Today's Headlines

US News

Michigan Girl Found Unharmed
Thanks to an alert delivery driver who tipped authorities, a 14-year- old Michigan girl missing for nearly a month was found unharmed Monday in rural Lassen County, California and her alleged abductor was arrested without incident. After her rescue, Lindsey Ryan told authorities that she was glad the ordeal was over, and her family members are flying to California today for a reunion. Her captor, 56- year-old Terry Drake, spent 16 years in prison after murdering a woman in Indiana in 1977. He had met the girl at church and then corresponded with her over the Internet. "We're so thankful for everybody's efforts," the girl's mother, Carol Ryan, told The Chronicle. "We're so glad you ran this story out in California."

Groups Lose Wiretap Challenge
An effort by a coalition of civil liberties groups to bring a Supreme Court challenge to the government's use of expanded surveillance authority under a post-9/11 statute failed today. The justices, without comment, refused to permit the groups to file an appeal from a ruling by a special federal appeals court that the Patriot Act granted broad new authority to use wiretaps obtained for intelligence operations to prosecute terrorists. The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and two Arab-American groups needed the court's permission to file their appeal because under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act only the government can file Supreme Court appeals in wiretap law decisions.

Man Confesses To 1957 Police Slayings
In a surprise confession that brought to an end to a 46 year old murder case, a retired South Carolina gas station owner pleaded guilty yesterday to killing two Los Angeles-ariea police officers in El Segundo officers Milton Curtis and Richard Phillips on July 22, 1957 after they stopped him for a traffic violation. "I don't understand why I did this," Mason said, offering a tearful apology to the families of the victims and members of the El Segundo Police Department. "I feel like I am dreaming. It makes no sense. It's contrary to everything I believe."

International News

First Steps In Battle of Baghdad Underway
Coalition forces are using air power, helicopters, and artillery to "beat down those Republican Guard positions" before ground troops move into place for the upcoming battle for Baghdad said US General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff this morning. "We've never said it's going to be quick, we've never said it's going to be easy, you've never heard those words come out of officials here at the Pentagon," he said. "War is tough and it's going to be a tough fight. But it's a worthy fight." This came after reports of fierce clashes between Apache helicopters and Iraqi Republican Guard units south of Baghdad.

Blair To Meet Bush, Annan To Hold Summit In US
British Prime Minister Tony Blair is scheduled to leave for the United States on Wednesday to meet with US President George W. Bush at Camp David, then meet UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Thursday. Blair said his discussions would not just concern the progress of the war but also relief projects and the future of Iraq. "It is to discuss the humanitarian situation and the important and complex issues that have to be addressed in the post-Saddam era," Blair told reporters at 10 Downing Street. "I will see President Bush at Camp David to discuss not just the military campaign... (but) how we get America and Europe working together again as partners and not as rivals."

Straw Warns Turkey About Iraq
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has joined the United States government in strongly urging Turkey not to send troops into northern Iraq. Straw acknowledged the anxiety of Turkey in terms of the possibility of Kurdish refugees coming from northern Iraq, but stressed that the current situation is much different than the 1991 situation that resulted in a mass exodus of Kurds from Iraq into Turkey, Syria, and Jordan. "It would not serve their interests if there were to be any aggressive military action taken by Turkish forces," Straw said. "The Turkish government has played a constructive role in trying to calm tensions between Turkish community on one side of the border and the Kurdish community on the other."


Stocks Tumble On War Concerns
The euphoria that gripped Wall Street last week wore off on Monday as investors realized that the war in Iraq might not be so quick after all. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 355 points, thus following its best week in two decades with its worst day of the year. The Nasdaq fell 52.06 points as well, a 3.7% loss, while the Standard & Poors 500 fell 31.56 points, or 3.5%, signifying an across-the-board weakness. The selling occurred as a result of news of allied forces encountering significant resistance in Iraq, causing many investors to cash in on the euphoria that gripped the markets last week.

Home Loan News Mixed
In the fourth quarter of last year, the percentage of US homeowners involved in foreclosure reached a record high, but the total percentage of homeowners behind on their mortgages fell sharply. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that 1.18 percent of all home loans were in foreclosure, a formal process that can run from 90 days in some states to more than two years in others. The previous quarterly record was 1.15 percent, reached in the third quarter of 2002. Meanwhile, mortgage delinquencies dipped to 4.53 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, down from 4.67 percent in the fourth quarter of 2001. These numbers seem to indicate that banks are generally becoming more serious about foreclosures and dealing with regularly-delinquent payers.

Levi Strauss Posts Loss
Levi Strauss recorded a net loss in the first fiscal quarter, mostly as a result of higher interest expenses and reduced sales in North America. Levi Strauss, maker of denim jeans and other casual clothing reported a net loss of $24.5 million for the period ended February 23, 2003, compared to a net income of $42.5 million for the year-earlier period. Levi Strauss is a privately-held company with no publicly traded shares. "We said the first half of the year would be difficult, but the first quarter was even tougher than we predicted," Chief Executive Phil Marineau said in a statement.

Science & Technology

Red Hat To Release Version 9.0
Red Hat announced the latest version of their operating system, numbered 9.0, would be released on April 7, 2003, but in an interesting move, the company is making ISO images of the release available to paid subscribers of the Red Hat Network seven days earlier on March 31, 2003. The move was surprising in many ways, including Red Hat's sudden jump from version 8.0 to 9.0 of its Linux distribution, as well as the surprising (but business-sensible) decision to offer the distribution a week early to network subscribers. Red Hat hopes to cause new subscribers to join the network to take advantage of the offer.

NASA Plans To Reuse Current Shuttles Until 2020
Despite the break-up of the shuttle Columbia, the three other shuttles in the NASA fleet may be needed until 2020, a top NASA official said Monday. Major General Michael Kostelnik, the NASA deputy associate administrator for the space station and space shuttle programs, said the shuttle could become a cargo vehicle if the job of ferrying astronauts was turned over to the orbital space plane, which is scheduled to go into service in 2012. He added that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration could cut the risks in later years, when the shuttles will be approaching 40 years old, by flying with fewer astronauts or none at all if a planned orbital space plane is ready.

Hotmail Sets Email Caps
Microsoft is capping the amount of email users can send using their Hotmail accounts in a bid to crack down on spam. In a statement sent to many Hotmail users, the company said: "In an effort to prevent spammers from using MSN Hotmail to spread spam, MSN Hotmail recently began further limiting the number of outgoing messages a user can send each day. MSN is strongly committed to helping stop the widespread problem of spam and this change is one way we are preventing spammers from using Hotmail to spread spam." Under this new policy, users will be barred from sending emails to more than 100 e-mail addresses in a 24-hour period.


Antibody Cocktail "Spice" Will Prevent Foodborne Germs
Researchers in Canada are developing a natural antibody cocktail that can help prevent the most common foodborne germs, including E. coli and salmonella, which cause thousands to become sick or die each year. Derived from freeze-dried egg yolk, the substance is nicknamed a "spice" because it can be sprinkled or sprayed onto meats, fruits and vegetables to complement existing sanitation protocols; the "spice" does not alter the taste of food. "This spice represents a safe, easy and inexpensive way to enhance your protection against deadly germs that attack humans via food. One day, it will be found in everyone's spice cabinet," says Hoon Sunwoo, chief investigator in the study and a food chemist at the University of Alberta in Canada.

Marijuana Use During Pregnancy Damages Learning Ability Of Fetus
Children born to mothers who use marijuana during pregnancy may suffer a host of lasting mental defects, suggests a new study in rats. The offspring of pregnant rats given a low dose of cannabinoid were found to perform poorly in learning tests throughout their lives, compared to rats that were not exposed. Vincenzo Cuomo, at the La Sapienza University in Rome, and colleagues suggest that similar brain effects could explain learning problems in children born to mothers who use the soft drug during pregnancy. In the study, pregnant rats were injected with a low dose of an artificial cannabinoid. Offspring exposed to the drug during gestation showed hyperactivity during infancy and adolescence, as measured by how many times they broke infrared beams crisscrossing their cages.


FIFA Enraged Over Substitution Farce
The use of two teams by England in its 3-1 loss to Australia last month has prompted FIFA president Sepp Blatter to plan a five-substitute limit for friendly soccer internationals. Blatter went so far as to describe the wholesale changes made by England coach Sven Goran Eriksson against the Australians last month as a "farce". Erikkson used one lineup for the first half of the match, then switched to an entirely different lineup for the second half of the match. "It's wrong. It's better if you don't play," Blatter said. "This is a matter I will bring to the attention of the (rule-making) international board. It was a farce. It's not correct for the opponent, but definitely not correct for the public. They pay for a match between England, the best team, and Australia. In the second half, you have another team. It's not correct."

Calvin Klein Interferes In Knicks Win Over Raptors
The New York Knicks defeated the Toronto Raptors 100-90 last night at Madison Square Garden in a game that featured an odd interference by fashion designer Calvin Klein. Late in the fourth quarter, as Knicks guard Latrell Sprewell was about to launch an inbound pass, Calvin Klein, a regular on the sidelines at New York Knicks games, walked up to Sprewell and began to talk to him. Security escorted Klein from the court. After the game, Sprewell said "No, I wasn't nervous. I was a little surprised, like is security going to come over here at some point or what? I didn't know that was him."


Outcry Against Michael Moore's Anti-Government Comments At Academy Awards
A number of people and groups have stepped forward to air their disagreement with documentary maker Michael Moore's anti-government comments made during his acceptance speech at the Academy Awards on Sunday, at which Moore received an award for best documentary for Bowling For Columbine. During the speech, Moore railed against a "fictitious" President Bush, "fictitious election results," and the War on Iraq, which he claimed was for "fictitious reasons," finishing by saying "We live in fictitious times." The comments are being viewed by many as highly inappropriate and indicative of a Hollywood culture that is out of touch with the general sentiment of the nation.

NBC Gets Chicago
In an unusual and very timely deal, NBC yesterday announced that it had secured the broadcast rights for the Academy Award-winning Chicago, and that the film would begin showing on NBC and Bravo in fall 2005. The move is considered unusual because the window doesn't open for the film for another two and a half years, and also comes at a time when networks are shying away from paying top dollar for the broadcast rights to films. However, in the words of Jeff Zucker, NBC Entertainment president, "We don't buy many theatrical movies any more, but this one we had to have. It's a perfect fit for both NBC and Bravo."

And Now, Some Typical Daylog Fare

For those of you who are interested, I picked up a domain name of my own and added a web site to it that I plan to fill in with a great deal of background information about myself. I'd encourage you to visit the site and give me feedback, either here or using the contact page on the site. The URL is:

I am still fixing up a few things, so if you occasionally see a text block out of place, that just means I'm actively at work fixing things up.

Lent Diary, Day 21

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.

I took a long walk yesterday afternoon, walking somewhere between five and six miles. It was an absolutely gorgeous afternoon in northern Iowa, a warm day with only the faintest edges of chill in the air as the day progressed towards evening.

Everyone knows that well-known piece entitled Footprints in the Sand. I often feel that way on long walks, particularly when I'm in an isolated area, crossing a corn field or walking through the woods. I don't really feel alone at all, although I am the only person around.

I am never truly alone, I guess, but there are little moments in time where I feel a separate presence at my side, guiding me and just simply supporting me when I need it.

And without that support, I never would have been able to achieve the discipline.