Wednesday, August 01, 2007

ABC GOP 2008 Presidential Candidates Debate: ABC Has Just 27 Videos!

The CNN / YouTube Democratic Debate was a rousing success, with nearly 3,000 video submissions. None of this could have happened without a partnership with YouTube and the marketing of the event by CNN.

Supposedly not to be outdone, ABC's trying a simular effort and it's not going well. ABC to date and by my count on their website called i-CAUGHT, has just 27 videos uploaded in their system, and some of them are videos from the YouTube contest.

Americans Believe Other Americans Are Racist; Gay President OK, Muslims Terrorists, Republicans Warmongers - Zogby Poll

This is from the Zogby website, which you can visit with a click on the title of this post. It's their report card on prejudice and it's eye-opening. If racism's a mental illness, then it's the number one mental illness problem in America.

Report Card on Prejudice in America

New Zogby/GSN Survey Reveals That:

A Racist Lives Next Door - Most Americans believe they don’t make decisions based on race…but think their neighbors do
A gay President is OK, but most Americans wouldn’t sanction his or her marriage
They also think most Americans believe:

Republicans are most responsible for many of the world’s ills
Muslims are most likely to engage in terrorism
People least want to work with the morbidly obese

Most Americans believe their fellow citizens hold strong biases against minorities, according to a landmark poll by Zogby International commissioned by GSN. The survey of 10,387 American adults, one of the most comprehensive ever conducted on prejudice, according to Zogby, explores attitudes about race, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender, physical appearance, and politics. The poll’s margin of error is +/– 1 percentage point.

The “Report Card on American Prejudice” is part of a wide-ranging effort by GSN to spur a national dialogue on intolerance and bigotry. The survey’s release provides a powerful follow-up to the July 17th premiere of the groundbreaking new television series, “Without Prejudice?” – which airs Tuesdays at 9 pm (EST) on GSN.

On Race: While 67% of respondents claimed to have no preference themselves between a white, black or Arab clerk in a convenience store, 71% said, “most Americans” would seek out the white clerk. Just 1% said Americans’ first choice would be to approach a black clerk, while less than 0.5% said the same for an Arab clerk. And yet, ironically, 55% of respondents said race relations have improved over the past 10 years. Other results on race (where respondents picked from among several races):
73% said in the event of a shooting, most Americans would expect African Americans to be involved
55% said in the event of a drug bust, most Americans would expect African Americans to be involved
53% said in the event of identity theft; most Americans would expect whites to be involved
70% said in the event of insurance fraud, most Americans would expect whites to be involved
On Political Affiliation: When asked which political party most Americans believe to be responsible for many of the gravest problems facing the world:
War: 62% blamed Republicans vs. 14% Democrats
Global Warming: 56% blamed Republicans vs. 10% Democrats
Prejudice: 52% blamed Republicans vs. 22% for Democrats
Poverty: 49% held Republicans accountable; 29% Democrats
Corruption: 47% blamed Republicans vs. 31% Democrats
Crime: On this issue, respondents reversed the trend, with 42% blaming Democrats vs. 23% Republicans
On Religion: By a wide margin, respondents believe Americans think Muslims are the most likely to engage in terrorism (83%). Moreover, 42% believe Americans would be most concerned about their child dating a Muslim; followed by an atheist (17%), and a Mormon (14%).In addition:
37% believe Americans think Catholics are most likely to be involved in sexual abuse – far more than any other religious group
The poll turned up relatively few instances of Americans believing their neighbors have negative views toward Jews
On Sexual Orientation & Gender: 62% said they believe Americans oppose same-sex marriages. Yet 58% would elect a gay person for President – about the same as for an Arab-American (57%), and more than for a person over age 70 (51%), or for an atheist (51%). On gender, 93% think Americans believe men are most responsible for crime, extra-marital affairs (82%), and sexually transmitted diseases (72%).
On Disability: When asked to choose whom they believe most Americans would least want to work with, 26% of respondents said someone who is morbidly obese. Twenty-two percent said someone with a facial disfigurement. Respondents thought Americans would object much less to deaf (3%) and blind (1%) co-workers.
Pollster John Zogby said, “Over my years of polling, I’ve learned that Americans tend to offer socially acceptable responses when questioned on their own views about race and prejudice. That’s why in this poll we predominantly asked people about “most Americans’” views on race and prejudice. We believe this provides a far more accurate window into how people really think about these issues. Americans are more forthcoming when discussing the problem in the context of their neighbors’ lives than in the context of their own lives.”

Dena Kaplan, GSN’s Sr. Vice President for Marketing, said, “Our network is proud to sponsor the Without Prejudice Project. This pioneering effort – which includes the poll, partnering with leading advocacy groups, and the broadcast of our new game show, ’Without Prejudice?’ – will help provoke a constructive national conversation about our inner-most feelings toward race, religion and other issues that define the way we, as Americans, treat one another.”

Rupert Murdoch Wins His Bid for Dow Jones-WSJ - Wall Street Journal Now His

WSJ staff should thank Murdoch for saving what was becoming a stale publication.

Murdoch Wins His Bid for Dow Jones
Bancroft Family Agrees
To $5 Billion Offer
After Deal on Fees


August 1, 2007 12:13 p.m.
A century of Bancroft-family ownership at Dow Jones & Co. is over.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. sealed a $5 billion agreement to purchase the publisher of The Wall Street Journal after three months of drama in the controlling family and public debate about journalistic values.

One of the oldest and best-known franchises in the newspaper industry, beset in recent years by business pressures, now enters a new era as part of a world-wide media conglomerate. The 76-year-old Mr. Murdoch, whose properties range from the Fox television network to the Times of London, negotiated hard to win the paper he long coveted. He has promised to invest more in Dow Jones journalism.

The Bancrofts worried about protecting the reputation of the Journal, the nation's second-largest newspaper. They feared Mr. Murdoch would meddle in the paper's editorial affairs and import the brand of sensationalist journalism found in some of his properties such as the New York Post. Some Bancrofts sought other buyers.

But ultimately, Mr. Murdoch's $60-a-share bid -- a 67% premium above Dow Jones's share price when it became public -- was the only serious offer on the table. Key family members, spurred by Dow Jones's board and advisers, decided they had no choice.

"On the one hand it is quite sad, but on the other it was the only reasonable thing to do," said Elisabeth Goth Chelberg, a Bancroft family member who unsuccessfully tried a decade ago to get the family more involved in management. "Now I look forward to a better Dow Jones. It's going to have more money and a world presence and all of the things that it could have and should have had but didn't."

Opponents of the deal called it a dark day for journalism. Leslie Hill, a family member who opposed the deal, resigned as a Dow Jones director late Tuesday afternoon. In a letter to the board, she conceded the deal was a good one in financial terms, but said it failed to outweigh "the loss of an independent global news organization with unmatched credibility and integrity."

In an increasingly pinched landscape for newspaper companies, the alternative to selling was a future fraught with risk -- in particular, that deep cost cuts would be needed to prop up the stock price and make up for dwindling advertising.

For every person who argued that the News Corp. takeover threatens Dow Jones's reputation for quality, someone else insisted that Mr. Murdoch's deep pockets and strategic know-how could turn around its prospects. Mr. Murdoch said Tuesday in an interview that he might add four pages of news a day to the Journal.

Family's Attention

"The money got [the family's] attention and enforced their consideration of reality," said Peter Kreisky, a media consultant. "It focused the minds of the family and the board on how difficult it would be to maintain the newspaper in the long term as an independent entity."

The company's offer received support from Bancroft family members holding about 37% of Dow Jones's voting power, more than half of the family's total voting stake of 64.2%. When added to the 29% of Dow Jones's voting stock held by public shareholders -- most of which is expected to go in News Corp.'s favor -- that support gives Mr. Murdoch enough to win a full shareholder vote comfortably. The vote is likely to be held later this year.

News Corp.'s board signed off on the deal at a brief late-afternoon meeting. After the approval, top executives and advisers broke out glasses for a toast. They were served an Australian Shiraz.

The Bancroft family has controlled Dow Jones since 1902. While Dow Jones accounts for less than half the family's fortune of roughly $2.5 billion, the company had long been the Bancrofts' source of pride and prestige. Dow Jones was also the main glue holding together the family, which today consists of nearly three dozen adult members scattered across the globe. Some deliberated on the offer from vacation destinations around the world, including China, Spain, the Austrian Alps and waters off the coast of Corsica.

Their bonds were tested during the debate over the deal. Cousins and siblings were pitted against one another. Parents fought their children.

In the days leading up to the deal, the stress was severe. Just hours before a Monday deadline for the family to vote on the transaction, William Cox Jr., the only living Bancroft who spent his entire career at the company, went into a diabetic shock. He was briefly admitted to a hospital in Massachusetts, where he summers on Nantucket, before returning home, according to relatives.

The final vote tally followed a last-minute scramble by Dow Jones's board and the family's advisers to win over holdouts. Most of the family's shares are held in a series of trusts. News Corp. had won support from shareholders owning only about 25% of voting power by Monday afternoon, shortly before a deadline for votes set by the family's adviser. That crept up to 28% by Monday evening and then topped 30% Tuesday morning, as a collection of small trusts threw their support behind the deal.

M. Peter McPherson, Dow Jones's nonexecutive chairman, personally called resistant family trustees in Boston and Denver to remind them of the risks they were taking in opposing the deal, according a person who was briefed on the calls.

The shareholder making a decisive swing was a group of Bancroft family trusts overseen by a Denver law firm holding 9.1% of Dow Jones's voting shares. The firm, Holme Roberts & Owen, had been holding out for a higher offer from News Corp. -- a request repeatedly rejected by Mr. Murdoch. The Denver trusts pushed other Bancroft family trusts to hold out for more money, at least for the holders of Class B supervoting shares. These shares, which have 10 times the voting power of Class A shares, are mostly held by the Bancrofts. But when some Boston-based trusts consented to a News Corp. deal late Monday, the Denver trustees lost much of their bargaining power.

Dow Jones's board had rejected the request for a higher price for Class B shareholders. Instead, what emerged from the talks was a deal under which Dow Jones agreed to pay the family's legal and banking bills. News Corp. will assume these liabilities when it buys Dow Jones. The family's fees, to be paid to firms including Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and the law firms Hemenway & Barnes and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, could total at least $30 million, according to people familiar with the situation. That figure doesn't include fees incurred by the Dow Jones board, which had its own advisers.

The payment serves as a modest sweetener for the Bancrofts. When spread out over the family's 16.5 million Class B shares, the $30 million equals an additional $1.81 a share, a roughly 3% increase for the family. Family members would otherwise have had to bear these fees out of their own pockets, effectively bringing their take below $60 a share.

James H. Ottaway, whose family controls 7% of Dow Jones's voting power, called the fees "outrageous." In a statement, the outspoken opponent of a News Corp. deal said: "It is ironic indeed for the Bancroft family to have to pay 30 shekels of silver to their investment bankers, and 30 shekels of gold to their corporate lawyers, for scaring some of them into betraying their 105-year family loyalty to Dow Jones independence." (See full statement.)

Division of the spoils among the advisers promises to create another fight. Merrill Lynch is expecting to receive an $18.5 million fee, according to a person familiar with its plans. Wachtell Lipton's hoped-for fee is expected to be somewhere near $10 million, said one family member, with a host of other fees for a group of lawyers and bankers advising various Bancroft branches.

Christopher Bancroft, one of the most outspoken family opponents of a deal, said that his fiduciary responsibilities required him to vote against any deal not in the best interests of the family and the company. He has called the offer a bad deal for Dow Jones, arguing it undervalues the company's potential. "As a trustee, I could not roll over," he said. Mr. Bancroft, a Dow Jones board member, didn't attend the board meeting to approve the deal.

In an effort to sweeten his victory, Mr. Murdoch telephoned Mr. Bancroft, according to people familiar with the matter. During the call, Mr. Bancroft agreed to abstain from voting on the family's biggest trust -- the so-called Article 3 trust with 13.2% voting power -- in return for written assurance that News Corp. would pay for all family expenses, including personal attorney fees for Mr. Bancroft and other family members. But Dow Jones's board later refused to endorse the proposal, and it appeared that trust rules wouldn't allow him to abstain.

Delicate Situation

Mr. Bancroft's cousin, Jane Cox MacElree, who also opposed the deal, faced a delicate situation because she was a trustee of some trusts whose beneficiaries favored the deal. Ms. MacElree ended up resigning from some trusts -- deferring to her relatives and shielding herself against potential liability -- while voting the Class B shares she owned against the deal.

Some on Wall Street were surprised that the family wasn't able to squeeze out a higher bid from Mr. Murdoch. By the rituals of Wall Street deal making, a buyer's first offer is almost never the final price agreed to in a transaction -- although Mr. Murdoch's first offer in this case represented an unusually generous premium.

Mr. Murdoch was able to hold his ground because he faced no serious rival -- although some of the nation's largest corporations and wealthiest men took a look over the past three months. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett and Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates were approached by a family representative to gauge their interest. Both declined to bid.

Several big companies tried to join together to meet the $60 bid, including General Electric Co., which at various points attempted to form a group with Microsoft, IAC/InterActiveCorp's Barry Diller, and Pearson PLC, owner of the Financial Times. Pearson weighed a separate plan, under which it would have contributed the Financial Times to Dow Jones in exchange for stock, according to a person familiar with the situation. But none of these arrangements got off the ground.

Nor did efforts by the union that represents some of Dow Jones's employees to join forces with a California supermarket magnate get much traction. Internet entrepreneur Brad Greenspan tried to put together investors, but fell short of making an offer for the whole company.

WSJ's Dennis Berman comments on whether the Journal's credibility can be maintained, and how the Bancroft family got caught up in the Wall Street deal machine.
Even some who had initially declared firm opposition to the bid softened over time. On the weekend of July 21-22, Bancroft family member Martha Robes hosted former Dow Jones chairman and CEO Peter R. Kann and his family at her house in Maine to celebrate Mr. Kann's retirement. At the gathering, Ms. Robes and her family gave Mr. Kann a handmade green wooden rowboat named "Joy" and a puzzle that depicts various aspects of his life, including a newspaper, a typewriter and a golf cart, according to people familiar with the matter. (Mr. Kann famously crashed a golf cart at a Dow Jones retreat years ago.)

At the gathering, these people say, Mr. Kann, who had been a long-time champion of Dow Jones's independence, told attendees that given the family's divisions, he could see the arguments for a deal with Mr. Murdoch. Some family members saw his comments as permission to vote for the deal, these people said.

Other family members exchanged impassioned views by email and phone about missed opportunities and the family's shortcomings. One supporter of a deal, Crawford Hill, told his relatives in a nearly 4,000-word email that it was time for "reality check."

In a statement early Wednesday, Dow Jones said it expects the deal to close in the fourth quarter, but didn't give a date for the shareholder vote. Mr. Murdoch's advisers suggest shareholder approval is a fait accompli. With family members contributing about 37% voting power to support the deal, News Corp. must still win over the remaining shareholders, who control 29% of Dow Jones's voting power.

News Corp. anticipates that about 80% of these shareholders will vote for the deal, meaning another 23% in support of the transaction -- or about 60% approval overall.

That leaves a slim opportunity for the remaining shareholders to threaten to withhold support with hopes of getting a higher price, as happened in recent takeover fights at Clear Channel Communications Inc. That could be why the company sought a greater margin of support from the family as the process entered its last days.

News Corp. will need to get regulatory approval for the deal, although Mr. Murdoch has said he doesn't expect that to be an issue. Assuming the deal is approved, closing could take place by the end of the year.

The deal raises questions about the future of some senior Dow Jones executives, including Chief Executive Richard Zannino. Once Dow Jones becomes a subsidiary of News Corp., Mr. Zannino may eventually move on.

Severance Packages

Some top executives may be eligible for big severance packages once the sale is completed. Dow Jones implemented change-in-control provisions for more than 100 top managers in early June, a month after the bid was made. Mr. Zannino stands to receive some $19 million if he loses his job or has his duties cut after a change in control.

Mr. Murdoch has argued that The Wall Street Journal will be able to take advantage of News Corp. synergies to gain ground in Europe and Asia, take on national rivals in political coverage.

While he has been vilified for years in the media over issues ranging from union-busting to sensationalist journalism, he has always showed a thick skin, secure in his belief that his critics are antibusiness elitists. Still, the drama preceding the sale of Dow Jones exposed him to unprecedented scrutiny and often harsh criticism.

Now Mr. Murdoch must persuade some factions of Dow Jones's newsrooms, and outside critics, that he will act responsibly as he weighs changes to the Journal and other Dow Jones publications.

In letter to readers, Journal Publisher L. Gordon Crovitz wrote, "The same standards of accuracy, fairness and authority will apply to this publication, regardless of ownership."

News Corp. agreed as part of the deal to invite one Bancroft family representative onto its board of directors and to create a committee to protect Dow Jones's journalistic independence. The committee members are slated to be Louis D. Boccardi, retired CEO of the Associated Press; Nicholas Negroponte, co-founder of Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab; Jack Fuller, former president of Tribune Publishing; Jennifer Blackburn Dunn, a former congresswoman from Washington state; and Thomas Bray, the former editorial-page editor of the Detroit News and a writer for Mr. Bray will be chairman.

--Dennis K. Berman, Susan Warren and Susan Pulliam contributed to this article.

Taliban Kill Second Korean Hostage Shim Sung Min

I placed this as a reminder that other countries face the same problems as the US with respect to terrorism. In this case, it's Korea. Regardless of the country, the story of innocent lives being impacted is the same.

Taliban Kill Second Korean Hostage

Taliban killed another Korean hostage in Afghanistan after the latest deadline for negotiations expired on Monday. Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, a purported spokesman for the Taliban, told the Chosun Ilbo, AFP and AP by phone, “'Finally tonight at 8:30, we killed one of the Koreans named Sung Sim with AK-47 gunshots.” He claimed the armed group also killed one German hostage.

The victim is presumed to be Shim Sung-min. The body of the hostage had been dumped in the Qarabagh district of the southern province of Ghazni, Ahmadi said. Shim is the second Korean killed by the militants after the Rev. Bae Hyung-kyu, who died last Wednesday. Shim recently quit his job and was preparing to go to an agricultural graduate school. He had told Japanese broadcaster NHK by phone on Sunday that he was with three hostages but did not know where.

Prior to the killing, the militants extended the deadline by four hours, saying that the Taliban leadership council, the group’s supreme decision-making body, would then decide on the fate of the hostages unless the Afghan government free Taliban prisoners in exchange for the Korean captives.

Fifty minutes after the initial deadline passed, a man who claimed to be a Taliban commander told the Afghan Islamic Express by phone that negotiations had failed completely and they would shortly kill Korean hostages. Ahmadi had earlier told AP, “It might be a man or a woman...We may kill one, we may kill two, we may kill one of each (gender), two of each, four of each,” unless Taliban prisoners were released.

Arabic news channel Al Jazeera reported that Afghan and U.S. forces were gathering near a highway where the Koreans were kidnapped.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai is to meet U.S. President George W. Bush at the presidential retreat Camp David on Aug. 5 and 6.

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