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Quick Takes: Captured NBC trio freed

December 19, 2012

NBC News' chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel and two members of his production team, producer Ghazi Balkiz and cameraman John Kooistra, have been released after five days in captivity in Syria.

The network released the following statement Tuesday: "After being kidnapped and held for five days inside Syria by an unknown group, NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel and his production crew members have been freed unharmed. We are pleased to report they are safely out of the country."

Engel, Balkiz and Kooistra discussed their ordeal on Tuesday morning's "Today." The men looked a little tired and unkempt, but otherwise seemed in good spirits despite what sounded like a harrowing five days. "It is good to be here," Engel began.

"We weren't physically beaten or tortured. It was a lot of psychological torture, threats of being killed," Engel said. "They made us choose which one of us would be shot first and when we refused there were mock shootings. They pretended to shoot Ghazi several times."

The men were being moved to another location late Monday night when their kidnappers encountered a rebel checkpoint. A gunfight ensued, leaving two kidnappers dead, according to Engel. From there, accompanied by some of the rebels, they made it safely into Turkey.

— Meredith Blake

'Dancing' donor becomes trustee

Arts patron Glorya Kaufman — known as "the dancing philanthropist" — was elected to the USC Board of Trustees on Dec. 5.

Kaufman recently gave the university a multimillion-dollar endowment for the creation of a dance school in Kaufman's name, the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. The school's curriculum will focus on contemporary and classical dance, as well as dancer wellness and the business side of dance.

Kaufman has been an active arts patron since the early 1980s since the death of her husband, Donald Bruce Kaufman, of the home construction and financing firm Kaufman & Broad, now KB Homes.

She gave $20 million in 2009 to create Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center, $18 million to UCLA in 1999, $6 million to New York's Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and $3.5 million to the Juilliard School.

— Deborah Vankin

MOCA catalog wins an award

The catalog of MOCA's sweeping examination of Land art, "Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974," has been awarded the 2013 Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award for Museum Scholarship by the College Art Assn.

The award is given to an English-language catalog in the history of art, published by a museum, library or collection between Sept. 1, 2011, and Aug. 31, 2012. "Ends of the Earth" co-curators Philipp Kaiser and Miwon Kwon will receive honors at CAA's annual conference in New York in February.

— Deborah Vankin

Nielsen, Twitter team on a rating

Nielsen and Twitter have struck a multi-year partnership to measure the reach of online conversations about television shows.

The new Nielsen Twitter TV Rating will do more than provide information about how many people have tweeted about a particular show, a service that is already available from other measurement firms. It also seeks to quantify the number of people who've read each comment.

"It captures the whole audience of that conversation, not just the specific Tweeter," said Steve Hasker, president of global media products at Nielsen.

— Dawn C. Chmielewski

'121212' funds to be distributed

The clearinghouse for money raised from last week's "121212: The Concert for Sandy Relief" concert and telethon has announced it is ready to distribute the first $50 million to various organizations aiding victims of the hurricane.

"The money raised to date is going right to hundreds of organizations in the tri-state area serving those who need it most," David Saltzman, executive director of Robin Hood Foundation, said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Money has been raised through sales of tickets to the concert featuring the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Paul McCartney, Kanye West, Alicia Keys and others, as well as from sponsorships, phone and Web donations and merchandise.

More funds were raised from online auctions of memorabilia and download sales of the concert's music.

— Randy Lewis

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