called "China Girl," the show will be in Mandarin and launch in November on satellite television, with "Gossip Girl" creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage consulting.

Selling reruns of American movies and television shows to Chinese media outlets is commonplace, however creating new versions of American TV series -- particularly comedies and dramas -- is more unusual. There is a Chinese version of "Ugly Betty," which originated in Colombia and later became a hit on ABC here. Typically though, game shows and reality shows from the U.S. are more likely to be remade for China.

"This is a big event," said Martin Pompadur, a partner of Metan Development Group, a consulting firm that is working with Warner Bros. on the new series. Mei Tian Mei Yu, a Chinese sister company of Metan, is one of the producers of "China Girl," as is Chinese-based H&R Century TV.

"Gossip Girl" is a fairly racy show that doesn't shy away from sexual content. One episode famously saw three characters share the same bed. The Chinese government often has a heavy hand when it comes to content and scripts.

The scripts for "China Girl" had to be approved in advance by the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television before production could start.

Among the changes, according to Pompadur, is that unlike the American series that originally focused on high school kids, the characters in the Chinese version will already be in college. The initial production order is for 30 episodes.

For Warner Bros., producing a version of "Gossip Girl" for China is part of its push to boost its production output around the globe. The studio produces versions of its U.S. shows -- including the popular reality series "The Bachelor" -- around the globe as well as licenses the formats to its programs to other producers.

OuijaPhoto: Hasbro's Ouija game. Credit: Los Angeles Times.

Ouija back a Universal, but this time with low budget and no whistles and bells. Seven months after dropping a movie project based on the board game "Ouija" over concerns about its proposed budget of about $150 million, Universal Pictures is again planning to make the picture -- but at a much reduced cost.


The studio on Monday announced it was going to target the film for release in 2013, but did not say when it planned to begin production. People familiar with the matter but not authorized to speak publicly said the new "Ouija," which will be produced by Jason Blum ("Paranormal Activity") and Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes, is expected to be made for less than $10 million.

Last August, Universal executives passed on the previous version of "Ouija," which was to be directed by McG and also produced by Bay. The studio was concerned that a supernatural horror movie with such a big budget would struggle to turn a profit.


At the time, Ouija maker Hasbro, which produces films based on its toys and games, planned to pitch the project as developed by McG to other studios. That effort was apparently unsuccessful, resulting in "Ouija" being reconceived by Universal with a much lower budget. The studio plans to hire a new director as well.


In 2008, Universal signed a much-ballyhooed deal to make at least four films based on seven Hasbro game properties. That agreement was later scrapped and, prior to the news about "Ouija," only one other Hasbro movie remained at the studio: the big-budget navel warfare and alien invasion picture "Battleship," which hits theaters in May.

Blum signed a deal last year to produce low-budget movies for Universal. His first, "Vigiliandia," was produced with Bay's Platinum Dunes and recently wrapped shooting. A second film, directed by Joe Johnston ("The Wolfman," "Jurassic Park III"), begins production this week, and a third, to be produced with former Universal executive Marc Platt, goes in front of the cameras in April.

Zynga.com_Profile Page
 
Screenshot of a sample Zynga.com profile page courtesy of Zynga Inc.

Zynga launches its own social gaming platform. Seeking to expand its footprint beyond Facebook, social gaming juggernaut Zynga Inc. on Thursday unveiled a new website that it hopes will draw players deeper into its virtual playground.

Zynga executives took pains to point out that Zynga.com is not an effort to distance itself from Facebook. In fact, the new site, for example, requires players to log in via their Facebook account. And any purchases players make on Zynga.com goes through Facebook's payment system, where Facebook takes a 30% cut of the transactions.

"We wanted it to be as easy and seamless as possible for players," said John Schappert, Zynga's chief operating officer. "We think it's complementary to Facebook."

The site is launching with five titles -- CastleVille, Words With Friends, CityVille, Hidden Chronicles and Zynga Poker. Players on Zynga.com can "friend" other people without having to share their Facebook profile information. Those connections, called "Z Friends," see only one another's game activity and are able to help one another complete their game quests. Most of Zynga's games require players to get assistance in order to progress. Zynga published a short video demo to illustrate how the site would work.

Zynga had telegraphed its move to create its own platform back in October. At the time, the effort was called "Project Z," and the company revealed few details on its plans.

The relationship between Zynga and Facebook is symbiotic -- for now. Though the social network commands an audience of more than 850 million active members, it relied on Zynga for 12% of its revenue last year, according to documents Facebook filed in conjunction with its initial public offering.
And though Zynga gets the bulk of its traffic, and revenue, from players on Facebook, the San Francisco company clearly has ambitions beyond the social network.

"Our goal is to connect the world through play and to eventually have 1 billion people play," Schappert said.

The company currently counts 240 million active monthly players.

Zynga.com is but a piece of a larger strategy to reach players wherever they happen to be, on mobile devices and online -- not just on Facebook. The company recently disclosed in its first publicly reported quarterly earnings that it spent half a billion dollars last year building out its computer infrastructure, which it dubbed the Z Cloud, to support its expansion.

Zynga.com also lets the company publish games created by other developers. Among the list of third-party developers hopping on to the Zynga platform are Mobscience, an independent social game developer in San Diego whose titles include Infamous Anarchy, MagicMall and Seapets, and Row Sham Bow, the Orlando, Fla., developer of Woodland Heroes.


Having a presence outside of Facebook could give Zynga more freedom to pursue initatives such as online gambling without having to navigate through Facebook's approval process. Zynga officials have publicly expressed an interest in online gambling, but acknowledged that it could be quite some time before state and federal regulators and courts sort out the legalities of the business.

From the LA Times Company Town blog. Click here for the latest industry news.

Listening to others


MIKE PNIEWSKI “Effective listening inspires great teamwork. Great teamwork breeds great success. Don’t be so single-minded with your ideas that you don’t hear the message of others. Real change only comes when you allow it to happen. Really listen to what others say and allow yourself to be changed for the better.” 
Mike Pniewski, from “When Life Gives You Lemons, Throw ‘Em Back!”

INFLUENCING RIGHT AND WRONG?


B
ehaving ethically is learned. When we’re children, we do what we feel we must to get the things we need and want. As we grow, our daily interaction with family, friends, instructors and classmates teaches us that our actions have repercussions and the interests of those around us and society at large must also be taken into account. We develop a moral compass.
But in an increasingly competitive world with such great emphasis on results—whether for a financial report or an essay paper—the benefits of taking the wrong path can sometimes be hard to ignore. The digital revolution has further complicated matters. With information so easily accessible on the Internet, incidents of plagiarism and other unethical behavior are on the rise at colleges and universities. These are the places where students are expected to become prepared to do the right thing in the professional world, but rampant misdeeds in classrooms and boardrooms indicate that far more needs to be done. So how can faculty take matters into their hands and reverse this troubling trend?

Right, wrong and gray

Broadly defined, ethics are understood to be the moral principles that shape a society’s rules of conduct. But societal structures in a bottom-line world can complicate an individual’s value system. Susan R. Madsen, Ed.D., a Professor of Management in the Woodbury School of Business and the Orin R. Woodbury Professor of Leadership and Ethics at Utah Valley University, has seen some of her MBA students wrestle with ethical concepts.
“A few students have strongly argued that ethical behavior means doing everything for the company that employs them—to be ‘ethical’ to the company instead of to themselves as people with integrity and ethics,” she says.
Steven Ouellette, an instructor at the University of Colorado Engineering Management program, writes of such scenarios in his 2009 article “Morals? Ethics? The Law?” in the online publication Quality Digest. He proposes a dilemma in which an employee is aware his or her company has consciously sold a defective, potentially harmful product to a customer.
While some of Madsen’s students might argue that the employee’s loyalty to their company should trump any urge to warn the customer, Ouellette writes that informing the customer is the ethical course of action.

Socially acceptable?

“Often there aren’t clear cut right and wrong answers,” Madsen says. “But sometimes I push back at my MBAs and say that sometimes it really is black-and-white. There are some things people do that may not be illegal, but they’re just not right, and when you know the majority of the population would say ‘That’s not right,’ you shouldn’t try to justify it.”
Understandably, students today might feel disconnected from a strict ethical code. They need only look at the actions of leading business and political figures, including executives at Enron Corporation, Ponzi scheme operator Bernie Madoff and impeached Governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich. And let’s not forget celebrities like Kim Kardashian, a woman guesstimated to have raked in $18 million for a 72-day marriage many say was all for the cameras.

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