- The Washington Times - Monday, June 12, 2006

Apprentice’ on the Hill

Raj Peter Bhakta didn’t make it as Donald Trump’s “Apprentice,” but he hopes to have better luck in his next assignment.

A production crew is filming a documentary about Mr. Bhakta and his long-shot bid to unseat first-term Rep. Allyson Schwartz, Pennsylvania Democrat, Associated Press reports.

He’s already working his reality-show star power. At a fundraiser last month for two Republican incumbents, guests sought out Mr. Bhakta so they could pose for pictures with him as he milled about the ballroom.

Mr. Bhakta once occupied the posh Manhattan boardrooms of the NBC reality show, vying with other eager young men and women for a job with Mr. Trump. He was fired from the program after a home-renovation project went awry.

Now, two years later, Mr. Bhakta works out of a Best Western hotel in a nondescript area off the Pennsylvania Turnpike that serves as his campaign headquarters.

“Some people want to do the same thing all their life,” Mr. Bhakta told AP. “I’m an entrepreneur. You have different opportunities, and you pursue those opportunities.”

Mr. Bhakta also brings a bit of baggage to the race: two DUI arrests in the past nine years, no political experience and questions about his business background. He has acknowledged the DUIs, saying he was ashamed of his “irresponsible” actions, but he has no apologies for being a political outsider or for the hopscotch nature of his resume.

“The Apprentice” came calling for Mr. Bhakta in 2004. After getting the boot from the Donald, he started the Coalition for the Advancement of the Republic, an advocacy group designed to “espouse common sense conservatism,” according to its Web site.

The organization hasn’t gotten off the ground because of the demands of the campaign, Mr. Bhakta said.

Jolie’s new gig

Just when we thought new momma Angelina Jolie couldn’t have any more public exposure comes a new ad campaign featuring the Oscar winner.

The actress is starring in a new television message for World Refugee Day, and stations have rushed to air the 30-second footage, Reuters news agency reports.

Miss Jolie, a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), recorded the appeal in April in Namibia, before Shiloh — her daughter with Brad Pitt — was born on May 27.

“I’m Angelina Jolie. For the millions of displaced persons around the world, please help keep their hope alive and remember World Refugee Day,” the American actress, sporting a tank top and light-brown head scarf, says in a brief message.

The annual day, honoring about 20 million people who have fled conflict or persecution, is being observed at events in more than 100 countries (under the theme of “Hope”) on June 20.

The Geneva-based UNHCR has been deluged with calls from stations seeking to air the spot, which shows refugees and aid convoys in several field operations, including Afghanistan. The ad can be viewed on the Web site www.unhcr.org and is also available in beta film for TV stations, officials said.

“One station in Spain started running it twice an hour. We are very pleased,” said Shannon Boyd, who manages the agency’s goodwill ambassador program.

Since joining UNHCR in early 2001, Miss Jolie has traveled to about 20 countries, drawing attention to refugees’ plight in hot spots from Cambodia to Kosovo and Sudan’s Darfur region.

Newer, faster Web

A trio of technology companies are uniting to offer a speedy new Web service, Reuters reports.

Satellite television providers EchoStar Communications Corp. and DirecTV Group Inc. signed deals with WildBlue Communications Inc. to offer satellite-delivered high-speed Internet service. The service will begin in the coming months and will be 30 times faster than dial-up Internet connections.

EchoStar says its service will be called DISH High-Speed Internet powered by WildBlue and will be targeted toward EchoStar’s customers in rural markets.

DirecTV also will be branding the service under its name.

WildBlue says it will be the only satellite-based Internet service that either satellite operator will offer to its subscribers for the next five years.

DirecTV and DISH Network subscribers will need to purchase a separate WildBlue satellite dish to receive the broadband service, but they will not need an additional phone or cable line.

DirecTV Group Inc., EchoStar’s larger rival with 15 million customers, said in February it was in discussions with EchoStar to create a U.S. wireless high-speed Internet service.

Both EchoStar and DirecTV have ongoing marketing partnerships with telecommunications partners, including AT&T; Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., to offer joint phone, Internet and satellite TV packages to customers.

Compiled by Christian Toto from Web and wire reports.

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