Thursday, February 28, 2008

J.K. Rowling fighting "rip off" books writer

Billionaire Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling would feel "exploited" if a fan's unofficial encyclopedic companion to the boy wizard series was published, she said in court papers made public on Thursday.

Steve Vander Ark has written "The Harry Potter Lexicon" -- a 400-page reference book based on his popular fan Web site (www.hp-lexicon.org). Rowling and Warner Bros. are suing RDR Books, which planned to publish the book last November.

"I am very frustrated that a former fan has tried to co-opt my work for financial gain," Rowling, 42, who wrote the seven hugely successful Harry Potter novels, said in a declaration filed in U.S. District Court this week.

"I believe that RDR's book constitutes a Harry Potter 'rip off' of the type I have spent years trying to prevent, and that both I, as the creator of this world, and fans of Harry Potter, would be exploited by its publication," she said.

The lawsuit filed in October names RDR Books, an independent publisher based in Michigan, and unidentified persons as defendants. It seeks to stop publication and requests damages for copyright and federal trademark infringement and any profits to be gained.

Rowling has said she plans to write her own definitive Harry Potter encyclopedia, which would include material that did not make it into the novels, and donate the proceeds to charity. The novels have sold more than 400 million copies.

"I feel intensely protective, firstly, of the literary world I spent so long creating, and secondly, of the fans who bought my books in such large numbers," said the British writer ranked by Forbes as the world's 48th most powerful celebrity.

RDR Books has said Vander Ark, a librarian, had spoken at Harry Potter academic conferences in Britain, Canada and the United States and that a timeline he created was used by Warner Bros. in DVD releases of the Harry Potter films.

The company and Vander Ark have said the book would only promote the sale of Rowling's work and that Vander Ark's Web site, used by 25 million visitors, had been called "a great site" by Rowling herself.

Warner Bros is a unit of Time Warner Inc, which owns the copyright and trademark rights to the Harry Potter books.

Prince Harry secretly serving on Afghanastan front line

Prince Harry, the third in line to the British throne, has been secretly serving with the British military in Afghanistan since December.

The Ministry of Defense confirmed the 23-year-old royal's role Thursday after the news of his deployment appeared on the U.S.-based Drudge Report Web site.

The prince had been scheduled to serve in Iraq last May, but the enormous amount of publicity in the British media that attended this possibility raised concerns in the military that the prince would be singled out as a target by the enemy, endangering him and the troops around him.

Harry, who was educated at Sandhurst, Britain's elite military school, expressed his disappointment, but did not resign from the military.

After the story quieted down, Harry continued to push for a combat role and the Ministry of Defense quietly negotiated an agreement with British news organizations to refrain from publicizing any future deployments of the prince.

When it was decided that Harry could serve in Afghanistan, he was told the news by his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.

Since mid-December, Harry has been serving in Helmand province as a forward air controller for frontline troops. Accounts in the British press said the prince has been "personally involved" in clashes with Taliban guerrillas, but did not claim that the prince had been exposed to enemy fire.

"His conduct on operations in Afghanistan has been exemplary," said Gen. Richard Dannatt, the army's chief of staff. "He has been fully involved in operations and has run the same risks as everyone else in his battle group."

Dannatt said he was "very disappointed that foreign Web sites have decided to run this story without consulting us."

Now that Harry's role in Afghanistan has been made public, his continued presence there may be reconsidered, Dannatt said.

Following the disclosure Thursday of the prince's combat role, British newspapers were free to run a pool interview that was conducted in December right before his deployment.

Asked his reaction to news that he would be going to Afghanistan, the prince replied, "A bit of excitement, a bit of 'Phew, finally get the chance to actually do the soldiering I wanted to do ever since I joined.'"

The prince said that once in Afghanistan, he did not feel he would be treated differently than any other soldier.

"I think dressed in the same uniform as numerous other people, thousands of other people in Afghanistan will give me one of the best chances to be just a normal person: with a helmet on, with a shemagh [scarf], with goggles on, whatever," he said.

He also said he was satisfied that his presence would not jeopardize the safety of other soldiers.

"I don't think it's putting anybody at risk at all. I think going along with the plan at the moment, if I can get out there without anyone actually making it public, which is basically what's happening at the moment with the deal that's being made with numerous papers, things are looking up," he said.

"I would never want to put someone else's life in danger when they have to sit next to the bullet magnet," he added. "But if I'm wanted, if I'm needed, then I will serve my country as I signed up to do."

Along with the release of the interview Thursday came a deluge of photos of Harry on patrol in Helmand, Harry in a bunker, Harry with his weapon. Much of this seemed designed to counteract the prince's image as a frivolous party boy who once went to a costume party in a Nazi uniform.

Harry, the youngest son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, is not the first royal to see combat. His uncle, Prince Andrew, was a helicopter pilot in the 1982 Falklands war.

Harry's older brother, Prince William, second in line to the throne, also graduated from Sandhurst, but has not been considered for a combat role.

Hugh Hefner wants Lindsay Lohan to Pose in Playboy for another Marilyn Munroe tribute

Source: http://Lindsayfollies.blogspot.com


Lindsay Lohan will get another chance to strip off and pose nude as Marilyn Monroe - if Hugh Hefner gets his way.

Hefner wants the starlet to appear in Playboy recreating Monroe’s famous naked swim from her ‘Something’s Got to Give’ movie, according to U.S reports.

Lohan recently stripped off in a New York magazine shoot to pay homage to Monroe. The racy shoot proved so popular that the magazine’s website crashed under the massive volume of hits.

Lohan, 21, paired with Monroe photographer Bert Stern to recreate the famous 1962 photo shoot of the blonde bombshell at the Bel Air hotel.

“Now we hear Lindsay is tempted to continue her nude homage to MM,” Liz Smith writes in the New York Post.

“Playboy’s Hugh Hefner has offered the young star the chance to re-create Marilyn’s famed nude swim from the unfinished film ‘Something’s Got To Give.’”

Ford is recalling 470,000 Mustangs for Airbag problems

DETROIT - Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday it is recalling 470,000 Ford Mustangs from the 2005-2008 model years to recalibrate how forcefully the air bag deploys on the front passenger side of the car.

Internal testing showed the air bag could injure a small, unbelted passenger, said Ford spokesman Wesley Sherwood. The recall was posted on the website of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Sherwood said the fix would address "a very rare scenario," and there were no reports of injuries or accidents tied to the recall.

Nearly 435,000 of the recalled Ford Mustangs are in the United States, with most of the remaining vehicles in Mexico and Canada.

The Dearborn-based automaker will notify customers by mail in early March. Owners can take their vehicle to a dealer to have the air bag recalibrated to deploy at a lower force.

For additional details, owners can call Ford at (866) 436-7332 or visit the company's owner services Web site at http://www.ford.com/owner-services.

On the Net:
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Welcome to the college shooting blog - Yet another idiot shooter, this time in Arkansas

A gunman shot a University of Arkansas at Little Rock student Wednesday afternoon in plain view of 15 to 20 witnesses, including the university’s tennis team.

The shooting happened about 2:10 p.m. on a sidewalk next to the campus’ tennis courts.


Classes were canceled Wednesday night but will resume Thursday, UALR Chancellor Joel E. Anderson said in a statement.

Campus Police Chief Brad King said one or two black men fired two shots at the student, who was later identified by university officials as James Earl Matthews, 33, of North Little Rock.

At least one of the bullets struck the student, but King didn’t say where.

The suspects, one of whom had “afro style hair,” according to a university e-mail alert, fled the area in a cream or gold colored Japanese-model car, possibly a Nissan.

The car was an early to mid-2000 model and had damage on its right side. The pair fled on westbound University Drive toward University Ave.

King called the attack brazen, adding that it took place right in front of a number of pedestrians and the entire university tennis team practicing nearby.

“That’s a busy section of our campus,” King said. “There are a lot of witnesses to talk to.”

Matthews was transported to a hospital, according to UALR spokesman Joan Duffy. He underwent surgery for his injuries and was in intensive care Wednesday night, Duffy said.

Matthews had made it on foot it across to the parking lot in front of the University Theater, where ambulance attendants reached him to administer emergency care and transport him to a hospital.

The campus alert system went into effect around 2:30. The university did not go into lockdown after the shooting, although students and employees were urged to stay away from the area where the shooting took place.

Still, some students didn't receive the message, including one who arrived on campus for class only to find out it was canceled.

Duffy said the university fed the new system every telephone number they had for the campus’ few residence halls and offices of faculty and workers, as well as school e-mail addresses. However, she said students need to give the university their cell. phone numbers if they want to be notified in case of an emergency.

“We strive to notify as many people as we can. There is no perfect system,” Duffy said. “I know that when we have to notify things like canceling classes because of snow, we notify as best we can ... but there’s always someone who shows up through a snowstorm.”

The UALR shooting comes a day after seven people were injured at a Little Rock park. In that episode, 20-30 people were gathered a Boyle Park when a brawl broke out. Four people were shot and three others injured.

Texts of emergency messages sent to UALR staff and students:

Transmitted at 2:29 p.m.

“This is an emergency notification not a test. There was a shooting on the campus in the area of the theater. The suspect vehicle was a gold Chevrolet Malibu with accident damage to the right side. ... All personnel are to stay away from the area of the Campus Theater. Further instructions to follow.”

Transmitted at 3:32 p.m.

“Emergency update: the victim in this case is being treated at a local hospital. The suspects in this case ... have departed the area, unknown location at this time. The suspect vehicle description as of now is a cream color to gold midsize Japanese make, possibly a Nissan. Early to mid-2000s with right side damage. Current state, the campus is safe and secure with all operations back to normal.”

Mayor Carmen Kontur-Gronquist of Arlington, Oregon not resigning over her Myspace pics


Carmen Kontur-Gronquist, the mayor of Arlington, Ore., whose personal photos of her posing on a firetruck caused a firestorm in the small town, was removed from office Monday in a narrow recall election, 142-139.

Not every citizen of Arlington, a town of fewer than 600 residents, had kind words for the town's first female mayor as the controversy played out.

The 42-year-old single mom faced attacks because of a photograph of her taken years before she became mayor clad in a black bra and underwear, posing on a local firetruck.

Earlier this year, some citizens found the photo and a few others like it on Kontur-Gronquist's MySpace page. In January, Kontur-Gronquist spoke to ABC News about the controversy that sparked comment nationwide.

"I took this office," Kontur-Gronquist said, "and those photos have nothing to do with me and my abilities as being mayor."

Some citizens disagreed. When asked what kind of job she had done as mayor, school board member Grant Wilkins said, "Questionable. I have some reservations about some of her decision making."

"I think everyone has to ask & in light of what has happened, 'Is this a representation of what we want as a community?'" said Wilkins, who wants the mayor to leave office.

"The pictures were taken in a public facility and it's not right," Wilkins said. "She's associated these pictures with being mayor. That's not the representation that I want to see. People aren't laughing with us, they are laughing at us."


Just 'Joking Around'
At a council meeting in January, Kontur-Gronquist first heard of the plans by some residents to remove her via a petition and a recall election.

Kontur-Gronquist said at the time that using the photos to try to remove her from office was "low."

"It's cruel," she said. "It doesn't only affect me, it affects my family, it affects the citizens in the community."

The photos date back to August 2004, well before she ever imagined becoming mayor. Kontur-Gronquist says they were taken after a day at the beach with a friend who was a volunteer firefighter.

"We were swimming and sunbathing and whatever, you know, what girls do," she said. "And so she wanted to stop in and take pictures. & We'd just came off of the beach, and, so we took some pictures. We did have permission from the fire chief at the time."

Then, Kontur-Gronquist says, her friend suggested that she pose on the firetruck.

Kontur-Gronquist says her first reaction was "I'm not getting up there," but she had been considering entering a "contest about fitness and women" for Sports Illustrated magazine, so she changed her mind.

"I said, "Oh, what the hell?'" she recalled. "So the pictures were taken. Did I send them in? No."

Why not?

"I didn't think they were good enough!" she said. "It was fun. & It was really joking around."

Kontur-Gronquist doesn't think the photos are tawdry. "They didn't mean to be provocative. They really meant to show, at the time, the shape that I was in," she said.


Private Becomes Public
Later, Kontur-Gronquist said, a relative set her up with a MySpace page; relatives were hoping it might turbo-charge the single mom's social life.

"About a week later, she calls up, she goes, 'You've got a MySpace page.' And I said, 'Oh, cool.' So, the other family members said, 'You know, you could use it as a dating page.'"

Kontur-Gronquist said she's not Internet savvy, so it was family members who uploaded photos to her page, including the ones on the firetruck. She thought nothing of it until she got a call on vacation early this year. City Hall had been receiving complaints.

"I had no clue that it would cause such a negative reaction, or upset my community," she said. "I called my council members and apologized."

Kontur-Gronquist admitted that she should have educated herself about MySpace.

"Everyone is entitled to their own private life but when your private life spills over into public viewing not everyone is going to be in favor of it," said Alice Courtney, a resident of Arlington and a City Council member.

For a while, it looked like the feelings about the photos might die down, until Kontur-Gronquist got word that "somebody had been dispersing them, had ran them off and taken them through town, handing them out,"

"It was a cruel thing that they did," she said. "But I am not gonna sit down, I am gonna try to finish out my term."

Kontur-Gronquist's term would have ended in January 2009; she had been serving while working full time at the town's health clinic because in Arlington, the job of mayor is an unsalaried position.

Wilkins said he gets "pretty emotional" at the suggestion that the photos aren't that salacious and aren't a big deal.

"She's an elected official of the city of Arlington," he said. "She represents the citizens. She's brought negative publicity. The people don't deserve it."


'You're Not a Quitter'
But some of the people didn't seem to mind. They were proud of her.

They say that, "You do have a life. Just because you have a political seat, it doesn't mean that you are not a person, that you don't have a personal life," said Kontur-Gronquist. "And I do believe that."

Kontur-Gronquist says this has been "very trying" for her 18-year-old daughter, Julianne, "but she does great."

"This whole last week, this whole fiasco, and she had her senior project, and she aced it with an A minus," Kontur-Gronquist said. "Julianne says, 'Mom, you're not a quitter.' She always told me that, you know."

In fact, her daughter helped put together Kontur-Gronquist's MySpace page, but now Kontur-Gronquist said, "I think I am pretty savvy at it, to be honest with you."

Kontur-Gronquist has spent nearly entire her life as a proud citizen of Arlington and didn't walk away from the fight. She said lots of people told her, "Don't you quit now, don't you step down."

"I'm not stepping down," she told ABC News. "They're going to have to drag me out of here." It turns out that they did.

Classes Canceled at Eden Priaire High School After Serious Threat

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. --Eden Prairie High School I s closed today after school officials received an alleged threat.

Eden Prairie police and school administrators are working together, according to an announcement on the school district’s website.

The announcement didn’t mention what kind of threat the school received , but Superintendent Melissa Krull said the school would close for the safety of the students.

"We are taking this alleged threat seriously, and to ensure the safety of our students, classes at Eden Prairie High School have been canceled for Wednesday," Krull wrote.

Classes are canceled, but staff will be on site today during the investigation. The school has not said if it will resume classes tomorrow.

All other schools in District 272 remained open today, with the threat only against Eden Prairie High School.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Early Morning UK Earthquake rocks Britain


A magnitude 4.7 earthquake shook England early Wednesday, centered on the east coast north of London England, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The British Geological Survey put the preliminary magnitude for the earthquake at 5.3 on the Richter scale, according to the British Press Association.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

The earthquake's center was about 125 miles (205 km) north of London, or about 30 miles (50 km) south of Kingston upon Hull, the USGS said. It struck just before 0100 GMT.

"It felt pretty scary," Haydn Jones of Nottingham, who lives in a third-floor apartment, told CNN. He said he has lived abroad in Japan and knew immediately what it was, but felt that a lot of those in England "didn't really know what was going on."

Jones likened the eathquake feeling to "someone very big and angry jumping on the ceiling below you, rather than the floor."

He believed the shaking lasted about 10 seconds, but said, "time sort of stands still for you." He said there was no damage in his area.

The USGS classifies earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 to magnitude 4.9 as "light."

Earthquakes frequently hit Britain -- between 200 and 300 annually, according to the British Geological Survey, although most have a magnitude of less than 2. Earthquakes with a magnitude of 4.0 to 4.9 hit mainland Britain about once every two years and strike beneath the North Sea about once per year.

Britain's strongest recorded quake was the North Sea quake of June 7, 1931, with a magnitude of 6.1. It was felt across the British isles and in northwestern Germany. The quake killed one person.

The most powerful onshore quakes occurred on July 19, 1984, in north Wales (magnitude 5.1) and on April 2, 1990, along the Welsh border with England (5.1 magnitude).

A 4.6 magnitude quake in Colchester on April 22, 1884, was Britain's most damaging earthquake, knocking spires from churches and masonry from roofs. Turrets and parapets, which are very common in England also fell, and brick walls and chimneys collapsed. Two people were killed.

Earthquake in the London England area of Great Britain. Another Earthquake hits.

Treasure hunters dig for Hitler's gold


Digging has resumed at a site in the southeastern German town of Deutschneudorf, where treasure hunters believe there are almost 2 tons of Nazi gold and possibly clues to the whereabouts of the legendary Amber Room, a prize taken from a Russian castle during World War II.

Heinz Peter Haustein, one of the two treasure hunters and a member of Germany's parliament, said: "We have already hit a hollow area under the surface, it's filled with water and we are not sure if it is the cave we are looking for."

Digging was stopped more than a week ago amid safety concerns, as authorities and the treasure hunters feared that the shaft might collapse and that the cave -- if it is there -- may be rigged with explosives or poisonous booby traps.

At a news conference Friday, Christian Hanisch, the other treasure hunter, said that geological surveying equipment had located a possible cave about 30 feet under the surface containing "precious metals that can only be either gold or silver. The instruments would not have reacted to any other metal like copper."

Hanisch pointed out that his father, who was a navigator in the Luftwaffe, the Nazi air force, was one of the troops said to have been involved in hiding art, gold and silver as the Nazis realized that they would lose the war.

He said that when his father died, he left coordinates leading to the spot in Deutschneudorf.

"It's not about getting the reward," Hanisch said at the site. "I just want to know if my father was right and if my instincts were right."

Haustein, who is paying for the expedition, said he hopes that finding the gold could lead to the Amber Room, whose interior is made completely of amber and gold. It was looted by the Nazis from a castle in St. Petersburg, Russia, after Adolf Hitler's forces invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.

The room looked so majestic, many called it "the eighth wonder of the world." It disappeared after the war, and today a replica stands in its place in St. Petersburg.

Although parts of the Amber Room have resurfaced, the vast majority remains missing.

Haustein has been looking for the room for more than 12 years.

"I am certain that large parts of the Amber Room are buried somewhere here," he said.

He said he has collected much circumstantial evidence suggesting that the Nazis hid the Amber Room in old copper mines around Deutschneudorf, but he has no proof.

Haustein said the Nazis began bringing valuables including art, gold and silver to the region around Deutschneudorf as early as summer 1944.

Deutschneudorf is in Germany's Ore Mountains, and the mountain where the treasure hunters claim to have found the Nazi gold was a copper mine until the 19th century. Although the mine was shut down in 1882, geologists found evidence that soldiers from Hitler's Wehrmacht -- the German armed forces -- had been there. The machine guns, parts of uniforms and explosives are on display at the town's museum.

Though both treasure hunters say they are certain they will find cultural goods, both admit that they fear disappointment.

"Of course, if you embark on something like this, you ask yourself: 'What if we find nothing again? What if I was fooled?' " Haustein said. "But every man has to go his own way, for better or for worse."

If they do find the treasure, Haustein says, it would legally belong to Germany, although he would recommend that Germany give any Amber Room parts back to Russia.

Treasure hunters have typically received rewards of 10 percent of the value of the goods found, but Hanisch says there are no laws dictating the reward amount.

Hotmail is down - East coast of USA seeing problems accessing their Hotmail account

Users in the Northeast US have been reporting access to Hotmail services have been down for the past hour.

Other Microsoft websites (and Live.com e-mail) are reachable but extremely slow, including numerous pages at MSN.com.

Those trying to access via Hotmail.com are timing out.

"For several hours now I have received the below faithful screen every time trying to log in to my hotmail account.

It’s kind of strange for a server farm as large as Hotmail to be down like this not to mention twice in one month. Anyone else experiencing this right now?" reports Listen to Taz Rant blog.

The fact that Hotmail is down seems to be wide spread and much longer than the “blip” outages Microsoft usually experiences. Blog entries on the topic are growing as are queries. Time to switch to Gmail.

Another College Shooter - Ferrum College & Ferrum Elementary School in LOCKDOWN


Anyone trying to find out information can call (540) 365-4232, 4202, 4206, or 4239. Due to the high volume of calls, your call may not be answered immediately. We're also told that Ferrum Elementary School is on lockdown, as well.

As of 11:45, the college remains on lockdown. You can call (540) 365-5555 for more information.

According to Sheriff Ewell Hunt, they received a call from the Ferrum College Police Department saying someone suspicious was seen at Bassett Hall.

Hunt says a housekeeper saw a white man, wearing green clothing and dark pants, was seen with a hand gun. Sheriff Hunt says the man told the housekeeper not to say anything.

According to the sheriff, no threats were made towards anyone and no incidents happened. Hospitals are on standby as a precaution.

The campus remains on lockdown. Hunt says each building on campus will be swept. Sheriff Hunt says a couple of people who matched the description were detained. However, they were later released.

Classes at Ferrum College have been cancelled for today. (Click here for Ferrum College's website)

State police say they are interviewing people, doing building searches, and assisting the sheriff's department.

Dr. Jennifer L. Braaten, President of Ferrum College, says when they heard of the incident, they started their emergency procedures.

The college says they wanted to err on the side of caution.

A second news conference is schedule for 1:30 p.m.

Stay with News7 and WDBJ7.com for the latest.

Here are the two messages that were sent out to students:

MESSAGE 1

Fr: e2campus
SUBJ:
MSG: POSSIBLE SHOOTING ON CAMPUS. STAY INDOORS. MORE DETAILS TO COME.
7:54a.m.


MESSAGE 2

Fr: e2campus
SUBJ:
MSG: FERRUM COLLEGE CAMPUS ON LOCKDOWN. STAY INDOORS.
8:14a.m.

HERE IS A STATEMENT FROM THE COLLEGE'S WEBSITE:

LATEST EMERGENCY INFORMATION:
Classes for Tuesday, February 26, 2008 have been cancelled.

In the best interest of the Ferrum College students, faculty and staff, we have put the college into a lockdown as a result of a possible situation on campus. There have been no incidents or injuries. Authorities have been notified and are on campus and in control.

Continue to stay indoors. Authorities are following protocol. Everyone is safe.

As of 10:30 AM, campus is still on lockdown. Continue to stay indoors.

More than 900 of the private school's 1,200 students live on campus.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Gennifer Flowers / Bill Clinton Sex tapes on Auction block

Gennifer Flowers is putting the tapes of her recorded conversations with Bill Clinton during their 12-year affair on the auction block, Vegas Confidential learned Monday.

Flowers, who came forward during Clinton's 1992 Presidential election campaign with details of the relationship, said she decided to part with the tapes after renewed interest surfaced. She was offered $5 million by a Japanese collector in the 1990s, she said.


Flowers, who lives in Las Vegas, sued Hillary Rodham Clinton, George Stephanopoulos, James Carville and other, accusing them of orchestrating a campaign to discredit her. Carville and Stephanopolous claimed Flowers doctored the tapes.

Flowers, 58, said she has kept the tapes "very safe all these years and I just recently received more interest and I said 'why not?'

"I certainly would enjoy the money for my future security. I don’t have any guarantee what might be coming," she said.

Flowers is also exploring a new book with "explosive story additions to the Clinton affair," her publicist Bruce Merrin said in a release. The book "ill contain a special item which must remain a protected secret until the book is published."

Valerie Bertinelli speaks Candidly about her new book and her Infidelity to Oprah


Valerie Bertinelli says despite her girl-next-door image, her marriage to Eddie Van Halen was hurt by infidelity and drug use — by her, too.

"I wasn't an angel, either. I cheated, too," Bertinelli said on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" broadcast Monday. "He claims to this day that I cheated first, but I don't know. I don't know about the timing."

Bertinelli, who starred in the long-running sitcom "One Day at a Time," married Van Halen in 1981 when she was 20. She said she was "destroying my body," trying to keep up with a rock-star lifestyle on the weekends and weeks off from taping her TV show.

"It got to a point where whenever I heard the birds chirp, I'd be like, 'Oh, God, no.' It took me years after stopping the cocaine before I was able to enjoy a sunrise and enjoy the sound of birds," she said.

The couple separated in 2001. Their divorce became final in December. They have a son, Wolfgang, who's now 16 and touring as bassist with the band Van Halen.

The actress, 47, said she has struggled with body-image issues since she was a child, but especially turned to food for comfort as her marriage dissolved.

Bertinelli taped a segment for Oprah that airs Monday and says this:

"He's a handsome young man, qsn't he? I went up to read for Raiders of the Lost Ark, which I was so wrong for, way too young for... And the next day I got a call and some flowers ... [Spielberg] asked me out. We went out a few times, um, and did more."
In an excerpt from her book she says how his abhorrence of garlic wrecked any chances:

"Even though the tabloids reported that Steven and I had a 'special love,' and 'we were talking about marriage,' we knew it was a fling," writes Bertinelli. "We had too many differences, including age, career status and religion. I met his mother, and I knew he wasn't going to marry someone who wasn't Jewish. And there was the stuff that really matters to me - food. One night, as we made pasta for dinner, I started to chop up garlic and Steven said, 'No. Stop. No garlic.' I stopped all right, but it wasn't because I took direction from him. I thought, 'Are you kidding me? I can't date a guy who won't eat garlic.' "
She also dishes drugs and cheating:


"I cheated," she confessed. "[Ex-husband Eddie Van Halen] claims to this day that I cheated first, but I don't know. I don't know about the timing."

Bertinelli, 47, also admitted to using cocaine during her marriage to Eddie, 53.

"Got to do another bump," she explained to Oprah.

"Another bump?" Oprah asked.

"Of cocaine," Bertinelli clarified.

Valerie is now the spokesperson for Jenny Craig.

Van Halen's publicist said the musician had no comment on Bertinelli's book or interviews to promote it.

"Doomsday Vault" Seed bank in Norway Ready to open


A "doomsday" vault built to withstand an earthquake or nuclear strike is ready to open deep in the permafrost of an Arctic mountain where it will protect millions of seeds from manmade and natural disasters.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault will officially be inaugurated on Tuesday, less than a year after crews started drilling in Norway's Svalbard archipelago, about 620 miles from the North Pole.

The vault, which Norway built at a cost of about $9.1 million, has the capacity to store 4.5 million seed samples from around the globe, shielding them from climate change, wars, natural disasters and other threats.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai of Kenya and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg are expected to attend the opening ceremony 425 feet deep into the Plataaberget mountain.

The vault is designed to be a "fail-safe backup" for the other 1,400 seed banks in the world, in case they are hit by disasters, said Cary Fowler, executive director of project partner the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

For example, war wiped out seed banks in Iraq and Afghanistan, and one in the Philippines was flooded in the wake of a typhoon in 2006.

"So much of the value of Svalbard is that it is so far away from the dangers," Fowler told The Associated Press during a tour of the vault on Monday. The frigid archipelago is about 300 miles north of the Norwegian mainland.

Construction started in April last year. Norway owns the vault but countries sending seeds will own the material they deposit.

From the outside, only the entryway is visible. It resembles an elongated concrete tower capped by a glass artwork depicting frozen ice crystals.

Ahead of the opening, the entrance was decorated with igloo-like cubes of snow and an ice sculpture of a polar bear. Seed vault worker Jimmy Olsen was standing outside with a rifle slung from his shoulder.

"My job is to keep away people who aren't supposed to be here, and guard against polar bears," he said. There are an estimated 3,000 polar bears on the islands.

A long, steel-lined tunnel leads to three separate chambers for storing seeds, each reached through a frost-covered metal door. Each of the 32-by-88-foot vaults has blue and orange metal shelves that can hold 1.5 million sample packages — foil containers with 500 seeds each.

The frozen mountain has been chilled further by giant air conditioning units to bring the temperature down to minus 0.4 Fahrenheit. Many seeds could last 1,000 years at that temperature, Fowler said.

Reactions from around the world have been mostly positive, but the world spotlight brought by the seed bank has met a cool reception from some locals who treasure the isolation of the Arctic archipelago.

"We like to be here a little bit for ourselves," said Kai Tredal, 42, one of the roughly 2,000 residents of Svalbard's main town of Longyearbyen.

The crop trust, which is helping Norway manage the project, said it was seeking deposits from the world's biggest seed banks first.

The vault is designed to withstand earthquakes — successfully tested by a 6.2-magnitude earthquake at Svalbard last week — and even a direct nuclear strike, said construction leader Magnus Bredeli-Tveiten.

Fowler added that even if power systems failed, the permafrost around the vault would help keep the seeds "cold for 200 years even in the worst case climate scenario."

He expected the vault's life span to rival that of Egypt's ancient pyramids.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

2008 Oscar Awards Winners Circle

So, for the past week, everyone has been talking about the Oscars. It seemed like everywhere you looked there was talk about Oscars this and Oscars that. Everyone seemed to be predicting who would be the winners of the 2008 Oscar Awards.

Well, the day has come and the Oscars have aired, now is the time to settle all those Oscar winners office pools and see who the Winners of the 2008 Oscar awards are.

So enough messing about with keywords, the Winners of the 2008 Oscar Awards are as follows:

2008 OSCAR AWARDS

BEST PICTURE

No Country for Old Men


BEST DIRECTOR

Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men


BEST ACTRESS

Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose


BEST ACTOR

Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood


BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Diablo Cody, Juno


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men


BEST FOREIGN FILM

The Counterfeiters (Austria)


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Ratatouille


BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN ART DIRECTION

Sweeney Todd


BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY

There Will Be Blood


BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN

Elizabeth: The Golden Age


BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Taxi to the Dark Side


BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

Freeheld


BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING

The Bourne Ultimatum


ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP

La Vie en Rose


BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Atonement


BEST ORIGINAL SONG

"Falling Slowly" from Once


BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

Peter and the Wolf


BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

Le Mozart des Pickpockets


ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING

The Bourne Ultimatum


ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING

The Bourne Ultimatum


ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS

The Golden Compass

"Brangelina" is back

The term I mean. I guess Brad has knocked up Angelina Jolie again, so like a gopher popping its' head out of a hole and seeing its' shadow means 6 more weeks of winter. This bump in Angelina's midsection surely means, for at least the next 9 months we will be hearing crap about the lives of Brad, Angelina and their ever growing collection of children. I guess this will give the Paparazzi more to do now that the Britney mill is starting to dry out.

The picture of the baby mill couple is from the SAG awards.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

US B-2 Bomber crashes in Guam

Now wouldn't you hate to be the person responsible.

A U.S. B-2 stealth bomber crashed at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam just after taking off but the two pilots on board ejected safely, the U.S. Air Force said.

"They have been evaluated by medical authorities and are in good condition," the Air Force said in a statement.

An inquiry will be held into why the aircraft, which cost almost $1.2 billion each, crashed, an Air Force spokesman said.

Guam, a U.S. Pacific territory within striking distance of regional hotspots, has had a bomber presence since March 2004 and B-52s, B-2s and B-1s deploy on rotation from bases on the U.S. mainland.

The aircraft which crashed was based at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

The B-2 bomber can evade most radar signals making it difficult for defensive systems to detect, track and attack. It has a range of 6,000 nautical miles (11,112 kilometres) without refuelling, according to the Air Force.

The B-2 bombers have been used for missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Serbia.

Guam has had a U.S. military presence to varying degrees since 1898, when U.S. naval forces captured it from Spain.

The Japanese occupied the island during World War Two but the Americans then built up an air base, which saw heavy action for bombing runs during the Korean and Vietnam wars.

The United States plans to move 8,000 Marines and 10,000 dependents from the southern Japanese island of Okinawa to Guam by 2014 as part of a global realignment of U.S. forces.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Fatal Familial Insomnia - A Rare Genetic Mutation

Carolyn and Cheryl are sisters who have lived with a mortal secret for years. A genetic mutation hangs on their family tree like poison fruit.

It killed their grandfather and their uncle and, in 1999, revealed itself in their mom, Barbara.

"I can remember saying, 'Mom, what's wrong? Mom, why can't you speak?'" said Carolyn.

Barbara couldn't speak because she couldn't sleep at all. Inside Barbara's brain, a genetic trip wire had been crossed, and in a matter of months, she went from being a vigorous 52-year-old woman to a woman in a coma, emerging only for a few days at the very end of her life.

"They took her intubation out, and she couldn't really talk, because she [was] so dry-throated, and everything," recalled Cheryl. "And she was trying to write. And she wrote 'FFI?'"

FFI is the abbreviation for an extremely rare genetic disease called fatal familial insomnia. Those affected by FFI are forever trying and failing to fall asleep. The disease steals one's sleep, mind and ultimately one's life, and, before dying, one hovers for months in a twilight world.

"And I said, 'That's what they think it is,'" said Cheryl. "She never wanted to talk about it. She never wanted to will it to happen."

"My first thought was how dare she keep this from me," said Carolyn. "I may not have had children if I'd known."

FFI affects approximately 40 families worldwide. Barbara didn't know it when she died, but the odds were 50-50 that she'd passed it on to her daughters.

"Whether I do or do not have this disease, it cannot define me. It cannot define me," said Carolyn.

"It's my story. I get to choose whether to laugh or cry about it. It's my choice. I'm going to laugh about it. It's my day. It's my life," said Cheryl.


'Like No Other Disease'
Researchers believe a wealthy Italian doctor unknowingly carried the original genetic mutation for FFI, 250 years ago. We don't know his name, but experts simply refer to him as Patient Zero the first known case of the disease. By the time he died in 1765, he had passed the disease on to his children, and the curse had begun.

In its early stages, family members experienced a kind of insomnia we'd all recognize, but those sleepless nights never ended.

"I'd say, within a month, it's pretty clear that you've got a disease like no other disease," said D.T. Max, who has spent years researching the phenomenon of FFI. His book "The Family That Couldn't Sleep" traces the history of the Italian clan who first carried this cruel disease (CLICK HERE to read an excerpt).

"One, you're not sleeping. Two, you're having difficulty walking. Three, your ability to focus has gone downhill rapidly," he said. "Ordinarily, [by] the ninth month, the disease ends with death."

Many of the afflicted Italian family members were brought to San Servolo an island asylum just a short boat ride from Venice.

Now a museum, San Servolo remains a haunting place. "There would be howls. There would be people doing uncontrollable behavior. There would be attendants chasing after them," said Max, adding that part of the treatment was simply preventing family members from hurting one another. "Generation after generation of this family was strapped, in the later stages of the disease, to a bed at night."

Records show that, throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, deaths consistent with FFI ran through the generations of the Patient Zero family.

In the 1980s, a descendant of the family named Silvano suddenly began showing symptoms of the disease. A handsome, vibrant playboy, he had lived in the shadow of this potential killer all his life.

"Silvano, I think, in his heart, knew that he was going to get the disease, and one day, he woke up , and his pupils were as small as pinpricks, and he began to sweat," said Max. "And he decided that he would not die without the family learning something, some shred of evidence about what had been killing them for generation after generation."


Permanent Pre-Sleep State
Silvano and other family members were filmed at the University of Bologna's sleep clinic. On the tape, Silvano looks as if he's sleepwalking. But he was really in a permanent state of pre-sleep behavior. And often, you will see him and other patients making gestures, like combing their hair or washing their hands or handling objects.

According to Dr. Elio Lugaresi, director of the sleep clinic, Silvano and the others were unable to drop into a deep REM sleep, and sleep medications only accelerated their restless descent toward death.

"We gave intravenous doses of barbiturates [in an] attempt to help the patient sleep," said Lugaresi. "The result was that they went from this pre-sleep, nonsleep, to deep coma without ever passing to a sleep stage."

Just before his death, Silvano made a remarkable and selfless offer, bequething his brain to researchers, which finally opened a window into the mystery of FFI.

Microscopic views showed that healthy proteins misfolded, triggered by genetic mutations, creating what doctors call prions. These abnormal proteins build up in the brain, forming clumps that destroy nerve cells, eventually leaving spongelike holes in the brain. Mad cow disease is also a prion disease.

"In fatal familial insomnia, most of the damage, and where the prions are accumulating, seems to be in an area of the brain called the thalamus," explained Dr. Michael Geschwind, who studies FFI at the University of California at San Francisco.

"The accumulation of the prion in the brain leads to nerve cell injury, and eventually, to nerve cell death."

Geschwind said the thalamus is the region of the brain responsible for the regulation of sleep. For reasons still not fully understood, symptoms of FFI don't show up until midlife, after child-bearing years.

Each child has a 50-50 chance of receiving the killer gene, so the disease has been unwittingly passed through generations, which brings us back to sisters Carolyn and Cheryl.


Searching for a Cure
Given the opportunity to take a simple blood test to determine if they had inherited the disease, Cheryl said no. "For me, I look at it as, I can go, and they can tell me that either I do have this or I don't have this, and I can die in a car accident on the way home. I may just as easily die from cancer, or ... anything," she said.

"We all have a terminal something. If we live long enough, we're going to die from something. That's the way it goes."

Carolyn, despite having one child already and being pregnant with a second, had originally decided not to get tested for FFI. "It was not a consideration, really," she said. "Should my mother never have been born, because this is the way she was going to die? That's insane. Should my uncle never have been born, because this is how he would die? That's ... that's crazy. They were both wonderful, intelligent, loving people."

But as Carolyn moved into the last months of her pregnancy, she had a change of heart and mind, revealed in a remarkable interview, taped by Max just weeks after she decided to take the blood test.

"What made you do the test you've already had one child?" Max asked.

"It's hanging over me all the time. Some of things I might do differently, based on the result, like retirement. ... I don't want to be like my mom, working all her life, and I'd be more prepared for my daughter," she answered. Carolyn remembers well the day her blood test came back.

"I left work. I went to the office, and I waddled in," she recalled, laughing. "[I] took my envelope, went out to my car, took a deep breath and opened it up." The results were negative. Carolyn had not inherited FFI.

"It was a hallelujah moment!" she said, but Carolyn is still worried about her sister, who hasn't learned if she is also negative.

Research labs continue to explore prion diseases, with clinical trials now testing a drug called Quinicrine, which shows promise for treating FFI. The same research may also hold benefits for more common diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

"Our hope is that some patients may actually do even better than having their life prolonged; that, maybe, in some patients, the Quinicrine will actually cure them," said Geschwind.

(Click here to find out more about Fatal Familial Insomnia or visit the National Institute of Health's page on prion diseases.)

Naked Pictures of Lindsay Lohan brought down Server

Well, New York Magazine's 'Playboy'-esque foray into nudie pics has been incredibly successful. This week's photos of the completely naked, barely-legal Lindsay Lohan have garnered the print magazine plenty of attention, not to mention the NYMag Web site, which got more traffic than it could handle than it could handle. In fact, http://Lindsayfollies.blogspot.com was hit with a flood of visitors looking to catch a glimpse of the Naked Lindsay which were also posted there.

The star of 'Herbie Fully Loaded' and Disney's misguided remake of 'The Parent Trap' shed her garments to recreate Marilyn Monroe's last nude photo shoot, which has come to be known as 'The Last Sitting.' The images were shot by Bert Stern, who created the original photo shoot with Monroe back in 1962. The be-freckled, former red-head generated so much Web traffic for the magazine that for a while on Monday the site was completely inaccessible.

According to Forbes and Portfolio.com, the New York magazine site -- which published a slide show of the photo shoot, as well as some outtakes -- received 40 million views over the first two days that it was up (around 2,000 percent more than usual). Meanwhile, the magazine got 500 more subscription requests than it usually gets in a week. To boot, Forbes is reporting that Bert Stern was paid a standard fee for doing the shoot, and Lohan apparently did the shoot for nothing (which is a whole lot cheaper than the figures some celebrity publications pay for images of stars). So it looks like New York magazine really made a good deal here.

There are two lessons to be learned here. First, the Web can still help bring some business to beleagured print magazines, especially if you choose a lusted-after starlet to pose nude. Second, if you're going to post pictures of starlets' nipples, then you need to invest in some extra capacity so your Web site isn't brought to its knees.

Still, those are some pics, no?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Self Healing Rubber band - Offers hope for flat tires

Anyone who has heard the snap of a rubber band breaking knows it's time to reach for a replacement.

But a group of French scientists have made a self-healing rubber band material that can reclaim its stretchy usefulness by simply pressing the broken edges back together for a few minutes.

The material, described on Wednesday in the journal Nature, can be broken and repaired over and over again.

It is made from simple ingredients -- fatty acids like those found in vegetable oils, and urea, a waste compound in urine that can be made synthetically.

The material would be an asset to industry and might even help shed light on the physics of elasticity, wrote Philippe Cordier and colleagues at the Industrial Physics and Chemistry Higher Educational Institution in Paris.

Standard rubber bands, which can stretch up to several hundred percent then snap back into shape, are made from long chains of cross-linked polymers.

The new material is linked by short chains of a type of molecule called ditopic, which can associate with two other molecules, and multitopic molecules, which can associate with more than two molecules.

This network of molecules is strengthened by hydrogen bonds that allow the material to stretch up to several hundred percent, then snap back into shape.

If severed, the material mends itself when the ends are pressed together at room temperature, allowing these bonds to re-form.

"The mended samples are able to sustain large deformations and recover their shape and size when stress is released," Cordier and his colleagues wrote.

The material can "withstand multiple fractures, needs no catalysts and is otherwise straightforward to produce," Justin Mynar and Takuzo Aida of the University of Tokyo wrote in an accompanying article.

"A final blessing is that it can be broken down with heat and easily recycled -- so it is environmentally friendly, too."

Microsoft "BIG" Announcement today

Well, not to be outdone by Lindsay Lohan bearing her breasts for New York Magazine or Gene Simmons having sex with some model babe young enough to be his daughter (Can you tell I'm jeolous). Bill Gates and his chronies over at Microsoft will be announcing something "Major" today. Gamers seem to think it has something to do with them, while others think it is about an aquisition of Yahoo.

Seeing as Yahoo doesn't really have anything on their news, the later might just be the case.

There is also some speculation this announcement is about Microsoft offering its product as an online service, similar to that of Google. Of course, Microsoft being Microsoft, you will end up paying through the nose for this.

Then again, there is the possibility Bill will out himself as a transexual with a keen interest in showing off his nipples to aging rock stars.

OK, consider breakfast ruined


Wow, as one article put it, "Hell just froze over" Bill Gates and Microsoft just announced they will be opening up their platforms to outsiders. This means there is hope for the Linux geeks to work better with Microsoft aps.

In a conference call today, Microsoft outlined a sweeping change to the way it does business. The corporation vowed to “increase the openness of its products and drive greater interoperability.

The announcement will cover all the company’s APIs and protocols for major software such as Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Windows Server 2008. The move will make it easier for those who use Microsoft products to retain hold of their information and even move it to rival products if necessary.

“These steps represent an important step and significant change in how we share information about our products and technologies,” said Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer of the announcement.

“For the past 33 years, we have shared a lot of information with hundreds of thousands of partners around the world and helped build the industry, but today’s announcement represents a significant expansion toward even greater transparency.”

As an immediate next step, starting today Microsoft will openly publish over 30,000 pages of documentation for Windows client and server protocols that were previously only available under a special license.

6.0 Earthquake Strikes Northeastern Nevada

Tremours felt in Utah, Nevada, Idaho and as far away as Southern California

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck northeastern Nevada this morning, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. No injuries were immediately reported, though some buildings were damaged.

The earthquake hit at about 6:16 a.m. local time 15 miles (24 kilometers) east-southeast of Wells, Nevada, and about 149 miles west of Salt Lake City, said the survey's Web site.

It was felt as far north as Boise, Idaho, and as far east as Salt Lake City, according to John Bellini, a geophysicist with the survey's National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colorado.

``It's rural Nevada, so it's really hard to say if we have any injuries,'' said Chuck Allen, a spokesman for the Nevada Department of Public Safety, which is sending troopers to the area to assist local law enforcement.

There are reports of collapsed buildings and a possible propane leak at a truck stop in Wells, Allen said in a telephone interview.

``It shook the whole building,'' said Jane Kelso, clerk at the Motel 6 in Wells, a city of about 1,400 people, 60 miles west of the Utah state line. ``We have cracks in our walls.''

The USGS originally reported that the quake had a magnitude of 6.3 before revising the figure.


-----------------------------
Further update

A strong earthquake has shaken northeastern Nevada, causing at least one building to collapse and forcing the evacuation of a truck stop in the predominantly rural area.

The quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.3 and was reported at 6:16 a.m local time.

The U.S. Geological Survey says it was centred in a sparsely populated area 18 kilometres southeast of Wells, near the Nevada-Utah line.

The temblor was felt across eastern Nevada, Utah and as far away as southern California. In Twin Falls, Idaho, residents reported severe shaking and items falling off shelves.

Elko County Undersheriff Rocky Gonzalez said at least one building collapsed and a Flying J truck stop was evacuated because of a propane leak.

There has been no report of serious injuries.

This on the tail end of a Deadly earthquake which shook Indonesia yesterday.

7.5 magnitude earthquake shook Indonesia Wednesday afternoon. At least three people were killed and 25 others injured. Officials say the three victims were 2 women and 1 man; all in their 60’s and 70’s.

The quake's epicenter was 195 miles southeast of Banda Aceh on the island of Simeulue. Nearly an hour after the first quake a second 5.2 magnitude hit the same area.

Citizens of the World gather to Watch the Total Lunar Eclipse of 2008

Last night, people from all religions and walks of life gathered together as one to look at the same thing. The total Lunar Eclipse of February 20th 2008. Awe enspiring to many, this phenomenon happens when a full moon passes through the shadow of the earth. The next scheduled Full Lunar Eclipse is estimated to be in 2008 (To coincide with the year of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver British Columbia.
Here are some photographs of the momentous event. These pictures of the Eclipse are taken from various locations around the world.




The full moon is seen early Thursday, Feb. 21, 2008, during a total lunar eclipse near Frankfurt, Germany.



An airplane passes Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008, in front of the moon as a lunar eclipse begins over Seattle.


The Moon glows as it is seen above the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City, during a lunar eclipse early Thursday, Feb. 21, 2008. The last total lunar eclipse until 2010 occurred Wednesday night, with cameo appearances by Saturn and the bright star Regulus on either side of the veiled full moon.


The lunar eclipse is framed Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008, in a church steeple cross west of Ottawa, Canada.


The moon is seen during a total eclipse Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008, over St. Andrews Cathedral in Grand Rapids, Mich.


The Wrigley Building and the moon are seen during an initial phase of a lunar eclipse Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008, in Chicago.


A lunar eclipse nears its peak at 8:46 p.m. Central Standard Time on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008, in Appleton, Wis


Direct rays of sunlight fall on the right edge of the moon as the total phase of the lunar eclipse ends Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008, in Stedman, N.C


Essex, UK


Nikki Shariat, Nashville, USA: "I took a series of photos over the course of the eclipse and put them together in Photoshop. I had never even seen an eclipse before!"


Ely, Cambridgeshire, UK


New Mexico



Highway 285, New Mexico.



Grand Valley Ontario, Canada.



This was taken by Farshad Palideh over Poonak, Tehran.

USS Lake Erie - Direct hit on Spy satellite

Debris from an obliterated U.S. spy satellite is being tracked over the Pacific and Atlantic oceans but appears to be too small to cause damage on Earth, a senior military officer said Thursday, just hours after a Navy missile scored a direct hit on the failing spacecraft.

Marine Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and an expert on military space technologies, told a Pentagon news conference that officials have a "high degree of confidence" that the missile launched from a Navy cruiser Wednesday night hit exactly where intended.

It was an unprecedented mission for the Navy, so extraordinary that the final go-ahead to launch the missile Wednesday was reserved for Defense Secretary Robert Gates rather than a military commander.

Cartwright estimated there was an 80 percent to 90 percent chance that the missile struck the most important target on the satellite - its fuel tank, containing 1,000 pounds of hydrazine, which Pentagon officials say could have posed a health hazard to humans if it had landed in a populated area.

Alluding to a video clip of the missile smashing into the satellite, which he showed at the news conference, Cartwright said, "We have a fireball, and given that there's no fuel (on the tip of the missile), that would indicate that that's a hydrazine fire."

The video showed the three-stage SM-3 missile launching from the USS Lake Erie at 10:26 p.m. EST, northwest of Hawaii, and of the missile's small "kill vehicle" - a non-explosive device at the tip - maneuvering into the path of the satellite and colliding spectacularly.

He said the satellite and the kill vehicle collided at a combined speed of 22,000 mph about 130 miles above Earth's surface, and that the collision was confirmed at a space operations center at 10:50 p.m. EST.

Asked about the satisfaction felt among those in the military who had organized the shootdown on short notice by modifying missile software and other components, Cartwright smiled widely.

"Yes, this was uncharted territory. The technical degree of difficulty was significant here," Cartwright said. "You can imagine that at the point of intercept there were a few cheers that went up."

He cautioned, however, that more technical analysis was required to determine for certain what debris was created and where it might go. The satellite was described as the size of a school bus and weighed about 5,000 pounds.

Unlike most spacecraft that fall out of orbit and re-enter the atmosphere, this satellite had an almost full fuel tank because it lost power and became uncontrollable shortly after it reached its initial orbit in December 2006. Cartwright said the hydrazine alone was justification for undertaking the unprecedented effort to use a Navy missile interceptor to attempt to destroy the satellite in orbit.

Cartwright said experts were still watching the debris fields and he could not yet rule out that hazardous material would fall to Earth. But he said that as of Thursday morning, debris had only been seen in the atmosphere - and none had been detected surviving re-entry. He indicated that debris appeared unlikely to pose a problem.

"Thus far we've seen nothing larger than a football," he said, referring to debris in the atmosphere spotted by radars and other sensors.

The military concluded that the missile had successfully shattered the satellite because trackers detected a fireball. Cartwright said it was unlikely that the fireball could have been caused by anything other than the hydrazine in the tank.

And Cartwright cited two other sources of information that indicate the fuel tank was hit: the appearance of a vapor cloud and the results of spectral analysis, or the study of light emissions, from devices aboard two aircraft that operate from the Pacific test range associated with the Pentagon's missile defense testing.

Debris from the satellite has started re-entry and will continue through Thursday and into Friday, Cartwright said.

The size of the debris is smaller than the Pentagon had forecast and most of the satellite's intelligence value was likely destroyed, Cartwright said. Analysts had said one of the reasons for the shootdown was that officials worried that without it, larger chunks of the satellite could fall and be recovered, opening the possibility of secret technology falling into the hands of the Chinese or others.

Gates arrived in Hawaii less than two hours before the missile was launched. His press secretary, Geoff Morrell, said Gates had a conference call during his flight with Cartwright and Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton, head of Strategic Command. They told him that "the conditions were ripe for an attempt, and that is when the secretary gave the go-ahead to take the shot, and wished them good luck," Morrell said.

At 10:35 p.m. EST, Gates spoke to both generals again and "was informed that the mission was a success, that the missile had intercepted the decaying satellite, and the secretary was obviously very pleased to learn that," said Morrell.

The elaborate intercept may trigger worries from some international leaders, who could see it as a thinly disguised attempt to test an anti-satellite weapon - one that could take out other nations' orbiting communications and spy spacecraft.

Within hours of the reported success, China said it was on the alert for possible harmful fallout from the shootdown and urged Washington to promptly release data on the action.

"China is continuously following closely the possible harm caused by the U.S. action to outer space security and relevant countries," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said at news conference in Beijing. "China requests the U.S. to fulfill its international obligations in real earnest and provide to the international community necessary information and relevant data in a timely and prompt way so that relevant countries can take precautions."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Michelle Obama Backpedding after saying she never had pride in the US until now

Michelle Obama says she’s always been proud of her country, but for the first time she’s “seeing people rolling up their sleeves in a way that I haven’t seen.”

The wife of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was trying on Wednesday to clarify a remark about pride in the United States — or alleged lack of it — that she had made earlier this week.

She had told an audience in Milwaukee that, “For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country. Not just because Barack is doing well, but I think people are hungry for change.”

A number of commentators jumped on the remark and Cindy McCain, wife of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, sought to capitalize on it, saying “I have, and always will be, proud of my country.”

When asked Wednesday if she would like to clarify her comment, Obama replied that she has been struck by the number of people going to rallies and watching debates, as well as record voter turnouts.

“What I was clearly talking about was that I’m proud in how Americans are engaging in the political process,” she said.

“For the first time in my lifetime, I’m seeing people rolling up their sleeves in a way that I haven’t seen and really trying to figure this out — and that’s the source of pride that I was talking about,” she added.

When asked if she had always been proud of her country, she replied “absolutely.” “Barack and I, our stories wouldn’t be possible, if it weren’t for fundamental belief and pride in this country and what it stands for.”

Her husband came to her defense. ‘‘Statements like this are made and people try to take it out of context and make a great big deal out of it, and that isn’t at all what she meant,’’ he said.

Michelle Obama’s latest comments came during a visit to Rhode Island ahead of its March 4 primary. She was to attend a rally with her brother, Craig Robinson, Brown University men’s basketball coach.

USS Lake Erie Missile satellite shoot down mission may be delayed over Weather concerns

A US attempt to shoot down a damaged spy satellite with USS Lake Erie will probably be delayed because of poor weather, Pentagon officials say. Weather forecasts in the Pacific, where a US warship USS Lake Erie is stationed for the mission, indicated that seas would not be calm enough for the ship to fire a missile at the satellite and destroy it, the officials said.

US military officials say the satellite is carrying highly toxic hydrazine rocket fuel that could be dangerous if it fell on a populated area. But the decision to shoot it down has been criticised by China and Russia who say the move is a cover for testing anti-satellite weaponry.

The Pentagon has to act before February 29, when the dead satellite is projected to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere. On Wednesday, the space shuttle Atlantis landed in Florida, clearing the way for the military operation to proceed.

The Pentagon had been waiting for the shuttle to land to avoid contact with flying debris as the satellite returned to Earth. Atlantis returned after completing a mission to deliver Europe's first permanent space laboratory to the International Space Station.

The USS Lake Erie is stationed in the western Pacific in waters off the US state of Hawaii and awaiting the order to shoot down the missile with a specially modified missile. Officials will know within minutes of the missile launch whether the
missile has hit the satellite, but it will take a day or two to know whether
the fuel tank has been destroyed, officials said.

The operation is most likely to take place during daylight hours and all ships and air traffic have been warned to stay away from the area ahead of the operation, officials say. "We'll make decisions each day as to whether we're going to proceed or not," a Pentagon official was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

Left alone, about half of the 5,000-pound spacecraft was expected to
survive its blazing descent through the atmosphere and would scatter debris over several hundred miles.

George Bush, the US president, gave the order last week for the satellite to be shot down, saying the move was based on protecting human health. The satellite is carrying about half a tonne of hydrazine, a toxic propellant that would have been used to reposition the satellite while in orbit.

The material can be fatal to humans in large doses. However both China and Russia criticised the move, saying it could harm security in space. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman told reporters: "Relevant departments of China are closely watching the situation and working out preventive measures." Last year, China was itself criticised by the US and several of its allies which accused Beijing of risking a space arms race after it used a ballistic missile to destroy one of its own obsolete weather satellites.

Russia's defence ministry has also said it fears the US plan is a veiled test of US anti-satellite capabilities and represents an "attempt to move the arms race into space". The ministry said: "The decision to destroy the American satellite does not look harmless as they try to claim, especially at a time when the US has been evading negotiations on the limitation of an arms race in outer space."

Critics have also said the justification of health fears may be a cover for preventing highly-classified spy satellite technology from falling into foreign hands. The missile carries a non-explosive "kinetic kill vehicle" – designed essentially to destroy the satellite by smashing into it. The technique is similar to the system employed in US anti-missile shields.

Gene Simmon saggy old sack in "Leaked" sex video (Not with Shannon Tweed)

OK, aged rockstars with naked wrinkled asses in the air is definately not cup of tea. So, just in time to ruin your breakfast, out pops a "Leaked" sex video of Aged Kiss wasarockstar Gene Simmons having sex with some model chick from the Energy drink he is whoring. I'm thinking publicity stunt, I wonder what Shannon Tweed thinks about this whole thing. Maybe she is happy, because now she has an excuse to go bang any of the millions of guys who want to have sex with her.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

USS Lake Erie moves into position for Wednesday Missile Mission

A US warship is moving into position to try to shoot down an out-of-control US spy satellite as early as Wednesday before it tumbles into the Earth's atmosphere, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.

Armed with two specially modified interceptor missiles, the USS Lake Erie has been tasked to intercept the satellite over the Pacific and shoot it down into the ocean, the officials said, adding that a cruiser, the Aegis, is already in waters off Hawaii.

The USS Decatur, a guided missile destroyer, is carrying a third interceptor missile in case the first two attempts fail, defense officials said. Another destroyer, the USS Russell, was still in port on Tuesday.

"I'm confident they'll be able to do something," said a senior Navy official. "Once the weapon goes into track, then I think it's a done deal."

The Pentagon has waited for the space shuttle Atlantis to land first at the end of its mission to the International Space Station. That is scheduled for 9:07 am Wednesday.

"Touchdown of the Atlantis opens the window of opportunity for the US military to shoot down that rapidly decaying US intelligence satellite," said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary.

"There is a very low risk because our orbits are quite different," Atlantis Commander Steve Frick said. "The satellite is well below us (where) we are now, but of course we are going to land before they break up that satellite."

The Pentagon is essentially employing the US missile defense system for the shoot-down attempt at an estimated cost of 40 to 60 million dollars.

It is training a panoply of Aegis warships, radars and computerized command networks on the school bus-sized satellite.

Software changes have been made to the SM-3 interceptor missiles so that they will recognize a satellite in space instead of a ballistic missile -- their normal programmed target -- officials said.

The three-stage missile will carry a maneuverable non-explosive warhead guided from the ground until it can use its infrared sensor to steer itself into a shattering collision with the satellite at an altitude of 150 nautical miles.

US Navy ships have intercepted ballistic missile warheads in this way in tests, but the Navy official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said the satellite poses a somewhat different problem.

It is colder and moving through space at a much higher speed, making it more difficult to track than the ballistic missiles.

If the USS Lake Erie misses with its first shot, it will probably have to wait a day to try again. The longer the wait, the harder the satellite will be to shoot down as it gathers speed, falling towards the Earth's atmosphere.

The plan is to hit a tank on the satellite carrying the toxic propellant hydrazine, which officials say could pose a threat to humans if it survives re-entry.

"The system itself is very accurate so hopefully that will translate into being able to hit the tank," said a defense official.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who leaves Wednesday on a trip to Australia and Southeast Asia, has been empowered President George W. Bush to authorize the shoot-down, Morrell said.

"Based on the advice he gets he's prepared to do so from the road if necessary," he said.

France urged the United States to take all necessary safety measures.

"We hope all measures will be taken to reduce as much as possible the consequences of destroying this satellite for the safety and integrity of other space objects," foreign ministry spokeswoman Pascale Andreani told reporters.

The plan drew criticism on Sunday from Russia, whose defense ministry said it looked like a veiled weapons test and an "attempt to move the arms race into space." China has also voiced concern.

Washington has denied seeking to cover up the satellite's technological secrets or to make a show of strength after China used a missile to shoot down an old weather satellite in January 2007.

30 day Sex Challenge... Issued by a Pastor

sex isn't in your schedule as much as you'd like, a Florida pastor is proposing a challenge.

"We're launching into our 30-day sex challenge. We wanted to be able to help couples both married and single to really refocus their sex lives around what God's principles are," says Paul Wirth, Pastor of "Relevant Church" in Ybor City, Florida.

Pastor Wirth says he came up with the idea because so many people have told him they have "no time for sex".

The paster says, married people should try to have sex for 30 days. A few people have already signed up for the "30-Day Sex Challenge".

Doug Webber says, "Between life, the house, the kids, the business, sometimes how this whole thing got started gets kind of forgotten. So that's what I'm most excited about it, I'm excited about that refocusing time for us."

But single people also have a challenge. The pastor says they have to abstain from sex. "We're asking the single people to take a break from sex, maybe take a sex detox for 30 days ... even if they've been together for years. Because maybe the sex for them has been the central theme of their relationship and maybe they're missing a part of it."

Jarrett Haas is single and has accepted the challenge. "I want to be able to say you know whenever I do find a wife one day, hey I did this for you when I was 26 years old."

Pastor Webber says while this challenge should re-kindle passion and affection in marriages, it will also teach singles to appreciate themselves and their partners without the sex.

Fidel Castro Steps down

HAVANA (Reuters) - Raul Castro, Cuba's likely new leader after his ailing brother Fidel Castro bowed out on Tuesday, is a pragmatist more concerned with putting food on Cuban tables than spreading revolution abroad.

The outwardly dour Raul Castro, 76, lacks his elder brother's charisma and has lived in his shadow for decades.

But he is seen as a ray of hope by some Cubans fed up with political rhetoric and the daily grind of getting ahead in a battered state-run economy.

As acting president since his brother was sidelined by illness almost 19 months ago, Raul Castro has encouraged Cubans to openly debate the shortcomings of Cuba's communist system.

If confirmed as president on Sunday as expected, he will face a Herculean task of solving Cubans' economic hardships.

While he has so far made few changes, Raul Castro has raised expectations that Cubans will soon be allowed to freely buy and sell their homes, travel abroad and stay at hotels and beaches where only foreigners can step foot.

In December, the camera-shy army general said Cuba had "excessive prohibitions", a sentiment shared by most Cubans who need government permits for almost everything they do, from buying a car to working as a clown or a shoe-shine.

Raul has acknowledged that wages paid by Cuba's socialist state are too low. He has called for "structural changes" in agriculture to increase food output and reduce Cuba's reliance on imports, and said Cuba was open to new foreign investment.

Yet Raul Castro is not expected to follow China's example and free up a market economy, at least not while his brother is alive. And he has promised more socialism.

"The challenges we have ahead are enormous, but may no one doubt our people's firm conviction that only through socialism can we overcome the difficulties and preserve the social gains of half a century of revolution," he said late last year.

Raul Castro extended an olive branch to Cuba's arch-enemy, the U.S. government, saying in July that Havana was open to talks to end more than four decades of hostility, but only when President George W. Bush has left the White House.

The younger Castro was flung into the role of running one of the world's last communist states when his brother was forced to step aside on July 31, 2006, after emergency intestinal surgery.

Fidel Castro has not been seen in public since then and the 81-year-old revolutionary announced his retirement on Tuesday.

"BEANS, NOT CANNONS"

As defense minister since the brothers led a 1959 revolution, Raul Castro built the armed forces into a formidable fighting force that defeated South African troops in Angola.

Once considered an implacable Stalinist and the Kremlin's most reliable friend in Cuba, Raul is said to have become more pragmatic after the collapse of the Soviet Union pushed Cuba to the brink of economic chaos.

"Beans are more important than cannons," Raul said during the crisis that left the air force parking its MiG jet fighters with the help of horses for lack of fuel.

He cut the armed forces to one fifth of its peak of 300,000 troops, and backed reforms that allowed limited private initiative to flourish in the 1990s.

An admirer of China's economic prowess, Raul is believed to favor loosening up state controls of the Cuban economy while maintaining one-party communist rule.

Forced to become self-sufficient after the loss of billions of dollars in Soviet aid, the Cuban military under Raul's savvy management was the first to introduce capitalist business practices in Cuba and has a big stake in the economy today.

It has emerged as Cuba's most efficient institution and owns lucrative enterprises in agriculture, industry and tourism, including hotels at beach resorts, an airline, a bus fleet, car rentals and a retail shop chain.

Cuba experts say he is a good talent spotter who surrounds himself with capable officials and is good at delegating.

Born on June 3, 1931, Raul Castro was raised -- like Fidel Castro -- on their father's large farm in eastern Cuba.

Since their guerrilla war in the Sierra Maestra mountains and the triumph of their revolution on Jan 1, 1959, Raul Castro has always been his brother's most trusted right-hand man.

His late wife Vilma Espin, who fought as a guerrilla, founded the Cuban Federation of Women and served as Cuba's unofficial First Lady.

His daughter Mariela Castro is a sexologist who has defended the rights of transsexuals and is pushing legislation to allow gay marriage in Cuba.

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US Maintains hardline stance on Cuba
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Cuba and the United States have been feuding since Fidel Castro's 1959 Revolution.

Following are some highlights of Cuba-U.S. relations since 1959:

* January 1, 1959 - Cuban Revolution. Castro and his rebel army take power after flight from island of former dictator Fulgencio Batista, who had been backed by the United States.

* June 29, 1960 - United States suspends Cuban sugar import quota after Castro nationalizes Texaco refinery that refuses to process oil from Soviet Union.

* October 19, 1960 - United States begins partial economic embargo of Cuba.

* January 3, 1961 - Washington breaks diplomatic ties with Cuba.

* April 19, 1961 - Castro's troops defeat CIA-backed Cuban exile invasion force at Bay of Pigs.

* February 7, 1962 - Full U.S. trade embargo imposed on Cuba.

* October 1962 - Missile crisis. The presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba provokes standoff between Moscow and Washington. Many fear World War Three, but Russia decides to appease the United States and withdraws missiles.

* April-September 1980 - Mariel Boatlift. Cuba allows mass exodus of about 125,000 citizens to the United States, mostly via Mariel port west of Havana.

* August 1994 - Rafter Crisis. More than 30,000 Cubans flee island on flimsy boats, many perishing in shark-filled waters between Cuba and Florida. Washington and Havana sign migration accord to stem exodus and agree to a minimum of 20,000 legal entry visas per year for Cubans.

* January 21-25, 1998 - Pope John Paul II visits Cuba, condemning U.S. embargo but also calling for greater freedoms on the island.

* July 13, 2001 - U.S. President George W. Bush orders his administration to more strictly enforce sanctions in place against Cuba, and pledges increased support for pro-democracy forces on the island.

* November 2001 - Cuba purchases U.S. agricultural products as the two countries begin their first direct food trade since 1962 under an exception to embargo passed by U.S. congress.

* May 6, 2002 - In a speech entitled "Beyond the Axis of Evil," U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton accuses Cuba, along with Libya and Syria, of working to develop biological weapons, a charge Castro denies.

* December 8, 2003 - Bush creates commission to hasten a transition to democracy and assist a "Free Cuba." In May 2004, the commission recommends spending $80 million over two years on pro-democracy initiatives and broadcasts to Cuba.

* February 22, 2005 - U.S. Treasury Department changes its interpretation of authorized food sales to Cuba to mean payment must be received before shipment. Cuba says measure will push up costs.

* June 30, 2005 - New U.S. curbs on travel come into force as Bush administration tightens enforcement of embargo.

* July 10, 2006 - U.S. government announces increased support for dissidents and more money for anti-Castro broadcasts.

Lindsay Lohan Bares all for New York Magazine

Source: http://lindsayfollies.blogspot.com

OK, how better to start of a blog about Lindsay Lohan than to show her tits. OK, maybe more of a male appeal thing. But then again Paris Hilton has been seen kissing girls so who am I to stomp on my own girl on girl fantasies.

So the big news today is Lindsay Lohan, in some strange attempt to ride on the coat tails of another crazy sex idol has posed for New York Magazine in some old Marilyn Munroe poses. You might be saying, hold on she isn't blonde... but was Marilyn? Lindsay wore a wig, luckly the poses disn't involve showing bush, then she would have had to bleach her pubes.

So for those who are wanting to gauge out their eyeballs, here are the pictures. You have to admint, although she doesn;t look one bit like Marilyn Munroe, Lindsay Lohan does have a beautiful body.



Monday, February 18, 2008

Disturbing undercover slaughterhouse video spurs USDA Beef Recall


A disturbing undercover video showing cows too sick to stand being shoved with forklifts or dragged with chains across a cement floor at a Southern California slaughterhouse has sparked the largest beef recall in the nation's history.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture ordered a recall of 143 million pounds of beef Sunday evening from Chino-based Westland/Hallmark Meat Co., which is the subject of an animal-abuse investigation. The recall affects beef products dating back to Feb. 1, 2006 that came from the company.

"Because the cattle did not receive complete and proper inspection," the Food Safety and Inspection Service said, "[it] has determined them to be unfit for human food."

The USDA insists the threat is small.

Westland/Hallmark provides meat to the National School Lunch Program and about 150 school districts have stopped using its products. Now officials are scrambling to prevent the questionable beef from reaching school lunch counters. They estimate about 37 million pounds of the beef has gone to schools.

Westland/Hallmark also provided products to two fast food companies. Both Jack-in-the-Box and In-N-Out said they would not use beef from Westland/Hallmark.

The USDA said it had evidence Westland did not routinely contact its veterinarian when cattle became nonambulatory after passing inspection, which violates health regulations. Federal regulations call for keeping downed cattle out of the food supply because they may pose a higher contamination risk from E. coli, mad cow disease or salmonella. So far, no illnesses have been linked to the recalled beef and officials said they believe the majority of it already has been consumed.

Most of the beef was sent to distribution centers in bulk packages. The USDA said it will work with distributors to determine how much meat remains. Agriculture officials said the massive recall surpasses a 1999 ban of 35 million pounds of ready-to-eat meats.

Critical Response
Critics scolded the USDA upon learning of the recall, saying the federal agency should conduct more thorough inspections to ensure tainted beef doesn't get into the public's food supply.

"It's clear that USDA's system failed and it allowed this company to engage in long-term inhumane practices," said Carolyn Smith DeWaal, of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Animal activists said if it hadn't been for the Humane Society's undercover footage, the Westland/Hallmark may have continued produce meat.

The video showed downed cows struggling to get on their feet as operators shoved them into position with forklifts.

Criminal Charges
The recall's fallout included criminal charges against two former workers Friday. Five felony counts of animal cruelty and three misdemeanors were filed against a pen manager. Also, three misdemeanor counts of illegal movement of a nonambulatory animal were filed against another employee who worked under that manager. Both were fired.