The verdict is in: The red M&M is not a bully. In case you weren’t aware of the controversy, Australia’s Advertising Standards Bureau has been looking into it for the past two months. Viewers had complained that said candy character’s treatment of his colleagues in TV commercials promoted bullying among children, but the bureau ruled that the ads were merely humorous. Back in this hemisphere, New Hampshire’s House rejected a bill this week that would’ve made bullying among state lawmakers illegal, punishable by a $2,500 civil fine. Rep. Susan Emerson had filed the bill in response to a confrontation with the House speaker last year. “If he was one of my sons, I would have washed his mouth out with jalapeno peppers, you bet,” Emerson said. Well. Both episodes remind us that attempts to stop bullying, a valid concern, can get a little out of hand.
AP File Photo
Anthony Shadid never shied from a dangerous assignment, indeed he felt compelled to report to the rest of the world what he was seeing in places such as Baghdad or Libya or Ramallah. That nearly cost him his life a few times — Shadid was wounded in 2002 in Ramallah while working for The Boston Globe, and last year he was among four New York Times journalists held captive for several days in Libya while covering clashes between the government and rebels. This week an asthma attack claimed Shadid, 43, in Syria where he was reporting about the uprising against its president. An Oklahoma City native, Shadid twice won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting. John Daniszewski, senior managing editor of The Associated Press, worked with Shadid in Baghdad during the U.S. invasion in 2003. “He was … the most admired of his generation of foreign correspondents,” Daniszewski said. Shadid’s father, Buddy, said his son “died doing what he wanted to do. He lived and breathed journalism.” Anthony Shadid will be sorely missed.
The incident didn’t generate the media coverage that Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” earned at the Super Bowl in 2004, but rapper M.I.A. flipping off the camera during Madonna’s Super Bowl performance Sunday night is another indication that the halftime show is hardly family friendly. M.I.A. stomped her foot on a pedestal before she sang “I don’t give a s—” and gave the middle finger to the camera. NBC attempted to blur the obscene gesture, but was a millisecond too late. M.I.A. reportedly could be fined if the FCC decides to punish the network, but that’s unlikely. CBS was fined $550,000 for Jackson’s bare breast incident, but the verdict was overturned by an appeals court. The Parents Television Council noted that NBC and the NFL shouldn’t have been surprised by the gesture after hiring a lineup “full of performers who have based their careers on shock, profanity and titillation.” Perhaps the host network each year needs to run a disclaimer warning viewers that the halftime show is for mature audiences.
TV ratings continue to shrink for the Republican presidential debates. Is that any surprise? Nineteen, count them 19, debates have been staged so far, not including informal candidate forums. How many more of these Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney verbal showdowns can viewers stand? After peaking at 7.6 million viewers for a debate Dec. 10 on ABC, audiences mostly have been on the decline. The Jan. 26 debate from Jacksonville, Fla., reached 5.4 million viewers on CNN. However, the network isn’t complaining. That’s well above its 735,000 daily average. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, is among those who want to see the debates end. He said they have turned into mud-wrestling contests and are driving up negative impressions of the party’s candidates. Fortunately, viewers will get a break this month. The next debate isn’t scheduled until Feb. 22 from Mesa, Ariz.
Budweiser’s Clydesdales, Coca-Cola’s polar bears and CareerBuilder.com’s chimpanzees have all achieved fame through Super Bowl commercials. If Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo were in charge of casting, however, the suit-and-tie-clad chimps would be in danger of losing their starring role. The zoo is campaigning to stop CareerBuilder from airing its scheduled commercial Sunday, claiming that the anthropomorphized portrayal of the endangered species will make viewers less concerned about wildlife conservation. The company has been featuring chimps in Super Bowl ads since 2005, but a new Duke University study has added fuel to the critics’ fire. The study’s leader, assistant professor of evolutionary anthropology Brian Hare, is especially worried that Africans will be misled and attempt to capture and sell the wild primates to Westerners as pets. We’ll go out on a limb and say that television viewers around the world are highly evolved enough to recognize the entertainment value of a commercial without going bananas, unlike the researchers.
It’s “Sesame Street” meets the unseemly side of politics. With cameras barred from a high-profile corruption trial, a Cleveland, Ohio, television station has puppets acting out the steamy testimony about hookers, gambling and sexually transmitted diseases. In one scene, a furry hand stuffs cash down the shirt of a puppet prostitute. WOIO news director Dan Salamone brought up the idea of using the puppets to lampoon the trial and give a glimpse of what’s happening in the federal courtroom. Because cameras aren’t allowed, other stations have relied on artist sketches of the proceedings and videos of longtime Democratic power broker Jimmy Dimora walking into court. The puppets are in addition to the station’s regular coverage of Dimora’s trial. Although some people have criticized the station for blurring the lines between news and entertainment, Salamone defended the segments, saying it’s no different from when newscasts end with a lighter, humorous story. Oklahoma has its own share of trials that easily could be lampooned similarly.
You may have missed it Friday, but the Republican National Committee replaced Chairman Michael Steele with Reince Priebus, the former chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party. National GOPers are banking on Priebus to erase the party’s $22 million debt while simultaneously revving up the fundraising machinery for the 2012 election cycle — when political history’s most prodigious fund raiser, President Obama, will be leading the charge for Democrats. Some estimate Republicans will need to raise $400 million the next two years if they hope to retake the Senate and defeat Obama. That’s a lot of cabbage. Steele fell out of favor primarily because of fundraising problems, the national committee’s spending priorities and uncertain leadership with the rise of the Tea Party movement. One of Priebus’ challenges will be managing cooperation between the ideological cousins while restoring confidence in the GOP among some of its biggest donors. Priebus comes to the job having managed a Republican resurgence in the Badger State that toppled incumbent Democrat Sen. Russ Feingold and reclaimed the governor’s mansion last fall.
Interesting thought from U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., concerning the State of the Union speech on Jan. 25. Instead of having Republicans sit on one side of the House chamber and Democrats on the other as they traditionally do, why not mix everyone up in a spirit of bipartisanship? Udall says he hopes such a seating arrangement will “begin to rekindle the common spark that brought us here from 50 different states and widely diverging backgrounds to serve the public good.” Sure, and they could start each day in Congress by singing “Kumbaya.” OK, that’s a little harsh. Udall’s suggestion certainly couldn’t hurt anything. Maybe if South Carolina Republican Joe Wilson were seated among a bunch of Democrats he wouldn’t blurt out “You lie!” while Obama is speaking, like he did during a 2009 address. Maybe a different seating chart really would foster greater cooperation. Maybe … nah!
Is it really news when a big-name politician takes a prat fall — on stairs, boarding planes, etc.? Think about it: What is the “news” in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stumbling as she boarded her plane in Yemen the other day? That she’s clumsy, perhaps clumsier than the average person? Please. London’s Daily Mail newspaper had a full report on Hillary’s trip (har!), with several photographs — and, of course, video. Yep, Hillary ended up on her knees alright. So what? Most people can’t fathom how many flights the secretary takes, and most of the time she boards them using the old-fashioned mobile staircase instead of the passenger-friendly jet ways most people use — for the obligatory photo of her smiling and waving. Or in Yemen, stumbling. Hillary will have to be more careful. Back in the 1970s, President Ford had a run of missteps, caught on cameras, that fed into a media-driven perception that Ford was a klutz. No matter that Ford, a former University of Michigan football player, actually was well-coordinated. A few more false steps from Hillary and she’ll be peppered with cracks like the one from someone in Texas, logged into the Mail’s comments section: “She probably tripped over her ego.” Hilarious.
Timing is everything, even in death. The children of Elizabeth Edwards will pay no estate tax on the wealth their mother left them after succumbing to cancer Dec. 7, and they have Republicans to thank. The GOP was mostly responsible for getting the federal estate or death tax phased out as part of the Bush tax-cut package. For 2010 the death tax rate was zero. Because of when Edwards passed away, the $1.5 million estate she left Cate, Emma Claire and Jack won’t be subject to the death tax. According to the Raleigh News & Observer, Edwards likely has other assets in a trust for her children. No mention of estranged husband John in her will, to no one’s surprise — except maybe his.