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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Giving up my iPod for a Walkman
When the Sony Walkman was launched, 30 years ago this week, it started a revolution in portable music. But how does it compare with its digital successors? The Magazine invited 13-year-old Scott Campbell to swap his iPod for a Walkman for a week.
BBC News Magazine

My dad had told me it was the iPod of its day.

He had told me it was big, but I hadn't realised he meant THAT big. It was the size of a small book.

When I saw it for the first time, its colour also struck me. Nowadays gadgets come in a rainbow of colours but this was only one shade - a bland grey.

Walkman v iPod: Scott's verdict

So it's not exactly the most aesthetically pleasing choice of music player. If I was browsing in a shop maybe I would have chosen something else.

From a practical point of view, the Walkman is rather cumbersome, and it is certainly not pocket-sized, unless you have large pockets. It comes with a handy belt clip screwed on to the back, yet the weight of the unit is enough to haul down a low-slung pair of combats.

When I wore it walking down the street or going into shops, I got strange looks, a mixture of surprise and curiosity, that made me a little embarrassed.

As I boarded the school bus, where I live in Aberdeenshire, I was greeted with laughter. One boy said: "No-one uses them any more." Another said: "Groovy." Yet another one quipped: "That would be hard to lose."

My friends couldn't imagine their parents using this monstrous box, but there was interest in what the thing was and how it worked.

In some classes in school they let me listen to music and one teacher recognised it and got nostalgic.

It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape. That was not the only naive mistake that I made; I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equaliser, but later I discovered that it was in fact used to switch between two different types of cassette.

I managed to create an impromptu shuffle feature simply by holding down 'rewind' and releasing it randomly

Another notable feature that the iPod has and the Walkman doesn't is "shuffle", where the player selects random tracks to play. Its a function that, on the face of it, the Walkman lacks. But I managed to create an impromptu shuffle feature simply by holding down "rewind" and releasing it randomly - effective, if a little laboured.

I told my dad about my clever idea. His words of warning brought home the difference between the portable music players of today, which don't have moving parts, and the mechanical playback of old. In his words, "Walkmans eat tapes". So my clumsy clicking could have ended up ruining my favourite tape, leaving me music-less for the rest of the day.

Digital relief

Throughout my week using the Walkman, I came to realise that I have very little knowledge of technology from the past. I made a number of naive mistakes, but I also learned a lot about the grandfather of the MP3 Player.

You can almost imagine the excitement about the Walkman coming out 30 years ago, as it was the newest piece of technology at the time.

Scott Campbell and mum Susan
The Walkman was a nostalgic sight for Scott's parents

Perhaps that kind of anticipation and excitement has been somewhat lost in the flood of new products which now hit our shelves on a regular basis.

Personally, I'm relieved I live in the digital age, with bigger choice, more functions and smaller devices. I'm relieved that the majority of technological advancement happened before I was born, as I can't imagine having to use such basic equipment every day.

Having said all that, portable music is better than no music.

Now, for technically curious readers, I've directly compared the portable cassette player with its latter-day successor. Here are the main cons, and even a pro, I found with this piece of antique technology.


This is the function that matters most. To make the music play, you push the large play button. It engages with a satisfying clunk, unlike the finger tip tap for the iPod.

When playing, it is clearly evident that the music sounds significantly different than when played on an MP3 player, mainly because of the hissy backtrack and odd warbly noises on the Walkman.

The warbling is probably because of the horrifically short battery life; it is nearly completely dead within three hours of firing it up. Not long after the music warbled into life, it abruptly ended.


With the plethora of MP3 players available on the market nowadays, each boasting bigger and better features than its predecessor, it is hard to imagine the prospect of purchasing and using a bulky cassette player instead of a digital device.

Music on the move

Furthermore, there were a number of buttons protruding from the top and sides of this device to provide functions such as "rewinding" and "fast-forwarding" (remember those?), which added even more bulk.

As well as this, the need for changing tapes is bothersome in itself. The tapes which I had could only hold around 12 tracks each, a fraction of the capacity of the smallest iPod.

Did my dad, Alan, really ever think this was a credible piece of technology?

"I remembered it fondly as a way to enjoy what music I liked, where I liked," he said. "But when I see it now, I wonder how I carried it!"


But it's not all a one-way street when you line up a Walkman against an iPod. The Walkman actually has two headphone sockets, labelled A and B, meaning the little music that I have, I can share with friends. To plug two pairs of headphones in to an iPod, you have to buy a special adapter.

Another useful feature is the power socket on the side, so that you can plug the Walkman into the wall when you're not on the move. But given the dreadful battery life, I guess this was an outright necessity rather than an extra function.

* Scott Campbell co-edits his own news website, Net News Daily.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Are theatregoers becoming more disruptive?
Are theatregoers becoming more disruptive, as one writer has suggested? Not really, our embattled thespians have had a lot to endure over the centuries
By Benedict Nightingale

A captivated audience watches a performance of the pantomime from the elaborately decorated stalls at the Hackney Empire Theatre. It is a popular community theatre with a rich architectural heritage.

An odd thing happened at the National Theatre last week. It was the opening night of Racine’s tragedy Phédre and Helen Mirren, as the title character, was giving a powerful performance. She spoke (and I quote) of terror, delirium, the agonies of craving, the horror of guilt, impossible pain, bottomless degradation, self-loathing, despair and, worst, the discovery that the stepson she incestuously adored was in love with another. And what was the impact on a section of the audience? It came out with what sounded like canned laughter from a dopey sitcom.

I blinked. My wife looked at me in disbelief. Somehow Mirren kept her emotional focus, but she must have wondered what she had to do to be really funny. Disembowel herself, perhaps. There are punters who would roll in the aisles when King Lear carried in the dead Cordelia.

Imagine that you were the Lord High Executioner in The Mikado and had a little list for people who wouldn’t be missed. Mine, like his, would include people with “irritating laughs”. But the theatre offers plenty of other candidates. Chatterers who think that they’re watching telly at home. Mobile phone pests. Fidgety schoolchildren. Late arrivals who unapologetically shove past, squashing your toes. People who think that taking the paper off their sweets very slowly makes less noise. Couples who fondle in the stalls and, occasionally, have sex in the boxes.

Also, a sound we can expect to hear a lot this autumn, especially if the flu pandemic has a bronchial aftermath. Harold Pinter once said that coughing was “an act of aggression”. John Barrymore famously brought a huge fish on stage and threw it at the coughers shouting “you damned walruses, eat this while we go on with the play”. Sometimes you can’t help coughing, but those who don’t try to suppress it are on that little list.

Is the behaviour of theatre audiences worsening? A writer in The Wall Street Journal recently claimed it was doing so in New York, citing the cases of Patti LuPone, who broke character to scream at a man videoing her in Gypsy, and the actress Tovah Feldshuh, who was told by a latecomer to restart her monologue about the Holocaust when he’d sat down and, amazingly, she obeyed him. In Britain, we certainly have comparable evidence to offer. The bloggers had a go at Su Pollard the other day after she went to see Much Ado About Nothing in the Open Air Theatre and spent much of the play chatting to friends and, when the mood took her, shouting “gorgeous!” and “fabulous!” at the cast. Recently there was a 15-minute standoff at the Duke of Yorks when Ken Stott refused to continue playing the lead in Arthur Miller’s View from the Bridge until a teacher removed talkative children, which she did to cries of “out, out” from the rest of the audience. And Richard Griffiths has reacted to interruptions by mobile phones to both The History Boys and Heroes by demanding that their owners leave the theatre, in the first case adding “and never, ever come back again”.

Recently there were also unconfirmed reports of a noisy climax in a West End theatre that wasn’t happening onstage. Certainly, Simon Callow remembers being naked but for goggles and chains in a play called The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B, “to find myself thoroughly upstaged by a couple making loud and passionate love in a stage box”. And Richard Eyre, then National supremo, was told by a flummoxed company manager that a couple were having sex in the Lyttelton circle. “I advised him to let them get on with it, as disturbing their flow, so to speak, might be more disruptive,” he says.

Disruption can clearly take many forms and those forms can change with time. When did you last hear actors booed or see them hit by projectiles? On my last visit to the Almeida a couple were soaked by a glass of water falling from the balcony and upset when no apology followed. Well, they were luckier than Shaw, who was hit by flying sausages and intimated that he would have preferred a cabbage, since he was a vegetarian. The case of Waiting for Godot is instructive. When it hit London in 1954 there was persistent heckling, one man yelling “don’t you realise that you’ve been hoaxed?” and trouble averted only when an actor remarked “I think it’s Godot”. But Ian McKellen, who appears with Callow in the revival of Beckett’s play, says that audiences at the Haymarket have been exemplary.

McKellen remembers seeing John Gielgud’s King Lear as a young man and, enraged by a woman who was giggling at the mad scene, biffing her on the head with his programme. But he’s more tolerant now. “Your audiences are your masters and are paying the bills,” he says. “Yes, they sometimes rustle programmes or eat sweets or even send texts, but mostly they’re well behaved and attentive. After all, that’s how they get the most out of the evening.” And he points out that some nuisances, such as the sound of scores of smokers lighting up at moments they found slack, are history.

Indeed, a breeze through history tells you how chaotic theatre performances have been and can be. I suspect that even the first night of Oedipus wasn’t so placid, since it was part of the Festival of Dionysus, and Dionysus meant drunkenness. Roman theatres were often turbulent, with Ovid calling audiences “adulterers, whoremasters, panders, whores and suchlike effeminate, idle, unchaste, lascivious, graceless persons”. And the Elizabethan puritans, like the early Christians, saw the theatre as “Satan’s banquet”, one Stephen Gosson enveighing against “such heaving and shoving, such itching and shouldering to sit by women, such giving them pippins, such playing at cards, such toying, such smiling, such winking and such manning them home when the sports are ended”.

For decades after the Restoration theatres were places were you might pick up prostitutes, see fights with swords drawn, even join in the odd riot. Foreign visitors were regularly appalled by the pandemonium at London playhouses. One German was pelted with orange peel, “which robbed me of all curiosity”; another so doused with water “my hat was saturated”; others saw mugs and bottles rain down and, in 1755, “a hard piece of cheese greatly hurt a young lady in the pit”. Even Boswell and his friends went to Drury Lane “with oaken cudgels in our hands and shrill-sounding catcalls in our pockets” and hissed and whistled a tragedy called Elvira to oblivion.

The rise of the respectable middle classes in the 19th century banished the rakes from the theatre and the lowpaid to the balcony, though up there they still liked to make themselves heard and felt. Noël Coward’s Sirocco was violently barracked in 1921, one actress responding to a yell of “give the old cow a chance” with “thank you, sir, you’re the only gentleman here”. After his World of Paul Slickey had received a similar bashing in 1959, John Osborne was chased up the Charing Cross Road by enraged theatregoers. But since Joe Orton’s scabrous What the Butler Saw in 1969, when the gallery yelled “give back your knighthood” at Ralph Richardson, audiences have gone soft.

A pity in some ways? Well, barracking did and does imply involvement, caring. Yet Mark Rylance, the first director of Shakespeare’s replica Globe, admitted that he went too far by inviting audiences to hiss, throw peel and reinvent themselves as Elizabethan groundlings. Things became self-conscious, silly, and, with spectators cheering Shylock’s conversion to Christianity and Henry V’s order to kill his French prisoners, even obnoxious.

Though the space still encourages audience interaction — Hamlet and a groundling nodded gravely at each other when Hamlet asks “Am I a coward?” — there’s now more watching and listening at the Globe.

Yet history tells us that trouble will sometimes erupt. A few days ago the same mobile phone went off five times during a performance of Bruno Beltrão at Sadler’s Wells. People have been heard answering calls, in one case with “I’m in the theatre — no, not very”. An eminent BBC man was spotting using his BlackBerry during the premiere of the current revival of Oliver! Further back, Kevin Spacey interjected “tell them I’m not here” when a call interrupted a speech in Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh. Simon Callow got a round of applause when a phone went off at the start of his one-man Dickens show and, coincidentally, his first line was “Dickens here”.

Farther back still, Nicol Williamson found his Macbeth wasn’t just “supping full with horrors” but was supping too full with little horrors, and stopped a Stratford matinée to tell them that he could be earning zillions in Hollywood but was doing a great play for peanuts, so they could damned well shut up: which they did. Farther back yet, Michael Redgrave objected when a woman in the front row plugged a hairdryer into a footlight during the John of Gaunt speech in Richard II, to be told by her husband that “it’s OK, she always does this”.

But be careful. Not all audience interruptions are silly or malign. I’ve seen people fall ill during performances and be taken out. Ian McKellen had a woman die during Durrenmatt’s The Visit, which, he wryly says, “meant she missed the end of the play”.

He also recounts a tale of Alec Guinness, who was so irked by the woman who was watching him through enormous binoculars from the front row that he stepped down and removed them. An usher appeared in the interval to say: “The blind woman in the front row apologises if she has upset you.” A moral somewhere there?

The 15 golden rules of theatre etiquette
The play's the thing - so shhh. Our chief theatre critic explains what to do with your sweets, crisps and mobile phones
By Benedict Nightingale

No talking during the performance: PLEASE!

1 Don’t just switch off your mobile in response to what’s very likely a cute invitation from some fake-friendly voice. Make sure it’s off before you enter the theatre, thus making sure that you’re not publicly humiliated by Richard Griffiths or A.N. Other.

2 Never whisper, let alone talk, during the performance. If you’re hard of hearing, hire a loop rather than bother your companion for info about the plot. And don’t hum along with songs, even if they’re by Rodgers and Hammerstein.

3 Don’t bring picnics. In fact, don’t eat anything, not even your fingernails, even if the play is, well, nail-biting. If you must buy an ice cream in the interval, make sure you finish it and dispose of the carton before the restart. The scraping at remnants sounds like scratching on a wall.

4 If you fear that you’ll cough, bring a handkerchief to smother your mouth and pastilles to put in it. Considerate theatregoers would rather asphyxiate than interrupt a good actor.

5 Always apologise if someone is forced to stand as you make your way to your seat, but if you are late (and you should never be) reduce your apology to a quick, sorrowful nod.

6 Don’t clap actors’s entrances, even if they’re famous, or their exits, even if they make them in the swaggering style that half-invites applause. All this is dated and naff and makes you look like a celeb-hungry prat.

7 Have nothing to do with standing ovations unless a performance is close to a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In America such ovations have become meaningless and, if they don’t occur, they indicate disapproval. We don’t want them to become regular here.

8 If a friend is on stage in a comedy or farce, or has written one, don’t pile on the laughter. The artificiality is usually transparent enough to make failure more and not less likely.

9 If you must go to that often obnoxious, spuriously glitzy occasion, the first night, don’t ponce about pretending to be an important guest, even if you are one. Think of your fellow audience members and the actors, both of whom want to get on with the show. And that show isn’t about you.

10 No need to dress up, let alone wear dinner jackets and evening gowns, as was once the case. But try to be a little better dressed than the critics, who often look as they’ve been grabbed from a washing machine that hasn’t yet been turned on.

11 If you see a sleeping critic don’t necessarily wake him or her up, as guilt is likely to ensure that his or her review is more favourable than it might otherwise be. But don’t let him sleep too deeply or he may (and this has happened) crash into or across an aisle, causing injury to the innocent. And snoring is unacceptable, whoever does it and however awful the show.

12 If critics irk you by scratching notes on a pad, be forgiving. They’re only doing their jobs. And virtually all critics accept that lighted pens, once common, are now verboten. If you see a critic turn one on, whisper something tactfully germane, like “you blind sod, switch it off”.

13 If the child you’re bringing is chatty, gag it. If it’s fidgety, handcuff and shackle it. And if you’re altruistic enough to bring a school party to a Shakespeare matinée, threaten potential wrongdoers with tickets to the next revival of Timon of Athens, to be followed by a ten-page essay on the ethics of Apemantus.

14 Try your hardest not to be tall, which means shunning headgear and primped-up hair. And if you can’t help your height, ask for a seat on the aisle or somewhere where you won’t interfere with people’s sightlines.

15 If you are maddened by a fellow member of the audience, postpone a serious or violent encounter until a suitable pause in the action, preferably the interval. But usually a schoolmarmy stare and an English sniff, followed by a reproachful smile, will suffice.

What nanny who worked for Michael Jackson saw
Grace Rwaramba who cared for King of Pop and his children has shocking secrets of his addictions and bizarre nomadic life
By Daphne Barak

Michael Jackson's nanny Grace Rwarmba seen with Michael and his children, Los Angeles, 2005.

I was in the bar of a London hotel on Thursday night with a senior television executive when a figure in a jumpsuit ran in screaming: “Daphne, Daphne, Michael is . . . Michael is . . . dead!” My startled guest whispered: “Isn’t that the nanny — the wife?” The distraught woman was Grace Rwaramba, who worked for Michael Jackson for 17 years, starting in his office, then looking after his three children and sharing his ramshackle life after his sexual abuse trial — though never being his wife. Recently, he sacked her.

She was with me in London to talk openly about him for the first time before he began his concerts at the O2. Instead we were hit by the news of his sudden death.

Over the next 24 hours, Grace desperately attempted to contact the children — Paris, Prince and Blanket, who she says regard her as their mother — before flying back to Los Angeles to try to see them.

Caring for her in this distraught state, I had an extraordinary insight into how Jackson’s family and the Nation of Islam — Louis Farrakhan’s black Muslims — were moving swiftly into the vacuum left by his death.

Early on Friday, Jackson’s mother, Katherine, contacted Grace from his house. Shockingly, she wanted to know where his money was. Grace recounted: “Katherine just called me. She said, ‘Grace, the children are crying. They are asking about you. They can’t believe that their father died. Grace, you remember Michael used to hide cash at the house. I am here. Where can it be?’

“I told her to look at the garbage bags and under the carpets. But, Daphne, can you believe this? This woman just lost her son a few hours ago and she is calling me to know where the money is!

“I asked to speak to the children. She said they were sleeping. But she just said they were crying. She never let me speak to them. She said, ‘Grace, where are you? Come. I will pick you up from the airport.’ She sounded so strong. So strong!”

Within a few hours, all her dignity gone, Grace was on the phone again begging a “brother” from the Nation of Islam at the Jackson house to let her talk to Paris, Prince and Blanket. The answer was no.

Grace felt vulnerable. She expected to be contacted by the coroner as soon as she arrived home in LA, because she knows many of the secrets of the star’s desperate final years and had already confided them to me. She had unravelled his bizarre nomadic life running around the world — Bahrain, Ireland, Germany, New Jersey — with the three children but no cash flow.

She confided: “When Paris had her birthday this April, I wanted to buy balloons, things, to make a happy birthday. There was no money in the house. I had to put everything on my personal credit card. I brought people to clean the house. The room of the kids needed to be cleaned. But they weren’t paid.”

Revealed within her account of their love-hate relationship was Jackson’s everyday life as a father and drug addict. Grace told me of pumping out his stomach after he took too many drugs and of how dirty and unkempt he became towards the end. Her stories of his attitude to the children shocked me.

Here, thanks to her, is the real world of Michael Jackson behind the masks, the wigs, the make-up and the surgery.

Grace has long been the mystery woman in Jackson’s life as far as the media are concerned. Rwandan, she went to America as a young woman and studied there. She also married an American from whom she is separated but not divorced. She is now in her forties.

I met her during Jackson’s trial in 2005, when I was filming television specials with his parents and she spoke loyally for him. A few weeks ago, she started to communicate with me from Los Angeles, saying that — not for the first time — he had sacked her. Her telephone conversations, text messages and e-mails sounded unhappy and erratic, perhaps even suicidal, because she could not see the children.

“I took these babies in my arm on the first day of their life,” she insisted. “They are my babies.”

At one point she cried on the phone, saying: “Daphne, I don’t know what to do. He doesn’t let me see my babies. I have written to him. He doesn’t answer. I can’t call him because he changed his phone number. These poor babies . . . I am getting phone calls that they are being neglected. Nobody is cleaning the rooms, because he didn’t pay the housekeeper.

“I just got a phone call that Michael is in such a bad shape. He is not clean. He has not shaved . . . His nails . . . He is not eating well. I used to do all this for him.

“They are trying to lure me to go back. But each time it happened before, he got rid of me. Then he made promises if I would come back. All these promises . . . After few days, it was the same abuse all over again.”

She had moved into a place “next door” to Jackson’s home but was afraid of what would happen if “I bump into my babies”. She talked of getting away to Rwanda and was clearly desperate, so I invited her to stay with me.

And that is how eight days and sleepless nights started, listening to Grace unload about her life with Michael Jackson, her abuse by Michael Jackson, her anger with Michael Jackson, the problems with Michael Jackson’s family.

“I love my babies,” she told me. “I miss my babies. I used to hug them and laugh with them. But when Michael was around, they froze. He didn’t like me hugging them. But they needed love. I was the only mother they knew.”

She described Prince as “very smart” and said that Blanket, the youngest, “makes me laugh so much. One day before I was fired he decided to do a concert for me. He was so cute, singing to me Billie Jean and others of his father’s songs. I was laughing so hard. Prince and Paris were playing around. It was such a happy moment”.

“Then suddenly Michael walked in. He surprised us. Usually, the security would alert me that he was about to come. Blanket immediately stopped. The kids looked frightened. Michael was so angry. I knew I would be fired. Whenever the children got too attached to me, he would send me away.”

Grace said the children disliked the masks they had to wear in public. “It wasn’t my idea. I hated it as well. So whenever I had a chance, I misplaced the masks or forgot to pack them. Michael always got angry and asked, ‘How come we keep losing children’s masks?’ He didn’t notice that we were losing them only when I was around.”

Grace was a witness to Jackson’s abuse of prescription drugs. She said he took a mixture of them — in her words, “he always ate too little and mixed too much”.

“I had to pump his stomach many times . . . He always mixed so much of it. There was one period that it was so bad that I didn’t let the children see him.”

She claims he was furious with her for getting his mother and sister Janet to help. “We tried to do an intervention. It was me, Janet, his mother. I co-ordinated it. He was so angry with me.

“He screamed at me, ‘You betrayed my trust. You called them behind my back.’ I told him, ‘Michael I didn’t betray your trust. I try to help you.’ But he didn’t want to listen. That was one of the times he let me go.”

She fears that the family will now blame her for his drug-taking — just as, she says, he tried to make her the scapegoat for his overspending.

Her account of the money and hospitality he received after his trial from Sheikh Abdullah, the son of the King of Bahrain, reveals a man who had no understanding of of money.

“During the trial Jermaine (his older brother) suddenly connected him to Sheikh Abdullah. I was happy because he was so down. He was scared. Nobody else called. So Michael was spending hours on the phone with Abdullah. He is the one who is sending the money for the lawyers.”

Abdullah, she said, called her one day and asked for her bank account. “I said why? He said he was sending money to Michael through my account. He sent $1m. Then another $35,000.

“Katherine needed money too. So Michael told me to give her my ATM card. She was cashing out of the machine every day. I checked it.”

Last year, Abdullah sued Jackson in the London High Court for £4.7m for reneging on a music contract that would have paid back this and other loans. Grace told me: “When Abdullah sued Michael last year, Michael said in the beginning, ‘Oh, I never got money from him.’ He tried to frame me that I took the money.”

She said she pointed out to his mother that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) might find out. “I said, ‘You, Michael and I — we will all go to jail! You know that we didn’t report to the IRS about that gift.’ I told her I had all the documents. That worked. She immediately called Michael and he stopped denying he knew about the money.” Grace added: “When we lived in Bahrain, we had no money at all. Everything was paid by Abdullah, and Michael owed so much money to people.

“Suddenly — I can’t remember now how it came — he received some money. Instead of buying a small house, so that we won’t go from one hotel to another or stay with friends, he told me, ‘Grace, you have to go immediately to Florence to buy antiques.’ He wanted me to spend £1m.

“I flew on my credit card. When I arrived in Florence and saw these antiques, I called him and said, ‘This is not worth anything.’ Michael never listened to me. He said, ‘Buy it. Buy it.’ We didn’t even have a home to live in so we had to put the antiques in some storage.”

She revealed the full story of the Bahrain episode: “From the time we flew to Bahrain, we actually didn’t have a home. At the beginning they put us in the palace. The idea was that Michael would create a charity and a CD with Abdullah.

“But when Michael failed to do it, I felt that the atmosphere changed. After several weeks, we were told that the uncle of Abdullah was coming back and needed to have his house.”

She said they flew to Oman, staying in a hotel at Abdullah’s expense.

“Then he wanted us back. He was still hoping that Michael would come through with his promises.”

Jackson demanded that the sheikh build him a house in a Bahrain and refused to believe there would not be one waiting for him. He was mistaken and they were put in another hotel.

All the time, they had the three children in tow. Grace was getting tired of “running with them from hotel to hotel” so she accepted an invitation to take Jackson and the children to stay with friends of her own near Dun Laoghaire on the outskirts of Dublin in Ireland.

“They own a recording studio. They were so nice to us. They did a favour for me. Michael left them bills, he never paid them back.”

By then it was mid-2007. The entourage’s next stop was in New Jersey, the modest family home of Frank Tyson, a Jackson aide named as one of the five “co-conspirators” during the sex abuse trial.

Grace said: “Frank’s family is not rich. They have a small house. We stayed there for weeks. Michael stayed there downstairs alone.

“The kids slept with me in one room. I didn’t mind because I tried to make it fun for them. But I felt so bad that we were staying such a long time at this family’s small home.

“I tried to develop a friendship with Frank’s mother just to tell them thank you but when Michael saw we were getting friendly he said, ‘Don’t trust her. She is not interested in you. She just talks to you because of me.’

“It was just so exhausting to pack and unpack three kids from one hotel to another friend’s home, back and forth. And we were running out of friends.

“Michael had no idea about money. He got a proposal to make an appearance in Japan for $1m.

“I knew how many people were involved.

“I told him, ‘Michael, by the time everyone takes his cut you will end up with a very small amount.’ He didn’t want to hear. He flew to Japan. By the time everyone took their share, he ended up with $200,000.

“Then he got a second proposal to go to Japan. This time there was only $200,000 on the table. I refused to go.” Jackson went and then decided suddenly to fly to the birthday party of Prince Azim, the son of the Sultan of Brunei. By the time he had paid his huge hotel bill, “all the Japan money was gone”.

Back in California, Jackson rented a house from the Nation of Islam. According to Grace, he was grossly overcharged.

“The Nation of Islam was telling him that the house we had in Los Angeles, after Neverland was sold, cost $100,000 a month. I checked with many real estate agencies.

“To rent this house should not have cost more than $20,000-$25,000. He had no clue.”

Equally, he did not read his O2 contract before signing it and did not realise he had committed himself to 50 concerts. “Fifty performances! I told him, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘I signed only for 10.’ He didn’t know what he was signing. He never does!”

My sense of shock increased when Grace showed me documents proving not only that Michael had not paid her salary and expenses since October 2008, but according to her, that he had not paid her medical insurance since she was with him and the children in Bahrain.

“Michael owes so much money to so many people. And why does he not pay them? Is it because he thinks of those working for him as an owner (would)? He always told me, ‘Grace, nobody cares about you. They only talked to you about me’.”

The point about the medical insurance is that Grace suffers from a life-threatening form of the auto-immune disease lupus. My doctor told me after examining her that it was chronic, adding: “I have never seen somebody with such a badly neglected condition.”

Grace believes the disease is caused by stress, but she said Michael refused to take it seriously. Once when she had been in hospital for chemotherapy he had accused her of abandoning him and the children, she said.

“To Michael, to go to a hospital was never about being ill. It was all about avoiding a court appearance or a performance or some other commitment he didn’t want to respect. You know, during the trial, the only peaceful place we could escape to and sleep was a hospital room. We used to go to the hospital and relax.”

As Grace worked through her phone calls to LA on Friday, desperately trying to ensure that the children were comforted after losing their father, she sobbed and screamed and became more incoherent.

“Yes, this is it . . . because (crying) this is it . . . because he started avoiding everything. We were trying to help him and they fired me because of this (sobs).”

Her next target was a woman from the Nation of Islam whom Jermaine Jackson had brought into the house to look after the children in Michael’s final weeks.

“Yes I am really distraught (sobs). Oh my God, the kids. Who has got the kids? He’s allowed this woman from the Nation of Islam . . . he has this woman . . . but she’s so cold and she is cold and doesn’t know how to hold them or how to hug them.”

Grace said the children had been anxious about their father and had been trying to care for him — “he hasn’t been eating and the kids have been so scared for him”.

Worried by the endless goings on in the Jackson compound Grace turned to me at the end and said: “The youngest one has been saying, ‘God should have taken me not him’.”

Perez Hilton Growing More Vile By the Second
By The Cajun Boy

Screengrab via SoupSoup

Today one of the biggest stars in the history of the world died. How did the internet's self-proclaimed "Queen of all Media" respond? By accusing Michael Jackson of faking the whole thing.

In the last hour Perez Hilton has taken down the photo shown here and amended his original post so he doesn't look as bad, but here's the text of what he originally posted.

We knew something like this would happen!!

Michael Jackson was taken by ambulance from his Holmby Hills home to a nearby Los Angeles hospital on Thursday afternoon!!

Supposedly, the singer went into cardiac arrest and the paramedics had to administer CPR!!!

His mother is even on the way to visit him!!!

We are dubious!!

Jacko pulled a similar stunt when he was getting ready for his big HBO special in ‘95 when he "collapsed" at rehearsal!

He was dragging his heels on that just like his upcoming 50 date London residency at the 02 Arena, of which he already postponed the first few dates!!!

Either he's lying or making himself sick, but we're curious to see if he's able to go on!!!

Get your money back, ticket holders!!!!

After Jackson was pronounced dead, Hilton took down the photo and edited the text down to these three sentences:

Michael Jackson was taken by ambulance from his Holmby Hills home to a nearby Los Angeles hospital on Thursday afternoon!!

The singer went into cardiac arrest and the paramedics had to administer CPR!!!

His mother is even on the way to visit him!!!

Meanwhile, the Matthew Shepard Foundation rejected Hilton's offer to donate whatever money he receives from a lawsuit against Black Eyed Peas manager Polo Molina. Here is the statement they released this afternoon:

The Matthew Shepard Foundation was surprised to learn this morning via media reports that blogger Perez Hilton (Mario Lavandeira) has announced he plans to donate, to our organization, the proceeds of a lawsuit he is contesting over an altercation which has been widely reported in recent days.

We had no advance notice or contact from Mr. Hilton or his representatives regarding this proposal, nor any communication since he posted this plan to his website.

We do not know the details of the lawsuit, whether it has been filed, the nature of his claims or the likely outcome. But because the lawsuit presumably involves the physical attack prompted by Mr. Hilton's admitted use of an anti-gay slur, the Foundation will be unable to accept any funds obtained in such a manner.

We very much appreciate the generosity of the offer to support our continuing work to memorialize Matthew through activism in defense of sexual minorities and in favor of understanding, compassion, and acceptance. But because so much of our work involves education to reduce the use of hateful language against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons, or those so perceived, it would be inappropriate for us to benefit financially from circumstances in which such a verbal attack was involved.

While we applaud Mr. Hilton's apology to the LGBT community and their loved ones for his use of such a slur, we also feel compelled to point out that use of epithets can often lead to physical violence, as it appears it may have in this case, and that the Matthew Shepard Foundation has worked for more than 10 years to bring to people's attention the consequences of hateful or inolerant language.

Judy Shepard
Chair, MSF Governing Board

How much longer before Hilton's advertisers begin to flee his hideously tarnished brand?

UPDATE: As pointed out by Idolator's Maura Johnston in the comments below, Perez is engaged in an epic celebrity rhetorical knife fight on Twitter right now with our pals Pete Wentz and Ashlee Simpson.

Family time eroding as Internet use soars
More people also worry about amount of time kids and teens spend online
By Barbara Ortutay

NEW YORK - Whether it's around the dinner table or just in front of the TV, U.S. families say they are spending less time together.

The decline in family time coincides with a rise in Internet use and the popularity of social networks, though a new study stopped just short of assigning blame.

The Annenberg Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California is reporting this week that 28 percent of Americans it interviewed last year said they have been spending less time with members of their households. That's nearly triple the 11 percent who said that in 2006.

These people did not report spending less time with their friends, however.

Michael Gilbert, a senior fellow at the center, said people report spending less time with family members just as social networks like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace are booming, along with the importance people place on them.

Five-year-old Facebook's active user base, for example, has surged to more than 200 million active users, up from 100 million last August.

Meanwhile, more people say they are worried about how much time kids and teenagers spend online. In 2000, when the center began its annual surveys on Americans and the Internet, only 11 percent of respondents said that family members under 18 were spending too much time online. By 2008, that grew to 28 percent.

"Most people think of the Internet and (our) digital future as boundless, and I do too," Gilbert said.

But, he added, "it can't be a good thing that families are spending less face-to-face time together. Ultimately it leads to less cohesive and less communicative families."

In the first half of the decade, people reported spending an average of 26 hours per month with their families. By 2008, however, that shared time had dropped by more than 30 percent, to about 18 hours.

The advent of new technologies has, in some ways, always changed the way family members interact.

Cell phones make it easier for parents to keep track of where their children are, while giving kids the kind of privacy they wouldn't have had in the days of landlines.

Television has cut into dinner time, and as TV sets became cheaper, they also multiplied, so that kids and parents no longer have to congregate in the living room to watch it.

But Gilbert said the Internet is so engrossing, and demands so much more attention than other technologies, that it can disrupt personal boundaries in ways other technologies wouldn't have.

"It's not like television, where you can sit around with your family and watch," he said. The Internet, he noted, is mostly one-on-one.

Likely because they can afford more Web-connected gadgets, higher-income families reported greater loss of family time than those who make less money. And more women than men said they felt ignored by a family member using the Internet.

The center's latest survey was a random poll of 2,030 people ages 12 and up was conducted April 9 to June 30, 2008, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Doctor in gripping South Pole rescue dies
Trapped by weather, she treated her own breast cancer
The Associated Press

In this 1999 file photo released by the National Science Foundation, Dr. Jerri Nielsen FitzGerald, a National Science Foundation physician, is shown at the ceremonial South Pole. She died Tuesday at home in Southwick, Mass.

BOSTON - Dr. Jerri Nielsen FitzGerald, who diagnosed and treated her own breast cancer before a dramatic rescue from the South Pole, has died. She was 57.

Her husband, Thomas FitzGerald, said she died Tuesday at their home in Southwick, Mass. Her cancer had been in remission until it returned in August 2005, he said Wednesday.

She was the only doctor among 41 staff at the National Science Foundation's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in winter 1999 when she discovered a lump in her breast. At first, she didn't tell anyone, but the burden became too much to bear.

"I got really sick," she told The Associated Press in a 2003 interview. "I had great big lymph nodes under my arm. I thought I would die."

Rescue was out of the question. Because of the extreme weather conditions, the station is closed to the outside world for the winter. She had no choice but to treat the disease herself, with help from colleagues she trained to care for her and U.S.-based doctors she stayed in touch with via satellite e-mail.

She performed a biopsy on herself with the help of staff.

A machinist helped her with her IV and test slides, and a welder helped with chemotherapy.

She treated herself with anti-cancer drugs delivered during a gripping mid-July airdrop by a U.S. Air Force plane in blackout, freezing conditions.

In a headline grabbing rescue, she was lifted by the Air National Guard in October, one of the earliest flights ever into the station when it became warm enough — 58 degrees below zero — to make the risky flight.

After multiple surgeries in the U.S., including a mastectomy, the cancer went into remission until 2005.

"More and more as I am here and see what life really is, I understand that it is not when or how you die but how and if you truly were ever alive," she wrote in an e-mail to her parents in June, 1999 from the South Pole.

Nielsen FitzGerald never lost her adventurous spirit and even returned to desolate Antarctica several more times.

"She had incredible zest and enthusiasm for life," said her husband, whom she first met 23 years ago when they were both on vacation in the Amazon. "She was kindest soul I ever met, she was intelligent, with a great sense of humor, and she lived each day to the fullest."

She documented her ordeal in the best-selling book "Ice Bound: A Doctor's Incredible Battle for Survival at the South Pole." It was later made into a TV movie.

The disease made her stronger, she said in November 2001.

"I would rather not have it. But the cancer is part of me. It's given my life color and texture. Everyone has to get something. Some people are ugly, some people are stupid. I get cancer," she said at lecture in Denver.

Nielsen FitzGerald spent the last decade speaking around the world about the cancer and how it changed her life, and also worked as roving ER doctor in hospitals all over the Northeast.

"She fought bravely, she was able to make the best of what life and circumstance gave her, and she had the most resilience I have ever seen in anyone," said her husband. "She fought hard and she fought valiantly." The couple would have celebrated their third anniversary next week.

In addition to her husband, the Ohio native and graduate of the University of Toledo Medical Center is survived by parents Lorine and Phil, brothers Scott and Eric, and three children from a previous marriage, Julia, Ben and Alex.

Memorial and funeral arrangements are pending.

15 rare elephants poisoned, shot in Indonesia
'Shocking' rise in deaths as poachers target animals with cyanide-laced fruit
The Associated Press

Five wild elephants are seen on the jungle floor after they were found poisoned to death near Indonesia's Mahato village on March 1, 2006.
Najla Tanjung / AP File

JAKARTA, Indonesia - At least 15 endangered Sumatran elephants have been shot or poisoned to death with cyanide-laced fruit this year, marking a sharp rise in the rate of killing from 2008, a government conservationist said Wednesday.

The giant mammals were mostly killed by poachers for their ivory, said Tony Suhartono, the director of biodiversity conservation at the Forest Ministry.

The number killed in the past six months is equal to the total for the whole of 2008, he said.

"It is shocking," said Syamsidar, a campaigner with the World Wildlife Fund in the western island of Sumatra.

The killing is the result of a "conflict between humans and elephants," said Syamsidar, who like many Indonesians goes by a single name. "The forest is in critical condition due to the illegal logging, slash-and-burn farming practices and plantations."

Indonesia's endangered elephants, tigers, rhinos and orangutans are increasingly threatened by their shrinking habitat in the jungle, which is commonly cleared for commercial farming or felled for lumber. Only 3,000 Sumatran elephants are believed to remain in the wild.

They sometimes venture into inhabited areas searching for food and destroy crops or attack humans, making them unpopular with locals.

Grown kids return to the nest — and regress
Moving back in with mom and dad sends relationship back in time
By Diane Mapes contributor

Adults who move back home during tough economic times sometimes find themselves reverting to adolescent behaviors.
Getty Images stock

The recession has dealt a lot of low blows in the past several months, but none so devastating, perhaps, as forcing adults to do the unthinkable: move back in with mom and dad.

Unfortunately, the blending of households — not to mention TV, kitchen and bathroom habits — doesn’t always go smoothly. Last month, an Ohio man called 911 after his 28-year-old son, a political consultant who was living with him rent-free, refused to clean his room.

Apparently, Thomas Wolfe was right: You can’t go home again. And if you do, you’d better do your chores.

“In college, I was used to leaving the dishes overnight and washing them in the morning,” says Chanelle Schneider, a 25-year-old retail sales associate who moved in with her mother last January when money got tight. “But now, it’s like: ‘I don’t care if it’s midnight before you go to bed, do the dishes!’ ”

Growing pains
This latest stint at home is Schneider’s second, the first coming right after college, making her one of 77 percent of college grads to move back home after school, according to a August 2008 survey. (In 2006, that number was 67 percent.) In recent years, though, returning 20-somethings, sometimes dubbed “boomerangers,” have been joined by adults in their 30s and 40s — sometimes with a spouse and kids in tow. From 2000 to 2008, multigenerational households increased by 24 percent, up to 6.2 million, according to AARP.

So, too, have the problems of the blended households, particularly when it comes to settling that age-old question: Who’s the boss?

“I’m 25, so I want to be taken as an adult, a grown woman,” says Schneider, who’s grateful for her mother’s help but less thrilled about the “growing pains.” “But I’m still my mother’s child. She’s in mom mode, always.”

Adults who go through a job loss, home foreclosure or other financial hardship often feel infantilized, says Dr. Marion Lindblad-Goldberg, clinical professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. Throw in a return to the family home and you have the makings for a full-blown recession regression.

“Theoretically, by the time you reach adulthood, you’re supposed to be at the same power level as your parents,” she says. “But it’s never like that. Parents can relate to their adult children when they’re away from home. But in the home, particularly if it’s the same home, the kid goes from being 28 down to 25 to 20 and ends up at 7.”

Parents may start yelling at their adult kids to clean their rooms, wash their hands, and “Turn down that dang TV!” And adult children can revert back to throwing tantrums, neglecting responsibilities and feeling resentment about their powerlessness.

“Moving back home has the potential for robbing people of that feeling of adult competence,” she says. “And that can cause a dilemma.”

The parent trap
Anastasia Avradopoulos, a 40-year-old Boston actress who lived with her parents for eight months following her divorce, says living at home definitely had its frustrations — like having her parents barge into her room without knocking. But there were also perks.

“My mom would insist on doing my laundry,” she says. “Or my dad would say, ‘Don’t worry about getting gas, I’ll take care of it.’ So you start to get spoiled. Living with my parents was a blessing and an irritant. It was a gift with consequences.”

JoAnna Haugen, who moved back home with her husband after the couple’s Peace Corps service was cut short because of medical problems, says one of those consequences was feeling bad about herself.

“I’ve always been independent, and the fact that I had to move back home felt crappy,” says Haugen, a 28-year-old communications professional who has since moved to Las Vegas.

Rob Combs, 44, of Bainbridge Island, Wash., moved back in with his mom in 2008 after his business went bankrupt. He says he’s doing odd jobs and hunting for permanent work, but it’s still a challenge living with mom.

“I feel like I’m younger,” he says. “I have a list of chores that I do, things to help her out like washing the windows, filling in the potholes and cleaning off the roof. But I feel bad that I’m even here. And I have to admit, I do get a little tired of the ‘You didn’t show up and I thought you were in a ditch.’ I mean, I think I know how to drive my car.”

His mother, Ann, age 74, admits things can get “a little dicey” with an adult child living back at home, but overall she’s happy she can be there for her son.

“When you’re set in your ways, sometimes little things can get on your nerves,” she says. “It can be disruptive. But he’s really very amiable and a good kid. We usually get along pretty well. It’s just sometimes he’ll have to remind me that it’s not written in stone that the dishwasher should be loaded a certain way.”

Sorting things out
Although it can sometimes feel uncomfortable, sitting down and talking about the situation can help parents and adult kids work through the rough patches, says Lindblad-Goldberg.

“The nice thing about family is that you have some place to go,” she says. “But you do have to talk to each other, to problem-solve, to negotiate, to say, ‘Look, this is going to be an adjustment for you, and it’s going to be an adjustment for me.’ ”

Parents should try to respect their kids’ adulthood and not get all “excited about being parents again,” she advises, and adult children should respect the rules of the house and not take advantage of all those fabulous freebies.

Hate talking about issues? Then keep in mind things may just sort themselves out in other ways.

Avradopoulos, whose mother insisted on doing her laundry after she moved back home, says that one day while putting away clothes, her mother found her bedside goodie drawer.

“I came home and noticed there were different clothes on top of my toy, and when I went to talk with them, they wouldn’t make eye contact,” she says. “I finally just said, ‘Well, I guess you now know that I’m a healthy 38-year-old woman who knows how to take care of her needs.’ And then I started to giggle.”

Her parents started giggling, too, and afterwards, the living situation got much easier.

“It triggered an adult moment for everybody,” she says. “After that, I made sure I didn’t leave the gas tank empty for my dad, and they started knocking on my bedroom door. For the first time, we all saw each other as individuals.”

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Teens who move a lot have twice suicide risk
Moving 3 or more times can contribute to feelings of isolation, study says
By Linda Carroll contributor

Parents may be so distracted by the details of a move that they don't notice what a big impact it's having on their kids, says Dr. Ping Qin, an associate professor at the National Centre for Register-based Research at the University of Aarhus in Aarhus, Denmark.
Getty Images stock

By the time she was 18, Cheryl Fike had moved nine times because of her father's job. For Fike, every move was sad, distressing and alienating.

“I remember thinking, ‘Oh no, not again,’ when they’d tell me we had to move,” says Fike, a 52-year old engineer from Galt, Calif. “I was shy and reserved so it was hard for me to make friends. I mostly spent time with my horse and each time I’d worry that we were going to move somewhere where I couldn’t keep her. It made me totally depressed. I think those moves are part of the reason I have panic attacks now.”

Psychologists have known for years that moves can be distressing for kids. But a new study shows that the impact on some adolescents may be far more devastating than anyone thought. The study, published in the Archives of Psychiatry, found that kids aged 11 to 17 were twice as likely to attempt suicide if their families moved three or more times compared to those who had never moved.

And, if the family moved more than 10 times, the children were four times as likely to attempt suicide compared to those who had never moved.

For the new study, researchers looked at data from 4,160 Danish children who were brought to hospitals after attempting suicide, as well as 79 who had succeeded in their suicide attempts. These children, all between the ages of 11 and 17, were compared to 124,800 adolescents who had not made suicide attempts.

“Adolescence is an inherently turbulent time for children, and moves may be more traumatic in some cases,” says the study’s lead author, Dr. Ping Qin, an associate professor at the National Centre for Register-based Research at the University of Aarhus in Aarhus, Denmark. “Change of residence often results in a breakdown of connections with peers and it introduces distress and worries related to the new environment.”

Making matters worse, parents can be so caught up in the process of moving that they don’t notice what a big impact it’s having on their kids. “So the children may feel ignored and have no friends around to communicate with,” Qin says.

More families moving due to economy
These days, more families are being forced to move because of the troubled economy, says Dr. Alan Manevitz, a psychiatrist who specializes in family issues at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

And parents need to be extra vigilant about their children’s mental state during a move, Manevitz says. “You need to keep an eye out for signs of depression — or any behavioral changes,” he adds. “Comments about death or dying should never be taken casually.”

While many kids respond to new places just fine, "you need to recognize that a move can cause stress and your kids may have a limited ability to adjust," Manevitz says. “Don’t let them pout or isolate. Encourage them to stay in contact with their old friends through e-mail and video conferencing. Have them invite their old friends to visit the new place.”

Because they see moving as necessary, parents sometimes can fail to see how significant a move can be in a child’s life, says Patrick Tolan, a professor of psychology and director of the Institute for Juvenile Research at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

Parents can lessen the impact if they include the child in discussions of the anticipated move and give them an opportunity to see the new house and neighborhood before moving, he adds.

Qin suggests that parents and teachers pay close attention to kids in the early days after a move. “They should be alert for the warning signs of unhappiness and distress that can lead to suicidal behavior,” she says.

When Cheryl Fike had to move with her own daughter several times, she remembered how bad relocating made her feel as a child.

“I made sure that she was always in the same school district, even if that meant I had to drive an hour each way to get her to school,” Fike says. “I wanted to make sure she had a solid base. And I think that paid off. She eventually went to Yale on a full scholarship and she’s traveled all around the world.”

Tigers say ‘Bye, mom’ to dog that raised them
Now ‘tiger teens,’ they’re being separated from their adoptive mom Isabella
By Mike Celizic contributor

Isabella the golden retriever fondly nuzzles one of the three white tigers she adopted as cubs, little knowing that it’s the last day they’ll be together.

Isabella, the golden retriever who last year adopted three white tiger cubs and saved a rural Kansas zoo, was having a last romp with her 140-pound “pups” in their spacious new enclosure. Although the tigers have never acted aggressively toward the gentle dog that they know as their mom, they’re simply getting too big to mingle unsupervised with a dog.

“This is kind of their last hurrah today,” Tom Harvey, who owns and operates Safari Zoological Park in Caney, Kan., with his wife, Allie, told TODAY’s Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira Thursday.

Farewell family fun
As they talked, the now-adolescent beasts splashed in their pool, clawed at a big deflated ball and nuzzled Isabella and her pup, Sandy — the dog that, in their eyes, is their sister.

“They love Isabella,” Allie Harvey said. “They love to play with Sandy the puppy more than they do Isabella. Izzy just kind of supervises everything.”

Lauer asked if the dogs were starting to be in danger from the tigers, which were raised in the Harveys' home but remain, at heart, fearsome predators.

“The play is pretty much done with. We’re just kind of doing an interaction here this morning so that people can see that the animals still get along really well — but we’ve been supervising them,” Tom Harvey admitted.

The Bengal tigers — Nasira, Anjika and Sidani — will soon be celebrating their first birthday, just as the Harveys are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the zoo they have operated as a labor of love.

Miracle adoption
The Harveys regard the entire saga of the white tigers and their canine foster mom as little less than a miracle. Last year, as gas prices soared and the economy soured, they watched attendance at the zoo dwindle alarmingly, along with their income.

They decided to give themselves until Aug. 1, 2008, for things to turn around. If they didn’t, they saw no alternative to closing the park.

That’s when a white Bengal tiger they had gave birth to the triplets. Within 15 hours, she abandoned the helpless cubs.

The “tiger teens” adopted by a golden retriever are still young enough to play with a ball — but they’re getting too big to play with their surrogate mom.

Isabella was just a year old and was in the process of weaning her first litter of two pups. The Harveys decided to see if Izzy, as they call the dog, could be a surrogate mother for the tigers.

The cubs took to her and thrived on Izzy’s milk. The story of the dog who adopted three tigers quickly spread. On Aug. 1, the deadline for either saving or closing the zoo, the Harveys, Isabella and the cubs found themselves on the TODAY show.

Hearts melted at the cute cubs and the gentle canine. People flocked to Caney to see them. The zoo was saved.

‘Tiger teens’
The Harveys were able to build a large new home for the cubs. “We moved them in here in the spring. It’s nice and large. It has a pool for them,” Allie Harvey said. “They’re out of the house.”

“We call them ‘tiger teens’ now,” added her husband. “We’ve gone from tiger pups to tiger teens.”

As cubs, the white tigers drank golden retriever’s milk, but they have since graduated to chicken and beef.

The big adolescents have long since been weaned from canine milk. “They get chicken and beef every day,” Tom Harvey said.

The Harveys have even written a book, “Tiger Pups,” about the year the cubs grew up with Isabella in their home. So it’s not surprising that they have “big party plans” for the cubs’ first birthday.

It’s a pivotal moment, when the cubs will learn to live without their canine mom and sister.

Lauer asked if there were plans for the dogs to visit from time to time in the future.

“It’ll basically be nil,” Tom Harvey said.

Behind him, tigers and dogs ambled happily and peacefully in the enclosure — unaware that this was goodbye.

'Net big enough for Michael Jackson and Iran Rest assured, mourning the pop star will not doom protesters in Iran
By Helen A.S. Popkin

Gerard Burkhart / AFP - Getty Images
Fans mourn the death of pop icon Michael Jackson on June 25, 2009 in Los Angeles California.

News of Michael Jackson’s death broke on the Internet late Thursday afternoon. Not long after that, the Internet broke too. Twitter crashed, as did Michael Jackson’s Wikipedia entry. Facebook lumbered under countless Michael Jackson video uploads retrieved from an over-accessed YouTube, and both ground to a halt.

Everything else online, including the historic battle over democracy currently being raged in Iran, paled as people clambered onto social networks to confirm what they were hearing was really true.

Eventually, the World Wide Web recovered, Jackson traffic revved up, and per their predictable nature, Internet cranks made their feelings known.

“‘Micheal Jackson’ (sic) is the trending topic. Good job, America,” one unusually adroit culture critic posted on Twitter, in reference to the microblogging site’s leading topics (and the misspelling). Most were more typically ranty about Michael Jackson usurping Iran as the latest historical moment in both the news and social networking history, such as this tweet:

“It's pitiful how fickle the American people are. People ate, slept and breathed Iran until Michael Jackson died. Really?! Good grief.”

Or this “Not that this is more important than Michael Jackson dropping dead...Iran doctor tells of Neda's death.”

AFP - Getty Images
A screengrab taken on June 26, 2009 shows a group on the social networking site Facebook in memory Michael Jackson.

Yep. For every social network, there are countless passive-aggressive jackasses who seem to believe anyone expressing a thought on a single topic is obviously incapable of multitasking interests and emotions. If anything, social networks prove that we as a species are not mono-themed. Maybe the news is wall-to-wall MJ, but social networks can chew gum and walk at the same time.

When Twitter support for the protesters in Iran hit critical mass, author and Internet smartypants Clay Shirky pointed out once again that Twitter’s immediacy meant it wasn’t the best source for accurate information, but a perfect gauge of universal emotion.

Our concerns, both internal and external, do not operate on zero-sum balance. While #Michael Jackson, #RIP MJ, #Thriller, #Pop (as in “Prince of…”), and even #Farrah Fawcett take up most of Twitter’s current trends, #iranelection never left the list. (Pretty much, neither did #unfollowperezhilton.)

Social networks are a collective brain that, like individual brains, allow for dissimilar ideas to occur simultaneously: A pop star who died. A historic battle for demoracy in a region devoid of it. This is social networks on mourn.

Rest assured, those who temporarily switch their green-shaded Twitter avatars to a Michael Jackson headshot are not dooming Iranian protesters any more than re-tweeting every piece of information and/or misinformation about Iran and changing your Twitter location to Tehran will save them.

Meanwhile, this sudden wave of mournful nostalgia, all these videos and songs posted on personal profiles, come from three generations of Americans that grew up with Michael Jackson as a constant. To spite ourselves, we feel like we know him.

As much as it pains me to draw attention to John Mayer’s generally insipid tweets, his anomalous comment about MJ is true, no matter what you think about Jackson, he is “a major strand of our cultural DNA.”

(Ten hours later, Mayer was back to his regular Twitter form, updating the world on his NyQuil intake.)

It was as if the past 20 years had been erased. As always the case with grief, Jackson's death gave us permission to ignore decades of weirdness, forget the haunting and unproven allegations, and appreciate everything that was great about him. And there was a lot great about him. We listened to his music and watched his videos with an enjoyment that can only be described as pure.

“It's amazing how music can store so many memories,” Shantae Joseph posted on her Facebook status.

“It's amazing how many stations can all play ‘Thriller’ at the same time,” her friend Angel responded, aptly.

Unlike two days previous, nobody was interested in making jokes about the plight of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. No more punny lines such as “Appalachian Tail” or “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.” Even those given to Internet cynicism weren’t in the mood.

“Please Note: If you feel the need to bitch about Michael Jackson getting coverage, know you will be blocked. Emo is being EMO.” tweeted @emokidsloveme, whose avatar still features an Iran-supporting fist wrapped in green.

This isn’t just about a pop star of talent directly inverse to his oddness. This is about us too. When a childhood totem dies, we feel the wind blow across our graves.

What’s more, as blanket pooh-poohers on Twitter, Facebook and everywhere else criticize what they see as America’s fickle tweets, they succumb to their own Western centrism. The United States is far from alone in this social network wake.

More than any entertainer ever, Michael Jackson is an international phenomenon, perhaps even more beloved beyond this hemisphere, where news about his increasingly problematic behavior was overshadowed by his music and glamour.

The morning after Jackson’s death, it seemed the whole world shared their grief. Even Iran. Friday on MSNBC, Iranian-born international affairs author Reza Aslan talked about how strange it was, monitoring Twitter feeds from Iran, seeing tweets about horrific gun fire interspersed with those about Michael Jackson. “It shows not just what a big influence (Jackson) had in the world but how much we have in common with Iranians,” he said.

Like the international support for Iran, Jackson’s death marked an historic point in social networking. His death generated the most tweets per second on Twitter since Barack Obama was elected president.

"We saw over twice the normal tweets per second the moment the story broke as people shared their grief and memories," Twitter co-founder Biz Stone told the Associated Press via e-mail.

Of course, it wasn’t all about memories. Along with the “Is this the only thing we care about?” monothoughtist sect, there were plenty of gallows guffaws ranging from giggle-inducing to tasteless.

Then there were the pranksters who slammed Twitter with rumors about actor Jeff Goldblum’s fictional demise, enough to get the actor’s name briefly in the site’s top trends. Once the Internet recovered from the initial slam, budding urban legends about the “facts” of Jackson’s death hit warp speed.

On “Oh No They Didn’t,” which suffered various crashes along with other celebrity gossip sites, snarky users expressed their collective grief by posting a Fantasia Barino gif, in which the American Idol star wails and flails her arms wildly. Many bemoaned how the humor was now gone from another popular image taken from “Thriller,” featuring an excited Jackson eating popcorn, commonly posted by an uninvolved party when a flame-worthy topic hits the forum.

This too is grief. Grief is weird. It expresses itself in often odd, seemingly inappropriate ways. Grief permeates in all areas of life, including the Internet. And that’s no sin.

The ‘King’ is dead, long live his merchandise
Jackson's merchandise sales could eclipse those of Presley or Monroe
By Gary Gentile contributor

Jeff Christensen / AP
Deceased celebrities can generate a fortune long after they are gone, and Jackson’s legacy will likely be his music. Just one day after his death, Michael Jackson’s albums jumped to the top of the retail charts.

Michael Jackson’s career will skyrocket in the months and years ahead, giving the troubled entertainer in death the comeback he longed for in life.

Jackson’s tragic end put him in the same league as Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, all of whom continue to generate millions of dollars for their estates. But Jackson, with his immense body of work and the good will he inspires, despite his often bizarre past, could eclipse them all.

“The most famous person on the planet has just died,” said Mark Roesler, founder of CMG Worldwide, a firm that licenses merchandise from such deceased stars as Dean, Chuck Berry, Rock Hudson and Natalie Wood. “He is someone who changed our culture. There are only certain people who can say that.”

A little more than 24 hours after Jackson’s death in Los Angeles, his albums jumped to the top of the retail charts. On, albums by Jackson and the Jackson 5 accounted for 18 of the top 20 best-selling records Friday. On iTunes, Jackson records occupied nine of the top 10 spots.

Deceased celebrities can generate a fortune long after they are gone. Presley’s estate generated $52 million in 2008, according to the annual Forbes magazine list of top-earning dead celebrities. Second on the list was Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts, whose drawings earned his estate $33 million in 2008, according to Forbes.

The source of incomes differs according to how iconic the celebrity was. Presley, for instance, continues to earn money for his estate from the sale of his music. But a huge chunk comes from the sale of merchandise bearing his image, including slot machines, as well as the receipts from admissions to his Graceland home in Memphis.

By contrast, not many people would recognize a photo of Schulz. It’s the licensing of his characters, including Charlie Brown and Snoopy, that generates the income for his estate.

A musical legacy
Jackson’s legacy will likely be his music, not his image, says Michael Stone, president and chief executive of The Beanstalk Group, a brand licensing agency. That will become more clear as the memory of Jackson’s more bizarre moments — dangling his child from a hotel balcony, the lawsuits accusing him of child molestation — fades.

“He will become more recognized and more appreciated for his music,” Stone said. “There will be a rebirth of his music. The weird stuff is not his legacy.

“Elvis got pretty weird at the end of his life also. But that passed. It’s about his music now.”

Like Elvis, the bizarre aspects of Jackson’s life, far from tarnishing his image, add a layer of luster that will likely help his star rise even higher.

“You had a brand, Michael Jackson, that was a moving target. No one knew where that brand was going to go — scandals, etc.,” Roesler said. “All of a sudden there is an end. You can get your arms around the story. Now the legend will start to form.”

While Jackson’s place in the pantheon of deceased stars is assured, there are still thorny legal questions that could have record labels, producers, creditors and family members fighting for years.

Jackson reportedly was in debt for hundreds of millions of dollars when he died. His sold-out concert tour in London was supposed to help him reduce the debt and keep his beloved Neverland Ranch in California and his stake in music publishing companies, including a joint venture with Sony Music that controls the Beatles catalog.

Rights unclear
And it is unclear who owns the rights to the myriad forms of intellectual property that make up a celebrity’s estate.

Music companies could own the right to sell reproductions of Jackson’s iconic album covers, for instance. Photographers who snapped the most recognizable, and valuable, images of the King of Pop could also have a claim to royalties from their sale. And then there are the numerous music videos that undoubtedly will be packaged in various compilations and sold in the coming years.

The legal wrangling is not to be underestimated.

Marilyn Monroe’s estate battled for decades over the rights to her image, after her death in 1962. In 1984, California passed legislation that would allow celebrities to leave “rights of publicity” in their wills. But in 2007, federal courts ruled that the right only applies to celebrities who died after the bill became law in 1985.

In response, the legislature passed what became known as the “dead celebrities bill,” which expands the protection to all stars. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a celebrity who may benefit from the bill’s provisions himself one day.

Despite their shock and grief, Jackson’s family should start now to enforce the singer’s legal rights to his image. Monroe’s case was hurt by the proliferation of T-shirts, commemorative plates and other items bearing her image that were sold before her rights were secured.

Similarly, enterprising merchandisers will surely be selling Jackson T-shirts and other items in the coming days, with none of that income going to his estate.

“You have to act quickly to protect the rights,” Stone said. “There are a lot of things to sort out.”

Doc tells cops about Jackson’s final moments
Cardiologist who was with star when he died is not a suspect, police say news services

LOS ANGELES - The cardiologist who was with Michael Jackson during the pop star's final moments sat down with investigators for the first time to explain his actions — and left three hours later as a witness, not a suspect.

Dr. Conrad Murray "helped identify the circumstances around the death of the pop icon and clarified some inconsistencies," Murray's spokeswoman Miranda Sevcik said in a statement Saturday. "Investigators say the doctor is in no way a suspect and remains a witness to this tragedy."

Murray, a physician with a tangled financial and personal history who was hired to accompany Jackson on his planned summer concert tour, reportedly performed CPR until paramedics arrived. The pop star was declared dead later at UCLA Medical Center.

Police confirmed that they interviewed Murray, adding that he was cooperative and "provided information which will aid the investigation."

The interview took place on a busy day when one of Jackson's lawyers was chosen to represent the family's legal interests and celebrities descended on Los Angeles for a star-studded public celebration of the King of Pop's life.

L. Londell McMillan, who represented Jackson last year in a breach of contact lawsuit and has advised high-profile clients such as Prince, was picked to help the family by Katherine Jackson, the singer's mother, said a person who requested anonymity because the matter is private.

The legal move came as the Rev. Jesse Jackson revealed that Michael Jackson's family wanted a second, private autopsy of the pop superstar because of unanswered questions about how he died.

"It's abnormal," Jesse Jackson said from Chicago a day after visiting the Jackson family. "We don't know what happened. Was he injected and with what? All reasonable doubt should be addressed."

The second autopsy was completed Saturday at the family's request, the Los Angeles Times reported on its Web site Saturday evening, quoting unnamed sources.

People close to Jackson have said since his death that they were concerned about his use of painkillers. Los Angeles County medical examiners completed their autopsy Friday and said Jackson had taken prescription medication.

Medical officials also said there was no indication of trauma or foul play. An official cause of death could take weeks.

There was no word from the Jackson family on funeral plans. Many of Jackson's relatives have gathered at the family's Encino compound, caring there for Jackson's three children.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said Saturday he had spoken with Jackson's brothers Jackie and Jermaine and plans to meet with the family Sunday at their request. The family is considering a series of simultaneous global celebrations and other ideas as they decide how to commemorate the life of the King of Pop, he says.

Sharpton says the family is frustrated that so much of the media attention has focused on Michael Jackson's problems. They want to make sure he's remembered for his spectacular contributions to music and culture.

Questions around children
It remains unclear who Jackson designated as potential guardians for his children. Those details — likely contained in the 50-year-old singer's will — have not been released.

An attorney for Deborah Rowe, the mother of Jackson's two oldest children, issued a statement Saturday asking that the Jackson family "be able to say goodbye to their loved one in peace."

Sisters Janet and La Toya arrived Saturday at the mansion Jackson had been renting and left without addressing reporters. Moving vans also showed up at the Jackson home, leaving about an hour later. There was no indication what they might have taken away.

The Jackson family issued a statement Saturday expressing its grief over the death and thanking his supporters.

"In one of the darkest moments of our lives we find it hard to find the words appropriate to this sudden tragedy we all had to encounter," said the statement made through People magazine. "We miss Michael endlessly."

"They're hurt because they lost a son. But the wound is now being kept open by the mystery and unanswered questions of the cause of death," he said.

Organizers of the annual BET awards show — which recognizes the best in music, acting and sports — scrambled to revamp Sunday's show to honor Jackson and his legacy.

Previously announced acts, such as Beyonce and Ne-Yo, hoped to change their planned performances to honor Jackson, said producer Stephen Hill. Other artists who hadn't planned to attend the ceremony, including Usher and Justin Timberlake, tried to catch last-minute flights to Los Angeles to participate.

A person close to the family told The Associated Press they feel upset and angry about a lack of information about those who were around the pop superstar in his final days. The person requested anonymity because of the delicate nature of the situation.

Jackson never communicated to his family who he had in place to handle his business affairs, the person said, adding that they were told by the singer’s phalanx of advisers that he likely had a will, but it may be many years old. The family is distrustful of what they are being told — but they are determined to find out more, the person said.

“There are decisions going down without the family being in the loop; it’s becoming an issue,” the person said.

Randy Phillips, AEG Live president and chief executive, said earlier Friday that it was Jackson who insisted that Murray, a financially troubled cardiologist who was with the entertainer when he collapsed Thursday, be put on the tour payroll.

Jackson had been rehearsing for 50 London concerts aimed at restoring his crown as the King of Pop. He died Thursday at age 50 after what his family said appeared to be cardiac arrest.

Desperate 911 call
A 911 call from Jackson's rented home reported that his personal doctor was trying to revive him without success.

An emergency dispatch call released by fire officials shed light on the desperate effort at the mansion to save Jackson's life before paramedics arrived Thursday afternoon.

In the recording, an unidentified caller pleads with authorities to send help, offering no clues about why Jackson was stricken. He tells a dispatcher that Jackson's doctor is performing CPR.

"He's pumping his chest," the caller says, "but he's not responding to anything."

Asked by the dispatcher whether anyone saw what happened, the caller answers: "No, just the doctor, sir. The doctor has been the only one there."