Sam Simon Diagnosed with Cancer
By Jouni Paakkinen (firstname.lastname@example.org) - March 12, 2013
Sam Simon revealed Monday in a radio interview that doctors estimate he
has only months to live. He was diagnosed with colorectal cancer about five months ago.
It has now metastasized and spread to other organs. It was estimated that
he may have only three to six months to live.
Simon considers developing The Simpsons as one of his top accomplishments in life.
Simon has not worked on the show since season four, but because of his central role in shaping the show
with James L. Brooks and Matt Groening, his name is still seen in the opening (and end) credits
of every episode, right after the couch gag.
Simon is one of the key persons in the history
and success of the show. "If you leave out Sam Simon," writer Jon Vitti said in
a 2001 interview, "you're telling the managed version. He was the guy we wrote for."
Sam Simon is also very proud of
Sam Simon Foundation, "Saving the lives of dogs to enrich
the lives of people."
Photo: CC-BY Matt Waldron / Wikimedia Commons
Discuss at No Homers Club.
Follow @simonsam on Twitter.
Fifteenth Season DVD Reviewed
By Wesley Mead (email@example.com) - December 15, 2012
"The Simpsons: The Fifteenth Season",
featuring all 22 episodes from the series' fifteenth season (2003-2004), is now available on DVD in both standard packaging and limited-edition
packaging across the world. (In the UK, the Limited Edition packaging is an HMV exclusive.) The USA and Canada are also treated to a
release, to sit alongside the R1-only Blu-Rays of S13, S14 and S20. (The Blu-Rays are region-locked, by the way.) This review will focus on
the standard-packaging UK DVD release, which splits the 22 episodes of the 2003-04 run 5:6:6:5 across four discs.
(The Blu-Ray is spread across just three.)
Another year of anticipation has preceded the release of this set, it having been fourteen months since S14 hit British
DVD stores, and a year since release on the other side of the Atlantic. At the risk of repeating myself, this means that once again, we are
still no closer to catching up with recently-televised Simpsons episodes. If production of the show wraps up following season 25,
as has been mooted on some corners of the internet, here's hoping these releases speed up, before DVDs are consigned to the dustbin of
Still, I'm here to look at what's here, not blather on for the eighth year running, unbelievably about
how we need more frequent releases of the show. Let's get looking at the package.
The fifteenth season of the show is probably one of the strongest of the past decade; despite still being a far cry
from the glory days of the mid-90s, there are a number of decent episodes contained here. "I, D'oh-bot" (or "I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot",
for the tragically pedantic), the episode in which Homer "builds" a robot for Bart that is really just himself in costume, rates as one
of the show's strongest late-period entries. It's a genuinely moving episode with a number of strong jokes, and is one of the only shows
this season to place a strong emphasis on character. "The Way We Weren't", a flashback episode that reveals Homer and Marge actually
met as children at a summer camp, is also a very good one: it's sweet and touching in a way not many shows from this run are.
"'Tis the Fifteenth Season", meanwhile, the Christmas episode that sees Homer become the nicest fellow in town, is surprisingly
hilarious at times, and is a worthy entry to any festive TV lineup.
Unfortunately, though, those episodes are the exceptions to the rule. Few of the episodes here are outright
bad, but the vast majority are extremely forgettable, powering through storyline after storyline and forgetting that The Simpsons
is at its best when it's about characters, about heart; not when it's about finding Artie Ziff in the attic ("The Ziff Who Came
To Dinner"), Homer being arrested for treason in London ("The Regina Monologues"), Edna hooking up with Comic Book Guy
("My Big Fat Geek Wedding") or Homer becoming superhero Pie Man ("Simple Simpson"). Gimmicks are overused, too; from the extended
parody of the Catch Me If You Can opening sequence ("Catch 'em If You Can") to an unnecessary Evita parody ("The President Wore
Pearls") and another blasted Simpsonised history trilogy ("Margical History Tour"). And there are sometimes more guest stars
than jokes: Michael Moore, Simon Cowell, Tony Blair, JK Rowling, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Glenn Close (reprising her role
as Homer's mother), Sarah Michelle Geller, Ian McKellen, Thomas Pynchon, Brave Combo... the list goes on.
Still, I can't say that I didn't enjoy the episodes contained here. On their own merits, most are perfectly
watchable. They're nowhere near as memorable or as sharp as seasons two through eight, but there's nothing so awful here that
collectors will want to stop now. (If you made it through seasons 11 and 12, you'll be fine.) If you have mixed feelings on
latter-era Simpsons, though, nothing here will change your mind.
So, that's the main feature what about the DVDs? Once again, a choice of packaging is on offer
(for the standard-def DVD set, not the Blu-Rays). You can go for "standard", or "Otto head" (the latter is HMV-only in the
UK and JB Hi-Fi-only in Australia). The plastic head mould is similar to that of S11 through S13, I understand; I myself
have the standard packaging, so I can't comment for sure. I can comment on my continuing disapproval of the way these sets
are designed, though: they look beautiful, the fold-out digipak adorned with great art, but in terms of functionality,
it continues to rate among the worst packaging I've seen for a DVD set. The discs are stored entirely within the cardboard
panels of the digipak, in relatively thin slots, making access without either scratching the disc or breaking the cardboard
difficult. These slots are slightly more accessible than they used to be, but I'd still prefer a plastic case, and I imagine
most everyone else would too. (The Blu-ray Disc packaging is plastic, I understand). There's also another neat booklet, with
episode and special feature details, in a "Visitor's Guide to Springfield" format.
The menu system remains the same as it has been for ten seasons now: good news, as it's both easily navigable
and beautifully designed. The top half of the screen contains a animated screen featuring a variety of Simpson characters sat on
Otto's bus. (Guess he's diversified from serving only Springfield Elementary.) The bottom half of the screen lists the episodes
along with the eternally useful "Play All" option, and an "Extras" button. Each episode has two small buttons next to it: choosing
the first, a triangle similar to a Play button, will play the episode; the other, with a "+" mark, will open a sub-menu, also themed,
of which there can be several in a row, featuring scene, language, subtitle, commentary and deleted scenes options. There is a
chapter stop after the opening of the show for quick skipping, as well as at several other points throughout each episode.
As usual, the principal bonus is the commentary on every one of the 22 episodes in the set. The usual suspects
are present and correct Al Jean and Tom Gammill are the sole regulars this time, but producers (Selman, Maxtone-Graham, Price,
Pross, Long) writers (Warburton, Payne, Joel H Cohen, Omine, Gould, et al) directors (Anderson, Moore, Silverman, et al) and Groening
pitch in frequently. Alas, cast members play a far lesser role in proceedings this time; Dan Castellaneta shows up twice, and
Yeardley Smith and Nancy Cartwright once each. It's a shame they're not present more often, as I do enjoy their involvement, and
last season seemed to really be ramping things up. Regardless, the commentaries remain a good listen; not as essential as they were
in the classic years, but still at turns amusing and informative. Michael Moore turns in a decent guest commentary slot on "The
President Wore Pearls"; TV critic Alan Sepinwall is good value on two episodes; and Jeff Nathanson, writer of the movie Catch Me
If You Can, shows up on.. er.. "Catch 'Em If You Can".
There are a few other bonuses around, too, though they seem to be decreasing in number and substance with
every passing season. Kicking off the additional special features is "All Aboard With Matt" on disc 1, a two-minute reel of quick
season fifteen clips over which Matt discusses the DVD set at a great pace, in the same vein as the similar featurettes on previous
seasons. Deleted scenes are supplied again: just over ten minutes of clips from around half the episodes presented here. All are in
the later stages of production the only thing missing from most is some voice cleanup and sound effects. You can view them inserted
into their respective episodes via a branching feature, or as a reel (in which the scenes are preceded by 10 seconds or so of animation
actually used in the episode, to give the scenes context) with optional commentary by Al Jean on the final disc. The commentary is
worth a watch, offering reasons for why each was cut (although as ever, most were chopped due to time restrictions). The scenes
themselves are varied in quality; some would've rated as episode highlights, and some are extremely unfunny and/or forgettable.
A mere two featurettes this time around, disappointingly. My desire for a substantial documentary or
featurette continues unrequited. The 17-minute "The Unusual Ones" is very interesting, admittedly, offering commentary on a dozen
or so scenes that look a little different from the norm or were inspired by other artists ("El Viaje Misterioso" shows up a lot),
but the two-minute "Living in the Moment" barely qualifies as a featurette, merely showcasing fluffy press photography in "visual
scrapbook" form. Two sketch galleries are fine, if insubstantial, as are two commercials (Ritz crackers, Mastercard); the
ever-present Special Language Feature, allowing you to listen to "My Big Fat Geek Wedding" in five foreign languages, is close
to useless at this stage. "The Wandering Juvie" has another unmemorable Animation Showcase, comparing the final episode to
storyboard and animatic, useful largely to animation students. The Blu-Ray has upscaled High-Def versions of "The Otto Show",
"Das Bus" and "It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad Marge" (all Otto-themed) as a bonus too; obviously, these don't show up on the DVD.
The audio-video quality on this set (a reminder: I'm reviewing the SD-DVD) is once again superb, virtually
flawless. The full-frame presentation (NTSC in R1, PAL in R2 and R4) is bright, sharp and fully detailed; it's only marred by the
limitation of the source material. The only issues are occasional minimal alias artifacting and shimmering, but it doesn't detract
from the experience. Colours are vivid and accurately reproduced. The DD5.1 remaster is again excellent, and whilst largely
front-focused, directional effects sometimes do make their way to the back, and the overall clarity makes for an improved listening
experience. Dialogue and music alike come through clearly. On the R1 set, French and Spanish DD2.0 soundtracks are also included,
as are Spanish and English SDH subtitles. On the R2 UK set, there are no alternative audio options, but Dutch and English SDH
subtitles are available. (Obviously, local European and Australasian releases will feature other language and subtitle options,
depending on the native language). I extensively tested the R2 English subtitles, which appeared accurate and true to the spoken
word. The UK R2 and AUS R4 release feature subtitles on the bonus features, including commentaries; I don't believe Fox R1 have
yet make the switch to subtitling bonuses, however.
All in all, you probably know if you're going to get this set. If you've bought the first fourteen, why stop
now? If you stopped back at season 10, why start again here? Mediocre episodes and unexciting features do not a must-buy make,
unfortunately, but for those who are still investing, there's enough decent stuff here (the commentaries, the sharp transfers,
"I, D'oh-bot") to make this feel an OK addition to the collection.
The Simpsons - The Fifteenth Season
EPISODES: C+ - A couple of good 'uns, but mostly forgettable
PRESENTATION: B- - Audio-video great, packaging not so much
EXTRAS: C+ - I want more variety, dammit! Commentaries still worthy, though
OVERALL: C+ - Still a worthy buy for collectors, but not even close to the best Simpsons sets
Future news concerning the DVDs, including the forthcoming Season 16 release, and any other compilation discs, will be added to our DVD News page.
Fourteenth Season DVD Reviewed
By Wesley Mead (firstname.lastname@example.org) - October 26, 2011
"The Simpsons: The Fourteenth Season",
featuring all 22 episodes from the series' fourteenth season (2002-2003), is now available on DVD in both standard packaging and limited-edition packaging
in the UK. It will be released across other R2 and R4 territories throughout November, and finally hits the shores of North America on December 6.
This move comes at a cost to non-R1 areas, however, as the USA and Canada are also treated to a Blu-Ray
release, to sit alongside the R1-only Blu-Rays of S13 and S20. This review will focus on the standard-packaging UK DVD release, which splits the 22 episodes of the 2002-03 run
5:6:6:5 across four discs. (The Blu-Ray should be spread across just three.)
The once-again twelve-month-plus wait for this season unfortunately ensures that, once again, we are still no closer to catching up with recently-televised
Simpsons episodes. With disc media already declining in sales, and the series' future confirmed at least through season twenty-five, I do begin to wonder if we'll ever
see the entirety of the programme on home video. I say it every year, but I really do hope that 2012 sees at least a couple of boxset releases; it's frustrating that behemoths
like Law and Order, ER and South Park, which all had to play catch-up during the early years of disc media, have surpassed OFF in the number of seasons
available (that barebones S20 release notwithstanding).
Of course, once again, what really matters about this set is the content; now it's here in our hands, does it deliver the goods? The answer, alas, is a
resounding "meh"; the shows here, while still better than seasons 11 and 12, are a step down from the thirteenth run; while the extras on offer are a disappointment.
There are certainly a few standout episodes in this set. "Moe Baby Blues", which takes a look at the unlikely pairing of Moe and Maggie, perhaps
rates as my favourite post-S10 episode; it's a standout combination of stellar jokes and solid storytelling. The "Spell-lympics"-focused "I'm Spelling As Fast As I Can"
mines familiar territory, but delivers a number of memorable moments. "Special Edna" takes a heartwarming look at the fractured relationships between Bart, Edna Krabappel
and Principal Skinner; "Three Gays of the Condo" is a pleasant twist on a familiar concept, seeing Homer moving in with a gay couple while he ponders the foundation of
his marriage to Marge. And "A Star is Born-Again" is probably the best post-Maude episode focused on Ned Flanders; despite a storyline that stretches plausibility, the jokes
come thick and fast, and the emotional beats are earned.
Alas, though, for every standout, there's a couple of episodes that just miss the mark. "Large Marge" and "Strong Arms of the Ma" both look at
the impact of physical changes on Marge. Neither is successful, particularly the former, which supports a poor plot with even poorer jokes. The so-called 300th (actually 302nd)
episode, "Barting Over", is something of a disappointment, too; it's home to a storyline that attempts to make the viewer feel emotion that the script didn't earn. Unfunny,
unnecessary songs seem to be a hallmark of this season, too: the serenade to a large-breasted Marge in "Large Marge" feels forced and unfunny; "I Like to Walk" rates
among the show's all-time lazier efforts; and, well, the less said about "Who Let Her Jugs Out?", the better. At least "Weird Al" Yankovic delivers the goods in
"Three Gays of the Condo".
Ah yes, "Weird Al".. I'm sure it will surprise no-one to learn he's far from the only celebrity guest in this season. Alongside him, there's
"How I Spent My Strummer Vacation"'s gaggle of rock guests: Tom Petty, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Lenny Kravitz, Elvis Costello and Brian Setzer.
There's Elliot Gould as a private eye, Eric Idle as a British filmmaker, and Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Lisa's dude ranch crush. There's Tony Hawk and Blink-182,
both as themselves, in the "300th" episode, "Barting Over". Jackson Browne and Steve Buscemi guest in "Brake My Wife, Please". There's Lisa Leslie,
Little Richard, George Plimpton, and even exec producer James L. Brooks. And the likes of Kelsey Grammer, Joe Mantegna and Jan Hooks reprise their familiar roles
as Sideshow Bob, Fat Tony and Manjula, respectively.
So, that's the episodes what about the DVDs? Consumers in all regions once again have a choice of packaging for this season, albeit only
for the standard-def DVD release: there's the "standard" package, or the "Kodos head". The plastic head is not as heavily stylised as seasons six through ten
it's thinner and weaker than those, though it does match that of seasons 11, 12 and 13. But real complaints lie with the internal packaging of the set. On the
positive side, it's nice and compact, and once again, there's some marvellous original artwork, set in Burns' mansion. But just like that of the past three seasons,
in terms of functionality, it continues to rate among the worst packaging I've seen for a DVD set. The digipak-style cardboard booklet hides the discs entirely
under the cardboard panels, in the thinnest of slots, making access without either scratching the disc or breaking the cardboard difficult. The only hint as
to where the discs sit are faint semi-circle indentations in the cardboard. Now, credit where credit is due: these slots are slightly more accessible than on
the past couple of seasons; and the card that the discs rest on seems to be proving less problematic, too I noticed no scratches on my discs, as yet.
But I'd still prefer a plastic case. The Seth MacFarlane shows get nice, compact plastic cases; why can't OFF? The Blu-ray Disc packaging is likely to be
different, but it hasn't been released yet, so I can't confirm. There's also a booklet, as glossy, detailed and well-illustrated as usual, laid out as an
invitation from Kang and Kodos (apparently they'd love to "halve" us for dinner).
The menu system remains the same as it has been for nine seasons now they must be happy with it; I know I am, as right now they
are both easily navigable and beautifully designed. The top half of the screen contains a animated screen featuring a variety of Simpson characters sat at
the dinner table in Burns' mansion. The bottom half of the screen lists the episodes along with the eternally useful "Play All" option, and an "Extras"
button. Each episode has two small buttons next to it: choosing the first, a triangle similar to a Play button, will play the episode; the other, with a
"+" mark, will open a sub-menu, also themed, of which there can be several in a row, featuring scene, language, subtitle, commentary and deleted scenes
options. There is a chapter stop after the opening of the show for quick skipping, as well as at several other points throughout each episode.
As usual, the principal bonus is the commentary on every one of the 22 episodes in the set. The likes of Al Jean, Ian Maxtone-Graham,
Matt Selman, Kevin Curran, Matt Groening, J. Stewart Burns, Tim Long, Matt Warburton and Carolyn Omine are on hand as regulars this time; many other
crew members participate in one or two, and cast members Nancy Cartwright, Hank Azaria, Yeardley Smith and Dan Castellenata also check in, on two,
two, four and eight (impressive!) episodes, respectively.
My major qualm with past commentaries was the relative lack of participation from cast members; this has thankfully, finally, been
redressed, as more than half of the episodes contained here have at least one regular voice artist on-hand. They enhance proceedings considerably,
offering anecdotes as intriguing as those of Jean and co. Occasionally, guest stars also take a turn at the commentary mic on the relevant episodes,
too David Byrne's (literally) phoned-in appearance on the "Dude, Where's My Ranch?" chat-track is a highlight; while "Weird Al" Yankovic adds
trademark colour to "Three Gays of the Condo". To share the highlights of these commentaries would be to spoil the fun; between them, they offer nine
hours of additional insight, and every last minute is worth a listen for the ardent Simpsons fan.
The commentaries aren't the only bonuses, of course. Kicking off the additional special features is the "A Haunting Invite From
Matt Groening" on disc 1, a three-minute reel of quick season fourteen clips over which Matt discusses the DVD set at a great pace, in the same vein
as the similar featurettes on previous seasons. Deleted scenes are supplied again: just over ten minutes of clips from around half the episodes presented
here. All are in the later stages of production - the only thing missing from most is some voice cleanup and sound effects. You can view them inserted
into their respective episodes via a branching feature, or as a reel (in which the scenes are preceded by 10 seconds or so of animation actually used
in the episode, to give the scenes context) with optional commentary by Al Jean on the final disc. The commentary is worth a watch, offering reasons
for why each was cut (although as ever, most were chopped due to time restrictions). The scenes themselves are varied in quality; some offer a decent
extra joke or two, but I'm not really sure anyone ever wanted to hear another verse of "What Do I Think of the Pie?"
Two intriguing sketch galleries prove fun enough; a Special Language Feature, allowing you to listen to "Three Gays of the Condo"
in German, Italian, Portuguese or Czech is less interesting. Five featurettes, rounding out the set, prove mixed: "It's Only Rock'n'Roll" offers a
very interesting, if brief, look behind-the-scenes of "How I Spent My Strummer Vacation", including interviews with the guest rockers; but
"The 300th Episode" is a two-minute fluff piece, and three Treehouse of Horror-themed bonuses prove to be nothing but montages from past
episodes "In the Beginning" compiles every THoH cold open; "Foolish Earthlings" presents a montage of Kang and Kodos appearances; and
"Halloween Classics" delivers clips from older, superior THoH episodes. Not especially useful; alas, these add up to the weakest collection of
extras yet seen on a Simpsons season set (season 20 excluded, of course). I continue to yearn for a substantial documentary or featurette.
The audio-video quality on this set (a reminder: I'm reviewing the SD-DVD) is once again excellent especially from
the episode "The Great Louse Detective" onwards, which saw the show make the switch to digital coloring. The full-frame presentation
(NTSC in R1, PAL in R2 and R4) is bright, sharp and fully detailed; it's only marred by the limitation of the source material. There is
occasionally some minimal artifacting and shimmering, but it doesn't detract from the experience. Colours are vivid and accurately reproduced.
The DD5.1 remaster is again excellent, and whilst largely front-focused, directional effects sometimes do make their way to the back, and the
overall clarity makes for an improved listening experience. Dialogue and music alike come through clearly. On the R1 set, French and Spanish
DD2.0 soundtracks are also included, as are Spanish and English SDH subtitles. On the R2 UK set, there are no alternative audio options, but
Dutch, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish and English SDH subtitles are available. (Obviously, local European and Australasian releases
will feature other language and subtitle options, depending on the native language). I extensively tested the R2 English subtitles, which
appeared accurate and true to the spoken word. The UK R2 and AUS R4 release feature subtitles on the bonus features, including commentaries;
I don't believe Fox R1 have yet make the switch to subtitling bonuses, however.
All taken into account, the collector or die-hard fan are probably the target markets for this set; bad episodes outnumber
the good, the packaging remains poor, and the video extras are the weakest yet. But there *is* some gold in there, if you look; and the
commentaries remain entertaining; so I don't think the purchase would prove overly disappointing to the casual fan, either. If you own
everything so far, why stop now?
The Simpsons - The Fourteenth Season
EPISODES: C+ - Some greatness, but too much mediocrity
PRESENTATION: B- - Packaging improved, but still quite poor; AV stellar, though
EXTRAS: B- - Commentaries still superb; video extras need improvement
OVERALL: B- - Among the weaker Simpsons boxsets, but still a worthy buy for fans
Future news concerning the DVDs, including the forthcoming Season 15 release, and any other compilation discs, will be added to our DVD News page.
Mar 28 Simpsons' writer Don Payne has died yesterday at the age of 48. He had bone cancer.
Mar 9 Lego is in talks with 20th Century Fox about making a Simpsons toy set.
Jan 9 "Tales of Moronica" is a Kindle book by former show runner Mike Reiss. It's a
fantasy novella, for smart kids and dopey adults.
Dec 15 · Turkish TV channel was fined for airing episode of The Simpsons that shows God taking orders from the devil.
May 18 · Rick Miller's "MacHomer" show
is also available on DVD.
MacHomer can be seen live at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in May.
Oct 25 · Facebook has deleted Bill Oakley's account, thinking he was impersonating himself.
According to Oakley on Twitter, Facebook refuses to reinstate the account.
Oct 11 · Hank Azaria stands up to cancer, see YouTube video.
Sep 30 · The Hammer Museum's annual gala in Los Angeles honored Matt Groening this year.
Sep 16 ·Finnish officials have banned the sale Duff Beer, saying that its
association with The Simpsons makes it appealing to under-aged consumers.
Sep 14 · Fox has revamped thesimpsons.com, the
official Simpsons site.
Aug 29 · The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be annouced on Sep 10. ReelzChannel airs a
heavily edited version on Sep 17 at 8 PM Eastern/Pacific.
Aug 23 · See Yeardley Smith on stage thru Sep 4. Special fan offer $45 (regular $79).
Aug 23 · Lady Gaga is among the guest voices of the upcoming season.
Aug 23 · Dan Castellaneta will make a live-action appearance on NBC's
"Parks and Recreation" next season. Read more
Jul 6 · The Simpsons Comic-Con Panel takes place on July 23 at 1 pm
at San Diego Convention Center, Ballroom 20.
Jun 24 · The 23rd season premiere of The Simpsons will be on September 25, 2011, Fox announced.
Jun 2 · Win a Simpsons script signed by Joey Kramer of Aerosmith.
Enter here, ends June 17.
Jun 2 · EA is planning to release a Simpsons game on Facebook later this
year. Read more
May 31 · Should Ned and Edna be a couple?
Vote now, then tune in to the season
premiere this Fall to watch the results.
Dec 3 · Fox News host Bill O'Reilly described the makers of The Simpsons as
"pinheads", after a gag implying Fox News was "#1 with racists".
Nov 22 · Mike Scully has received the WGA Animation
Lifetime Achievement Award.
Nov 12 · The Simpsons has been picked up for season 23.
Get ready for the 500th episode celebration. Or in Fox math, possibly the 501st or 502nd episode
Oct 15 · Fox will air "The Simpsons Movie" on Thanksgiving night.
Oct 5 · The latest addition to The Simpsons Library of Wisdom book series,
"Chief Wiggum's Book of Crime and Punishment," is now available.
Aug 25 · The Simpsons Archive has now 1,000 followers on Twitter! (And nearly 600 on Facebook.)
Aug 24 · Massive "Simpsons World - The Ultimate Episode Guide" covering seasons 1-20 on
1,200 color pages will be published by HarperCollins in October.
Jul 10 · Simpsons writer and producer Larry Doyle has written a new book, called
Older Newsbites >>