Today's Headlines

US News

Investigators Fly Elizabeth Smart Over Site
Investigators packed Elizabeth Smart into a police helicopter on Sunday, flying the girl over the Utah foothills where she was allegedly held captive for months. The investigators asked Elizabeth to point out the campsite where she was held, various trails used by her captors, and other landmarks from the first few weeks of her kidnapping, which began on June 5, 2002 when she was stolen from her home at knifepoint. Charges against her captor, Brian David Mitchell, were expected to be filed today.

Late Arrival Kerry Steals The Show
In a surprise move that delighted revelers on Sunday, a weakened Senator John Kerry showed up halfway through yesterday's St. Patrick's Day breakfast in Boston and poked fun at his root, his hair, and his prostate. Kerry had planned to skip the event due to his recent prostate surgery, but changed his mind suddenly and went to the breakfast anyway. The breakfast is seen as an important political event in terms of helping to build support among the Irish community in Boston, the support of which Kerry will need for an upcoming Presidential run in 2004.

Many War Protests Over The Weekend
With the possibility of war with Iraq drawing nearer, demonstrators hit the streets both to show support for peace as well as to support the US troops that may be involved in the conflict. A rally of about 10,000 anti-war protesters occurred in Chicago, while a protest of about 6,000 occurred near Philadelphia at Valley Forge, among other smaller antiwar protests. In Providence, Rhode Island and Mountain Home, Arkansas, people gathered to support troop units being deployed to the Middle East.

International News

Israeli Army Enters Gaza Strip Camp
At least six Palestinians are dead and 15 injured after Israeli troops entered a refugee camp in central Gaza this morning. The Israelis sent tanks and armored vehicles into Nusseirat camp early this morning, exchanging gunfire with Palestinians, who the Israelis claimed was harboring a man wanted by the Israeli secret police. Palestinian medical staff indicated that the man (Mohammed Saafin) was indeed killed in the attack, along with a two year old girl and a thirteen year old boy.

US Advises Weapons Inspectors To Leave Iraq
In the clearest sign yet that war with Iraq is imminent, the United States has advised United Nations weapons inspectors to begin pulling out of Baghdad. Mohamed El Baradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the advice was given late Sunday night both to his Vienna-based nuclear agency hunting for atomic weaponry and to the New York-based teams looking for biological and chemical weapons. In a statement to the IAEA's board of governors today, El Baradei said "Late last night ... I was advised by the U.S. government to pull out our inspectors from Baghdad."

Pneumonia-Like Virus Originated In China
The deadly pneumonia-like illness that was the subject of a World Health Organization warning on Saturday originated in southern China in November and peaked a month ago, according to a report the Chinese government provided to WHO officials. The outbreak sparked months of panic buying of vinegar, herbal remedies and antibiotics in China. This outbreak is suspected to be the same one that has spread recently to the West. So far, there have been fewer than ten deaths outside of China due to the illness, but hundreds are seriously ill.


Alan Greenspan Considering Another Interest Rate Cut
After a string of particularly ugly data in February, the idea that the federal funds rate could be cut to 1% or lower is gaining support in Washington. Although most Wall Street firms do not expect Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve Board chairman, to actually reduce rates at the board meeting tomorrow, the idea is beginning to gain momentum on the board and may be considered strongly at their next meeting. A reduction would place the federal funds rate at 1% or lower, which would be the lowest rate ever. Most investors are comparing the current United States economy to that of Great Britain from 1986 to 1996, when their economy dealt with the bursting of a bubble from an overinflated housing market.

Asian Stocks End Lower on News of Imminent War
Asian financial markets finished lower Monday as the diplomatic deadlock over Iraq appeared to break in the direction of war. President Bush signaled Sunday that diplomatic efforts over disarming Iraq will end Monday, following a summit with Britain, Spain and Portugal in the remote Azores islands. Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average ended 1.6% lower as investors digested the news. Despite the slide, investors were mainly taking a wait- and-see approach ahead of the U.N.'s response to Bush's ultimatum.

Oil Prices Climb On Threat of War
Oil prices jumped Monday on the imminent threat of war on the world's seventh largest oil exporter Iraq after the United States offered just one more day of United Nations talks to sanction the use of force. International benchmark Brent crude oil surged up $1.52 at one point before trimming gains to stand 41 cents up at $30.54 per barrel. U.S. crude futures were 50 cents higher at $35.88 a barrel, some $5 short of their peak during the 1990-1991 Gulf crisis. Crude oil futures have risen 40 percent in four months as President Bush has stepped up his rhetoric against Iraq.

Science & Technology

Tablet PCs Proving Popular
Through the end of December, Hewlett-Packard had a slight lead over Fujitsu in worldwide shipments of Tablet PCs, according to research released Monday by IDC. Around 72,000 units total had been sold through December, which greatly exceeded early estimates of 50,000 sold by the end of 2002. Tablet PC vendors launched their devices on November 7, 2002, in conjunction with Microsoft's Windows XP Tablet PC Edition launch the same day; thus, the sales numbers are total for only seven weeks of release.

Texas Student Found In Cracking Scheme
Christopher Andrew Phillips, a 20 year old computer science major from Houston at the University of Texas, is charged with unauthorized access to a protected computer and using someone else's identification with intent to commit a federal crime. Phillips told Secret Service agents on March 5 that he had written and executed a computer program that could access a university Web site and its database, which would distribute 36,000 to 72,000 randomly generated Social Security numbers a minute against the site and collect any information returned from these accesses.

SAP Co-Founder Steps Down
SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner is stepping down from day-to-day control of the German business software giant in a move that is being described by the company as a "step up" to SAP's advisory board. In the move, Plattner will relinquish control of the company to his current co-chief executive, Henning Kagermann, who will become sole chief executive. "Today we have the right organisation in place to capitalise on the next technology wave," said Plattner in a statement. "We are executing extremely well and gaining market share in a tough market. That makes this the right time for me to hand over the day-to-day business entirely to Henning Kagermann."


Cholesterol-Lowering Drug Lipobay Banned
The cholesterol-lowering drug Lipobay, which was earlier withdrawn from the market by the manufacturer, has been officially banned in Thailand as of February 22, 2003. Bayer Co. voluntarily suspended marketing and distribution of Lipobay in August 2001 after reports of severe muscle contraction problems with potentially lethal consequences were widely reported. The US FDA had received reports of 31 deaths among people who have used the drug. The deaths resulted from severe rhabdomyolysis, a condition that results in muscle cell breakdown. Symptoms of rhabdomyolysis include muscle pain, fever, dark urine, nausea and vomiting.

World's Obese Calculated To Number 1.7 Billion
Medical experts called for a new assessment of how weight-related health risks in Asians are measured which could push up the number of overweight and obese people worldwide to 1.7 billion. The new figure, which would be 50 percent higher than current estimate, is based on recommendations to lower the threshold for Asians because of their special vulnerability to weight-related disorders. Professor Philip James, the chairman of the London-based International Obesity TaskForce (IOTF), said the global standard for measuring overweight/obesity, the Body Mass Index (BMI), is based on western criteria and needs to be adjusted for Asians. Regardless, there is serious indication of a worldwide obesity crisis.


NCAA Mens', Womens' College Basketball Tournament Brackets Released
The annual NCAA mens' and womens' college basketball tournament brackets were released yesterday evening. This years' tournament features Kentucky, Arizona, Texas, and Oklahoma as the top seeds on the mens' side, while LSU, Tennessee, Connecticut, and Duke earned top seeds in the womens' bracket. The brackets may have to be altered, however, to place BYU elsewhere so they won't have to play on Sunday, which is outlawed by university and religious rules.

Graeme Smith Vows New Era In South African Cricket
With the appointment of Graeme Smith as the captain of the national cricket team, South Africa looks to shed the corruption of former team captain Hansie Cronje, who was discovered to have been involved in match fixing during his tenure as captain. Cronje's short-term replacement, Shaun Pollock, led the team to dismal World Cup failure and was also axed, paving the way for Smith to take the helm. At the press conference introducing him as national team captain, Smith said, "I never met (Cronje). I never played with or against him. We're starting afresh now; I've got no baggage from the Hansie Cronje era."


Natalie Maines Apologizes For Anti-Bush Comments
Dixie Chick Natalie Maines has apologized to President Bush for the negative comment she made about him while performing overseas last week. The trio performed a live show in London on Monday (March 10) where Maines told the crowd, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas." On March 14, 2003, Maines released this statement: "As a concerned American citizen, I apologize to President Bush because my remark was disrespectful. I feel that whoever holds that office should be treated with the utmost respect. We are currently in Europe and witnessing a huge anti-American sentiment as a result of the perceived rush to war. While war may remain a viable option, as a mother, I just want to see every possible alternative exhausted before children and American soldiers' lives are lost. I love my country. I am a proud American."

James Gandolfini, HBO Continue Talks On The Sopranos
The Sopranos star James Gandolfini and HBO are considering a deal to drop their dueling lawsuits and proceed with contract negotiations, according to several published reports. Gandolfini, according to HBO sources, is seeking $25 million for a fifth season of the hit series which, if agreed upon, would be a record for an actor starring in a TV drama. Others, however, have said Gandolfini's asking price was closer to $16 million.

And Now, Some Typical Daylog Fare

When I was young, I was reasonably good at basketball. I played with a fervor throughout middle school and dreamed of perhaps one day actually being able to play college basketball, ideally at Tennessee or LSU. It was sincerely my dream for many years.

Then, one day I was playing pick-up basketball and out of nowhere, as I went for a layup, I was tackled from behind and I dropped to the floor like a ton of bricks. I couldn't move for a short while, and it was very difficult for me to walk for several weeks afterwards. In my desperate dream to keep playing, I tried to hide my back injury and kept playing, but it was pretty obvious that I could barely run more than two or three steps at a time.

So, I gave up playing for a while and discovered other interests. I became rather depressed for a while, but eventually I came out of that. I didn't play basketball at all for two years.

I finally gave it another try, and it took a fair amount of courage for me to pick up a ball again. I was able to run the length of the floor while dribbling, and I was ecstatic, but as soon as I did that four or five times, the back pain started again.

The dream was really over.

I think that is why the month of March is so amazing to me. I watch the college basketball tournaments with a fervent passion; some years, I even take the first two days of the tournament off of work to watch them.

The majesty of watching young people out there playing just for the joy of it, just for the chance to keep playing another day, fills my heart with a tremendous amount of joy.

It truly is March Madness.

Lent Diary, Day 13

In my daylog for February 19, 2003, I outlined my plan for a challenging Lenten discipline: no food or water during daylight hours. Visit that daylog for more details.

My discipline met some severe challenges over the last several days.

I attended a conference, and the meal times were set up to make it very difficult to eat with others and still maintain my discipline. I usually went to the banquets and just neglected to eat or drink anything. People asked me about why I was doing this, and I would tell them it was for spiritual reasons, and this was usually met with an odd look.

After days of this, I began to realize that the state of spirituality in America is really in a sad state. The mere idea of spirituality or belief in a particular religion seems to strike most people as being stupid by default.

But I made it through. I tend to think that the negative reactions of others to my spiritual choices has been the hardest part.