HEATH LEDGER DEAD OF POSSIBLE OVERDOSEThe body of Heath Ledger, 28, the Australian-born actor who was nominated for an Oscar for Brokeback Mountain and had been slated to appear as the Joker in the next Batman sequel,

The Dark Night, was found in his New York apartment today (Tuesday) by his housekeeper. Police indicated that drugs was the probable cause of death. He was married to Michelle Williams, his costar in Brokeback and had a daughter, Matilda. The couple separated last year.


Amid a general plunge in stock prices today (Tuesday) -- in early trading on the NYSE the Dow was down 460 points -- entertainment and media shares seemed particularly hard hit. Even after a partial market recovery at mid-day, several media companies were still posting 52-week lows, including CBS Corp., Disney, Time Warner, News Corp, and Viacom. Only G.E., which owns NBC Universal appeared to buck the overall spiral, remaining virtually flat with Monday's share price. Nevertheless, at $34.32, it stands only slightly above its 52-week low of $32.92.


With rivals CNBC and Bloomberg TV virtually taking the day off Monday for Martin Luther King Day, the new Fox Business Channel scored a major beat as it covered the plunge of overseas markets live. Its rivals were airing mostly taped programming. Reporting on the coverage, the Los Angeles Times commented today (Tuesday): "With fears of a U.S. recession taking a huge toll internationally, the "live from the stock market" hook that has looked silly in the past suddenly had a great deal of immediacy, and having reporters like Ashley Webster report live from London unexpectedly gave the fledgling channel a leg up on the competition."


The Writers Guild of America is hoping that Paramount executives returning to work following the Martin Luther King Day holiday will be greeted by a crowd of pickets worthy of a demonstration by King followers 40 years ago. On the same day that informal negotiations between the striking writers and the heads of Disney and Fox were to take place, the WGA plans to gather all its pickets into one place into a single massive demonstration. In a notice to strike captains, the WGA said, "There will be banners with labor quotes of Dr. King. Everyone who has a red Unity wristband, please wear it. We are asking picketers to bring their drums, guitars, tambourines and American flags to add to the festive affair."


Daniel Ellsberg, who was responsible for leaking the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, revealing a pattern of government deception in the war's prosecution, has condemned the U.S. news media for failing to pick up a front-page London Sunday Times report last week in which an FBI whistleblower, Sibel Edmonds, claimed that the bureau was investigating a Turkish and Israeli group that paid corrupt U.S. officials for nuclear weapons secrets that were sold to countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The Times said that it had obtained an FBI document that corroborated Edmonds's claims. In a message posted on a blog hosted by Brad Friedman, another former FBI staffer turned whistleblower, Ellsberg suggested that U.S. newspapers and television networks failed to pick up the Sunday Times story -- while it was headlined all over the world -- because the U.S. government warned editors that it might jeopardize national security. "There is a worse journalistic sin than being scooped," Ellsberg wrote, "and that is participating in a cover-up of information that demands urgent attention from the public, the U.S. Congress and the courts."


American Idol producers and judges are being criticized by conservative religious groups for the way 19-year-old contestant Bruce Dickson was treated during auditions in Dallas last week. Asked to share something personal about himself, Dickson replied that he had never kissed a girl, then, after judge Randy Jackson expressed disbelief, remarked, "On my wedding day, that will be my first kiss." Jackson then dismissed him with the advice, "Go kiss some girls." Host Ryan Seacrest remarked, "Maybe next year he'll come back less a boy and more a man." Contacted by CNSNews.com, a unit of the conservative Media Research Center, Dickson responded, "A real man would rather wait than just do whatever with whoever (sic)." Jason Burtt, national director of Silver Ring Thing, which promotes teen abstinence, told CNSNews that his group supports Dickson. "Most kids are mentally pushed through the media and pop culture that everyone is doing it."


Sunday afternoon's AFC championship contest between the New England Patriots and the San Diego Chargers averaged a 27.4 rating and a 48 share for Fox, up 5 percent from last year's AFC final game, according to Nielsen Media Research. With the AFC game between the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants having averaged a 31.7/46, up 10 percent over last year, next month's Super Bowl is in a position to draw more than 100 million viewers, some analysts have suggested. Last year's contest between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears averaged 92.8 million viewers.