Today's Headlines

US News

First Rhode Island Fire Lawsuits Filed
The first two cases in what will likely become hundreds of wrongful death lawsuits have been filed as a result of the fire at The Station, a nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island. The state Superior Court estimates the total liability claims to exceed $1 billion, and has selected a "point person" to manage the multiple lawsuits. Named in the suits are the brothers who owned the club, the city of West Warwick, the town's fire inspector, the manufacturer of the pyrotechnics used in the show of the band Great White, and the band's manager. The band members themselves were not named in the suits.

Brooklyn Mosque Investigated For Ties To al Qaeda
Worsippers at the al Farouq mosque in Brooklyn, New York helped raise more than a million dollars for al Qaeda, according to US prosecutors who have charged a cleric with providing material support to a terrorist network. Sheik Mohammed Al Hasan Al-Moayad, who is being held in Germany, told an FBI informant that he supplied $20 million, recruits and weapons to Osama bin Laden in the years before the September 11, 2001|9/11] attacks, and that most of the resources came from contributors within the United States.

Supreme Court Upholds Laws
In separate cases this morning, the United States Supreme Court upheld California's "Three Strikes You're Out" law, saying that it did not violate the 8th Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment, and also upheld Alaska and Connecticut versions of "Megan's Law," which requires public registration of prior sex offenders. Both decisions come from a court which has made it a goal to increase public safety and keep repeat criminals behind bars.

International News

Suicide Bomber Kills 15 In Israel
A suicide bomber blew himself up aboard a crowded bus in Haifa, Israel this morning, which killed 15 and injured dozens. "Once again the bestial hand of Palestinian terrorism has struck at the heart of Israel," said Mark Sofer, a Foreign Ministry spokesman. In response, Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat condemned "any attack that is targeting civilians, whether Palestinian or Israeli, also adding "We reject the Israel government finger-pointing that the Palestinian Authority is responsible."

UN Antiwar Faction Meets in Paris
The foreign ministers of France, Russia and Germany were today discussing their drive against war on Iraq at a hastily arranged summit in Paris. The summit is seen as a further sign that the UN divide on Iraq is hardening. France and Russia, which both hold veto power in the UN security council, have been joined by Germany in pushing for the UN weapons inspectors to be given more time and powers to rid Iraq peacefully of any banned weapons.

Pope Urges World To Avoid Major Conflict
Early this Ash Wednesday morning, Pope John Paul II led the world's Catholics in a peace-focused prayer that urged world leaders to make every effort to spare humanity what he called "a dramatic conflict" in Iraq. "Everyone has to knowingly assume their responsibility and make a common effort to spare humanity another dramatic conflict," he said. The Pope strongly opposes military action in Iraq and is seen by the antiwar protest as a leader in their mission.


Dollar Hits Four Year Low Against Euro
In early trading Wednesday, the United States dollar weakened to $1.11 against the euro, the lowest point since 1999. This weakening was inspired by comments by Treasury Secretary John Snow, who said that he was "not particularly concerned" about the fall of the dollar since the G7 meetings on February 21, 2003. A Treasury spokesman put a better face on the situation by saying that Snow still supported a strong dollar, but economists believe the dollar will continue to be weak in the coming months.

Nestle Merger Blocked
The FTC voted yesterday to block a merger between Nestle, makers of Häagen-Dazs, and Dreyer's, makers of Edy's, Godiva, Dreamery, and Starbucks ice creams. The FTC stated that the merger would "raise prices and reduce choice for consumers." This merger would leave only two companies in the high-end ice cream business, Nestle and Unilever, who makes the Breyer's and Ben and Jerry's brands.

Supreme Court To Rule On Web Pornography Business
The US Supreme Court will hear arguments today on whether or not libraries should be required to filter out porn on their internet-connected computers. This case plans to test the constitutionality of the Children's Internet Protection Act of 2000, which has been quite damaging to the online pornography industry.

Science & Technology

Windows Longhorn Leaked Again
A new build of Longhorn, Microsoft's follow up to Windows XP, has leaked. The new build is said to feature significantly increased stability, but does not yet feature the new WinFS file system, promoted as a major part of Longhorn. The new build does, however, have a significant amount of cosmetic additions, including a task-based 3D user interface.

Columbia Being Reassembled
In a hangar in Cape Canaveral, Florida, 300 NASA engineers and technicians are undergoing the painful task of reconstructing the fallen space shuttle, hoping to determine from the process what exactly went wrong in the shuttle disaster earlier this year. Many families and friends of victims of the shuttle disaster have turned the hangar into a shrine, covering the outer walls of the hangar with decorations, notes, and other memorials.

UN Warns Of Future Water Crises
The UN World Water Assessment Programme today released a report indicating a very dark picture for the world's water supply. The report indicated that the world's water shortage will mean that hunger will exist as a global problem for at least another thirty years, and that the average water supply per person will decrease by 33% over the next twenty years.


Aspirin Reduces Mouth and Throat Cancer Risk
Researchers at the Institute of Pharmalogical Research in Milan, Italy released a report stating that people who take aspirin at least once a week for five years or more have their risk of mouth and throat cancer reduced greatly. The study indicated a 68% reduction in the cases of mouth and throat cancer in those who took aspirin weekly as compared to those who did not take aspirin at all.

Contraceptive Sponge Returns To Market
The Today Sponge, a doughnut-shaped contraceptive popular in the early 1990s but discontinued in 1995, has returned to the market, offering women another choice for birth control. The device was discontinued after its original manufacturer declined to make necessary repairs at its lone manufacturing plant; the rights to the device were purchased late last year by Allendale Pharmaceuticals, who are reintroducing the device in Canada and soon in the United States.


Two Year Ban Key Part of Anti-Doping Code
FIFA stated this morning that a mandatory two year sanction for doping is the centerpiece of the new anti-doping rules being adopted by a number of sports organizations worldwide. The bylaws allow for each organization to decide how to enforce the rule, but requires each membership organization to enforce the rule in some way. This allows the member groups a degree of autonomy on how to handle doping issues specific to their sport.

Tiger Woods Appears On Target For Grand Slam Run
After winning his second of three tournaments this weekend after returning from December knee surgery, Tiger Woods' outlook for the upcoming year is bright. After complaining of severe pain throughout 2002 while winning two majors, Woods is now pain-free and is exhibiting a more mature version of his dominating golf style.


Christina Aguilera To Model For Versace
Christina Aguilera, with her recent raunchy attire and look, has been named the new face of the Versace label in america. "It's just so great. I've got this ad campaign coming up with Donatella and Versace, so I'm very excited and this is a whole new world for me, so that's very exciting," Aguilera said. Donatella Versace claims that her latest clothing lines are inspired by Aguilera's change in direction.

Toby Keith Leads Country Music Awards Nominations
On the strength of his 9/11-inspired Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American) and his hit album Unleashed, country singer Toby Keith picked up eight nominations for the upcoming Academy of Country Music awards, to be aired on May 21, 2003. Other multiple nominees include Alan Jackson, The Dixie Chicks, Trick Pony, Kenny Chesney, and Willie Nelson.

And Now, Some Typical Daylog Fare

I just found out that Toby Keith was nominated for eight Academy of Country Music awards for his recent album, which features the hit Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American). The lyrics to this song sound like an Ed Anger column in the Weekly World News. Here's some lyrical excerpts:

The eagle will fly
And there's gonna be Hell
When you hear Mother Freedom start ringing her bell!
It's gonna feel like the whole wide world is raining down on you...
Brought to you courtesy of the Red, White and Blue!

Oh, Justice will be served and the battle will rage
This big dog will fight when you rattle his cage
You'll be sorry that you messed with the US of A
'Cuz we'll put a boot in your ass
It's the American way.

Yes, these are verbatim quotes from the song itself. Rather than actually logically thinking the situation through, the song encourages exactly what the Bush administration seems to be doing: using our military might to impose our will throughout the world.

Freedom is unquestionably a "good thing," and I'm proud to be a part of a state where people can say what they want and worship whatever they choose. However, going into combat situations in other nations forcing them to follow this doctrine is wrong. Different people have different views.

The idea that the United States has to help those who want freedom is also deeply flawed. When America fought for its independence, we only got support from France (and weakly from Spain) and this was due to more or less outright bribery in terms of offering insanely lucrative trade deals to them. No one jumped into our war because it was the "right thing to do."

A "boot in the ass" "courtesy of the red, white and blue"? Congratulations, Toby Keith; you've managed to not only sound ignorant, but send out a message that violence is acceptable as a immediate reaction to a much deeper problem. Your record company is guilty, too; by promoting this music and demonstrating support for this message, it gives our government the idea that such actions are acceptable.

Lent Diary, Day 1

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.

As the lunch break passes on my first day of this fasting, I realize now that it will be more difficult than I originally believed. My throat is dry and I am hungry.

My plan is to walk home in the evening using a circuitous route, and spend the time thinking about why I am taking on this challenge. What does it really mean?

But more than anything,