Italian Cruise Ship Sinking

Costa Concordia, the Italian cruise ship sinking off the coast of Northern Italy, fell victim to human errors with the ship owners blaming Captain Francesco Schettino for the accident that took the lives of at least 11 people, local media reported. A transcript of a conversation between an Italian Coast Guard official and the ship’s captain reveals that Schettino refused to return to the ship while aboard a lifeboat that according to him got stuck.

Italian Cruise Ship

The cruise liner capsized off the coast of Italy with 24 people still missing after the ship hit rocks during what looked like a routine cruise. Rescuers managed to find the bodies of five people so far.

Rescue operations continue while Dutch company Smit is preparing to conduct a survey of the Italian cruise ship sinking near what Captain Francesco Schettino claims to be uncharted rocks in order to determine how much time it would take to begin with the extraction process. Ecologists voiced concerns that a fuel spill may occur if an operation to empty the ship’s fuel tanks, containing some 2 million liters of fuel, is not conducted on time.

Costa Crociere, the company that owns the ship, claims the captain was not authorized to change the ship’s course that is pre-programmed, while the ship’s navigational computer should sound an alarm if change in the course occurs. The company insists that the captain did not follow certain procedures, which caused the 4,000-passenger vessel to run aground.

Francesco Schettino, the captain of the Italian cruise ship sinking off the coast of Tuscany faces manslaughter, shipwreck, and abandoning a ship charges and is in police custody, according to the Italian authorities.

New Girl Scout Cookie

A new Girl Scout cookie is to hit stores in the coming weeks, marking the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scots movement, which had been founded by Juliette Gordon Low in in Savannah, Ga. The Savannah Smiles cookies have been created with a new lemony twist taste, while the name was clearly inspired by Juliette Gordon Low, the Girl Scouts announced.

Girl Scout Cookie

In 1917, the Girl Scouts introduced their first cookies as a way to support their troop activities, with  the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma selling the first baked cookies in its high school coffee shop in December 1917. Since then, the Girl Scouts have unveiled many branded cookies, including Thin Mint, Samoas or Caramel deLites, Do-si-dos or Peanut Butter Sandwich, Tapalongs or Peanut Butter Patties, Thank U Berry Much, Lemonades, Dulce de Leche, Thanks-A-Lot, Trefoils or Shortbread, and Shout Outs. The new Girl Scout cookie is set to complement the wide choice of cookies baked under arrangement with the followers of Juliette Gordon Low, whose Savannah home is now a tourist attraction.

Little Brownie Bakers, the company that is authorized to make Girl Scouts cookies, said in a statement that they are proud to introduce a special new Girl Scout cookie that will remind girls they can expect an unlimited future while delighting customers.

Lady Gaga Entertainer Of The Year

Editors and broadcasters from U.S. media that are members of the Associated Press voted Lady Gaga Entertainer of the Year, followed by the late Steve Jobs, Apple’s founder who get only three votes less. Taylor Swift, Charlie Sheen, Adele and the cast of “Harry Potter” were also on the list of celebrities who influenced most the entertainment industry in 2011.

Lady Gaga Entertainer

Lady Gaga premiered her new album ‘Born This Way’ in May and it managed to sell 1.1 million copies in a single week. Her marketing strategy included marked discount on purchases through Amazon, where the album was on sale for only $0.99. More than 8 million copies of the album were sold as of October, outselling the next 42 albums on the Billboard chart and setting the stage for her “Born This Way” world tour.

Stefani Germanotta, the given name of Lady Gaga, is also the highest earning woman in the music industry in 2011. Her title as Lady Gaga Entertainer of the Year aside, she earned pretax income worth $90 million during the year, which makes the her the most successful female singer.

The singer also walked home with three Grammys in February, two MTV Video Music Awards, and is nominated for another three Grammys for 2012, one of which is in the prestigious nomination for best album.

She is also funding an ambitious project, called the Born This Way Foundation, together with the MacArthur Foundation and Harvard University. The project aims to fight bullying and encourage self-confidence and well-being among young Americans. She also visited the White House and met senior advisers of President Barack Obama to discuss her anti-bullying campaign. Evidently, those achievements influenced the voting of AP member news organizations that selected Lady Gaga Entertainer of the Year.

Kindle Fire Update

Kindle Fire update is now available to all tablet owners who are eager to take advantage of improvements offered by Amazon. Kindle Fire owners whose devices are running system version 6.0 or 6.1 should update their software to version 6.2.1, which is the latest stable release of the Amazon software.

Kindle Fire Update

Most devices would get the update automatically, but it is also possible to get the Kindle Fire update manually trough Amazon’s website.

The update markedly improves the touch screen behavior and overall performance of the system although there are omissions too. Amazon also updated their software to allow for protection of Wi-Fi connections through password.

On the other hand, the makers of Kindle Fire decided not to address a security issue that is widely described as a major bug in the system. For example, the tablet is not protected against online purchases once a user has logged on, while no additional password is required to purchase items from the Amazon App Store. The latest Kindle Fire Update does not address this issue, leaving the device largely unprotected once a user is logged on and is not keeping a close eye on it.

Couture Pink Wedding Dresses

The Allure Spring 2012 is about to be presented later in December, with designers presenting also couture pink wedding dresses that Hollywood stars like so much. Wedding dress designer Allure is tailoring a wide selection of silhouettes and styles, while the dresses are crafted by premier craftsmen, the House of Brides claim. The designer Allure unveiled their first collection in spring 2010 but rapidly gained popularity and now is one of the most popular brands in its category.

Couture Pink Wedding Dresses

While couture pink wedding dresses are not really common, a combination of pink and Swarowski crystals, offered by Allure Bridals, may be a perfect solution for more extravagant brides-to-be. All bridal dresses are tailored using luxurious fabrics and finishes at affordable price, which is quite unusual, experts said. Older customer might complain that they have already seen such dresses and tailoring before, nevertheless the overall impression is that those are conservative silhouettes in the best traditions of wedding dress making.

Actually, Allure offer a selection of over 50 colors, including couture pink wedding dresses that can prove to be a good fit for brides who want to be more special at their special day.

Ryan Seacrest To Replace Matt Lauer On Today?

Ryan Seacrest, the American Idol host, is in talks with NBCUniversal’s top management to replace Matt Lauer as host of the company “Today” show, sources close to the talks revealed. Lauer is currently considering his options, hinting that he might be on his way out of the show, forcing NBC to look for replacement.

Ryan Seacrest Today

Executive producer Jim Bell, NBC News President Steve Capus and senior vice president for marketing and communications, Lauren Kapp, held talks with the 36-year-old Seacrest who also hosts a radio show and has a contract with E!, which in turn is owned by NBC Universal. The talks are preliminary and no deal is sealed at that time, the sources said.

Lauer is hosting the “Today” show since 1997, with a number of female co-anchors replacing each other during the years. Katie Couric, Ann Curry, and Meredith Vieira co-hosted the TV show.

Seacrest’s contract with NBC Univerasal is set to expire in the beginning of 2012, while his daily news show is broadcast on NBC Universal’s E! Network.

NBC and Lauers’ declined to comment, while a Seacrest’s spokeswoman only confirmed that meetings between the two parties are being held.

Seacrest’s net worth stood at $125 million in 2011, according to Forbes estimates.

Lady Gaga Visits The White House To Address Bullying Issues

Star performer Lady Gaga met with Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, in the White House to discuss her anti-bullying campaign, Jarrett said in a blog post. Jarrett described Lady Gaga’s initiative as a source of strength for numerous young people who feel scared at school, writing on the official White House blog page.

Lady Gaga Anti Bullying

The two discussed the singer’s newest project to launch the Born This Way Foundation, together with the MacArthur Foundation and Harvard University, an initiative aimed at exploring new ways to change the culture and policies related to child safety in U.S. schools. This is a very personal project for Lady Gaga for she was often bullied in school for being different.

Lady Gaga did not meet President Obama, who was delivering a key speech on the economy in Kansas, but the pop singer met several senior officials in the White House, in addition to her meeting with Valerie Jarrett.

Some 13 million students in the United States are affected by bullying, according to a recent research paper by the White House, with over 30 percent of all victims of bullying attending schools. According to Jarrett, the White House mulls options to provide support to the Born This Way Foundation and back a continuous campaign to fight bullying.

Kris Humphries Files For Annulment

Kris Humphries filed for an annulment of his 72-day marriage to Kim Kardashian, while the reality TV star expressed her desire not to enter into battles of any kind with the basketball player. He claimed he was defrauded and filed for an annulment on the grounds of fraud. If a marriage is annulled it is considered as it never took place.

Kris Humphries Annulment

Kim Kardashian considered a similar move but her legal counselors advised her to file for a divorce petition. Annulment on grounds of fraud is very hard to prove in court, according to legal experts, but Humphries insists he was just a pawn in Kim’s game to boost ratings for her reality TV show; a game, which included Kris playing the character of her groom. The NBA player is also greatly disappointed that people would think he was involved in a wedding scam that was intended to support Kim’s reality TV business.

In the meantime, Humphries’ agent, Marc Cornstein, told journalists that the New Jersey Nets showed serious interest in his client, with Nets general manager Billy King admitting the team consider sealing a contract with Kris Humphries a priority. Cornstein went on to say that the player’s focus is tremendous at the moment, with Humphries training at his Minnesota home.

Kentucky Church Bans Interracial Couples

A small Kentucky Baptist church voted 9 to 6 to impose ban on interracial members but the church’s national association was quick to ask the Gulnare Free Will Baptist church in Pike County reconsider the ban. The church instituted the ban after Stella Harville, a white woman, brought her black fiance, Ticha Chikuni, to the church in June. Stella’s father serves as church secretary and clerk.

Kentucky Church Ban

Local pastor Stacy Stepp told local media he is not convinced the ban will stay, while then-pastor Melvin Thompson insists the ban should stay although he resigned in August due to health issues. Thompson says he is not prejudiced against any race of people, while he has never in his lifetime spoke evil about a race. He is calling the issue an “internal affair” of the church.

Keith Burden, executive secretary of the national association, expressed her hope that the Gulnare congregation will reconsider its vote, following a clear signal by the association, which shelters 2,400 member-churches nationwide. She went on to say that the association is not a bunch of bigots or a bunch of racists, urging Gulnare congregation members to vote to remove the ban on Sunday.

American Airlines Files for Bankruptcy

American Airlines CEO Gerard Arpey resigned following an unanimous decision by the company’s board of directors to file for bankruptcy protection. Company president Thomas W. Horton replaced him at the helm of the company, announcing that travelers will not be affected by the bankruptcy procedure at this stage. Both American Airlines and its parent company AMR Eagle Holding Corp. are entering a procedure for bankruptcy protection, the board of directors said in a statement.

American Airlines Bankruptcy

The company continued to suffer from heavy loses in the past couple of years, failing to go back to black like other major U.S. airlines. American Airlines would not stop taking reservations and no flights would be canceled due to the bankruptcy reorganization. The flight schedule of the airline will undergo “modest” reduction, while many employees will be fired during the restructuring, Horton said.

According to him, the company’s filing for bankruptcy was driven by numerous factors such as rising fuel prices, global economic downturn, and growing payroll costs. In addition, AMR witnessed loses of $162 million in the third quarter of 2011, with loses being posted in 14 of the last 16 quarters.

At present, the company flies some 240,000 passengers a day, employing 78,000 people. According to the company’s balance sheets, it has some $4 billion in cash.