American Pie 24.06.05

With US space shuttle flights due to resume next month, what
happened to the plan to send a journalist into space? NASA says it
would have happened by now but for the Columbia disaster two years ago.
In fact a journalist had already been chosen – and was being trained –
for the first press trip aboard a US shuttle. He was Miles O’Brien, a
space and science writer working for CNN. His trip was to have been
announced just two weeks after Columbia broke up and came down in
pieces over Texas, killing all seven astronauts. Earlier the project
had been given the green light. CNN, which was prohibited from paying
for the flight (the Russians were asking for $1m at the time) had
agreed to make a sizeable contribution to a non-profit educational
organisation. In addition O’Brien had agreed to go through the standard
two-year astronaut training programme. He was, he now admits, very
disappointed when his flight was cancelled. “There goes my dream,” he
recalls thinking at the time. But he said nothing publicly. “I didn’t
think it appropriate to talk about it. It was such a terrible tragedy
on so many greater dimensions.” Will NASA revive the programme ? The
space agency states it is too early to say. A lot will depend on how
well the next shuttle flights go.

Will the crackdown the Los
Angeles police have said they will impose on paparazzi who get out of
line while trying to snap celebrities really work? Not many feel so –
not as the demand for celebrity pictures increases and the prices soar.
The crackdown was ordered after actress Lindsay Lohan suffered minor
injuries in a crash with a photographer who, she claimed, had pursued
her across Los Angeles in a minivan. The star and a passenger suffered
cuts and bruises when the van hit her Mercedes.

The
photographer, Galo Cesar Ramirez, who works for Fame, a leading picture
agency in California, was detained by the police although no formal
charges have so far been filed. Last year actress Cameron Diaz (above)
and singer Justin Timberlake filed a suit against a pair of LA
photographers who, they claimed, tried to provoke a fight to get better
pictures. The photographers countersued claiming they were the ones who
were attacked. Los Angeles police say the day is coming when someone
will get seriously hurt, maybe even killed. “It’s getting close to
criminal behaviour,” said a spokesman in the LA District Attorney’s
office. Several photo agencies, it said, are under investigation for
the way their cameramen behave, including Fame, Ramey, Bauer-Griffin
and Splash News, the British agency that supplies many of the pictures
that end up in British papers. So far only one publication here has
endorsed the police crackdown. Us magazine, which is probably one of
the biggest users of celebrity pictures (it was the magazine that
recently offered $500,000 for pictures of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie
on holiday in Kenya), says it will no longer use the work of
photographers who break the law and that includes traffic regulations,
trespassing on private property or invading the privacy of children in
school. We shall see…

There
are some pictures that celebrities don’t mind seeing published – the
ones they take or commission themselves. There has been criticism of
the number of times that Martha Stewart, Rosie O’Donnell and Oprah
Winfrey have used their own pictures on the cover or inside the
magazines they edit or publish. The prize, however, probably goes to
actor Sylvester Stallone (left), who has just launched a magazine
called Sly (naturally) for men over 40. In the first issue Stallone’s
picture appears 33 times.

Another crackdown, this time on
publications that inflate their circulation figures. Three former
executives at Newsday and Hoy, the big Spanish-language daily, have
been arrested and charged with distorting circulation reports. They
could go to jail for up to 20 years, or be fined up to $250,000. Others
may yet be charged. The allegations include sham purchases of papers –
as many as 30,000 a day on weekdays and 50,000 on Sundays – which were
in fact thrown away. The scheme, it’s alleged, cheated advertisers out
of millions of dollars. Since the scandal broke Newsday has cut its
circulation figures by around 20 per cent.

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