Up to date information about children’s entertainment - film, TV, DVD and more…. from founder and president of KIDS FIRST! Ranny Levy

Archive for March, 2009

Film Piracy and Its Connection to Organized Crime and Terrorism

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009
Organized crime increasingly is involved in the piracy of feature films, with syndicates active along the entire supply chain from manufacture to street sales of pirated movies, according to a new RAND Corporation report. While crime syndicates have added piracy to criminal portfolios that include drugs, money laundering, extortion and human smuggling, the profits from film piracy also have been used on occasion to support the activities of terrorist groups, according to researchers.

“Given the enormous profit margins, it’s no surprise that organized crime has moved into film piracy,” said Greg Treverton, the report’s lead author and director of the Center for Global Risk and Security at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “The profits are high and penalties for being caught are relatively low.” RAND researchers found no evidence terrorists are widely involved with film piracy, but they outline three cases where film piracy supported terror groups and warn that such connections could grow in the future.

“If you buy pirated DVDs, there is a good chance that at least part of the money will go to organized crime and those proceeds fund more-dangerous criminal activities, possibly terrorism,” Treverton said. Much film piracy involves making copies to share with friends or individuals swapping copies on the Internet, activities that usually do not generate any payment. The RAND report, supported by a grant from the Motion Picture Association, was intended to examine to what extent criminal and terrorist groups are engaging in counterfeiting, using film piracy as an example.

RAND researchers detail 14 case studies of film piracy, providing compelling evidence of a broad, geographically dispersed and continuing connection between piracy and organized crime. As well as documenting cases in North America and Europe, the report outlines the involvement of organized crime with film piracy in South America, Russia and many parts of Asia.

The report draws on a global pool of research that produced case studies to explore the extent of the connections among organized crime, terrorism and counterfeiting. The research is based upon 2,000 pages of documents and interviews with more than 120 law enforcement and intelligence agents from more than 20 countries.

Because of its image as a victimless crime and the fact that those who buy are complicit in the crime, information about counterfeiting is sparse and information about the involvement of organized crime sparser still, Treverton said. Because most instances of counterfeiting go unaddressed, there is reason to believe that the more formal data, like arrests and convictions, understate the extent of counterfeiting.

The RAND report outlines three cases where film piracy has helped support terrorist groups: Historically the best documented case involves the Irish Republican Army that used many criminal activities, including film piracy, to support its efforts to drive the British from Northern Ireland. A political agreement in 1998 ended its violent acts, but at least parts of the IRA continue to operate as a criminal enterprise that remains involved in counterfeiting activities.

The D-Company is an organized crime group active for generations in India. Since the 1980s, it has been the major syndicate involved with film piracy in India. The group was transformed into a terrorist organization when it carried out the “Black Friday” bombings in Mumbai in 1993 that killed more than 257 people and injured hundreds more. It continues to advance a political agenda with its actions funded at least partly by the proceeds of crime.

Another case involves the tri-border area of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay that has emerged as the most important financing center for Islamic terrorism outside of the Middle East, channeling $20 million annually to Hezbollah. At least one transfer of $3.5 million was made to Hezbollah by known DVD pirate Assad Ahmad Barakat, who received a thank-you note from the Hez­bollah leader. Barakat was labeled a “specially designated global ter­rorist” by the U.S. government in 2004.

Researchers say that the losses from film piracy have grown as the expansion of digital technology makes it easier to create high-quality counterfeit copies of movies.

Film piracy can be even more profitable than drug trafficking or other enterprises commonly linked to organized crime. In one example cited in the report, a pirated DVD made in Malaysia for 70 cents was marked up more than 1,000 percent and sold on the street in London for about $9. The profit margin was more than three times higher than the markup for Iranian heroin and higher than the profit for Columbian cocaine, according to the report.

Worldwide, the criminal penalties for counterfeiting are relatively light and prosecution is sparse, researchers say. In France, for example, selling counterfeit products is punishable by a two-year prison term and a $190,000 fine, while selling drugs is punishable by a 10-year prison term and a $9.5 million fine. Meanwhile, just 134 people were sentenced in U.S. federal courts for intellectual property crimes during 2002, contrasted to more than 1.5 million arrests for drug offenses nationally in 2003.

The RAND report says that counterfeiting levels are not likely to decline unless governments worldwide commit more resources and create greater accountability for intellectual property protections. Such a commitment would need to produce stronger anti-counterfeiting laws, consistent enforcement against pirating and stronger penalties, including larger fines and prison sentences.

Other potential solutions include customs and immigration efforts to stop counterfeit goods at national borders, and help from the financial community in spotting piracy syndicates’ money-laundering tactics.

The study, “Film Piracy: Organized Crime and Terrorism,” is available at http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG742/ Other authors of the study are Carl Matthies, Karla Cunningham, Jeremiah Goulka, Greg Ridgeway and Anny Wong.

The study was conducted by the RAND Center for Global Risk and Security, and the RAND Safety and Justice Program.

DRAGON TALES: OUR AMAZING PETS! Debuts on DVD on March 17

Monday, March 16th, 2009
One of the top-rated shows for pre-schoolers on PBS KIDS returns to DVD in an all-new, charming edition: DRAGON TALES: OUR AMAZING PETS! DRAGON TALES: OUR AMAZING PETS! includes fun and educational episodes that teach children the importance of caring for their special pet friends. Whether an orange furball, a leaping frog, a baby rhyming bird or a fuzzy pet caterpoozle, Dragon Land is full of many unique animals – each of which has its own set of special needs to discover! The DVD also includes a fun Dragon Tales song, “Come On, Let’s Blow,” which parents and kids can enjoy singing together

Episodes Include:

Wheezie’s Hairball -Emmy and Max are greeted in Dragon Land by a strange orange fur ball, Zak and Wheezie’s new pet, Slurpy. They’re learning how to take care of him, and it isn’t easy! Since he can’t talk, Slurpy tries to communicate by bouncing twice and spinning around.

Frog Prints - When Quetzal takes the gang on a ride through Dragon Lagoon, Max finds a new friend. He immediately loves “Hoppy,” a little uni-croaker frog, and decides to take him home to keep as a pet. But Quetzal gently explains that’s not possible.

Bye Bye Birdie - When Emmy finds a baby rhyming bird left behind by its family, she wants to keep it for a pet. She names it Cutie Pie and becomes attached to the little bird. Her friends and Quetzal help her realize she must return the baby bird to its parents. Emmy feels very sad knowing she’ll have to say goodbye to Cutie Pie, so her friends show her support, making the journey with her to find the bird’s family.

Goodbye Little Caterpoozle - Everyone loves to play with Cassie’s fuzzy pet caterpoozle, especially Cassie. When Cassie discovers a transparent cocoon in the cage, they all believe that Poozie has died. To help Cassie feel better, the friends share favorite memories of Poozie and offer to help find another pet. None will do, until a caterpoozle a lot like Poozie crawls up Cassie’s arm, nuzzles her neck and smiles at her.

Green Thumbs- When the group finds a lost baby plant, they have to figure out how to care for her properly on their long journey to return her to her family and home.

Running Time 64 minutes

DEGRASSI: THE NEXT GENERATION SEASON SEVEN PREMIERES ON DVD MARCH 17

Sunday, March 15th, 2009
Check this out - Pop culture phenomenon and number one hit show on “The N,” Degrassi: The Next Generation comes to DVD with the release of its seventh season on March 17, 2009. This two-time Teen Choice Award winner set at Degrassi Community School stars “it girl” Shenae Grimes (“90210”), as well as teen stars Miriam McDonald (The Poet), Cassie Steele (My Super Sweet 16: The Movie), Shane Kippel (Life With Derek), Nina Dobrev (The American Mall) and Aubrey Graham (Charlie Bartlett). No subject is left untouched as these teens deal with such challenges as date rape, cancer, teenage pregnancy, experimental stem cell surgery and high school graduation. The four-disc collector’s set including all 24 uncut and uncensored episodes is loaded with extras, including bloopers, deleted scenes and Degrassi webisodes.

Season Seven of Degrassi: The Next Generation ventures into new and more provocative territory for adolescents and young adults, as it picks up in the middle of a school year already riddled with tragedy. A fire at rival high school Lakehurst forces many of its students into the halls of Degrassi with explosive results. Amidst the newfound clutter and chaos, Spinner and Darcy (Grimes) deal with dark, personal tragedies, Jimmy and Ashley test their love, and Emma (McDonald) and Manny (Steele) explore new, surprising relationships - all while hurtling toward graduation.

Languages: English
Running time: 685 minutes

DVD BONUS FEATURES:
• Bloopers
• Deleted scenes
• Commentary
• Photo gallery
• Degrassi Mini “Webisodes”
• Degrassi “On The Sets”
• Shop Now

QUBO DEBUTS NEW EPISODES OF POPULAR SERIES THIS MARCH

Saturday, March 14th, 2009
qubo is going to the dogs… rabbits… and aliens this March! Throughout the month, qubo, the TV and online entertainment service for children and families, will debut new episodes of popular series TURBO DOGS, MY FRIEND RABBIT and THE ZULA PATROL. Each series will feature four premiere episodes through the month of March, beginning with the “qubo on ION Television” block, followed by a showing on “qubo on NBC” on Saturday mornings and “qubo on Telemundo” in Spanish on weekend mornings (see series airtimes listed below). The new episodes will also air on qubo Channel.

Qubo celebrates the unlimited possibilities of a child’s imagination and is the destination for kids looking for entertaining TV with great characters and engaging storylines. Parents love qubo because it’s full of family-friendly programming they can trust.

Here’s a closer look at what’s coming up in March

TURBO DOGS - This hilarious 3-D CGI animated series features a comical cast of canine friends who are wild about race car driving! Set in Racerville, a world filled with dogs of all different shapes, sizes, temperaments and pedigrees, the Turbo Dogs include Dash, the selfless, enthusiastic competitor; GT, the natural-born mechanic who can build an engine from a leash, a collar and empty dog food cans; Mags, the only female Turbo Dog who is anything but girlie; Strut, the dashound who always tries taking shortcuts that backfire; Stinkbert, the dog who spends as much time rolling around at the garbage dump as he does with friends; and Clutch, the good guy with a penchant for klutziness. Accelerated adventures filled with comedic high jinks emphasize friendship, fair play, and teamwork. Among the antics debuting in March:

* Dash is overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for Mag’s pet Hamster while she’s away on a TV shoot.

* Strut overreacts when he jumps to a conclusion that he wasn’t invited to a piñata party.

* Stinkbert learns the value of friendship after he realizes that he may be related to canine royalty!

TURBO DOGS airs Fridays at 3:30 PM (ET) on ION TV, Noon (ET) Saturdays on NBC and 8:00 AM (ET) Saturdays in Spanish on Telemundo. TURBO DOGS also airs on qubo Channel Sundays at 6 PM and 11 PM (all times ET).

MY FRIEND RABBIT - This charming and whimsical award-winning animated series is based on the Caldecott Gold Medal winning book of the same name by Eric Rohmann. Rabbit and Mouse, best friends through thick and thin, are joined by colorful friends from the animal kingdom, and somehow just can’t avoid getting into sticky situations.

This March:

* Rabbit and friend show the Gibble Goose Girls how adapting to cold weather can be fun.

* Rabbit makes an unexpected birthday gift for Mouse.

* The gang helps an Arctic Tern complete his migration after losing his feathers in a crash.

MY FRIEND RABBIT airs Wednesdays at 3:00 PM (ET) on ION TV, 12:30 PM (ET) Saturdays on NBC and 8:30 AM (ET) Saturdays in Spanish on Telemundo. MY FRIEND RABBIT also airs daily on qubo Channel at 9:30 AM (ET).

THE ZULA PATROL- Move over, George Jetson! The 21st century’s newest space team, the Zula Patrol, are back with new intergalactic adventures! Stalwart Captain Bula, brainiac Professor Multo, feisty hot-doggin’ space pilot Zeeter, the amazing space pet Gorga and twin flying companions Wizzy & Wigg are the lovably wacky alien characters who take children on a roller coaster ride across the Universe, teaching them critical facts about science and astronomy in the process.

A look at some of the Zula Patrol’s new missions in March:

* Zeeter attempts to rescue the Zula Patrol who are trapped on an inflatable planet.

* The Zula Patrol’s tries to bolster Pluto’s spiritis so that he will resume his interplanetary duty of orbiting.

* The Zula Patrolers try to shrink themselves to fit inside of a telescope.

THE ZULA PATROL airs Thursdays at 3:30 PM (ET) on ION TV, 10:30 AM (ET) Saturdays on NBC and 8:00 AM (ET) Sundays in Spanish on Telemundo. THE ZULA PATROL also airs daily on qubo Channel at 4 PM and 9:30 PM (all times ET)

A PUP NAMED SCOOBY-DOO SEASONS 2-4 ON DVD MARCH 17

Friday, March 13th, 2009
Take the scariness out of Scooby Doo and you’ve got “A Pup Named Scooby Doo” for pre-schoolers, the hit animated series whose second, third and fourth seasons are slated for release in one set on DVD March 17, 2009. Aimed at pre-schoolers and kids, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo follows the young adventures of the lovable Great Dane Scooby-Doo, along with kid-sized versions of the Mystery Inc. gang that includes Daphne, Velma, Fred and Shaggy as they solve mysteries and embark on exciting adventures.

Outrageous hijinks and crazy shenanigans abound throughout the second, third and fourth seasons of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. In Commander Cool, Shaggy’s diagnosed with amnesia and thinks he’s Commander Cool. The gang investigates a giant hamburger creature in Night of the Living Burger while in The Computer Walks Among Us, Velma is suspect to a series of mysterious locker robberies. The monster of Chickenstein tries to scare everyone off in Chickenstein Lives and a ghost clown haunts the Coolsville amusement park in Terror, Thy Name is Zombo. A strange hair monster terrorizes the Coolsville mall in Horror of the Haunted Hair Piece while a giant snail terrifies everyone in New York City in Mayhem of the Moving Mollusk.

Disc 1:

Episodes from Season 2 include: Curse of the Collar, The Return of Commander Cool, The Spirit of Rock’n Roll, Chickenstein Lives, Night of the Living Burger, The Computer Walks Among Us, Dog Gone Scooby, Terror, Thy Name is Zombo.

Disc 2

Episodes from Season 3 include: Night of the Boogey Biker, Dawn of the Spooky Shuttle Scare, Horror of the Haunted Hairpiece, Wrestle Maniacs.

Episodes from Season 4 include: The Weredog of Doo Manor, Ghost of Mrs. Shushman, Catcher of the Sly, The Wrath of Waitro, Mayhem of the Moving Mollusk.

“A Pup Named Scooby-Doo is a very kid-friendly version of the classic Scooby-Doo series,” said Amit Desai, WHV Vice President of Family, Animation & Sports Marketing. He added, “The basic premise remains the same but the show is never meant to be scary, that is why parents love it. Scooby-Doo is a popular franchise and we are delighted to offer consumers new and different ways to enjoy this wonderful character. A Pup Named Scooby-Doo Seasons 2-4 is a must have for any family’s home entertainment collection.”

Bob The Builder™ On Site: Skyscrapers Coming to DVD March 17

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009
For your young boys and some of your girls as well. Everyone’s favorite builder faces a new challenge when Bob the Builder™ ON SITE: Skyscrapers premieres exclusively on DVD March 17, 2009. No problem is too tall to overcome when you have positive-thinking and teamwork on your side. This exciting mix of animation and thrilling live-action building features real skyscrapers being constructed, Bob and his Can-Do Crew hammer out solutions that lead to a job well done. From start to finish, the team proves that The Fun Is In Getting It Done! Bob the Builder ON SITE: Skyscrapers is available ONLY on DVD, and is never-before-seen on TV.

Reaching new heights in construction, Bob and his Can-Do Crew – Dizzy, Roley, Lofty, Tumbler, Flex and the rest of the team – take future architects and contractors out for another on-site adventure, this time to learn how the urban tower – the skyscraper – is built. From drafting the blueprints to laying the foundation, finishing the top-most floor and installing the elevator system, Skyscrapers breaks the process down into engaging, easy-to-follow stages, incorporating Bob the Builder’s delightful animation and charming characters, along with live action construction site footage. The sky has no limit in this latest title from everyone’s favorite builder!

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES

• Build It with Bob Puzzle
• Trivia Tune Up
• Bonus Episode Roary the Racing Car™ in “Big Chris learns to Fly”, the all-new animated series from the creators of Bob the Builder™

Age Target: 2-5 years old
Running Time: Approximately 60 Minutes
Audio Status: English, Spanish and French 2.0 Dolby Digital
For more information, go to http://www.bobthebuilder.com/

SPRING BREAK SAFETY TIPS

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

From our colleagues at the American Academy of Pediatrics come suggestions for safety tips during your Spring break. As much as Spring break is a great time for the family to get away from the cold, dark days of winter and have some fun in the sun, it’s good to remember basic safety tips.
Spring break is a great time for the family to get away from the cold, dark days of winter and have some fun in the sun. Keep your family safe while on your trip by following these tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Please feel free to use them in any print or broadcast story, with appropriate attribution of source.

Sun Safety for Babies

Babies under 6 months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight. Move your baby to the shade under a tree, umbrella or stroller canopy. It is okay to apply a small amount of sunscreen on infants under 6 months if there is no way to avoid the sun.

Dress babies in lightweight clothing that covers the arms and legs, and use brimmed hats.

Sun Safety for Kids

Choose sunscreen that is made for children, preferably waterproof. Before covering your child, test the sunscreen on your child’s back for an allergic reaction. Apply carefully around the eyes, avoiding eyelids. If a rash develops, talk with your pediatrician.

Select clothes made of tightly woven fabrics. Cotton clothing is both cool and protective.

When using a cap with a bill, make sure the bill is facing forward to shield your child’s face. Sunglasses with UV protection are also a good idea for protecting your child’s eyes.

If your child gets sunburn that results in blistering, pain or fever, contact your pediatrician.

Sun Safety for the Family

The sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Try to keep out of the sun during those hours.

The sun’s damaging UV rays can bounce back from sand, snow or concrete; so be particularly careful of these areas.

Most of the sun’s rays can come through the clouds on an overcast day; so use sun protection even on cloudy days.

When choosing a sunscreen, look for the words “broad-spectrum” on the label - it means that the sunscreen will screen out both ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet A (UVA) rays. Choose a water-resistant or waterproof sunscreen and reapply every two hours.

Zinc oxide, a very effective sunblock, can be used as extra protection on the nose, cheeks, tops of the ears and on the shoulders.

Use a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.

Rub sunscreen in well, making sure to cover all exposed areas, especially the face, nose, ears, feet and hands, and even the backs of the knees.

Put on sunscreen 30 minutes before going outdoors - it needs time to work on the skin.

Sunscreens should be used for sun protection and not as a reason to stay in the sun longer.

Beach Tips *

Drink plenty of water, non-carbonated and non-alcoholic drinks, even if you do not feel thirsty.

Stay within the designated swimming area and ideally within the visibility of a lifeguard

Never swim alone.

Be aware of rip currents. If you should get caught in a current, don’t try to swim against it. Swim parallel to shore until clear of the current.

Seek shelter in case of storm. Get out of the water. Get off the beach in case of lightning.

Watch out for traffic – some beaches allow cars.

Tips are available in English and Spanish at http://www.aap.org/advocacy/releases/marspringbreaktips.cfm

©American Academy of Pediatrics 2/09

Barney’s Top 20 Countdown On DVD March 10, 2009

Monday, March 9th, 2009
Put on your dancing shoes and get ready to sing, dance and count down from twenty with Barney in this all-new DVD special, Barney’s Top 20 Countdown.

Barney engages a lively studio audience of youngsters with a countdown of his 20 favorite songs. Right from the start, Barney, along with Baby Bop and B.J., gets kids on their feet singing, dancing and counting to everyone’s favorite tunes like “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe,” “Mr. Knickerbocker,” “The Elephant Song,” “Good Manners,” “If I Lived Under the Sea,” “The Doctor is a Friend of Mine” and of course, “I Love You.” It’s a musical party full of fun and learning  designed for the entire family.
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES

What’s That Sound? Game
“If You’re Happy and You Know It” Sing-Along
Bonus Episode - Roary The Racing Car™ - “Roary Cleans Up His Act” The all-new animated series from the creators of Bob the Builder™

Year of Production: 2009
Age Target: 1-5 years old
Running Time: Approximately 52 Minutes
Audio Status: English and Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital
For more information, go to http://www.barney.com/

National Art Contest - Chance to Win a trip to Washington D.C.

Monday, March 9th, 2009
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) invites children to enter a national art contest with a chance to win a trip to Washington, DC, this year. The contest is open to boys and girls in three groups, grades 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12, and the theme is “Protecting Children from Tobacco Smoke.”

Group winners and their parents/guardians will be invited to a presentation ceremony before several thousand pediatricians at the 2009 AAP National Conference & Exhibition in Washington, DC, on Saturday, October 17. Each first-place winner will receive $500 and up to $1,000 for travel-related expenses. The three second-place winners will each receive $250. The six winners’ schools will be awarded matching cash amounts. Winners will have their artwork featured on the AAP Web site and in promotional materials.

“There are still far too many young people who smoke and many pick up this deadly habit while they are at school,” warns AAP President David Tayloe, Jr, MD, FAAP. “This is an opportunity for children to exercise their creative side to alert other children – and parents — to the dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke.”

This year’s contest is an initiative of the AAP’s Julius B. Richmond Center, supported by the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute, and dedicated to the elimination of children’s exposure to tobacco and secondhand smoke.

To enter, children should submit an original piece of artwork to: National Art Contest, American Academy of Pediatrics, 141, Northwest Point Boulevard, Elk Grove Village, IL 60007.

Rules, official entry forms and consent forms must accompany all entries and are available online at http://www.aap.org/ . Entries must be postmarked by July 31, 2009. Winning entries will be selected by a panel of judges including pediatricians, and announced in the summer.

New Research Shows Infant Videos Harmless And Benefits Questionable

Thursday, March 5th, 2009
The American Academy of Pediatrics has release information about a new study that shows exposing infants and toddlers to television does not improve their language and visual motor skills at age 3, but does not appear to harm them either.

In the study, “Television Viewing in Infancy and Child Cognition at 3 Years of Age in a US Cohort,” researchers looked at the amount of time 872 children spent watching television or videos from birth to 2 years of age, then assessed their language and visual motor skills at age 3. When researchers adjusted for other factors that could influence these skills, such as maternal education and breastfeeding, the effect of television appeared neutral. Contrary to many parents’ perception that television viewing is beneficial to their children’s brain development, the researchers found no evidence of such a benefit. The authors point out that there are many potential benefits of limiting television exposure in children, including improved diet, lower risk of overweight, less exposure to violent content, and improved sleep quality.

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