Today's Headlines

US News

Daniel Patrick Moynihan Dies At 76
Former senator from New York Daniel Patrick Moynihan died yesterday at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. The cause was due to complications stemming from a ruptured appendix, which was removed at the hospital on March 11, 2003. Moynihan served the government of the United States for more than forty yeas, beginning with terms in the executive branch under John F. Kennedy, then later under Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, and Gerald Ford. In 1977 he was elected senator in New York and remained in that position until his retirement in 2001. "His four terms in the United States Senate were marked by grace, style and wit but most of all, by effectiveness in office," said former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani. "Senator Moynihan was the very example of what a statesman should be."

Police Hunt For Captor Of Nuns
Police are on the lookout for a man suspected in the shooting death of his father and the abduction of two Catholic nuns in Georgia. Officers found human body parts in the car of Adrian O'Neill Robinson, and a short time later the decapitated body of one of the nuns was found in nearby Virginia Beach, Virginia. When the officers discovered the car, Robinson was still driving; after a short car chase, Robinson managed to escape on foot and is still at large. Thirty minutes later, police in nearby Virginia Beach reported finding the body of a mutilated and decapitated woman. Wednesday afternoon, medical examiners identified the body as that of Sister Philomena Fogerty, one of the two kidnapped nuns. The other nun, Sister Lucie Kristofilk, survived the ordeal and was found Tuesday morning at a Norfolk, Virginia hotel.

House Rejects Plans For Amber Alert
The House yesterday defeated a Democratic effort to force a vote on the creation of a national alert system to respond to child abductions; Republicans said the program should be part of an anticrime package. On a strict party-line vote of 218 to 198, the Republican-controlled House rejected a parliamentary maneuver that would have allowed separate consideration of a plan to establish an Amber alert system, named for a kidnapped Texas girl. "I cannot understand why Republican leaders insist on blocking the simple, stand-alone Amber bill," said Representative Martin Frost, a Texas Democrat who has been working for House approval of the bill. "I also agree that Amber alert needs to be passed, but I think it's just as important that there be punishment for the abduction of these children," said Representative Sue Myrick, a Republican from North Carolina.

International News

Raids On Baghdad Continue
US-led forces countinued an intense air bombardment of Baghdad today as Iraq accused the United States and Great Britain of deliberate attacks on civilians. Iraqi health minister Umeed Madhat Mubarak said that 350 civilians have died in air raids since the conflict began, including 14 killed in yesterday's apparent stray missile strike on a crowded market. "They are targeting the human beings in Iraq to decrease their morale," he said in a news conference. "They are not discriminating, differentiating." Mubarak also accused US-led forces of dropping cluster bombs on civilian targets. "In Najaf, they destroyed a medical centre," he said. "They bombed an ambulance and killed its driver." The US denies intentionally targeting the market.

Blair, Bush To Meet About Iraq's Future
One week into a war that has deeply divided world opinion, the next round of the diplomacy concerning Iraq kicks off on Thursday when US and British leaders thrash out plans for its post-conflict future. In their first summit since the attack, United States president George W. Bush and Great Britain's prime minister Tony Blair will meet at Camp David to discuss military planning, humanitarian relief, and the reconstruction of Iraq. Another major issue is the future role of the UN, which the United States is not strongly interested in as a diplomatic forum for discussing the future of Iraq, especially since the war with Iraq is racking up a large price tag, both in dollars and in lives.

19 Dead In Chinese Bus Crash
Nineteen people burned to death when a Chinese bus overturned and caught fire in a remote area of Kyrgyzstan. "There were 19 people in the Chinese-made bus, including the driver," a Kyrgyz Emergencies Ministry duty officer told Reuters. "The bus caught fire, and all of them burnt." The double-decker passenger bus was bound for Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, when the bus overturned in the remote Naryn region in the Tien Shan mountains. The cause of the accident is not yet known.


California Demands Rebate From BC Hydro
Powerex, a subsidiary of BC Hydro, is still owed $100 million by California for electricity it sold during a crisis that caused rolling blackouts over six days. However, US energy regulators said yesterday that they will increase the $1.8 billion in refunds due to the state from Powerex (and other energy providers) for overcharging in 2000 and 2001 after calculating the cost of natural gas price fixing. The net result: Powerex may instead owe the state money. The semi-deregulated energy industry in California is being blamed for the situation, where businesses are trying to take advantage of a large need for public service. "The free-enterprise system goes hand in hand with a responsibility to see that the playing field is level and everyone plays fair," federal commission chairman Pat Wood III said in a statement.

Senate Approves FY 2004 Budget
The Senate approved a $2.2 trillion budget for FY 2004 yesterday, which includes a more than 50% reduction in the $726 billion tax cut that President George W. Bush wants to rally the stagnant economy. The Republican-controlled chamber used a mostly party-line 56-44 roll call to approve the fiscal blueprint, which endorses just $350 billion of the president's planned tax cuts through 2013. The final say on the exact tax cut figure will come when House and Senate bargainers agree to a compromise budget, as the House last week already passed a budget that included the entire $726 billion tax cut.

Stocks Declining On Weak War News
Stocks have mostly fallen back this week amid concerns that the war in Iraq will take longer than anticipated, posing a threat to an already shaky economic recovery. The news on the economic recovery was also weak, as very sluggish economic data was released this week by the Treasury Department. The net result is a market full of anxious investors that are willing to dump stocks to cut losses, and thus results often in a much lower stock market. To compound the bad news, the Commerce Department said fourth-quarter gross domestic product, a measure of all the goods and services produced in the U.S., rose at an unrevised 1.4% annual rate, down from 4% in the third quarter. Though expected by the market, the number is still quite weak.

Science & Technology

Neanderthals Shown To Have Nimble Human-Like Hands
New evidence suggests that Neanderthals were not the clumsy cave dwellers once thought, as new computer simulations show they were as nimble-fingered as their human cousins. Although Neanderthal tools were not as complex as those of our human ancestors, the virtual modelling shows Neanderthals were just as capable of manipulating the raw materials used. Simple clumsiness, therefore, is unlikely to be part of the reason for their sudden extinction 30,000 years ago. This revises much of the thinking about the logic for the development of humans compared to their Neanderthal ancestors, greatly reducing the clarity of the reasons for Neanderthal extinction and human survival.

The Salam Pax Mystery
A writer and architect from Iraq who kept a blog continually updated on the growing crisis in the country has fallen silent, leaving many to wonder where exactly he has gone. His website,, has received a tremendous amount of activity, especially since the hostilities with Iraq have boiled over into outright war. His final messages indicate that the city of Baghdad had entered into a very chaotic period, and then the log goes dark, leaving many to wonder what happened to the fellow. "Other than what he tells us, we have no way of knowing if he's actually posting live from Baghdad or is running some elaborate hoax from the middle of Kansas," Web designer Jason Kottke said.

Hubble Watches Light From Star Echo In Space
In January 2002, a dull star in an obscure constellation suddenly became 600,000 times more luminous than our Sun, temporarily making it the brightest star in our Milky Way galaxy. Although this star has long since faded, the light produced by the mysterious star is still reverberating to Earth in an echo-like fashion, according to a paper to appear in today's Nature. These details promise to provide astronomers with a CAT-scan-like probe of the three-dimensional structure of shells of dust surrounding an aging star. The echo is caused by light echoing off circumstellar dust in the Milky Way, creating the ability to carefully re-analyze the star's strange nova-like effect.


New Water Treatment Process Developed
A new technique for treating and purifying wastewater has been proposed, which could potentially spare penny-pinching municipalities some of the great cost of handling the post-treatment sludge. The new technique, called activated magnetic sludge process, was described yesterday for the first time at the 225th national meeting of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans, Louisiana. The treatment involves adding magnetite to the sludge; the bacteria in the sludge consume the magnetite, then when magnetic force is applied to the sludge, the bacteria are pulled out of the sludge, thus reducing the amount of waste as the bacteria can be reused. The procedure could reduce the sludge by as much as five tons a day for a plant that serves 100,000 people.

Maryland Nurse Dies After Receiving Smallpox Vaccine
Federal health officials said yesterday that they are investigating whether the fatal heart attack of a Maryland nurse is related to the smallpox vaccination she received last month. This investigation is in conjunction with a second case in which a woman also received a vaccination that was followed shortly by a heart attack; the second victim is on life support. In total, seven people immunized in the two months since the program began in Maryland have experienced cardiac-related problems, leaving many to question the safety of the vaccine itself.


"Thorpedo" Breaks Records In Return To Competition
After a break from competition, a run of less-than-stellar finishes, and a change in coach, it was widely viewed in the swimming world that Ian Thorpe may perhaps have his best days behind him. However, in his return to competition at the Australian national swim meet, in a new event for him, the 200 meter individual medley, Thorpe broke the Australian Commonwealth record by 0.15 seconds, reducing the record to two minutes and 00.11 seconds. Thorpe is also planning on competing in the 200, 400, and 800 meter freestyle events, for all of which he has world records, at the Australian nationals, which are ongoing.

Hughes Falls Short In Early Rounds Of World Skating Championships
Sarah Hughes gave perhaps the worst performance of her career yesterday in the qualifying rounds of the World Figure Skating Championships, looking like a mere shell of the girl who won Olympic gold thirteen months ago. Hughes botched her short program badly, as she fell while trying to execute a triple flip, reduced two triple jumps to single jumps, and almost fell while executing routine footwork. The finish left her in 11th place overall in the competition, although the short program only counts for 20% of the total score. "There's always something you can make an excuse over, but I'm a strong competitor and I have a strong mind," said Hughes, who received marks as low as 4.7. "It's OK. It's only one program. I have two more. I think I'll have something inside of me to have that extra go."


Snoop Doggy Dogg Faces Lawsuit For Use Of Phone Message In Song
Rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg is facing a lawsuit from an unidentified man because of Snoop's use of a recorded phone message from the individual in a song that primarily focused on taunting rap mogul Suge Knight. The track, entitled Pimp Slapp'd, appears on Snoop's most recent album, Paid the Cost to be Tha Boss. The track primarily seeks to continue Snoop's long running feud with Knight, founder of Death Row Records, and the recorded message used in the song expresses support for Snoop in this feud. However, the anonymous man is now afraid for his own safety due to Knight's known association with gangs and his reputation as "a burly, convicted felon."

Ono Claims "Lennon Would've Slammed Blair, Bush"
Yoko Ono, an ardent campaigner for peace and the widow of legendary musician John Lennon, spoke in Liverpool, England yesterday where John Lennon's childhood home was officially being opened to the public. "I'm sure John would have been terribly upset" about the war, if he were still alive, Ono told BBC radio. "And I'm sure that he would have expressed his anger and told them off", she said, referring to Bush and Blair, about "how stupid it is to go through this. As Gandhi said, 'An eye for an eye will make us all blind'."

And Now, Some Typical Daylog Fare

My significant other and I are busy trying to select a song for our wedding reception. We've reduced our list to about nine candidates, but we need to pare these down very quickly, as time is running short. If you have any input, let me know; either in terms of new candidates similar to these or one of these you see as particularly appropriate. Neither one of us are particularly into the When A Man Loves A Woman Michael Bolton type of thing. Here are the candidates, along with some brief commentary:

59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy) - Simon and Garfunkel
We're both Simon and Garfunkel fans and the song somewhat matches our personalities, but it will be somewhat difficult to dance to; the song isn't very rhythmically suited for it.

One - U2
The message and rhythm of this one are spot-on, but it may not entirely fit from a lyrical sense.

In The Air Tonight - Phil Collins
Much like One, the message and rhythm of this one are spot-on, but it may not entirely fit from a lyrical sense. The best man at our ceremony particularly liked this choice when it was mentioned to him.

Golden Years - David Bowie
I think this may be delayed until one of our anniversaries, however.

I'm In Love With A Big Blue Frog - Peter, Paul, and Mary
Our sense of "fun" is strongly encouraging us to pick this one.

Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes - Paul Simon
We both like this song greatly, but it is difficult to dance to for a first dance at a wedding reception.

Fields of Gold - Sting
This, to me, is perfectly rhythmic for what I want. The music just nails it.

Something - The Beatles
The single best "typical" love song ever written, in my none too humble opinion.

Throne Room - John Williams
We may end up using this as our recessional instead, as we plan to shake the hands of our guests as they leave, with the bride and groom acting almost as ushers.

If I could have any song, I would have us dance to the version of All Things Must Pass from the Beatles Anthology 3, but the lyrical message is quite literally the opposite of what is wanted here.

Lent Diary, Day 23

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 bought a juicing machine recently, and I spent the last hour before sunset yesterday creating a concoction of oranges, lemons, and limes that was quite tasty. While I was peeling the fruits, my mind wandered off as it tends to when I do such things, and I couldn't help but think about where the fruits came from and the mysteries of life.

But when I took my first big drink of the mixture as the sun fell, I realized that part of the beauty of nature is the very mystery of it all.

And the sugars and water felt great as they slid across my tongue.