January 31, 2005

On today's episode of the young and the ignorant ... A new survey of 112,003 students finds 32% say the press enjoys "too much freedom" and 36% think newspapers should get "government approval" before stories are published. 73% of those surveyed either did not know how they felt about the First Amendment or admitted taking it for granted, while half thought the government had the power to censor the Internet. Meanwhile, 75% wrongly believed flag burning was illegal.

The government has added 17 substances to the official list 246 of cancer-causing agents, including the first viruses: hepatitis B and C and some human papillomaviruses that cause common sexually transmitted diseases. Lead and lead compounds, X-rays, compounds found in grilled meats and various substances used in textile dyes, paints and inks are among the other new listings.

Scientists using the distributed computer power of 90,000 PCs located in 150 countries have run more than 50,000 simulations to model 21st-century climate changes due to global warming. They found global temperatures could rise up to 20°F if greenhouse gases double from pre-industrial levels. At current emission rates, that doubling is expected around 2050.

The most detailed study of mundane bodily movements found that obese people tend to be much less fidgety than lean people and spend at least 2 hours more each day just sitting still. The researchers suggest the extra motion by lean people is enough to burn about 350 extra calories a day, which could add up to 10 to 30 pounds a year. Interesting, but not a particularily useful. A good study would have to monitor the movements of a group of lean people, and then over time, see if the ones who fidgeted less became fat.

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Election officials estimated that more than 8 million Iraqis or about 60% of the eligible electorate voted in yesterday's election. It will be days before the results, and turnout with the various ethnic and religious breakdowns are known.

After the election, Iraqi interim Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib suggested U.S.-led forces could leave Iraq within 18 months. Sounds a bit optimistic.

Dubai International Capital, an investment company owned by the government of the Persian Gulf emirate, has purchased a $1 billion stake in DaimlerChrysler. Dubai is now the auto maker's third-largest shareholder.

According to the WWF, global warming may kill off the polar bears in 20 years. By 2026, the earth could be an average 3.6°F warmer than it was in 1750, according to research to be presented at a conference on climate change.

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January 30, 2005

Lockheed Martin has won a $6.1 billion contract from the White House for 23 new high-tech, high-security presidential helicopters. There was some controversy about the whether the helicopters should be 100% American made. I have 2 questions. Why do they need 23 helicopters? Why do they cost $265 million each?

OPEC producers have agreed to keep output limits on hold, convinced that oil prices near $50 a barrel are not stifling world growth. Oh, good. More big profits for our undemocratic oil rich friends in the Middle East.

More than 100,000 activists, agitators, intellectuals and trade unionists from scores of countries have gathered in Brazil for the World Social Forum. The forum also has attracted a handful of Nobel Peace Prize and Nobel literature winners and more than 100 indigenous tribes from throughout the world. Globalization has great potential for the world. I'm glad we have these folks watching out for the average person and trying to keep the governments and corporations in line.

Twin sisters, Siri Ingvarsson and Gunhild Gaellstedt, are celebrating their 100th birthday today in Sweden. Other birthdays today: Gene Hackman is 75. V.P. Dick Cheney is 64 (that's all?!). Phil Collins is 54. Christian Bale is 31.

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January 29, 2005

A federal judge gave Jeffrey Lee Parson the minimum sentence of 18 months in prison and 100 hours of community service for releasing a version of the Blaster computer worm into the Internet in 2003. Parson's variant of the worm infected 48,000 computers and caused $1.2 million in damage.

Jetliners from China have landed in rival Taiwan for the first time in 56 years. Taiwan had banned Chinese airlines from flying to the island since the Communists took over the mainland in 1949. Trade between the 2 countries in 2004 climbed to $70 billion, a 34% increase from 2003.

Warren Buffett has to be pleased with Procter & Gamble's buying of Gillette for $57 billion. The deal netted him $645 million in just 1 day.

During a panel on poverty, Actress Sharon Stone popped out of her seat and offered $10,000 to buy bed nets which are needed to save the 150,000 African children that are dying of malaria every month. She then implored the executives and political leaders in the room to do the same. Around 30 did, and within 5 minutes, $1 million had been raised.

Metacritic has posted a nice chart showing how many times movies from last year made it onto film critic top 10 lists. The movies cited the most were Sideways, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Million Dollar Baby, The Incredibles and Before Sunset.

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January 28, 2005

The Bush administration has more than doubled its PR spending to at least $88 million in fiscal 2004, compared with $37 million in 2001. In all, the administration spent $250 million on public relations contracts during its first term, compared with $128 million spent for President Clinton between 1997 and 2000. Another fine use of tax dollars.

According to a new study, children exposed to passive smoking have a 50% higher risk of developing lung cancer later in life.

Procter & Gamble, already the nation's largest consumer products company, is buying shaver and battery maker Gillette for $57 billion. The deal will mean about 6,000 job cuts, or about 4 percent of the combined work force of 140,000 employees. Gillette brands include Duracell and Oral-B. P&G top brands include Bounty, Charmin, CoverGirl, Crest, Folgers, Iams, Ivory, NyQuil, Pampers, Prilosec OTC, Pringles, Puffs, Tide and many, many more.

Swazi King Mswati III has chosen a 17-year-old girl to be his 13th wife. At 36, the king has 24 children. I have found 1 wife and 2 children to be just enough.

Business 2.0 has released their 5th annual review of the most shameful, dishonest, and just plain stupid moments of the past year. Behold The 101 Dumbest Moments in Business.

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On this date in 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch killing the 7 person crew which included teacher Christa McAuliffe. The Shuttle fleet was grounded until Discovery launched into orbit on September 29, 1988.

Dow Chemical and Merck are among Alternet's list of the 10 worst corporations of 2004. Many of the names on the list make sense, but including Hardee's because of their comically named Monster Thickburger is a bit of a stretch.

Hamas made a strong showing in municipal elections held on Thursday in the Gaza Strip. The poll showed Hamas was likely to take 3 of the 4 biggest districts in Gaza, including 1 where Abbas's dominant Fatah movement had been expected to triumph.

25,946 of the roughly 240,000 Iraqis in the U.S. are registered to vote in this week's election. Eligible voters are those who turned 18 by Dec. 31 and were born in Iraq, are present or former citizens of Iraq or have an Iraqi father.

SBC has announced it has cut the price of its 3mbps DSL plan to $29.99 a month. Their 1.5mbps plan is $10 less per month. Why is it you can get unlimited broadband Internet for $20/month, but most basic cell phone plans are still start around $40/month?

The world's only drive-thru strip club could be yours, if the price is right! Climax Gentleman's Club is currently available on eBay for the bargain price of $299,999.

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January 27, 2005

Today is the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet soldiers. It was originally set up in 1940 as a labour camp for Polish prisoners. By 1944, people were being killed at the camp at a rate of 6,000 a day. Between 1.2-1.5 million people died at the camps, of whom about 1 million were Jewish. (Wikipedia entry)

80% of U.S. doctors and half of nurses surveyed said they had seen colleagues make mistakes, but only 10% ever spoke up. A 1999 study by the nonpartisan Institute of Medicine found that up to 98,000 Americans die each year from medical errors in hospitals. Last July, Lakewood, Colorado-based HealthGrades Inc. said the true number was closer to 195,000 people a year.

Astronauts took a 5-1/2 hour spacewalk 225 miles above Earth to hook up a robotic arm yesterday and found some gunk on the spacecraft's vents that might explain the frequent breakdowns in its air-supply equipment. The $10 million arm is a 20-inch device featuring 2 joints, 2 cameras and a fingerlike pin at the end. The astronauts are 3-1/2 months into their 6 month stay.

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January 26, 2005

10 people were killed today when a commuter train derailed after smashing into an SUV driven into its path by a suicidal man. There are also around 200 injured, including dozens who were reported to be in critical condition. The 26 year-old SUV driver apparently changed his mind prior to the train hitting his vehicle, and will now be charged with homicide.

The Senate confirmed Condoleezza Rice to be secretary of state today by a vote of 85-13. By comparison, Henry Kissinger was approved 78-7 and Alexander Haig 93-6.

A 10 pound meteorite started fires across rice fields when it crashed into the ground in northwest Cambodia. The impact prompted prayers from the locals who saw it as a divine omen of peace. In a related story, rural Cambodians do not have a rigorous science curriculum in their schools.

Last year, about 1 in 23 consumers (9.3 million people) were victims of identity theft. Contrary to popular wisdom, using the Internet may be a consumer's best fraud-fighting tool. Consumers who spot fraud online suffer an average theft of about $500, whereas those who wait for paper records suffer average losses of $4,500.

When 5 dozen roses didn't work, an estranged husband took out a $17,000 full-page newspaper ad to ask his wife for forgiveness. The man sent the apology to his wife of 17 years after she left him almost 2 weeks ago. Maybe he should have just given her the money.

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NBC News is reporting that 31 U.S. Marines were killed after their helicopter crashed in the western desert area of Iraq. According to the initial investigation, the helicopter was not shot down, but crashed due to a mechanical failure or poor weather conditions.

China's economy expanded 9.5% in 2004. That is similar to the 9.3% rate of growth in 2003.

20 year old Nebraskan Web-page designer Andrew Fischer will be earning $37,375 to advertise the snoring remedy, SnoreStop on his forehead for one month. I smell a trend.

Krispy Kreme has announced its new CEO, Stephen F. Cooper, will be paid $760 an hour, plus expenses. The "turnaround specialist," who led Enron for almost 3 years, will earn $30,400 for a 40-hour work week, and $1,580,000 per year.

Warning: The following information may make you feel old. Eddie Van Halen turned 50(!) years old today.

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January 25, 2005

The Congressional Budget Office predicted today that the federal government would run a deficit of $368 billion this year, not including the $80 billion more for Iraq and Afghanistan. That would bring the 4 year ('02-'05) deficit to more than 1.3 trillion dollars.

The Academy Award nominations were announced this morning. The Aviator got 11 Oscar nominations. Finding Neverland and Million Dollar Baby both got 7 each. Other movies with multiple nominations include Ray with 6, Sideways with 5, and The Incredibles with 4.

The Gates Foundation and the government of Norway yesterday gave grants of more than $1 billion to immunize children in poor countries against common diseases. According to the World Health Organization, about 2 million children die each year in poor countries from diseases that are easily prevented by vaccinations. The group aims to get 90 percent of the world's poorest children vaccinated by 2015, which will require $8 billion to $12 billion in additional funds.

The Army plans to keep at least 120,000 soldiers in Iraq for the next two years to train and fight with Iraqi forces against insurgents. The Bush administration denial of that number is due later today.

Sales of previously owned homes went up 9.4% to an all-time high of 6.68 million units last year. The median sales price of an existing home rose to $184,100 last year, up 8.3 percent from 2003. That was the largest year to year gain since 1980.

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The Bush administration will request about $80 billion more for this year's costs of fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The request would push the total so far for those wars and for U.S. efforts against terrorism elsewhere in the world to more than $280 billion since 9/11. That would be nearly half the $613 billion the United States spent for WWI or the $623 billion for the Vietnam War. (All costs in 2005 dollars)

2,876 investment deals attracted $20.9 billion in venture capital last year, up 11% from 2003. Venture capital investment peaked at $106 billion at the end of the dot-com bubble in 2000.

Apple Computer's iTunes Music Store, now available in 15 countries, and selling 1.25 million songs at 99 cents apiece per day, has sold more than 250 million songs since it launched in April 2003.

The State Department is considering doubling the bounty on Osama bin Laden to $50 million. I'm sure all of the people that wouldn't turn in OBL for that paltry $25 million will surely jump at the chance now.

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January 24, 2005

Johnny Carson has died of emphysema at the age of 79. He hosted the "Tonight Show" on NBC for 30 years from 1962 until 1992, and accounted for up to 17% of the network's revenues depending on the year. His final broadcast was watched by 50 million people.

The Eagles finally won the NFC championship and will be heading to the Super Bowl for the first time in 24 years after beating the Falcons 27-10 (Box score). They will be playing against the defending champion Patriots, who crushed the Steelers 41-27 (Box score).

The blizzard of '05 delivered quite a punch to New England. Some areas received more than 3 feet of snow, there were wind gusts in excess of 80 mph, and at one point, snow was falling at the incredible rate of 8" per hour. We got 16" at my house (N.E. of Phila). You can check out the first 6 hours in this 12 frame GIF animation: large (1.6MB); medium (753KB); small (244KB)

Pew has released a new report on search engine use. 84% of online American adults (108 million people) have used search engines. Users tend to settle quickly on a single search engine and then stick with it. 44% of searchers regularly use just 1 engine, and another 48% use just 2 or 3. Amazingly, 2/3 say they could walk away from search engines without upsetting their lives very much. Only 38% of users are aware of the distinction between paid or “sponsored” results and unpaid results. Intro; Press Release; Report PDF.

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January 23, 2005

CBS Sportsline offers stat heavy previews of the championship games between the Eagles and Falcons, and Patriots and Steelers. Today's most important stats may be of the weather variety. AFC kick-off forecast: Flurries, 13°F, Wind: 9 mph; NFC kick-off forecast: Partly Cloudy, 17°F, Wind 26 mph.

After the AFC game, CBS will premiere NUMB3RS. It has the dorky premise of an FBI agent (Rob Morrow) who recruits his mathematical genius brother (David Krumholtz), to help the Bureau solve crimes. It's actually gotten a few decent reviews, and being the number geek that I am, I'll probably watch it.

About 233 of the 3,465 passengers aboard the Mariner of the Seas cruise ship became sick after the vessel began a 7 day cruise through the Caribbean.

More than 2.5 million people took part in this year's haj, which ended without incident on Saturday. Last year, 250 people were killed in a stampede.

Within the pages of the book "A Treasure's Trove," are the clues to real treasures worth $1 million that are hidden around the U.S. The 12 items are in public places where they can be easily accessed without digging, moving or disturbing objects or structures.

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January 22, 2005

According to Media Matters for America, between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET, Republican and conservative guests and commentators outnumbered Democrats and progressives 19 to 7 on FOX, 10 to 1 on CNN, and 13 to 2 on MSNBC. Watch out for that liberal bias on those cable news networks.

A married couple who own an auto-repair shop beat the odds to win a $130 million lottery jackpot. "We're just glad the good Lord gave it to us and we plan to put it to good use," Margaret Jones told the AJC. That's amazing. I didn't even know God was handing out cash.

Today is the 32nd anniversary of the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. Both sides of the fight are gearing up for battle again since W. was reelected in November. Though Bush is widely admired by the anti-choice crowd, some question his commitment to reversing the decision. I guess time will tell.

The Philadelphia area may get 1 foot of snow this afternoon and tonight. That should make for an interesting ride for anyone going to the Eagles game tomorrow. The forecast for game-time calls for temperatures in the upper-teens with 30mph winds.

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January 21, 2005

Upstart liberal radio network Air America will soon be expanding its total nationwide reach to 45 markets with the addition of D.C., Detroit and Cincinnati. According to Webcast Metrics, Air America is also the 4th most popular Internet radio station, with almost 200,000 weekly Web listeners.

It only took 1 inch of snow from a surprise storm to cripple Raleigh, North Carolina and cause more than 1,000 accidents, none fatal. Some people were caught in traffic jams for more than 8 hours.

7-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens is getting paid a record breaking $18 million to come back for his 22nd season of major league baseball.

How can I not link to an article titled, A Question of Numbers? If you are really, really interested in the Social Security debate, don't miss this long NYT analysis by Roger Lowenstein.

Gmail users might be interested in this "complete" list of 29 tips for using the email system.

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A CNN/USA Today/Gallup post-inaugural poll of 624 adults found a mixed reaction to Bush's address. 60% of respondents felt Bush's goal of ending tyranny was not attainable, but 2/3 agreed that the growth of democratic movements in every nation should be a top or high priority for U.S. foreign policy. Only 42% felt Bush would make good on his promise to "strive in good faith to heal" the nation's divisions.

Archie Herring of Seattle just missed winning the huge $130 million Mega Millions lottery jackpot, correctly guessing 5 of the 6 numbers drawn. Fortunately for him, he bought 10 tickets, all with the same numbers. Each ticket was good for a second prize of $175,000, or a total of $1.75 million.

Continental Airlines Inc., reported a $206 million loss for the fourth quarter. The folks over at Delta responded with a "Pffffttt," and revealed their $2.2 billion fourth-quarter loss and record $5.2 billion annual loss. Meanwhile, Qantas stated it will break through the billion-dollar profit barrier when it releases its annual result next month.

The U.S. Forest Service has approved construction of the highest ski lift in the country at Breckenridge ski resort. The quad chair lift running to 12,830 feet will be BYOO -- Bring Your Own Oxygen.

The cause of "The Great Dying," a 250 million-year-old catastrophe that wiped out 90 percent of ocean species and 70 percent of land species, is a matter of great dispute among paleontologists. New research released yesterday offers evidence that global warming caused by massive and prolonged volcanic activity may have been the chief culprit.

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January 20, 2005

A new BBC poll of 22,000 people from 21 countries showed 58% believed Bush's re-election made the world more dangerous. Only three countries -- India, the Philippines and Poland -- thought the world was safer. Bush got his lowest rating (just 6% support) from Turkey, the only Muslim democracy in the Middle East.

For the first time, cancer has surpassed heart disease as the top killer of Americans under 85. Death rates for both are falling, but improvement has been more dramatic for heart disease. In 2002, 476,009 Americans under 85 died of cancer compared with 450,637 who died of heart disease.

According to a British Government minister, another earthquake and tsunami can be expected to strike south Asia within the next 50 years. That's real helpful.

Yahoo has reported its quarterly profit nearly quintupled as online advertising took business from television, search services grew. Net income rose to $373 million, or 25 cents a share, boosted by the sale of some shares in Google. Revenue, excluding fees Yahoo pays to its advertising partners, rose to $785 million from $511 million a year earlier.

A 38-year-old woman in Brazil gave birth Wednesday to a boy that weighs 17 pounds. Before all the moms pass out, I should tell you the baby was delivered by Caesarean section.

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By the Numbers: The U.S. After 4 Years of Bush

has moved here.

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January 15, 2005

Social Security Trustees estimate that over the next 75 years the program faces a budget shortfall of $3.7 trillion. That's a lot of money. However, the Medicare drug benefit plan cost over the next 75 years is $8.1 trillion, and the 75 year cost if the Bush tax cuts were made permanent is $11.6 trillion. Looks more like a crisis of leadership. More on Bush's dire predictions here.

Kevin Martin close to setting a record of sorts in Canada. He is only $10,000 away from becoming curling's first $1 million career earner.

Army Spc. Charles Graner Jr., the reputed ringleader of a band of rogue guards at the Abu Ghraib prison, could face up to 15 years in prison after being convicted of abusing Iraqi detainees.

Deep divisions over the war in Iraq and intense voter registration drives pushed turnout for the 2004 presidential election to 60.7%. That's the highest level since 1968, but still not real impressive.

By the year 2020, China and India will be vying with the United States for global economic supremacy, the nation's top intelligence analysts predict, and al-Qaeda will have withered away — only to be replaced by smaller, more splintered but equally deadly groups of terrorists. The National Intelligence Council's once-every-five-year look at the future of the globe also predicted the world economy will likely be 80% larger in 2020 than it was in 2000, and average income will be 50% higher. While the United States will retain its role as the world's dominant economy and military power, China and India, the world's two most populous countries, will see their clout grow substantially.

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January 14, 2005

It's been remarkably a good day for the hundreds of scientists and technicians in 19 countries who have worked on the Cassini-Huygens mission for nearly 25 years. After a 7 year, 2 billion mile journey, the Huygens probe successfully landed on Saturn's moon Titan, and started transmitting data from the surface. The latest Huygens images from Titan, which took 67 minutes to cross the 750 million miles back to Earth, can be viewed here.

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The number of Arabic linguists discharged from the military for violating its "don't ask, don't tell" policy is higher than previously reported. Between 1998 and 2004, the military discharged 20 Arabic and 6 Farsi speakers, according to Department of Defense data obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request. So to sum up: translators straight; priorities not straight.

According to new study of those with more than $10 million of assets, 29% say having a lot of money brings more problems than it solves. If having $10 million was really more trouble than it is worth, then hand it over now, and we'll both be much happier tomorrow. (via Wonkette)

In a related story, tonight's jackpot for the Mega Millions lottery drawing is $111 million. Your odds of winning the big prize is 1 in 135 million. Your odds of being killed this year: by poisoning is 1 in 98,000; by lightning is 1 in 6.5 million; by fireworks is 1 in 47.5 million. Good luck!

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January 13, 2005

Don't worry about those tsunami victims. For only $200,000, you could have the time of your bloated opulent life with the Mandarin Oriental's Dubya Coronation special. You get flown in on a private jet to a 3,500-square-foot presidential suite. They will outfit you and your squeeze in regal fashion for the balls, treat you and seven friends to dinner, and chauffeur you around town in a Maybach luxury sedan. Not your style? How about the $10,000 a night "President for the Day" package which includes actors hired to pose as Secret Service agents. Come on, Mr. and Mrs. Millionaire, you know you want to go. You could pay for a 5 night stay with just your tax rebate check from the Bush administration.

A Canadian researcher has invented a new flexible plastic solar cell that is said to be five times more efficient than current methods in converting energy from the sun into electrical energy. Soon, your shirt will power your Ipod.

68% of regular fliers oppose lifting the ban on airborne cellphone use. I think you are probably already familiar with the other 32%.

Check out these neat miniature paintings on 1 dollar bills by Kamiel Proost. (via BoingBoing)

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The head of the UN's cultural and scientific agency said a $30 million tsunami early warning system for the Indian Ocean could be in place by June 2006, with a global one to follow a year later.

The Deep Impact probe has a date with Comet Tempel 1 on July 4 more than 82 million miles from Earth. The 820-pound, camera-equipped chunk of copper will be placed in the comets' path and ultimately slam into it at about 23,000 miles an hour. Now that's some cool science.

A pair of “Mesozoic dogs” that hunted small dinosaurs 130 million years ago has been discovered in China, overturning standard theories about the earliest mammals. It had been thought that the mammals of the Mesozoic era were insect-eating or herbivorous creatures no bigger than modern mice, rats and shrews. The smaller of the two dog-sized fossils still has the remains of its last meal — a juvenile dinosaur — in its stomach area, while the larger is the biggest mammal ever found from its age.

Spending on home improvements rose 52% to $233 billion in 2003 from $153 billion in 1995. Coincidentally, that about the same amount the Bush administration has spent on Iraq "improvement."

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January 12, 2005

The search has concluded. 1,200 military and intelligence specialists and support staff have spent almost 2 years searching for those elusive weapons of mass destruction. The final total number of weapons found: 0.

Variety has released a list of the top 250 at the U.S. box office in 2004. Top 5: 1. Shrek 2 - $437 million; 2. Spider-Man - 373 million; 3. The Passion of the Christ - 370 million; 4. The Incredibles - 252 million; 5. Harry Potter/Azkaban - 249 million. I'm not sure why Shrek 2 earned more than The Incredibles.

Don King is suing ESPN for $2.5 billion. Why? Because he's Don King.

3 studies published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association shed new light on the role of diet and cancer. My summary: Red and processed meat increase your risk of colon and rectal cancer [chart]. Poultry and fish lower your risk. Fruits and vegetables do not protect against breast cancer, but help in other ways.

A new Pew Internet & American Life Project survey of 1,286 technology experts and scholars evaluates the future of the Internet. 66% of the experts agreed that at least one devastating attack will occur in the next 10 years on the networked information infrastructure or the country’s power grid. 50% of them believe that anonymous, free, music file-sharing on peer-to-peer networks will still be easy to perform a decade from now. 100% of writers of this blog believe that predicting what the Internet will be like in 10 years is close to impossible. [Full Report]

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The U.S. trade deficit has reached a record $60 billion. Meanwhile, China's trade surplus is at $11 billion, which is its highest level in 9 years. I'm thinking that might not a coincidence.

The death toll from Monday's 30-foot-deep mudslide is up to 10, with 13 people still missing.

Canadian authorities have found a 3rd case of mad cow disease, raising new concerns about the prevalence of the infection in North America.

Apple has unveiled a new low-cost Mac for $499, and a stripped down iPod. The smallest-capacity iPod will have 512MB of storage, and cost $99. A 1GB version will sell for $149. Like other iPod models, the new players will only play songs from Apple’s iTunes.

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January 11, 2005

Google has posted a 20 Year Usenet Timeline in association with their integration of Usenet archives into Google Groups. Highlights include the first Make Money Fast post from Nov. 1989, and a Jeff Bezos is hiring post from Aug. 1994.

A new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation measured the importance of 12 items people thought should be health care priorities for the president and Congress. Named most often, by 63% of respondents, was lowering the cost of health care and insurance. Malpractice lawsuits were mentioned by just 26% despite Bush's heavy focus on that one issue. [All 12 items on a chart]

A tsunami survivor has been rescued after 15 days adrift in the Indian Ocean. He lived primarily on coconuts that he opened with his teeth.

The Bush administration has refused to reimburse D.C. for most of the costs associated with next week's inauguration, breaking with precedent and forcing the city to divert $11.9 million from homeland security projects. What could go wrong?

GM is recalling more than 98,000 pickups, vans and sport utility vehicles because of a potential problem with their power steering and braking systems.

U.S. patent leader IBM plans to donate 500 patents for free use by software developers, marking a major shift of intellectual property strategy for the world's top computer maker and a challenge to the high-tech industry. Major discussion underway at Slashdot.

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Total health spending in 2003 rose 7.7% to $1.7 trillion or 15.3% of the U.S. gross domestic product. Our health care spending in the U.S. is now greater than the total GDP of all but 5 countries in the world. But, don't worry about any of that. Social Security is the really big, important crisis-du-jour.

A new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows Bush's job approval rating at 52%. 75% approve of his handling of the Tsunami disaster, but only 42% for the war in Iraq. 52% disapprove of his handling of Social Security, with just 18% agreeing with the president's characterization of Social Security as a system in crisis. Amazingly, 40% believe the war is going well for American forces. In a related story, 4 in 10 Americans get all of their news directly from White House press releases.

Bob Cringely reviews some of his technology related predictions for 2004 and makes 15 more for 2005.

The recent storms in California are now blamed for 12 deaths including 3 from a massive mud slide [video]. 21 people are still missing. Some areas have received more than 2 feet of rain. Fortunately, no one was in the way of this 25 foot high boulder.

Fortune has released its annual list of the best 100 companies to work for in America. Wegmans Food Markets topped the list, followed by Gore-Tex fabric maker W.L. Gore. Donald "You're Fired!" Trump didn't make the list.

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January 10, 2005

Jon Stewart's best-seller America (The Book) has been banned in 8 Mississippi public libraries because of a photo depicting the faces of the U.S. Supreme Court justices superimposed on 9 naked bodies. The empty space on the library shelves was promptly replaced with copies of How to Cook Roadkill.

Metallic rods about 500 times smaller than the width of a human hair have been turned into tiny "propellers" by a Canadian research team. Neato.

CBS fired 4 news staffers Monday following the release of an independent investigation that said a "myopic zeal" led to the airing of a discredited "60 Minutes Wednesday" story about President Bush's military service. For more information on myopic zeal, please refer to the war in Iraq.

In a new survey of our Galaxy, 3 supergiant stars have emerged as larger than any others so far measured. They are each about 1,500 times the diameter of our Sun, or roughly 7 times bigger than the Earth's orbit.

The 31st Annual People's Choice Awards show was on last night. Exciting award categories included 'Crest fans favorite smile' and 'Pantene fans favorite hair.' Not surprisingly, I was busy watching 24.

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Mahmoud Abbas won a true mandate to be Palestinian Authority president with 62.3% of the vote. His nearest competitor had just 20%. That differs from President Bush's man date, which consisted of sharing an order of ribs with Cheney at Sizzler.

Storms in the west have dropped as much as 19 feet of snow at elevations above 7,000 feet since Dec. 28 and 6 1/2 feet in the Reno area. Southern California has had 4 straight days of heavy rain Sunday, which knocked out power to thousands, set off mudslides and shut down highways.

Vikings picked off 4 Brett Favre passes after managing just 11 interceptions all season in their 31-17 victory over the Packers. Peyton Manning had 457 yards passing as the Colts stomped the Broncos 49-24.

For sale: 137,000-square-foot building with 6,500 windows on 140 acres in beautiful Southern Arizona. Yes, Biosphere 2 could be yours, if the price is right. (via BoingBoing)

Posted @ 7:45 AM | Link | Comments
January 09, 2005

An Army platoon sergeant who ordered his soldiers to throw Iraqis into the Tigris River was sentenced to 6 months in military prison, but will not be discharged.

Australians donated more than $20 million to help tsunami victims in this weekend's Reach Out to Asia concert.

Sudan's vice-president and the country's main rebel leader signed a peace accord ending 21 years of war.

Aid officials have announced plans to feed as many as 2 million survivors each day for the next 6 months.

One sailor has died and 23 were injured when a U.S. nuclear submarine ran aground about 350 miles south of Guam on Sunday.

The Rams beat the Seahawks 27-20, and the Jets upset the Chargers in a 20-17 overtime victory.

As many as 200 vehicles got stuck in deep snow early Saturday in the San Bernardino Mountains and up to 10 feet was expected over the weekend at the Sierra's higher elevations.

Posted @ 10:23 AM | Link | Comments
January 08, 2005

A 13-year-old boy from PA has scored a perfect 1600 on the SAT. In June 2003, his brother Ross scored 1600 on the SAT as a junior, but the oldest brother Alan, only scored 1520 on the exam. What a loser.

The new National Annenberg Election Survey indicates 16% of those who voted for Bush considered voting for Kerry, and 15% of Kerry voters considered voting for Bush. Who are these people?

Men's Fitness magazine's has released the top 10 winners (and losers) in it's Seventh Annual Fattest and Fittest Cities Report. The fittest cities are Seattle and Honolulu, and the fattest are Houston and Philadelphia.

13 years ago today, Dubya's daddy puked on the Prime Minister of Japan.

Kobe Bryant No. 8 Lakers jersey — previously one of the best sellers in the world — has fallen out of the top 50. What a shame.

The World Bank approved $73 million in grants and loans Friday to help Haiti implement economic reforms and recover from floods.

Happy 63rd birthday to Stephen Hawking.

Posted @ 9:30 AM | Link | Comments
January 07, 2005

The Bush administration paid a prominent black pundit $240,000 to build support among black families for the No Child Left Behind program. What a marvelous abuse of our tax dollars.

Check out the top 10 winners from Wired News' 2004 Vaporware Awards.

U.S. vehicle recalls rose 61% in 2004 to a record 30.7 million.

A passenger train and a freight train collided in thick fog Friday in northern Italy, killing 14 people and injuring dozens.

8 people were killed and 240 injured when 2 trains collided head-on in South Carolina, releasing chlorine into the air.

University of Utah researchers have won about $6.7 million in federal grants to develop wireless electrodes that would be implanted to provide blind people with artificial vision and stimulate paralyzed body parts and so disabled people could walk, talk or control a computer with their thoughts. Cool.

Posted @ 3:32 PM | Link | Comments

A new AP Poll finds Americans still split about Bush. W's approval rating is at 49 percent, with 49 percent disapproving. That rating is quite low for a president at the start of the second term. Just before their second inauguration, Presidents Reagan and Clinton had job approval ratings near 6 in 10.

In their continuing quest to buy more championships, the Yankees agree on a 2 year $32 million deal with Randy Johnson. Frank Deford discusses the hidden costs of rooting for the Yankees in his latest NPR commentary.

A telethon held in Saudi Arabia raised more than $82 million for victims of the Asian tsunami.

Yesterday was another bad day in Iraq as 9 more American troops were killed. The total killed since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003 now stands at 1,349.

Posted @ 8:03 AM | Link | Comments
January 06, 2005

M-LAW has announced the top 5 warnings in its annual Wacky Warning Label Contest. The winner this year is a flushable toilet brush that warns users, “Do not use for personal hygiene.” Good sound advice.

December same store sales were up 2.5% at Best Buy, down 5.8% at Circuit City and up 3% at Walmart.

A supermassive black that has been erupting continuously for 100 million years has caused two cavities in space that are each about 650,000 light-years across. Sing along now ... There's a hole in the middle of space. There's a hole in the middle of space. There's a hole. There's a hole. There's a hole in the middle of space.

Jobless claims jumped by a seasonally adjusted 43,000 to 364,000, the highest level since late September. We're going nowhere fast.

WHY? WWWHHHHYYY!? 11 years ago today skater Nancy Kerrigan was clubbed on the back of her knee by some associates of boxer Tonya Harding.

Posted @ 2:50 PM | Link | Comments

An Indonesian man swept off shore by last week's tsunami was found afloat on tree branches and debris 100 miles from the shores of Aceh province.

Tsunami pledges rise to $3.7 billion.

A new Gallup poll found that 82% of Americans agree that Social Security is a high priority, but when it comes to letting workers invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in personal accounts, 48% are in favor and 48% are opposed. Generally, the younger and wealthier you are, the more like you are to favor some privatization.

Legendary comic-book artist Will Eisner has died at age 87. (Free Reg. Req.)

With "Crossfire" ratings down 21% from the previous season, CNN has finally agreed to stop Tucker Carlson from hurting America. For some strange reason, conservative buffoon Bob Novak still has a job.

Icebergs have been sighted in New Zealand waters for the first time in 57 years.

According to a new study, up to 33 million children and teenagers in the U.S. may be exposed to enough secondhand tobacco smoke to affect their math and reading ability.

Posted @ 7:04 AM | Link | Comments
January 05, 2005

Thanks to the Patriot Act, the New Jersey man who pointed a laser beam at an airplane could face up to 25 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000.

Trojans are number 1 in football, but only rank number 5 in condoms.

A South Dakota man has managed to lose 450 pounds. He's down from 1,072 to about 650. Don't miss the scary "before" photo.

According to NOAA, 2004 ranks among the top 10 wettest years on record partly due to the effects of tropical storms and hurricanes.

USA Today offers 20 tips to lose 20 pounds.

The Pentagon plans to cut $30 billion over the next six years, apparently using 30 tips from USA Today.

Posted @ 1:25 PM | Link | Comments

The Annual Edge Question generated some interesting responses from 120 scientists and science-minded thinkers. The 2005 question: What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?

Americans' private donations surge past $200 million. Now that I feel patriotic about.

Vehicle sales in U.S. up 1% in 2004, but the results are mixed for U.S. automakers. Overall, the Big Three's share of the U.S. market fell 4% last year to 58.8%. Chrysler was up 9%, but Ford was down 4% and GM was down 1%. Toyota's sales in the U.S. were up 10%.

USC claims another title after beating Oklahoma 55-19 in the Orange Bowl.

The number of U.S. troops wounded in Iraq since the start of the war in Iraq has surpassed 10,000.

Eminent Indian agricultural scientist Prof MS Swaminathan has presented a blueprint for a hunger-free India within 3 years. We are overdo for a similar plan in the U.S.

Posted @ 7:12 AM | Link | Comments
January 04, 2005

The Nasa rover Spirit has now spent 1 year on Mars. [Rover homepage]

Physicist Dick Henry is promoting his new calendar that uses 364 days a year, every year. Very logical, just like the metric system. Good luck with that Dick.

The 109th Congress convened today. Republicans surprisingly retreated on efforts to weaken ethics rules. Well, for now anyway.

Movies took in $9.4 billion in 2004 at the domestic box office thanks to higher ticket prices. Attendance fell about 1.7%.

N.H. highway death total highest in 15 years. Motorcycle fatalities hit the highest level in 10 years in Maine. Vermont road deaths highest in 6 years. Drive in New England at your own risk.

867-5309 called using every area code in the U.S.

Posted @ 1:35 PM | Link | Comments

Congress expects Bush will request $100 billion more for the war in Iraq. It's going be fascinating to see how he cuts the deficit in half while fixing Social Security and paying for the war.

More than 70% of patients who took painkillers such as ibuprofen for more than three months suffered damage to their small intestines according to a new study.

Britons on way to record 25 billion text messages in 2004.

Americans spend more than $1 billion a year on weight-loss programs but have little to show for it ... or rather, they have a lot to show for it.

Auburn beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl 16-13, but are still unlikely to be voted #1.

Posted @ 7:06 AM | Link | Comments
January 03, 2005

Sandra Bullock has donated $1 million to the American Red Cross to help relief efforts in countries affected by the deadly earthquake and tsunamis.

Delta Airlines may cut fares up to 60% to lure back customers.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are being sold for $375 million. Pretty good ROI. Gordon and George Gund purchased the team in 1983 for $20 million.

Frequent fast-food eaters gain 10 more pounds over a period of 15 years than less frequent-eaters. This study brought to you by Captain Obvious.

U.S. online retailers rang up holiday sales of $23.2 billion, which is up 25 percent from the 2003 season.

Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress and an outspoken advocate for women and minorities during seven terms in the House, has died at age 80.

Posted @ 8:53 PM | Link | Comments

California resorts may see 4-day storm totals of up to 9 feet(!) of snow.

The government gave $1.17 billion of your tax dollars to 'faith-based' groups in 2003. While those dollars don't directly fund proselytizing, it certainly frees up a bunch of money that will be used to spread the word.

ABC News/Washington Post poll shows personal optimism is down 19 points and hopefulness for the world is down 15 points from a year ago. Cheer-up! It's only 4 more years.

China's population will officially hit 1.3 billion this week.

One tropical storm and five hurricanes contributed to the 2004's record 1,717 tornado reports in the U.S.

Gretzky fears the NHL could be shut down for as long as 2 years if a labor deal is not reached soon. Yes, there really are people who care about hockey.

Brothers fete birthdays with same card for 29 years.

Posted @ 2:26 PM | Link | Comments

Blog readership was up 58% last year (32 million people), although 62% of adult American Internet users still have no clear idea what a blog actually is. [Full report from Pew]

Walmart sales were up 3% in December. Hooray for cheap crap!

A new poll showed 65% of Palestinians will vote for Mahmoud Abbas in the upcoming presidential election.

Marine researchers have discovered the deepest coral reef in the United States in about 250 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico. This is interesting because coral reefs require sunlight to grow.

Tsunami aid pledges reach $5 billion. The death toll is near 150,000. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says it will take up to 10 years to rebuild. (Tsunami Relief)

Democratic Rep. Robert Matsui has died at 63 of complications from a rare disease. Matsui spent time in an internment camp as an infant during World War II and went on to serve 26 years in Congress.

Meet the Fockers has made $163 Million in 12 days and set records for the biggest gross on New Year's Eve, with $12.2 million, and on New Year's Day, with $18 million. I'm feeling a little verklempt.

Posted @ 10:11 AM | Link | Comments

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