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    SI Swimsuit cover girl Kate Upton grew up in Michigan and is a big Wolverines fan. Upton is at the NCAA National Championship tonight at the Georgia Dome supporting Michigan with her younger brother and a friend.

    She tweeted this photo (via USA Today Sports):

    She also posted this Vine:

    Please follow Sports Page on Twitter and Facebook.

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    Scott Sassa

    Until March of this year, Scott Sassa was one of the most influential media executives in the U.S.

    As president of entertainment and syndication at Hearst (it owns Cosmopolitan, among other titles), he cut deals with ESPN and Lifetime, and received a reported $6 million salary. He was a longtime friend of the Kardashian family.

    Sassa's most recent success was "The Bible," a joint project with Survivor's Mark Burnett for The History Channel that got record ratings. He was the executive producer of the show, which was so popular that its audience rivaled that of AMC's The Walking Dead in size.

    The two-hour conclusion of "The Bible" on Easter Sunday should have been Sassa's moment of triumph.

    Instead, he found himself unemployed, spending time with his kids on vacation in Hawaii, wondering how he can salvage his career after the boyfriend of an escort sent Hearst's legal department copies of sexy text messages the woman and Sassa had exchanged.

    A source sent copies of those texts to Business Insider, along with emails exchanged between the boyfriend and Hearst. The messages have circulated among several Hearst executives. The texts are sexually graphic, and discussed drugs. They are not safe to be read aloud at work.

    But they aren't unusual.

    Go straight to the texts >

    Sexting is so common as to be mainstream, and it sometimes seems as if everybody does it. Samsung has even made a funny commercial about sex-texting. While sexting feels intimate and exciting to those exchanging the messages, what is often forgotten is that texts have only limited privacy protections. They can be copied and forwarded any number of ways. Sassa's texts, for instance, were not passed on by him or the woman to any third party. Rather, they were discovered by her disgruntled boyfriend — a man who may also have been her "business manager" — who became annoyed at the relationship between the two.

    This, then, is a cautionary tale about the lack of privacy in the digital age.

    Kira 3The texts do not show that Sassa ever met the woman, an escort going by the name "Kira" who worked for the Friends of Kari Ann web site in the Los Angeles area.

    They are simply messages between two consenting adults, conducted in private. Neither Sassa nor the woman have been accused of any wrongdoing. They are both single. In many ways, the messages were none of Hearst's business — it wasn't even a workday when Sassa sent them.

    When reached, Sassa told Business Insider, "I just want to put this behind me."

    "Kira" did not return a message requesting comment. The boyfriend, who does business under the name Ben Free, declined to talk on the record, although he did confirm the messages were genuine, and that he had an extensive criminal record which includes a conviction for assault. Three other sources familiar with the messages also confirmed to BI that the messages were Sassa's.

    Unsurprisingly, few people were willing to talk to us on the record about Sassa's fall.

    But speaking privately, those who knew him describe a driven, intense executive who is a great father to his children. Some in the media business have expressed sympathy for him. After all, would anyone want the messages they've sent to lovers exposed to their employers? Expect Sassa, after a brief break, to come back to the business in a big way — we're told his phone is ringing off the hook with offers.

    "He was the smartest, most forward-thinking media executive I ever worked with," said one colleague. "He was taking Hearst into the 21st Century."

    Hearst, however, is a conservative company. "Everybody on the top floor is married with a wife and 2.5 kids and a picket fence," a source says. Sassa was single.

    Three female sources told us that they had nothing but respect for Sassa, that they felt the texts were an aberration and not reflective of his day-to-day dealings with women. They noted that the texts occurred on Christmas Day, when Sassa — who lives in New York — was stuck in a Los Angeles hotel room without his family. "Here's a guy who was displaced around the holidays, who was kind of lonely," one told us.

    By mid-March, The New York Post reported that Sassa was the victim of an extortion plot involving the messages, and on March 13 he resigned his position. Hearst likely gave him a large severance package.

    The following slides explain how it happened.

    They contain texts that use highly pornographic language and references to illegal drugs. They will likely be offensive to many readers.

    It's Christmas Day in 2012, and Sassa texts "Kira," to see if she will meet him. The name "Kari Ann" refers to Friends of Kari Ann, an escort service. Kira sends him a photo of herself. (A colleague of Sassa's tells us he was on his own for the holiday, and was probably feeling sad because of it. "This is not what he does on a regular basis," the source says.)

    The photo is Kira's publicity shot from the web site.

    Sassa tries to persuade Kira to meet him by promising her "Molly," a reference to an ecstacy-like drug called MDMA. He's willing to pay $1,000 for two hours of her time.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

    Please follow Advertising on Twitter and Facebook.

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    The Wizard of Oz Witch and Judy GarlandMargaret Thatcher passed away yesterday morning. Subsequently, Judy Garland's 1939 song "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead" has rocketed up the UK iTunes charts, reaching No. 27 this morning.

    The song, made popular by the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, has seen a resurgence after a Facebook campaign urged people to buy it. The Facebook group has over 3,000 members.

    A poll carried out yesterday by the Guardian shows how controversial Thatcher's legacy remains. 34% of those polled believe Thatcher's rule was "Bad" for Britain, while 50% believe it was "Good" (16% were undecided).

    Her Thatcherite economic policies took the most criticism, with 70% of those polled agreeing that her unpopular Poll Tax was ineffective.

    Elvis Costello's 1989 anti-Thatcher hit "Tramp The Dirt Down" has also surged on the UK charts. It stood at No. 93 in iTunes this morning.

    Please follow Politics on Twitter and Facebook.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    • ll cool j brad paisleyAfter LL Cool J and Brad Paisley received a lot of flak for their new duet "Accidental Racist" Monday, Paisley defended the song on Twitter"So, as you buy this album, I hope it triggers emotions. I hope you feel joy, heartache, triumph, surprise; you laugh, cry, nudge someone beside you," he wrote. "I hope the album rocks you, soothes you, raises questions, answers, evokes feelings, all the way through until Officially Alive," Paisley continued, referring to his upcoming full length album. Paisley ended his Twitter defense with: "Cause I wouldn't change a thing. This is a record meant to be FAR from easy listening. But fun. Like life. Have a ball, ya'll."
    • "The Talk" host and former "Roseanne" star Sara Gilbert is engaged to singer-songwriter Linda Perry, after she popped the question with an elaborate musical proposal during a picnic in Los Angeles.
    • Questlove says The Roots will remain with Jimmy Fallon when he moves to the "Tonight Show." “It’s going to be the same show … we’re staying.”
    • Turns out Beyoncé and Jay-Z's "cultural" trip to Cuba got the U.S. Treasury Department's stamp of approval, after all.
    • Rihanna told Kendall Jennernot to go to her L.A. concert last night, but she did anyway.
    • Katy Perryvisited children in Madagascar on a UNICEF trip.
    • Halle Berryshows off her baby bump for the first time on the red carpet.
    • 57-year-old Sharon Stone is still dating a 27-year-old Argentinian model.

    SEE ALSO: LL Cool J and Brad Paisley's "Accidental Racist" is the strangest music collaboration ever >

    Please follow The Wire on Twitter and Facebook.

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    ATT AT&T Park San Francisco Giants Baseball Stadium

    Business Insider is looking for an advertising account executive who is proactive, highly motivated, and has a firm understanding of the online advertising industry and a tenacious desire to succeed in a start-up environment.

    This AE will call on a variety of blue-chip advertisers in Northern California and surrounding areas. The position is based in San Francisco with some travel and plenty of sales calls.

    Key requirements:

    • 5+ years in digital advertising sales with a solid list of agency contacts
    • Polished presentation and sales skills
    • Well organized professional who can manage a vibrant account list
    • Ability to comprehend and stay ahead of the digital media buying cycle
    • Eagerness to thrive at a start-up, with a passion for winning
    • Attention to detail and can analyze the key campaign performance indicators
    • Can build and maintain strong relationships with clients and agencies at all levels

    Please forward resume and cover letter to: Thanks in advance.

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    star trek into darkness zoe saldana zachary quintoParamount released a new set of images from "Star Trek Into Darkness" yesterday.

    Though we get a few new looks at Captain Kirk, the crew, and the mysterious villain known as "John Harrison," we still know very little about the film.

    This isn't new for a J.J. Abrams movie. The director loves to keep his films under wraps until release ("Super 8," "Cloverfield"). 

    What is cool to see among the up-close character images is a behind-the-scenes photo of Abrams on set.

    "Star Trek Into Darkness" comes to theaters May 17.

    Everything looks fine on board with Hikaru Sulu (John Cho).

    Looks like Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin) just received some bad news. Check out the Starfleet insignia on that phone.

    Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) look troubled by something as well.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

    Please follow The Wire on Twitter and Facebook.

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    JOyce Banda Malawi President

    Don't count Malawai President Joyce Banda as one of Madonna's millions of fans.

    After Madonna finished her weeklong humanitarian trip on Saturday to the impoverished country, Banda reportedly revoked the singer's VIP status at the airport and made her — gasp — go through standard security checks with regular travelers, according to The Telegraph.

    Banda had previously complained to a reporter about the singer getting VIP access on her way into the country and about the way she treated the kids with whom she met during her visit.

    "She just came unannounced and proceeded to villages and made poor people dance for her. And immigration officials opened the VIP lounge for her just because previously she enjoyed the VIP status," Banda told a journalist covering her trip, according to the paper.

    But the beef between Banda and Madonna goes even further back.

    Madonna MalawaiIn 2011, Madonna, who has reportedly spent over $11 million of her own money on Malawian projects since 2006, suddenly canceled plans to build an all-girls school, in favor of erecting 10 community schools.

    In 2012, President Banda spoke to The Telegraph, saying "Madonna came to Malawi to build a school, an academy like the one Oprah (Winfrey) build in South Africa, but she changed her mind."

    Banda also took issue with Madonna's adoption of two Malawian children — 7-year-old David and 6-year-old Mercy.

    "I have a problem with a lot of things around the adoption of the children and the changing of the mind and then coming back to build community schools," she continued to the paper. "It's something [Madonna] offered to do, and she has changed her mind—that's fine."

    Education Minister Eunice Kazembe told the BBC, "They have said they have built 10 schools in Malawi, and on our side, what we know is that she has built classrooms. She has built classrooms at existing schools...really it's a difference in terminology."

    But perhaps Banda's beef with Madonna is due to more personal reasons after the singer fired Banda's sister from serving as her nonprofit’s CEO. Banda's sister now works for the Ministry of Education.

    Banda also reportedly didn't appreciate a handwritten note the popstar wrote her, addressing Malwai's first female president by her first name, Joyce, and misspelling words throughout the note.

    Check out the letter — in which Madonna tries and fails to smooth things over with Banda — here >

    SEE ALSO: Read Meryl Streep's heartfelt statement on her 'Iron LAdy' character, Margaret Thatcher >

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    Mitch McConnellA new leaked tape from Mother Jones reveals that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his campaign staff were eager to discredit actress Ashley Judd had she decided to challenge his Senate seat in 2014.

    The tape provides a look at high-profile campaign opposition work hardball. In the audio, a strategist for McConnell breaks down how the campaign planned to cast Judd as a serious weirdo, including attacking her mental health and religious beliefs.

    "She's clearly, this sounds extreme, but she is emotionally unbalanced. I mean it's been documented," the meeting leader says in the tape. "Jesse can go in chapter and verse from her autobiography about, you know, she's suffered some suicidal tendencies. She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the '90s." 

    Beyond that, the strategist also played a series of statements made by Judd that make her sound quirky, at best. 

    Here's two choice Judd statements that had McConnell's staff in stitches: 

    I call it the American anesthesia. You know, I come back to this country. I freak out in airports. The colors, the sounds, all those different ways of packaging the same snack but trying to, you know, make it look like it's distinct and different and convince consumers that they have to have it. I mean all of that. The last time I came home from a trip, I absolutely flipped out when I saw pink fuzzy socks on a rack. I mean, I can never anticipate what is going to push me over the edge.

    I still choose the God of my understanding as the God of my childhood. I have to expand my God concept from time to time, and you know particularly I enjoy native faith practices, and have a very nature-based God concept. I'd like to think I'm like St. Francis in that way. Brother Donkey, Sister Bird.

    The McConnell campaign has reacted with outrage to the tape, and said Tuesday that they are "working with the FBI" to figure out who provided the audio to David Corn, the Mother Jones Washington bureau chief famous for publishing the leaked Mitt Romney "47 percent" tape last summer. 

    "We’ve always said the Left would stop at nothing to attack Sen. McConnell, but Watergate-style tactics to bug campaign headquarters are above and beyond," McConnell's campaign manager Jesse Benton said in a statement to Business Insider

    "Senator McConnell’s campaign is working with the FBI and has notified the local U.S. Attorney in Louisville, per FBI request, about these recordings.  Obviously a recording device of some kind was placed in Senator McConnell’s campaign office without consent.  By whom and how that was accomplished presumably will be the subject of a criminal investigation.” 

    Here's the full recording, courtesy of Mother Jones

    Read the full transcript of the audio here >

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    Christina Hendricks Joan Mad Men

    Don Draper may be getting all of the ladies on "Mad Men," but he's not the biggest hit with the fans online. 

    According to both Yahoo and Google search statistics, viewers of the hit AMC series aren't searching for Jon Hamm or Don Draper, despite much of the show's advertising for the new season revolving around the character. 

    Rather, people are searching for Christina Hendricks, who plays Joan Holloway, on both search engines.  

    Yahoo says searches for Hendricks were eight times more prevalent than Hamm. 

    Here are the most searched characters from the series on both Yahoo and Google:

    Yahoo Google
    1. Christina Hendricks (Joan Holloway)        1. Christina Hendricks
    2. January Jones (Betty Draper) 2. Jon Hamm (Don Draper)
    3. Jessica Paré (Megan Draper) 3. January Jones
    4. Jon Hamm 4. Elisabeth Moss (Peggy Olsen)
    5. Elisabeth Moss 5. John Slattery (Roger Sterling)

    SEE ALSO: What the cast of 'Mad Men' is like in real life >

    Not caught up with the show? What you need to know before season six >

    SEE ALSO: 'Mad Men' wouldn't be on television if it weren't for this woman >

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    TMZ caught up with Bob Saget outside of the airport Monday and asked the former "America's Funniest Home Videos" host if there was ever a clip that producers wouldn't allow him to show. 

    "I think it was more that I wanted to NOT show, if I recall," Saget responded.

    Below is what Saget says is his least favorite clip, because, well, "I'm not into boogers."

    TMZ found the clip of the infamous booger prank:

    SEE ALSO: LL Cool J and Brad Paisley's "Accidental Racist" is the worst song ever >

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    "Sex and the City" writer Candace Bushnell recently defended the CW's "The Carrie Diaries," a sort-of TV prequel to the hit HBO show also based on her books.

    Bushnell told The Daily Beast: "Interestingly, I had a couple girlfriends over, and we were watching 'Sex and the City,' and then we watched some 'Carrie Diaries.' There are a lot of surprising similarities in terms of tone and the kinds of antics the characters get into. So I think they’re doing a good job."

    The people over at Vulture noticed the striking similarities between the two shows and put together a video montage displaying the 24 repeat moments from "Sex and the City" in "The Carrie Diaries."

    Snow globes, Manolo Blahniks, blogging from bed, using her oven for storage — it's all here. Watch below:

    SEE ALSO: Here's the clip Bob Saget didn't want you to see on "America's Funniest Home Videos" >

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    Jeff Bewkes

    Time Warner’s stock is surging. Its CEO’s pay? Not so much. CEO Jeff Bewkes made $25.89 million in 2012, according to a regulatory filing on Monday.

    While $25 million might seem like a lot to most of us, it’s a slight dip from the previous two years when Bewkes earned $25.9 million and $26.3 million respectively.

    Over that same time span, Time Warner’s stock has almost doubled in value. Time Warner started 2010 with its stock in the high 20s, cratering at $27.03 on Feb. 5.  As recently as June 1 of last year, the stock sat at $33.76.

    Now? Time Warner closed on Monday at $58.35, and its share price has jumped more than 20 percent since the start of the year.

    Time Warner notes its strong recent financial performance in the filing, as measured by its annual earnings per share. That figure sat at $1.42 in 2008. Since then? It’s grown each year, reaching $3.28 last year.

    The vast majority of Bewkes' stock is tied to the performance of the company, so it would seem odd that he doesn't make more. The explanation? Stock options. He was granted the options when the company's share price was lower, so he doesn't reap the rewards of his own work.

    Bewkes just made headlines for announcing that Time Warner would spin off Time Inc., its magazine division and its namesake. Most analysts on the street have praised the move, which focuses the company on its core film and TV assets.

    Maybe someone will help him out in 2013.

    SEE ALSO: E! Writers Claim They're Owed More Than $1M In Unpaid Wages

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    CoachellaUPDATE: After our story broke yesterday, our pals at JezebelSalonNY Mag, and Buzzfeed all ran with the article, prompting sponsor Smashbox to respond.

    (Previously, we were told by True Religion they didn't know this was the theme, either, and they had concerns about the party as well.) In our comments, a representative claiming to be from Smashbox has written:

    "Smashbox Studios agreed to sponsor the pop up photo session portion of Flaunt's Coachella event not knowing there was a theme beyond it being a "feel good after party" to the music festival. We saw the invitation for the first time this morning, when it was thankfully brought to our attention by our concerned clients. In no way do we condone the artwork or title and have spoken with the magazine who have agreed to a name and artwork change." 

    However, Smashbox has now told NY Mag that the atmosphere of the party is tainted, and they are pulling out of the event altogether. Also, Buzzfeed has reported that a representative of Flaunt told them:

    "In its 15-year history, Flaunt has not shied away from controversy or provocation. We routinely cover topics of social and political contention. At our event, we intend to create an atmosphere of fun, and the spirit and theme were never intended to cause offense or harm. Guantanamo has been controversial from its inception, and that an unresolved human rights issue is again fetching headlines is, in our opinion, true to our aims as a publication. We value and respect the public's concern and are taking action." 

    No word yet on what that action entails. 

    Coachella is pretty much crowned the "cool-kid" festival, thanks to its proximity to Los Angeles, high celebrity ratio, It-brand corporate sponsorship, and the generally on-point line-up. With cool-kid cred, of course, comes a healthy dose of irony, but irony is best when accompanied with intelligence and self-awareness, not haphazardly juxtaposing offensive imagery and glam. 

    Flaunt Magazine tends to be pretty great when it comes to thinking creatively, but its recent invite to a Guantanamo-themed party (yes, seriously) quickly shifted from fun to completely absurd. Touting "pleasurable torture" and showing scantily clad girls with automatic weapons holding blindfolded beach-goers hostage, the event promises a "unique and painfully pleasurable pop up (sic) experience.

    The watering hole, the first building ever built in Coachella, CA, will feature playful torture by Smashbox Studios with beats poured by French music and fashion label Kitsuné. This one will go until dawn." Yep, that was a waterboarding joke you just read. 

    The idea of a "New Guantanamo" isn't playful or cheeky — it's completely antithetical to the spirit of Coachella — or fun, or any sort of festival experience, whatsoever. Of course, that may be the point: The contrast of two totally disparate events, but that doesn't make it interesting, edgy, or even okay. Instead, it imagines a "sexy" version of Guantanamo where, instead of torture, espionage, terrorist activity, waterboarding, fear, and pain, there exists socially mobile "partygoers" just looking to have "a little crazy fun."

    We've reached out for a comment, and are currently waiting to hear back, but this feels so intrinsically wrong to us, we are flabbergasted that no one involved with this gathering didn't pause and pose a slightly horrified WTF.

    Please follow The Life on Twitter and Facebook.

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    The Americans FX

    "The Americans," a Soviet spy drama currently airing on FX, has been earning plaudits since it debuted in January.

    The show follows the lives of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, a seemingly all-American couple living in D.C. with two kids in the early '80s, who are really Russian-born Soviet spies.

    It's a great story, but the question on everyone's mind after watching the show is whether anything like this actually happened.

    To answer this question, we asked Peter Earnest, the founding executive director of D.C.'s International Spy Museum and a 35-year CIA spy veteran. He spent 25 years as a case officer in the agency's Clandestine Service, conducting intelligence collection and covert action operations.

    He's also a fan of "The Americans," telling us he DVRs the episodes. Here's his take.

    "Illegals" are a real problem

    Vilyam Genrikhovich Fisher Soviet StampTo Earnest, the concept of the show was fascinating. "I heard the show was going to be on, and I watched the pilot, and I was struck by [it]," he told Business Insider in a phone interview. "I thought 'Oh, they're trying to use some real trade craft.'"

    Foreign national sleeper agents in the U.S. — what Earnest refers to as "Illegals" — were certainly used by the Soviets. Earnest points to Vilyam Genrikhovich Fisher, a KGB officer better known as Rudolf Ivanovich Abel who was a spy in 1950s New York City.

    "[Abel] was an illegal, and he settled in in this country, had a small business. The idea is to blend into your surroundings – so if that takes a small business and a pursuit that explains why you're there and how you're able to pay your rent, that's all you really need."

    Earnest also points to modern day cases of illegals. You've undoubtedly heard of Anna Chapman, the Russian spy expelled from the U.S. a few years ago. Chapman had been living in New York, working in real estate, for over a year before she was caught (she had lived in London for years before that).

    Chapman was just one of 10 "sleeper agents" in the U.S. caught by the FBI in 2010.

    Tactical errors

    Earnest told us the techniques used in the show, like dead drops and multiple disguises, seem realistic and would have been used both during the Cold War and today. What isn't realistic is the amount the Jennings have to do.

    "I've never heard of an illegal who would be so heavily tasked to do so many different things,"

    "I've never heard of an illegal who would be so heavily tasked to do so many different things."

    Earnest told us. "They're often saved for some extraordinary thing, or they may handle someone who can't be handled by someone under official cover in the embassy."

    Another unlikely element is the combat training the spies in "The Americans" have. The couple, especially husband Philip, are shown to be experts in firearms and martial arts. This wasn't how any illegals he knew acted, Earnest says.

    "Illegals typically were normal people," he explains. "They weren't expected to engage in martial arts – in many cases they didn't even carry weapons."

    That the Jennings would speak such flawless, American-accented English is also unusual. Some kind of accent would usually be noticeable, Earnest explained, and the illegal would have some sort of foreign background that explained it.

    The reasoning behind this may simply be practical — how many foreign nationals do you know who can speak English without a hint of any accent? According to the Chicago Tribune, most experts agree that non-natives find accents "virtually impossible" to lose after they reach puberty (the show clearly shows both Jennings in Russia speaking accented English as young adults).

    Honey traps

    Other tactics shown in the show are more plausible. Both Philip and wife Elizabeth are shown to seduce people and be sexually active with people in a bid to get information. He points to Karl and Hana Koecher, Czech intelligence officers for the CIA in the 1970s.

    sexy russian spy anna chapman"They were active in the '60s in the sex clubs, the key clubs – people hooking up with other couples," Earnest said. "And they frequented places here in Washington. There was a restaurant on G Street near the White House, frequented by staff members from the White House and congressional types."

    Earnest says that the Koechers' activity seemed to be just "for the sex" ("I don't know of any instance in which they developed a source out of that, but they certainly got to meet some interesting people," he explained), but in other cases it was more clearly a tactic. Anna Chapman herself was reportedly apprehended as she was thought to be close to seducing an Obama cabinet official— what's known as a honey trap.

    The CIA link to the show

    To Earnest, it seemed the show represented an exaggerated picture, but there were still traces of reality.

    "It's like any dramatization of a story," he says. "It's sort of over the top."

    This link to reality is likely a product of the show's creator, Joe Weisburg, who worked in the CIA’s directorate of operations from 1990 to 1994.

    In a recent interview with Slate, Weisberg argued that his background allowed him to more accurately portray the real "trade craft" of the profession.

    "A lot of what you see of spies in TV and movies has to do with blowing things up," he told June Thomas. "In the real world, there’s a lot more recruiting and handling and running agents."

    Weisburg also admitted that he was obliged to send anything he'd written to the Publications Review Board at the CIA. Earnest explained that the reasoning behind this was simple — to make sure that Weisberg wasn't revealing any secrets.

    "They could care less (sic) about the accuracy," Earnest explained. "Their only concern, by law, is what's called sources and methods. They're reviewing it to make sure it contains no classified information."

    Would would anyone want to know what the reality is?

    It's possible that the general public will never know the full extent to which a show like "The Americans" is accurate — spying, by its nature, is secret, even to people within the profession.

    However, there's one factor that most spies appear to agree on — most of the time, spying is really, really boring.

    "[Being a spy is] ultimately very dull work," Former CIA officer and author Robert Baer said in an interview last year. "You’re lucky if it is interspersed with serious accomplishment or danger. It is generally waiting for things to happen. And you run into the same kind of mediocrity that you encounter anywhere else in life."

    "[Being a spy is] ultimately very dull work."

    Weisburg knows this, and told Slate, "If you showed the way things really work, it would be boring." This probably explains any inaccuracies and exaggerations in the show.

    However, Earnest believes that shows like "The Americans" — even if they are exaggerated or over the top — have a positive effect for the espionage community by showing the human side of the industry.

    "I had dinner with someone the other night — with a couple — and I asked the woman if she'd seen 'The Americans.' She said yes, and I asked her, 'What's your impression?,'" he explained. "And she said, 'I never thought about people living like that, living normal lives, in our country.'"

    "And that's someone who never would have grasped the actuality of an illegal, and that still, in its way, enabled her to see that. She knew about the illegals who had been arrested [in 2010] but it didn't mean anything to her. But seeing that dramatization brought that home to her in a different way. So I think popular culture plays a role in the way."

    So which is better?

    So which is better, "The Americans" or Showtime's spy drama "Homeland"?

    Earnest balked at the question. "You know, I didn't stay with Homeland — it would go on and on and on because we couldn't determine whether this guy was a double or not," he explained. "But I liked the cast. I think Obama watches it, I understand."

    However, when Earnest was pressed on which he preferred, he had an unexpected answer.

    "This will disappoint you enormously," he said contritely, "but the one program I tried to catch regularly was 'Downton Abbey.'"

    Many thanks to Peter for talking to us. Make sure to visit the International Spy Museum next time you are in D.C.

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    the avengers captain america iron man

    One of the strongest contenders for a hit fall series is Disney's "Avengers" spinoff series about S.H.I.E.L.D., Marvel's human intergalactic police force.

    Fans were buzzing over the weekend when they found a rumored new title and plot for the upcoming show on an advertising site for ABCrevealing the series may be called "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."

    While, Entertainment Weekly reports the title isn't official, it seems to be what producers and Marvel are referring to the series as for now. 

    Here's the plot:

    "Fresh from his role in the summer’s box office smash, Marvel's The Avengers, Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) returns to the worldwide law enforcement organization S.H.I.E.L.D. He puts together a small, highly trained, team of Agents to tackle the cases that haven’t been classified yet, the new, the strange and the unknown. That team consists of straight arrow Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), an expert in combat and espionage; pilot and martial artist Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen); and brilliant if socially awkward scientists Agent Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Agent Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge). They’ll be joined by civilian new recruit and computer hacker Skye (Chloe Bennet).

    Prepare for an epic adventure that showcases the hope and wonder of the human spirit. This is a world of Super Heroes, aliens and the unusual – of action, spectacle and world spanning stories. The show will speak to the human condition through the lens of our very human, non-powered S.H.I.E.L.D agents – that together we are greater than we are apart, and that we can make a difference in the world."

    the avengers phil coulsonDisney really knows what it's doing with the Marvel property.

    It wisely built up the franchise by producing interest in individual character films – Iron Man, Captain America, Thor – before tackling a group film in "The Avengers."

    The result, was box-office gold.

    Last year, "The Avengers" went on to become the highest-grossing film of the year, and the third highest-grossing of all time.

    With the sequel not out until 2015, it makes sense ABC greenlit a pilot for the series last August for fans eagerly awaiting the next film.

    Plus, over the next two years Disney and Marvel are working on the next set of "Avengers" films titled "Phase 2," which includes "Iron Man 3," "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," "Thor: The Dark World," "Ant-Man," and "Guardians of the Galaxy."

    The series will take place following the events of last year's movie, focusing on the agents led by Agent Phil Coulsen (Clark Gregg) who appeared in the film. (Remember, Coulsen died in the movie, a plot point Gregg told EW will be explained in the series.)

    If done correctly, the series has a lot of potential.

    So far, it appears to be going in the right direction. 

    Joss Whedon, who directed "The Avengers" and consulted on "Captain America: The First Avenger" is attached to co-write the pilot for the series and may direct as well. 

    Disney and Marvel could tie in actors from the series to films and vice versa in small cameos not only for extra draw and viewer appeal, but also to make a direct connection between the series and films.

    It wouldn't be difficult given Whedon worked on "The Avengers." The drawback is that a Robert Downey Jr. cameo wouldn't come cheap (but think of the ratings!).

    iron man 3 tony starkThe one thing we can't get over is this long, unofficial title for the series, which seems slightly packed especially for social media and sharing purposes online.  

    We wouldn't be surprised to see the title cut down to "S.H.I.E.L.D." (By the way, in case you're wondering, the acronym stands for "Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate.") 

    Last May, TIME asked whether a superhero series could survive on television

    Over the past few years we've seen a short-lived NBC series "The Cape," a failed "Wonder Woman" pilot, and Batman spinoff "Birds of Prey" failed to pick up steam with audiences.

    However, there has been success (mostly with Superman).

    For a decade, "Smallville," following a teenage man of steel, dominated the CW.

    Most recently, the CW renewed "Arrow," based on DC superhero Green Arrow, for a third season

    And, 20 years ago, ABC had a hit superhero series of its own in "Lois & Clark – The New Adventures of Superman." The show lived for four seasons on the network with no ties to any film series.

    Since "S.H.I.E.L.D." revolves around a franchise, and a very successful one at that, it's difficult to see it do anything but thrive. 

    Otherwise, it would be a hard flop for Disney.

    SEE ALSO: 15 Images From The Next Wave Of Marvel Films >

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    Snoop Dogg

    Facebook users in the UK can now pay to message their favorite celebrities' inboxes.

    Since December, Facebook has charged many users in the US $1 to message strangers' inboxes directly. The charge is part of a "test" to improve filtering of unwanted messages, according to a Facebook announcement.

    Users can also have their messages delivered to those with a high number of 'Followers' — generally the profiles of public figures and celebrities. The pay-to-message system was expanded to the UK yesterday.

    Facebook explains that several price points are being tested. The cost of sending a message is partly dependent on the receipient 's level of fame, which Facebook calculates with a secret algorithm.

    $15 seems to be the going rate for a message. Snoop Dogg (aka Snoop Lion), Arianna Huffington, and Salman Rushdie can all be contacted at this price. The only exception we have noticed is Olympic swimmer Tom Daley, whose inbox can be reached for $15.90.

    Salman Rushdie Facebook

    Business Insider contacted Facebook, and we are currently waiting for further explanation on the varying rates. We will write an update when we hear back.

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    Katy Perry Park Hill LA Home

    Katy Perry is selling the home she bought with ex-husband Russell Brand back in 2011 for $6.925 million, according to celebrity real estate blogger The Real Estalker.

    The mansion, known as Park Hill, sits on a double-gated, three-acre compound with private lagoon pool and sweeping views of West Hollywood from the backyard.

    In addition to the 7,000-square-foot main home, there are also two guest houses and a carriage house for auto storage.

    Perry and Brand originally bought the Mediterranean-style estate from former National Lampoon chief executive Daniel Laikin back in June 2011. Neither ever moved into the home, which according to The Real Estalker's sources Brand gave to Perry during their divorce.

    Katy Perry and Russell Brand bought this three-acre property in 2011.

    Source: Teles Properties

    It has two guest houses, and a carriage house for car storage.

    Source: Teles Properties

    Inside, the main home is 7,000 square feet.

    Source: Teles Properties

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    kristen bell veronica mars

    The "Veronica Mars" Kickstarter campaign raised a record $2 million in just ten hours  zooming past the 30-day goal.

    The campaign to turn the canceled TV show into a feature length film has since raised a total $4.5 million in funding — but apparently it's still not enough.

    Show writer/director Rob Thomas posted an update to the project page on Kickstarter, in which he revealed not only has he finished a "too long" rough draft of a script, but that they also still desperately need more funds.

    Assuring fans that he will not use their money to “swim around in a mountain of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck,” Thomas explains most of the money raised will go to freebies promised to backers but the remainder will go to making “in my humble opinion, a really great movie.”

    "I wanted to take a moment to explain something that I could have made clearer at the beginning," Thomas continued. "$2 million was our minimum goal. It would be enough to get a movie made, but it was never going to let us make the exact movie we really wanted to make, or the one we know you deserve."

    Thomas goes on to further explain:

    For a feature length movie, [$4.5 million] is still a pretty conservative budget. Everything you’ve pledged beyond the initial $2 million gives us more options, and for that I’m eternally grateful. More backing means more locations, more sets, more actors, and most important of all, more shooting days. The bottom line? That extra support gives us the freedom to make the best movie possible.

    That additional money could mean the difference between a movie that lasts 90 minutes, and one that lasts 110. It could also mean the difference between us shooting in Southern California, where the series was shot, and in a less expensive location somewhere else. 

    SEE ALSO: "Veronica Mars" movie reaches $2M Kickstarter goal in record 10 hours >

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    lil wayneLOS ANGELES (AP) — Lil Wayne, Ron Howard, Scarlett Johansson and Kim Kardashian are all on the same page when it comes to criminal justice reform.

    They're among more than 100 entertainers calling on President Barack Obama to focus on changing drug laws. Rap mogul Russell Simmons helped assemble the coalition of celebrities and civil rights leaders that presented a letter to the president on Tuesday.

    The group praises the president's efforts toward drug incarceration reform but insists "the time is right" to move toward replacing jail sentences with intervention and rehabilitation for non-violent offenders. The starry group, which also includes Jennifer Hudson, Nicki Minaj, Susan Sarandon and Will Smith, also asks Obama to form a panel to handle clemency requests and to support a measure that allows judges to waive mandatory minimum sentences.

    "It is critical that we change both the way we think about drug laws in this country and how we generate positive solutions that leave a lasting impact on rebuilding our communities," Simmons said, citing Department of Justice data that shows that the United States jails more of its citizens than any other country in the world.

    Drug offenders comprise nearly half the federal prison population in the U.S.

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    man of steel superman

    There's a new television trailer out today for Superman reboot "Man of Steel," and most fans will be disappointed. 

    The 30-second spot reveals no new footage for the film. 

    It's been about more than three months since the first—and last—full-length trailer for the reboot starring Henry Cavill and Amy Adams debuted. The ad is merely a condensed rehash of the December trailer.

    The television spot focuses on Superman's origin story: where he comes from and the kind of man he wants to be. 

    Watch it below: 

    Meanwhile, Warner Bros. has been rolling out footage and posters quite heavily for its films out next month, "The Great Gatsby" and "The Hangover: Part III." 

    In the past week, we've seen postersmore posters, a new full-length trailer, and a ton of television spots for "Gatsby."  

    The NCAA March Madness games over the weekend were even sponsored by the upcoming adaptation.  

    "The Hangover" debuted a television spot online and posters featuring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Ken Jeong, and John Goodman. 

    There's also an advertising push – not as large – for upcoming Jackie Robinson film, "42."

    It's not a surprise. The studio needs a big hit out after all of its five releases so far this year have failed to connect with audiences at the box office.  

    "Jack the Giant Slayer" was a flop. It's estimated to lose between $120 and $140 million for the studio, but was the only film out of its theatrical releases to cross $100 million internationally.

    the great gatsbyWhile we have big expectations for "Gatsby" and "Hangover" now, we're a little worried about Superman. 

    Warner Bros. is failing to deliver an aggressive campaign for the Superman reboot so far. 

    Granted, "Man of Steel" doesn't come out for another two months at the end of June. 

    However, tracking marketing for last year's "The Dark Knight Rises," Warner Bros. was advertising the film more than two months before its big release in July. 

    Last May, upon revealing a trailer for the film, Warner Bros. unleashed a world-wide viral campaign 

    The film went on to become the second highest-grossing film of the year bowing only to "The Avengers." 

    Though "The Dark Knight Rises" director Christopher Nolan serves as a co-writer for the film, the movie can't and won't ride on his coattails alone.

    Right now, according to Fandango, "Man of Steel" isn't on fans' minds as one of the most anticipated movies for the summer. ("Gatsby" and "Hangover" do share spots on the short list.) 

    However, the first "Man of Steel" trailer does have 30.8 million views, more than both "The Hangover Part III" (28.1 million) and the most-viewed "Gatsby" trailer (9.4 million).

    Word is that the third "Man of Steel" trailer is coming soon.

    We expect it to appear in theaters in front of one of "Gatsby" or "Hangover."

    "Man of Steel" comes to theaters June 14.

    SEE ALSO: 13 new images from "Star Trek Into Darkness" >

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