Wednesday, January 26, 2011

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) -- Queen Elizabeth II's dad, Albert - the gentle, stammering Duke of York - never was meant to be king. And from Hollywood's early honors this season, a drama based on his life never seemed destined as heir-apparent at the Academy Awards.

Yet "The King's Speech" took a step closer to the best-picture crown Tuesday, leading the Oscars with 12 nominations and gaining momentum against the online chronicle "The Social Network," which had previously ruled the awards season.

Hollywood's top prize on Feb. 27 now seems like a two-picture duel between stories about a monarch who lives in terror of a 1930s tool of mass communication - the radio microphone - and a college kid who helped define the Internet era by inventing Facebook.

Also nominated for best picture are the Western "True Grit," second with 10 total nominations; the psychosexual thriller "Black Swan"; the boxing drama "The Fighter"; the sci-fi blockbuster "Inception"; the lesbian-family tale "The Kids Are All Right"; the survival story "127 Hours"; the animated smash "Toy Story 3"; and the Ozarks crime thriller "Winter's Bone."

"The King's Speech" is a pageant in the truest Oscar sense, with pomp, ceremony and history like past best-picture winners "The Last Emperor," "Lawrence of Arabia," "A Man for All Seasons" and "Shakespeare in Love."

GRANITE FALLS, Wash. (AP) -- Bail has been set at $100,000 for a woman and her son accused of starving 29 cats and two dogs found dead in their foreclosed home in Washington state.

A locksmith sent by a mortgage company discovered the bodies Friday at the Granite Falls home. Three animals were found alive.

The Herald newspaper in Everett reports that 65-year-old Diane Cowling and her 36-year-old son Michael are being held for investigation of animal cruelty. Their bail was set Tuesday.

Michael Cowling told investigators the family moved out in early December but that he returned several times to feed the animals. Police said the date of his last visit wasn't clear.

Photos taken by a group that helped remove the animals show the home's floors were covered in feces several inches deep.

Animal cruelty charges are punishable up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The ledger did not appear to be adding up Tuesday night when President Barack Obama urged more spending on one hand and a spending freeze on the other.

Obama spoke ambitiously of putting money into roads, research, education, efficient cars, high-speed rail and other initiatives in his State of the Union speech. He pointed to the transportation and construction projects of the last two years and proposed "we redouble these efforts." He coupled this with a call to "freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years."

But Obama offered far more examples of where he would spend than where he would cut, and some of the areas he identified for savings are not certain to yield much if anything.

For example, he said he wants to eliminate "billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies." Yet he made a similar proposal last year that went nowhere. He sought $36.5 billion in tax increases on oil and gas companies over the next decade, but Congress largely ignored the request, even though Democrats were then in charge of both houses of Congress.

A look at some of Obama's statements Tuesday night and how they compare with the facts:

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Malaysia released about 6,000 genetically modified mosquitoes into a forest in the first experiment of its kind in Asia aimed at curbing dengue fever, officials said Wednesday.

The field test is meant to pave the way for the use of genetically engineered Aedes aegypti male mosquitoes to mate with females and produce no offspring or ones with shorter lives, thus curtailing the mosquito population. Only female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes spread dengue fever, which killed 134 people in Malaysia last year.

A similar trial in the Cayman Islands last year - the first time genetically modified mosquitoes have been set loose in the wild after years of laboratory experiments and hypothetical calculations - resulted in a dramatic drop in the mosquito population in a small area studied by researchers.

The plan has sparked criticism by some Malaysian environmentalists, who fear it might have unforeseen consequences, such as the inadvertent creation of uncontrollable mutated mosquitoes. Critics also say such plans could leave a vacuum in the ecosystem that is then filled by another insect species, potentially introducing new diseases.

Much was made--mostly by Oscar de la Renta--of the first lady wearing a European designer like Alexander McQueen for the state dinner between the U.S. and China last week.

"Mrs. Obama does look great. She should take that and do something. She could do a great good for our industry," de la Renta lamented to WWD, which went on to predict that Mrs. Obama would wear an American designer for Tuesday's State of the Union address.

And that she did, donning a Rachel Roy sheath. Her black and white ribbon was to honor Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.