Review & Preview

And the Rating Is: Viewership for last week's Academy Awards telecast fell 3.1 percent from a year ago no doubt hurt by the four-and-a-half show, the longest in history. None of which is great news for third-place ABC, which was looking for strong ratings to help promote several new mid-season shows.

Trading Boost: The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach jumped in February, reflecting continued consumer spending. Shipments into Long Beach increased 30.4 percent from the like period a year ago, while exports rose 10.3 percent. Imports into Los Angeles surged 52.2 percent and exports climbed 15 percent.

Police Blotter: Crime in Los Angeles rose 5.1 percent last year and the city's murder rate increased 7.5 percent. Both numbers were lower than the state's overall rates. The cities of Berkeley, Fresno and Sacramento posted increases greater than 15 percent, while the cities of Glendale, Pasadena and Thousand Oaks each saw crime drop by more than 5 percent.

Ponzi Plea: EarthLink Inc. co-founder Reed Slatkin pleaded guilty to orchestrating a Ponzi scheme that solicited $593 million from about 800 investors. Slatkin agreed to plead guilty to 15 felony charges, including mail fraud and money laundering in connection with a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation. Slatkin faces as much as 105 years in prison and $3.75 million in fines.

Speaking of Actors: In his first such action since taking over the Screen Actors Guild last year, chief executive Robert Pisano sent an e-mail to all wired guild members imploring them to approve the tentative agreement with the Association of Talent Agents. Ballots go out Wednesday (3rd) on the controversial deal, which would loosen restrictions on agents' business dealings.

Takeover Battle: Louis Rukeyser was dropped from his show, "Wall Street Week," after he told viewers that he had been "ambushed" by the producers. Rukeyser, who had been on the show for 32 years, was to have remained until June, when his current contract ends. But on the March 22 program he railed at Maryland Public Broadcasting for its decision to reshape the show and have a Fortune Magazine editor become the new host.

Passings: Milton Berle, the brash vaudevillian who became the first star of television, at 93. Legendary writer/director Billy Wilder, whose films included "Double Imdemnity" and "Some Like it Hot." He was 95. Dudley Moore, who went after Bo Derek with abandon in the movie "10" and played a loveable drunk in "Arthur," at 66.

Global Interest: A U.S. bankruptcy judge gave two Asian telecom firms until May 21 to top their $750 million bid for Global Crossing Ltd. Other potential buyers have until June 20 to respond with rival bids. Global Crossing, which faces probes by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the FBI, has said that more than 40 other companies are considering offers for all or part of the firm.

Banking Woes: The Los Angeles City Council turned down a business plan by the Los Angeles Community Development Bank, putting into financial limbo the troubled federally funded institution. The council's action follows a city report that said the bank's plan does not adequately address a funding shortfall that has limited lending activity.


Opening Day: Baseball is back, which given the Dodgers' prospects this year might not necessarily be great news. But no matter how good or bad this year's team proves to be, you don't get much better than opening day at Dodger Stadium (2nd) against the Giants.

Venturing Time: With the economy in possible turnaround mode, the mood could be brighter at this year's Los Angeles Venture Association Investment Capital Conference. The annual get-together of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs looking for funding will take place on Thursday at the Westin Bonaventure. Steve Forbes is the scheduled keynote speaker.

Money in Africa: Hardly the place one thinks of for lucrative trade prospects, but U.S. Commerce officials said there are good opportunities available for U.S. businesses in Africa. The U.S. Export Assistance Center will help sponsor a conference on Monday (1st) for small-and mid-sized businesses to learn about the sub-Saharan market at the Millennium Biltmore.

Health Check: As earnings season winds down, Tenet Healthcare Corp. sets to announce third quarter financial results (2nd). Analysts are estimating earnings of 82 cents per diluted share for L.A.'s largest hospital operator, compared to 60 cents for the like year-earlier period.

More for Small Firms: On Friday (5th), Minorities in Business Magazine will sponsor its annual Entrepreneurial Business Conference at the Downtown Marriott. Among other things, attendees will be told where to find procurement opportunities in the government. Ronald Langston, director of the Minority Business Development Agency in Washington, will be the keynote speaker.

Talking Terrorism: Former Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado will speak about national security on Thursday (4th) in a 12:30 p.m. address to Town Hall Los Angeles at the Millennium Biltmore. Hart has been co-chair of the U.S. Commission on National Security, which issued a report several months before Sept. 11 warning of a terrorist attack in which many Americans would lose their lives.

Two Wheelers: Pedal over to the Los Angeles Convention Center Friday through Sunday (5th-7th) for the sixth annual Southern California Bicycle Expo. Free valet bicycle parking is available Saturday and Sunday, and for early risers the 27-mile City of Angels Fun Ride begins Sunday at 7:30 a.m. (registration at 6:30) at Gilbert Lindsay Plaza near Staples Center.

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