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Time to start DM 28!!! I'll be sure to bore you to DEATH with hundreds of links!!



Obama calls for universal health care



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Ex-cop denies role in 1964 racial slayings


A reputed Ku Klux Klansman and former sheriff's deputy pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges in the deaths of two black hitchhikers, four decades after their decomposed remains were found in the Mississippi River.


James Ford Seale, 71, was one of two white suspects initially arrested in 1964, but the FBI -- consumed by the search for three civil rights workers -- turned the case over to local authorities. A justice of the peace promptly threw out all charges.


Seale was arrested again Wednesday, seven years after the Justice Department reopened the case. He was charged with two counts of kidnapping and one count of conspiracy to commit kidnapping.


Prosecutors did not say why Seale was not charged with murder.


Seale -- previously believed to be dead -- will spend the next several days in the Madison County jail outside Jackson. A bond hearing is set for Monday; his court-appointed public defenders say Seale is suffering from cancer.


The indictment alleges Klansmen took Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee, both 19, to the Homochitto National Forest in southwest Mississippi and Seale held a sawed-off shotgun on the men while other Klan members beat them with switches and tree branches.


The teenagers were still alive when they were weighted down and dumped into the Mississippi River, the indictment said.


The second suspect, church deacon and reputed KKK member Charles Marcus Edwards, now 72, was not charged. U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales declined to say whether Edwards had agreed to testify against Seale. Sources close to the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity have said Edwards was cooperating with authorities.


"Forty years ago, the system failed," said FBI Director Robert Mueller, who joined Gonzales and siblings of the victims at a news conference in Washington. "We in the FBI have a responsibility to investigate these cold case, civil rights-era murders where evidence still exists to bring both closure and justice to these cases that for many, remain unhealed wounds to this day."


The break in the 43-year-old case was largely the result of the dogged efforts of Moore's older brother.


"I've been crying. First time I've cried in about 50 years," Thomas Moore, 63, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, said after the arrest.


"It's not going to bring his life back," Moore added. "But some way or another, I think he would be satisfied."


Dee's sister, Thelma Collins, said through grateful sobs: "I never thought I would live to see it, no sir, I never did. I always prayed that justice would be done -- somehow, some way."


The arrest marks the latest attempt by prosecutors in the South to close the books on crimes from the civil rights era that went unpunished.


In recent years, authorities in Mississippi and Alabama won convictions in the 1963 assassination of NAACP activist Medgar Evers; the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, church bombing that killed four black girls; and the 1964 Philadelphia, Mississippi, slayings of the three civil rights workers -- the case that led to the discovery of Moore's and Dee's bodies.


Seale and Edwards are suspected of kidnapping the pair on May 2, 1964, in a Klan crackdown prompted by rumors that black Muslims were planning an armed "insurrection" in rural Franklin County.


For years, Seale's family told reporters that he had died. But in 2005, Thomas Moore and a Canadian documentary filmmaker, David Ridgen, found Seale living a few miles from where the kidnapping took place.


According to FBI interrogators, Edwards admitted he and Seale took the two into the woods for a whipping. Edwards said both men were alive when he left them.


An informant told the FBI that Seale's brother and another Klansman took the unconscious men to the river, lashed their bodies to an engine block and some old railroad tracks, and dumped them from a boat. The other Klansmen and the informant have since died.


The remains of Dee and Moore were discovered two months later near Tallulah, Louisiana, during a search of the eastern Louisiana swamps for three civil rights workers who had disappeared from Philadelphia, Mississippi.


The bodies of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were found in Mississippi a short time later.






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Skydiver death 'was passion crime'


BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- Authorities have opened a murder investigation into the death of a skydiver, saying they believe someone tampered with her parachute in an apparent fight over a lover.


Els Van Doren, 37, fell 13,000 feet to her death last November after her parachute and emergency chute failed to open.


A fellow female skydiver was detained for questioning last week and is the "prime suspect" in the investigation, prosecutor Michel Zegers said Wednesday. No charges have been filed.


Investigators believe Van Doren and the suspect, who belonged to the same parachute club, also dated the same man, a Dutch national identified as "Marcel."


News reports say the suspect killed Van Doren in a jealous rage after learning Van Doren had an affair with her boyfriend.


"I believe we can call this a crime of passion," Zegers said.


A court date is set for Feb. 16 in the eastern city of Tongeren to assess the evidence.


Van Doren had jumped from a plane with three others, including the suspect and the Dutch boyfriend. She crashed to her death at 130 mph near Opglabbeek, a small town in central Belgium.


Police have video footage of the fateful jump -- taken by Van Doren herself as she tried desperately to open her parachute.


At her funeral, some 1,000 people heard her sister deliver a bitter eulogy. "You did all you could during that final jump to save yourself," she was quoted as saying in the Belgian press. "But someone did not want you to live."


Police said someone with extensive skydiving expertise had tampered with Van Doren's parachutes.


The main suspect initially escaped attention during a first round of police questioning. She became a suspect in December when she attempted suicide hours before she was to make a second statement to police.








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Mega-marsupials once roamed Australia


Marsupial lions, kangaroos as tall as trucks and wombats the size of a rhinoceros roamed Australia's outback before being killed off by fires lit by arriving humans, scientists said on Thursday.


The giant animals lived in the arid Nullarbor desert around 400,000 years ago, but died out around 50,000 years ago, relatively shortly after the arrival of human settlers, according to new fossil skeletons found in caves.


Fossilized remains were uncovered almost intact in a series of three deep caves in the center of the Nullarbor desert -- east of the west coast city of Perth -- in October 2002.


"Three subsequent expeditions produced hundreds of fossils so well-preserved that they constitute a veritable "Rosetta Stone for Ice-Age Australia", expedition leader Gavin Prideaux said of the find, detailed in the latest edition of the journal Nature.


The team discovered 69 species of mammals, birds and reptiles, including eight new species of kangaroo, some standing up to 9 feet tall.


Protected from wind and rain, and undisturbed due to their remote location, the remains of the mega-beasts are in near-perfect condition, including the first-ever complete skeleton of a marsupial lion, Thylacoleo carnifex.


"Unwary animals bounding around in the case of kangaroos, or running around in the case of marsupial lions and wombats, fell down these holes, as presumably most were nocturnal. It's very difficult to see a small opening on a flat surface at night," Prideaux said.


Research into the fossils challenges recent claims that Australia's megafauna were killed off by climate change, pointing the finger instead at fires, probably lit by the first human settlers who transformed the fragile landscape.


The lands inhabited by the megafauna once supported flowers, tall trees and shrubs. But isotopes extracted from skeletal enamels show the climate was hot and arid, similar to today.


The plants, the scientists said, were highly sensitive to so-called fire-stick farming, where lands were deliberately cleared by fires to encourage re-growth.


"Australian megafauna could take all that nature could throw at them for half-a-million years, without succumbing," said Richard Roberts, a geochronologist at the University of Wollongong.


"It was only when people arrived that they vanished."








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Obama calls for universal health care within six years


Every American should have health care coverage within six years, Democratic Sen. Barack Obama said Thursday as he set an ambitious goal soon after jumping into the 2008 presidential race.


"The time has come for universal health care in America," Obama said at a conference of Families USA, a health care advocacy group.


"I am absolutely determined that by the end of the first term of the next president, we should have universal health care in this country," the Illinois senator said.


Obama was previewing what is shaping up to be a theme of the 2008 Democratic primary. His chief rivals, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards, also are strong proponents of universal health care and have promised to offer their plans.


Obama said while plans are offered in every campaign season with "much fanfare and promise," they collapse under the weight of Washington politics, leaving citizens to struggle with the skyrocketing costs.


He said it's wrong that 46 million in this country are uninsured when the country spends more than any one else on health care. He said Americans pay $15 billion in taxes to help care for the uninsured.


"We can't afford another disappointing charade in 2008, 2009 and 2010," Obama said. "It's not only tiresome, it's wrong."


Obama's call was an echo of a speech he made last April when he said Democrats "need to cling to the core values that make us Democrats, the belief in universal health care, the belief in universal education, and then we should be agnostic in terms of how to achieve those values."


His argument Thursday not only will be considered through the prism of the presidential campaign, but weighed against rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's ill-fated plan to overhaul the health care insurance system when she was first lady.


Clinton renews call for universal health care


Even after leading that calamitous attempt in 1993, Clinton remains in favor of universal health care and has made it a central theme of her presidential bid.


"One of the goals that I will be presenting ... is health insurance for every child and universal health care for every American," she said at a community health clinic in New York Sunday, the day after entering the 2008 Democratic field. "That's a very major part of my campaign and I want to hear people's ideas about how we can achieve that goal."


On Thursday, she criticized Bush's proposal to make health care more affordable through tax breaks, arguing that it would lead to less funding for hospitals.


Addressing the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Clinton was self-deprecating in describing her own experience in the health care debate and joked that Bush would need some heavy-duty protection as he wades into the fight.


"I welcome his participation in the health care debate. I'm going to send him a suit of armor because I know anybody who puts a foot in the health care debate is gonna need that. I've got the scars and experience to show for it," said the New York senator.


Another candidate, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, also backs universal health care.



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More People Bring Sickness to Work


Sometimes your co-workers make you sick -- literally.


As flu and cold season sets in this winter, employers are increasingly concerned about "presenteeism" -- a phenomenon in which contagiously sick employees show up for work.


According to a November 2006 survey, 56 percent of employers report that presenteeism is a problem in their organization, up from 39 percent two years earlier. In addition to threatening productivity and employee morale, workers spreading illness on the job burden an organization's health-care costs. The survey was conducted by Harris Interactive for CCH, a provider of human resources and employment law information and services.


Don't Underestimate Germs


Most U.S. employees are familiar with the problem, as 98 percent of full-time workers admitted in a similar survey that they have shown up sick for work. That survey -- released in December 2006 -- involved more than 1,000 working adults and was conducted for the Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc.


The most common reasons for the problem -- cited by respondents in both surveys -- were having too much work or fear of missing deadlines, not wanting to use vacation time, or saving paid time off for personal emergencies or unexpected events.


"I hesitate staying home because nobody else will do my work," said Doris of San Francisco. She and other people interviewed for this article did not want to give their full names or employers.


"I have my own office," she said, "which reduces the risk of getting anyone else infected."


Not necessarily, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Germs can survive a long time -- up to two hours or more -- on surfaces like doorknobs, keyboards, phones and tables.


Protection for Employees


To avoid infection, the CDC recommends that you follow some simple precautions:


* Cover your mouth and nose during coughing and sneezing.

* Wash your hands often with soap and warm water.

* Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

* Stay home when you are sick.


Experts also suggest the following tips to battle presenteeism and avoid getting sick:


* If your company offers a flu-vaccination program, consider taking advantage of it.

* If you are a manager, set a good example by staying home when you're sick.

* Encourage fellow employees who have sore throats, fevers, or other flu symptoms to go home.


A Problem With PTO?


Some respondents in the Workforce Institute survey said they were upset with their employers for not actively encouraging sick employees to stay home. Others suggested their employers' time-off policies may subtly foster presenteeism.


"I don't get sick days, I just get paid time off that includes both sick days and vacation," said Taj, a software product manager in San Francisco. "If I didn't have the option to work from home, I'd definitely show up at work so as not to use up my paid time off."


"Employees are craving flexibility from their employers," said Stuart Itkin, chief marketing officer at Kronos, based in Massachusetts. "'Working 9 to 5' is no longer the universal employee anthem. To reduce presenteeism best practice organizations are providing employees with flexibility and rewarding them based on results."








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Links Vs. Content


There's a long standing debate in the search marketing industry about links versus content. Which is better?


On the one hand there's the perspective that if you create great content, people will link to you naturally. That's true, but it's a bit misleading.


On the other hand there are those that say links are the answer. You can get pages to rank well based purely on links. Again, that's entirely possible, but such a statement does not give you all the facts.


When I read or hear people ask whether links or content are better, I liken such a question to asking, "What's better, air or water?". Links and content are both necessary for competitive search marketing efforts. Emphasizing one over the other depends on the situation. Excelling at both is the ideal.


The thing to understand about optimizing for search engines is that there are many ways to solve the visibility or ranking problem. There is no "one right way" to SEO.


There are fundamental concepts that persist as being true, such as the need for a site to be crawler friendly and all content reachable via links, a logical site structure with relevant content and the need for inbound links from relevant sources. What differs over time and as the search engines update ranking methodologies is the execution.


The links attracted by great distribution of quality content creates a very desirable link "footprint" that is rewarded by search engines.


To think this will happen naturally in any reasonable amount of time is shortsighted. To try and create the link footprint automatically is easily detected by search engines as manipulation. Unless you're in the MFA and "churn and burn" business, automated linking solutions have no place in a search marketing program.


If you create great content and no one knows about it to link to it, you're spinning your wheels.


A combination of content as well as social networking, link networking, public relations and gaining editorial visibility as well as viral and individual link solicitations will all work together synergistically. Building a community of consumers of your content as well as relationships with the media in your industry is the distribution network necessary to gain the most link value out of creating great content.







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Determining The Lifetime Value Of Your Customers


"Lifetime value is expressed as the total dollar value of your average customer over the entire period that they're likely to do business with you.." - Bob Serling


Determining a customer's lifetime value can reap big profits as you grow your business. However, if you are like just a bout all small business owners, you most likely have never determined the lifetime value of your customers and are thus forfeiting maximum income potential.


Do you understand what your customer's lifetime value is?


Do you acknowledge why knowledge of your customer's lifetime value is important? If you don't understand the answers to these two questions, read on.


Too many businesses view their customers as simply a single purchase or perhaps a single purchase plus one additional backend purchase rather than understanding the lifetime value of their customers.


"Lifetime value is expressed as the total dollar value of your average customer over the entire period that they're likely to do business with you." - Bob Serling So, how do you derive the lifetime value of a customer?


Finding the lifetime value of your customers takes for granted that you have multiple items to offer to your customers. Backend sale items may be your own or some affiliate product, but you must have a number of follow-on things (products to market after the first sale) to sell so that your customers have a number of chances to buy from you.


If you have been in business for a while, first find out the average length of time a customer stays with you. Next take net profit you have earned over this period of time and divide it by the number of steady customers you have.


For example, let's assume you have been in business for six years. You view your customer list and find out that on average, your customers continue three active years with you before dropping into inactive status. During the past three years your total net profit has been $480,000 and your customer list numbers 1750 active customers.


To derive the lifetime value of each customer, you apply the following formula: Lifetime Value = Net Profit / steady customers or in the case above, it would be Lifetime Value = $480,000/1750 or $274.28


So why is this significant. Because, now you know that each new customer you acquire is worth $274.28 dollars to you over the average customer life of 3 years. Now you can estimate how much you can spend to get a new customer and continue to get a profit.


Now, let's see some examples of how we can use this information.


For the purpose of this example let's consider that you have an internet business with a website designed for selling your products. Let's further consider that you are operating a Pay-Per-Click marketing campaign. You have calculated that one out of every hundred visitors to your site converts into an actual paying customer. You have a keyword that you are bidding 50 cents on. Which means that for every 100 customers you get through that particular ad you will convert one into a customer so to acquire that customer cost you $50.


[Note: If you are operating an offline business, the same principles can be applied to direct response advertising by replacing pay-per-click with a written advertisement that permits you to track your responses from that ad.]


Now let's say that the product you are selling at this website sells for $39.00. Many website owners would assume that the Pay-Per-Click campaign with this keyword was a failure, because, you just spent $50 to benefit a new customer who bought a $39 dollar item. This is an initial loss of $11 for every new customer you gain by this campaign. However, taking the longer view, that $50 dollars actually earns you on average $274.28 for each new customer over a period of three years for a profit of $224.28!


Now, instead of being a failure, your Pay-Per-Click campaign can be regarded as a great success. Spend $50 and get $224.28 back. How often would you like to do that?


Selling to your existing customers is always easier than getting new customers. You already have earned their trust, they have already bought from you and if the product or service they purchased from you was of high quality and met all their expectations or if you over delivered, they will most likely buy from you again. Satisfied customers are repeat customers.


So, if you want to maximize your profits, figure out the lifetime value of your customers and design customer acquisition campaigns that will skyrocket your total net profits rather than campaigns that consider only an initial sale.














Employment Gaps One Step At A Time


You're really doing it. You're going back into the rat race.


After being out of the workforce for a couple of months - or even several years - it's time to jump back in with both feet. But how do you do it?


I Can Do It


That's your mantra for your job search. You're concerned - even intimidated - by all those people out there who have a stellar work-record. But you know what? You have something special and unique that you can bring to an employer. That is what you have to remember throughout this whole process. You have to have confidence in yourself so that others will have confidence in you as well.


By all accounts, job seekers with a picture-perfect employment history do tend to have an advantage over you. Their resumes may be better received than those who are re-entering the workforce or are changing careers. But just because they may have an edge, doesn't mean you can't create your own.


Explain What You've Been Doing


This might seem like a very simple step, but oftentimes job seekers are afraid to address their employment gap in their resume package. However, if you ignore it, then the employer is left to fill in the gaps…usually not to the benefit of the job seeker.


In your cover letter, briefly explain why you've been unemployed. No need to go into great detail, but you should address it. While you're at it, you can tell them what you've been doing with your ‘time off' and how you've been constantly trying to improve yourself and enhance your skills. You've been doing this, right?


A Different Format May Be Necessary


Employers are used to seeing resumes in a certain format. When they see it differently, a red flag might go up. Why? Because it's often a sign of a less-than-perfect work history. That's okay. You can overcome that. Conduct a brainstorming session with yourself and write down all your skills and achievements. That is going to be your biggest challenge. It can be from past work history, what you've done while unemployed, or a combination of both. Then grab a couple of resume samples you can look at for help with formatting.


Interview as a Professional


Even if you're a mom going back to work after several years, you have to leave that persona behind. The minute you speak to someone - via phone or in person - about a job, you are a job seeker in the professional world.


Interviewing is nerve-wracking even for job seekers who go through them every couple of years. It can be downright frightening for those who are returning to the workforce. One of the reasons for this is the lack of practice. Another one is lack of confidence. Sometimes, if you practice, practice, practice, the confidence will follow because you know you can present yourself in a professional manner and answer all those tough interview questions that are bound to be asked.


So for you job seekers going back to work, congratulations! You are embarking on a new chapter of your life. View it is a positive event, prepare yourself and your resume package and you just might find going back to work is an extremely satisfying and rewarding experience.




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Border battle moves to Arizona's sewers


The cities of Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Mexico, are separated by a huge wall.


Many people illegally come into the United States over the wall or through broken portions of it. But the U.S. Border Patrol has gotten increasingly aggressive at patrolling this area, so illegal immigrants are increasingly adopting a subterranean tactic -- they are sneaking through the sewer system that sits under both cities.


This story attracted our attention when we heard that over a recent three month period, more than 1700 illegal immigrants were apprehended in the tunnels that act as sewers and storm drains for the city. They were captured by a specially trained U.S. Border Patrol unit that works within the pitch dark confines of the tunnels.


We spent a day with them recently in the muck and utter darkness of the sprawling sewer system. There is no way to see anything without night vision goggles. For the first 15 minutes of patrolling all was quiet.


We passed smaller tunnels in the sides of the wall with welded grates that are often broken by smugglers and illegal immigrants. Everything seems relatively routine, except for the vermin we hear scampering around. But then, the agents command us not to make a noise.


Watch Border Patrol agents take to the sewers


They hear something a few hundred feet away; on the other side of the line that separates the U.S. from Mexico. They get their weapons ready. Their night vision goggles make it clear that at least six individuals are hovering in the darkness.


They ask in Spanish, "Who is it?" There is no response.


"We are American police," an agent yells. "Slow down."


We hear the mystery people responding, but their soft voices make it hard to understand what they are saying. Minutes go by where we do not move. Down here, there is always concern that smugglers with nothing to lose will fire first, then agents tell me.


And then we see bright lights.


It turns out they are the lights of Mexican authorities, who the Border Patrol called to help out on their side of the tunnel. By then, the six people in question disappeared; not into the United States, but somewhere back in Mexico.


The mission is over. The agents consider it a routine day; we on the other hand, are still struck by the tension in the sewers.


Our clothes soaking wet, we climb through a side tunnel to get out, and exit through a sewer cap on a downtown Nogales, Arizona, street. I am struck by how none of the people passing by seem surprised to see a man climbing out of the sewer.


Within 30 minutes, we see four illegal immigrants arrested above ground in two different incidents after they get by the border fence. Just another normal day in Nogales.








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James Brown's children: Assets mismanaged


COLUMBIA, South Carolina (AP) -- James Brown's six adult children believe the soul singer's valuable estate was mismanaged and want the trustees removed, according to court documents.


An emergency petition filed late Wednesday in Aiken County also claimed that some of Brown's assets are in danger of being "lost or dissipated or stolen."


The irrevocable trust, signed in 2000, is said to contain most of Brown's primary assets, including music rights and his 60-acre Beech Island home.


The trust is separate from Brown's will, which was filed separately last week and divided personal possessions such as clothes, jewelry and automobiles among the children.


Trustee Buddy Dallas, also an attorney for Brown, said everything in the trust was handled "appropriately and properly" when the 73-year-old entertainer died December 25.


"I've been Mr. Brown's trusted friend and counsel for 24 years -- a relationship that was built totally on our trust," Dallas said. "And I never violated that trust for 24 years."


A court hearing was scheduled for February 1.









Skydiver death 'was passion crime'


BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- Authorities have opened a murder investigation into the death of a skydiver, saying they believe someone tampered with her parachute in an apparent fight over a lover.


Els Van Doren, 37, fell 13,000 feet to her death last November after her parachute and emergency chute failed to open.


A fellow female skydiver was detained for questioning last week and is the "prime suspect" in the investigation, prosecutor Michel Zegers said Wednesday. No charges have been filed. (Watch police talk about evidence of sabotage) Video


Investigators believe Van Doren and the suspect, who belonged to the same parachute club, also dated the same man, a Dutch national identified as "Marcel."


News reports say the suspect killed Van Doren in a jealous rage after learning Van Doren had an affair with her boyfriend.


"I believe we can call this a crime of passion," Zegers said.


A court date is set for February 16 in the eastern city of Tongeren to assess the evidence.


Van Doren had jumped from a plane with three others, including the suspect and the Dutch boyfriend. She crashed to her death at 130 mph near Opglabbeek, a small town in central Belgium.


Police have video footage of the fateful jump -- taken by Van Doren herself as she tried desperately to open her parachute.


At her funeral, some 1,000 people heard her sister deliver a bitter eulogy. "You did all you could during that final jump to save yourself," she was quoted as saying in the Belgian press. "But someone did not want you to live."


Police said someone with extensive skydiving expertise had tampered with Van Doren's parachutes.


The main suspect initially escaped attention during a first round of police questioning. She became a suspect in December when she attempted suicide hours before she was to make a second statement to police.









Girls charged with conspiring to kill classmates, Oprah


CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee (AP) -- Six girls at a rural high school were charged with homicide conspiracy after their principal found a list of 300 names and officials discovered online postings suggesting they kill people, authorities said Thursday.


School officials said the list, discovered in a classroom trash can, mostly named students and faculty members but also included Tom Cruise, Oprah Winfrey and the Energizer Bunny.


Sequatchie County High School Principal Tommy Layne said that he initially considered it a joke, but that authorities then found the ninth-graders' online MySpace pages and postings that included the word "kill."


"In general terms, it was like, 'Let's kill these people,' " Dunlap Police Chief Clint Huth said. He declined to provide the specific wording on the posting, which has been removed.


"I am not saying we thwarted a shooting incident or an act of violence," Huth said. "On the other hand, had this gone unchecked, down the road it could have grown into something a whole lot more serious than a list of names."


There was no evidence that the girls had weapons or that an attack had been imminent, Huth said.


The girls, ages 14 and 15, were charged with conspiracy to commit criminal homicide late Wednesday and taken to a juvenile facility. A juvenile court detention hearing was set Friday in Dunlap, about 40 miles northwest of Chattanooga.


Layne said he learned about the list Tuesday when a "young man came in with his grandmother and said his name was on the list."


No club or group was involved, said Layne, who described the girls as friends. The school has more than 600 students.


Sophomore Lakyn Ledford stayed home Thursday after learning that student-athletes were on the list.


"I was very scared. My friends were scared. That's a scary thing. It can really happen," she told WTVC-TV.








Legendary astronaut still finds herself star-struck


(CNN) -- During the last space shuttle mission to the international space station, television cameras panned around the Johnson Space Center's Mission Control and landed on the CAPCOM desk -- the relay station between astronauts on the ground and those circling in orbit.


There sat astronaut Shannon Lucid, diligently taking notes and talking Discovery astronauts through procedure after procedure. At 64, Lucid continues to work as an active member of the NASA astronaut corps and loves every minute of it.


Lucid's career at NASA is the stuff of legends -- she was in the first class of NASA's female astronauts, flew on five shuttle flights and spent six months on Russia's Mir space lab. She's known for her zest for life, steely determination and resourcefulness.


"The very thought of exploring space I just find really exciting. And I figure I'll work as long I'm happy to wake up every day and think 'Wow, I'm so glad to be going to work,'" Lucid said.


Lucid's interest in space began as a young girl with a curiosity about rockets and science fiction.


"I'd read about Robert Goddard [the father of modern rocket propulsion] and his rockets out in New Mexico, and I had read a lot of science fiction. And I thought it would be so cool to go up and explore the universe."


Lucid was 14 years old when the space age began with the launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957. When the U.S. announced it would soon have its own manned space program, it sent her spirits soaring.


She was dumbfounded to find out the first American astronauts were all male.


"I thought, 'Wow, how did this happen?' "


Female astronauts


America of the 1950s and '60s provided few opportunities for women in search of careers -- even fewer for women looking for jobs in science. In 1963, just weeks away from getting her Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from the University of Oklahoma, Lucid recalled talking with her professor about how to get a job.


He stared back her, stunned. "He said to me, 'A job? You plan on working? But you're a girl.' "


"People just wouldn't even talk to you if you were a female. But when the law changed [the Civil Rights Act of 1964], and it said you can't discriminate, then things started to open up," she said.


Lucid found work in academia as a research biochemist.


"It just never occurred to her that there were things women didn't do," said astronaut Ellen Baker. Baker has worked with Lucid for 20 years, flying together on the shuttle Atlantis in 1989.


"She is probably the most positive and optimistic person I know, who basically thinks nothing is impossible and really has proven that in her life," Baker said.


Lucid joined NASA in 1978 as a member of the first astronaut class to accept females. The group of women also included Margaret Seddon, Kathryn Sullivan, Judith Resnik, Sally Ride, and Anna Fisher.


"We came here, we were assigned jobs, and we just worked and tried to do the best that we could," Lucid said, describing her beginnings with NASA.


What they did was prove to NASA and the world that female astronauts could perform the same as male astronauts.


"The difficult part has always been waiting to be assigned to a flight." Her hard work and persistence were rewarded; she completed 4 shuttle flights between 1985 and 1993.



In 1996, NASA was in the early years of its partnership with the Russian space agency. As a way to build on their relationship and learn about living long-term in space, NASA sent astronauts to live and work for months on Russia's orbiting space lab Mir.


The assignment wasn't appealing when compared to the shuttle flights of the day. Astronauts had to learn Russian, leave home and train in Star City, Russia, for a year. Once on Mir, they would spend months conducting science experiments with two non-English speaking cosmonauts.


"I was wondering what it would be like to spend a long period of time in space. I told everybody I wanted to do it, and they couldn't find anybody else who had volunteered. So they said: 'Well OK, go do it,' " Lucid said.


Her training was intense -- and entirely in Russian.


"It was as if you walked around all day with glasses on that were out of focus, and you saw the whole world and it was out of focus, and you were always trying to figure out what it was you were looking at. That's what it felt like," she said of training in a language she didn't speak.



Lucid said her Mir crewmates Yury Usachev, left and Yuri Onufriyenko made all the difference. "They are just wonderful people."


"They were really wonderful to live and work with," she said.


"Yury Usachev, was the flight engineer. He was an engineer by training, and he had a philosophical bent. He liked to talk and philosophize. Yuri Onufriyenko was the commander, a military pilot. He was born in the Ukraine, and he was more quiet, but he liked to make sure everything was done and done right."


Lucid kept busy with science experiments and assisted the crew with multiple spacewalks. In her spare time she read and looked out the big window at the Earth, keeping in contact with her family and friends via a video link up and HAM radio.


Her original stay was supposed to last four months, but a shuttle delay extended her mission by six weeks.


That extra time put her in the record book. She traveled 75.2 million miles in 188 days, four hours. She holds the U.S. single mission space flight endurance record on Mir, has the most flight hours in orbit by any woman in the world and the most flight hours in orbit by any non-Russian.


For her Mir achievement, President Bill Clinton awarded Lucid the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, the only women to receive this award. Russian President Boris Yeltsin awarded her the Order of Friendship Medal, the highest Russian award that can be given to a noncitizen.


"Shannon is a true pioneer in space exploration, and has been an inspiration to me and countless other women in the United States and around the world," said current NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale.


"We are proud to call a person of such outstanding achievement one of our own here at NASA."


For Lucid, the Mir experience was "just awesome." An opportunity she is very grateful to have been given. "I had a really good time thanks to Yuri and Yury."


NASA's test of endurance


Since the Mir mission, Lucid has served in an astronaut support role for shuttle flights.


She worked Mission Control during NASA's last shuttle mission in December and recently traveled with NASA Administrator Michael Griffin to China where they toured facilities where the Chinese are building spacecraft.


Both China and the U.S. have ambitious lunar missions for the next decade: NASA hopes to land people on the moon again by 2020, and China plans to establish an orbiting space lab by 2015.


Lucid fully understands the difficult task ahead for the space agency.


"Going to the moon was an awesome feat. Sometimes when something gets relegated to the history books it loses its wonder, and people forget just what an awesome thing it really was to do that and what an awesome thing it will be to have the ability to do again."


NASA has a good plan laid out and "will go step by step to get there," she said. "This is a long-term project. And we're in this for the long haul."


A project that will no doubt test everyone's endurance. And as long as she's needed she'll be there to help out.


"I just really enjoy working. ... I came from the generation where women didn't have many options. That changed after I got out of school. I still feel in awe that I even have a job. It's like a miracle every day."





Ex-students get 5 years for fatal Seton Hall fire







'Presenteeism' infects businesses

Sick employees showing up to work is persistent and costing $180 billion a year; more HR execs are taking notice.


NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Practically every workplace has one - the employee who comes to the job aching, coughing and sneezing.


So-called "presenteeism," or going to work when sick, is a persistent problem at more than half of U.S. workplaces and costs U.S. business a whopping $180 billion a year, research shows.


Like its more notorious counterpart absenteeism, it takes on growing importance as employers try to keep an eye on productivity and the bottom line, experts say.

What Bush's health plan means to you


"Employers are increasingly concerned about the threat that sick employees pose in the workplace," said Brett Gorovsky, an analyst at CCH, a Riverwoods, Ill.-based provider of business and corporate law information and a division of Wolters Kluwer.


"Presenteeism can take a very real hit on the bottom line, although it is often unrecognized," he said.


Recognition of the issue is growing, however, as CCH research shows 56 percent of human resource executives see presenteeism as a problem. That's up from 39 percent making the same complaint two years ago, Gorovsky said.


Presenteeism costs employers in terms of lowered productivity, prolonged illness by sick workers and the potential spread of illness to colleagues and customers, experts say.


Presenteeism can prove elusive to measure, unlike absenteeism, said Cheryl Koopman, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University and an expert on workplace stress and presenteeism.


Toughing it out


Yet it's something almost everyone not only recognizes but probably has experienced, she said.


"We all think we know somebody who's made us sick, when that person is speaking into the same phone or touching your computer or even turning your doorknob," she said, adding that she too is guilty.


"Canceling a class because I have a cold just doesn't seem justifiable," she said. "I'll keep my distance from the students, I'll try not to cough at them, I think of how I'm going to do it without anybody getting sick."


As often as two-thirds of the time, sick people go to work because they feel they have too much work to do, according to the CCH study.


The second-most common reason is workers believe no one else is available to cover their workload, CCH said.


"With corporate downsizings of the past creating a leaner workforce, employees often feel they have to show up for work, whether it's out of guilt over staying home or concerns over job security," Gorovsky said.


In fact, presenteeism is often encouraged, as employees may be honored for perfect attendance, experts note.


"There's an American ethic to tough it out, rise to the occasion and ignore your minor woes," Koopman said. "It sounds really wimpy to say you're not going to come to work just because you have a cold."


Of course, for plenty of people, going to work sick is not a choice, said Cindia Cameron, organizing director for 9to5.


The advocacy group found 47 percent of the nation's private sector workforce has no paid sick leave.


Some Democrats in Congress have pushed legislation that would require many employers with 15 workers or more to provide a minimum of seven paid sick days a year.








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Woman, 65, saves husband from mountain lion


SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- Wildlife officials on Thursday credited a woman with saving her husband's life by clubbing a mountain lion that attacked him while the couple hiked in a California state park.


Jim and Nell Hamm, who will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary next month, were hiking Wednesday in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, 60 miles south of the Oregon state line, when the lion pounced.


"He didn't scream. It was a different, horrible plea for help, and I turned around, and by then the cat had wrestled Jim to the ground," Nell Hamm said in an interview from the hospital.


Jim Hamm was recovering from a torn scalp, puncture wounds and other injuries.


After the attack, game wardens closed the park and released hounds to track the lion. They later shot and killed two lions found near the trail where the attack happened.


The carcasses were flown to a state forensics lab to determine if either animal had mauled the man.


Although the Hamms are experienced hikers, neither had seen a mountain lion before Jim Hamm was mauled, his wife said.


Nell Hamm said she grabbed a 4-inch-diameter log and beat the animal with it, but it would not release its hold on her husband's head.


"Jim was talking to me all through this, and he said, 'I've got a pen in my pocket and get the pen and jab him in the eye,"' she said.


"So I got the pen and tried to put it in his eye, but it didn't want to go in as easy as I thought it would."


When the pen bent and became useless, Nell Hamm went back to using the log. The lion eventually let go and, with blood on its snout, stood staring at the woman. She screamed and waved the log until the animal walked away.


"She saved his life, there is no doubt about it," said Steve Martarano, a spokesman for the Department of Fish and Game.


Nell Hamm, 65, said she was afraid to leave her dazed, bleeding husband alone, so the couple walked a quarter-mile to a trail head, where she gathered branches to protect them if more lions came around. They waited until a ranger came by and summoned help.


"My concern was to get Jim out of there," she said. "I told him, 'Get up, get up, walk,' and he did."


Jim Hamm, 70, was in fair condition Thursday. He had to have his lips stitched and underwent surgery for other lacerations on his head and body.


He told his wife he still wants to make the trip to New Zealand they planned for their anniversary, she said.


Nell Hamm warned people never to hike in the backcountry alone. Park rangers told the couple if Jim Hamm had been alone, he probably would not have survived.


"We fought harder than we ever have to save his life, and we fought together," she said.




Outlook 2007

The future is now

If the future is upon us, what's ahead? Here is what 10 top leaders and thinkers see on their horizon, from 3-D printing to $100 billion private-equity deals





Go Green, Get Rich

8 technologies to save the world

These futuristic projects promise to make the world greener, while making entrepreneurs some green.






Edging Away From the Abyss



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101 Dumbest Moments in Business

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New home sales tumble in '06

Sales off 17.3% from record 2005 level; biggest drop since 1990, despite stronger than expected December sales.





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UNC congratulates 2,700 prospective freshmen in error





U.S. Virgin Islands: No passport, no problem
























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New recipe for Intel transistors


Intel's Mark Bohr, director of process architecture and innovation, explains during a briefing Thursday why Intel has decided to use new materials to build transistors on chips that will arrive in the second half of this year. The new materials break with 40 years of tradition but are essential to improving chip performance into the future.


Intel plans to use the materials in its Penryn family of chips scheduled for introduction later this year and built with Intel's 45-nanometer manufacturing technology. The company demonstrated systems running on those chips for a group of reporters and analysts.







Intel shows off Penryn chips









Chip companies entering their metal period


The chip industry is changing the recipe for its transistors to continue improving performance for another generation.


For almost 40 years, chipmakers have been building transistor gates--the basic switch in a transistor--out of silicon. But Intel, IBM and Advanced Micro Devices now plan to introduce new materials for transistor gates that significantly cut power leakage while dramatically improving performance, company executives said this week in separate announcements.


Intel plant


Silicon Valley will not have to be renamed, as silicon remains the basic material for the chip and that's not changing anytime soon. However, the gates themselves will now be made out of metal, and a thin layer that sits between the gate and the rest of the transistor--called a gate oxide--will also use a different building block.


"When you've been using silicon dioxide and polysilicon gates for 40 years and make that jump to a different set of materials, and surpass that performance, it's quite an achievement," said Mark Bohr, an Intel senior fellow and director of the company's advanced transistor research.


Intel plans to use the materials in its Penryn family of chips scheduled for introduction later this year and built with Intel's 45-nanometer manufacturing technology. It demonstrated systems running on those chips on Thursday for a group of reporters and analysts.


"This really speaks to the level of maturity that we've now gotten from the process," said Intel CEO Paul Otellini, during a briefing for reporters at Intel's headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif. "When they first described this to me, as a layman, I thought, 'this couldn't possibly work.' And you've seen what they've done," he said, gesturing at a row of servers and desktops running the 45-nanometer Penryn family of chips with the new transistor technology.

"When you've been using silicon dioxide and polysilicon gates for 40 years and make that jump to a different set of materials, and surpass that performance, it's quite an achievement."

--Mark Bohr, Intel senior fellow


IBM and AMD also plan to use metal gates and high-k gate oxides when they are ready to start building chips using 45-nanometer technology in 2008, said Bernie Meyerson, chief technology officer of IBM's chip group. (A material designated as "high-k" means it can hold more electrical charge than other materials.) IBM and AMD have an agreement to collaborate on research into future chipmaking techniques. The two companies also worked on the advance with Toshiba and Sony, IBM's partners on the Cell processor inside the Playstation 3.


"For us, it's an extraordinary time. This is an enormous departure from the previous history," Meyerson said. IBM has chips running in its manufacturing plants using the new transistors, he said.


Transistors operate when electrical current either flows or doesn't flow through the channel of the transistor. So, they are either "on" or "off," the mechanical representation of the 0s and 1s that make up basic computer language. To shut the gate, a voltage is applied and current is prevented from moving through the channel.


Every two years or so, the chip industry finds ways to build smaller transistors, allowing chipmakers to cram more and more transistors onto a single chip. This improves performance and makes sure Intel keeps co-founder Gordon Moore an honest man for another generation of products.


But as companies make smaller transistors, plugging leaks becomes a huge problem. As gate dielectrics get thinner and thinner--currently about five atoms wide--electrical current can leak out, creating a situation in which the transistor isn't really on and isn't really off. Leaky current also creates excess heat and causes all sorts of system problems.


The enormously expensive chipmaking process means that companies tend to stick with materials they know, said Dan Hutcheson, president of VLSI Research. Finding new materials that can control leakage, operate faster than the older materials and endure repeated manufacturing by the millions is quite a challenge.



Switching to a combination of metal gates and high-k dielectrics appears to be the answer to controlling leakage and keeping Moore's Law alive. High-k dielectrics can be made thicker than silicon dioxide dielectrics, decreasing current leakage and giving chip designers another couple of generations in which they can continue to make transistors smaller.


"You've taken what was a layer too thin to scale, and made a layer whose electrical properties are what you need, but the difference is it's vastly thicker," IBM's Meyerson said. "You can then scale this into the future."


But high-k materials can't really be used with conventional silicon gates, Intel's Bohr said. The silicon gate wouldn't be able to switch between states as quickly as usual because of problems in the interaction between the silicon gate and the high-k dielectric. So, Intel identified metals that it can use for both positive and negative transistors to solve that problem and make sure the gates continue to switch very quickly. IBM and AMD will likewise use metal gates with the new dielectrics, Meyerson said.


The exact combination of the metals and the high-k gate dielectric is key, Bohr said. The dielectric is based on the element hafnium, but he declined to specify the exact recipe used to build the new transistors. "Identifying the right combination is a very significant accomplishment, and we're not going to give that away for free," he said.


IBM also declined to comment on the specific nature of its high-k material, but it has published research in the past about using hafnium for this purpose, Meyerson said.


Intel first used the combination of metal gates and high-k dielectrics on the test SRAM (static RAM) chips it built using its 45-nanometer technology, Bohr said. The dielectric must be built using atomic-layer deposition, he said, meaning that a machine must deposit the dielectric one atomic layer--the width of a single atom--at a time.


The companies diverge, however, when it comes to the methods they will use to build these transistors. IBM and AMD plan to use a technique called immersion lithography, in which the lines on the chip are etched while it is immersed in purified water. Intel is sticking with its current techniques, but might consider using immersion lithography for its 32-nanometer chips, Bohr said. Likewise, Intel will continue using its 193-nanometer dry lithography tools, bucking a trend toward immersion lithography pursued by companies like IBM and Advanced Micro Devices.




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Intel, IBM unveil new chip technology

Breakthrough, using new material, will allow processors to become smaller and more powerful.


SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) -- Intel Corp. and IBM have announced one of the biggest advances in transistors in four decades, overcoming a frustrating obstacle by ensuring microchips can get even smaller and more powerful.


The breakthrough, achieved via separate research efforts and announced Friday, involves using an exotic new material to make transistors -- the tiny switches that are the building blocks of microchips.


The technology involves a layer of material that regulates the flow of electricity through transistors.


"At the transistor level, we haven't changed the basic materials since the 1960s. So it's a real big breakthrough," said Dan Hutcheson, head of VLSI Research, an industry consultancy.


"Moore's Law was coming to a grinding halt," he added, referring to the industry maxim laid down by Intel (Charts) co-founder Gordon Moore that the number of transistors on a chip doubles roughly every two years.


The result of Moore's Law has been smaller and faster chips and their spread into a wide array of consumer products that now account for the bulk of the industry's $250 billion in annual sales.


The latest breakthrough means Intel, IBM (Charts) and others can proceed with technology roadmaps that call for the next generation of chips to be made with circuitry as small as 45 nanometers, about 1/2000th the width of a human hair.


Intel said it will use the technology, based on a silvery metal called hafnium, in new processors coming out later this year that the company hopes will give it a leg up on chips from rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (Charts)


"We do expect that those products will deliver higher performance levels than existing products," said Steve Smith, vice president of Intel's digital enterprise group operations. "What we're seeing is excellent double-digit performance gains on media applications."


International Business Machines Corp. expects its technique to debut next year in chips made by its partners, which include AMD and Japan's Toshiba Corp.


Researchers are optimistic the new technology can be used at least through two more technology generations out, when circuitry will be just 22 nanometers.


"We've been doing this for 40 years and we've got to the point where some of these layers you have to make smaller wouldn't scale anymore," said IBM Chief Technologist Bernie Meyerson.


"We are getting down to a stage of technology where people have wondered if you could really ever go there, and we have definitely shown a roadmap down to these unbelievably tiny dimensions," Meyerson said.


The problem with the previous technology is that the layer of silicon-based material is now just 5 atoms thick, meaning lots of electricity leaks out, resulting in wasted power and shorter battery life.


"It's like running two faucets when you only need one. You're actually wasting more water than you're actually using," said Jim McGregor, an analyst with technology market research firm In-Stat.


The benefits of the new technique can be tapped in a number of ways. Transistors can be made smaller, potentially doubling the total number in a given area, their speed can be increased by more than 20 percent, or power leakage can be cut by 80 percent or more.


"Consumers are going towards mobility and power-sensitive solutions. We need to not only make things smaller and more efficient but also use less power," McGregor said.


There are plenty of challenges in keeping Moore's Law on track. For instance, it is becoming harder to make beams of light narrow enough to etch circuitry on chips.


"But this takes out what has been considered the biggest number one roadblock," VLSI's Hutcheson said.







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Jumpers leave workers sleepless in Seattle


SEATTLE, Washington (AP) -- A bridge over Seattle is becoming hazardous to the mental health of the dot-com employees and other office workers below, who keep seeing people jump to their deaths from the span.


Thirty-nine people over the past decade have committed suicide off the 155-foot-high Aurora Bridge -- eight in 2006 alone -- and counselors are regularly brought in to help office workers deal with the shock of seeing the leap or the bloody aftermath.


At least one woman, Sarah Edwards, drives on the left side of the street near her office ever since a body landed on the hood of a co-worker's car.


City and state officials, meanwhile, are adding suicide-prevention signs and telephones in hopes of reducing the death toll.


The "suicide bridge," as the half-mile span has been occasionally called since it was built in 1931, carries as many as 45,000 vehicles a day on one of the main north-south highways through Seattle, passing over a narrow channel connecting Lake Washington and Lake Union.


Some jumpers hit the water; others land on the pavement or other solid ground. Either way, they almost always die.


The neighborhood beneath the bridge used to be docks and warehouses, and the suicides went largely unnoticed. But during the technology boom of the past two decades, it morphed into a trendy area full of office buildings, shops and restaurants, and the bodies began to fall where people could see them.


"They end up in our parking lot," said Katie Scharer, one of Edwards' co-workers at Cutter & Buck, a sportswear company based in the Adobe complex. "Nobody's ever totally used to it."


Grief counselors regularly go to Cutter & Buck, paying a visit as recently as a month ago.


A few weeks ago, officials installed six emergency phones and 18 signs that read, "Suicidal?" and give the number of a 24-hour crisis line in bold yellow type.


"Any time you can interrupt a suicide thought process, you have a good chance of success, at least temporarily," said L.J. Eddy, head of the police hostage negotiation team.


But as for other possible solutions, transportation officials said installing nets or raising the sides of the bridge could interfere with safety inspections -- which are made with a big bucket lowered over the railing -- and could catch the wind, making the span dangerously unstable.


Moreover, any plans would need to go through a special public approval process because the bridge is a national historic landmark.


Seattle's other major bridges -- the Ship Canal Bridge that carries Interstate 5 and the West Seattle Bridge -- see few suicides because they are closed to pedestrians.


The city does not even want to talk about preventing people from walking on the Aurora Bridge, which is a pedestrian link between two densely populated hilltops. But the state has considered moving the pedestrian walkway to an enclosed structure below the span.







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Amnesia victim walked Dallas streets for days


DALLAS, Texas (AP) -- Joe Bieger walked out his front door with his two dogs one morning last fall as a beloved husband, father, grandfather and assistant high school athletic director.


Minutes later, all of that -- indeed, his very identity -- would seemingly be wiped from his brain's hard drive.


For 25 days, he wandered the streets of Dallas and its environs a lost soul, unable to remember his name, what he did for a living, or where he lived, until, finally, a contractor who was building a new house for Bieger and his wife happened to recognize him.


By that point, Bieger had somehow made his way to a suburb about 20 miles from his Dallas home, holes worn in the rubber soles of his canvas shoes. He had lost 25 pounds, and a full white beard covered the normally clean-shaven educator's face.


Bieger, 59, says he was diagnosed afterward as suffering from psychogenic fugue, an extremely rare form of amnesia.


Now reunited with his family and back at work, Bieger agreed to tell his story.


Bieger says he has regained all his memories up to the point he wandered away, and is amazed at the outpouring of support he received from friends, co-workers and the hundreds of volunteers who helped search for him on the streets, at hospitals and in homeless shelters and soup kitchens.


"Everyone believes that God brought me back for a reason, otherwise this might have ended differently," he says. "God wants me here to work with these students."

Jelly packets in pockets


Bieger is under the care of a doctor who specializes in such cases. And his cell phone now includes a GPS tracking device.


But more than three months after the episode, he says he has only vague memories of those days on the streets of Dallas, one of America's most crime-ridden cities.


He recalls being stopped and frisked by police officers, who were looking for a suspect in a holdup at a pizzeria. There was also a smoky bowling alley. He remembers waking up cold on a playground, wearing shorts and a T-shirt with fall temperatures dropping into the 50s. Another time, he says, he awoke under a construction trailer.


He says he cannot recall what he ate to survive. But when he was found, he had jelly packets from a fast-food restaurant in his pockets and half a stale bagel.


Witnesses and police accounts fill in a few other gaps in Bieger's journey. His dogs were found running loose within a few hours of his disappearance. About two weeks later, some homeless people told searchers they had seen a man matching Bieger's description near a Sam's Club store close to his home.


Over the next several days, he apparently crossed busy streets and interstate highways to the Dallas suburb of Plano, several miles north of Dallas. Not long after that, he was spotted at a church carnival in Plano.




Gwen Brooks, executive administrator at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, says the man claimed he had lost his keys and asked if he could search the bushes.


"He didn't look out of the ordinary at that time," says Brooks, adding that everyone assumed he was part of a Habitat for Humanity construction crew working nearby.


Bieger's ordeal finally drew to a close on October 30, in the suburb of Carrollton.


Mike Phillips, a construction foreman, spotted a man wandering close to the site where Bieger was having a new home built. Phillips thought the man might be Bieger, but he couldn't be sure.


"Joe, Joe!" Phillips yelled, and then asked the man if he knew his name.


Bieger replied that his name must be Joe.


Did he know his last name? Phillips asked.


"No, I don't guess I do," Bieger said.


As the two men spoke, memories slowly came back, Bieger says. It took about two hours to come out of the fog.


"It wasn't instantaneous," Bieger says. "Over some period of time I began to realize who I was."


In September, before he wandered off, he had experienced two episodes of amnesia that lasted only a few hours, and so his wife of 37 years, Patricia, had an idea of what happened to him after he vanished. She says that during the ordeal, she always believed her husband was alive.


Nevertheless, "there were days when I just wanted to give up," she says. The Sunday before he was found was her lowest point. "I said, `Lord, I can't do this anymore. You just have to send my husband home,"' she says.


Cause is a mystery


Dana Ames, director of a search team that looked for Bieger, says: "We knew that his intellect should still be intact, so his survival skills were going to kick in and it was a matter of time to find him."


No one seems to know exactly how many others are afflicted with psychogenic fugues, or what the precise underlying causes are.


Victims may lose all memory of themselves, family or friends, but otherwise seem to function normally and can perform routine tasks. Many experience an urge to move constantly from place to place. Most victims eventually regain their memories, though it can take days and sometimes years.


"It's among the rarest of the dissociative disorders," says Dr. David Spiegel, associate chairman of psychiatry at Stanford University.


Bieger's return to the Highlands School, a 400-student Roman Catholic institution, was marked by a student assembly and tears of joy.


"Just to see him and see that he was OK, the children were euphoric," says Denise Funke, a coordinator at the school.







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A First Look at Windows Vista




Back in the day, your operating system was a big deal. It was who you were. Mac vs. Windows was like Catholic vs. Protestant, or Republican vs. Democrat, and about as rational. Now it's somewhere down around Coke vs. Pepsi. Microsoft is still winning the battles — the iPod "halo effect" notwithstanding, Apple is hovering at about a 5% market share — but no one's getting worked up about the war. So many of the file-compatibility issues have been solved, and so much computing goes on in the browser anyway. So who cares?


That's one reason for the near-total non-excitement surrounding the launch of Windows Vista, the first new version in five years of the software that runs hundreds of millions of PCs. The other reason is that Vista is ... pretty good. It's not a disgrace, and it's not a masterpiece. It's not worth buying a new machine for Vista, and there's no reason to switch to it if you use a Mac, but it gets the job done. Not the stuff of which great headlines are made.


And now that I've drained all the interest out of this review, let's go to the features:


1. Vista looks pretty. The edges of the windows are now transparent, like little glass microscope slides. Vista — blatantly following the trend set by Apple — represents data as translucent and jewel-like and faintly glowing. Subtle shadows, gleams and animations enhance the illusion. It's just cosmetic stuff, but given how much time one spends there, it's nice when one's desktop doesn't feel like a soul-leaching cubicle. (To assuage the Mac faithful: yes, many of Vista's features are pilfered directly from Mac OS X, and in general Apple has shown itself to be far more efficient and innovative in the operating systems market. Done.)


2. Vista makes sense, more or less. Much of the challenge of creating a good operating system is design, not technology. Which means figuring out a visually logical way for users to get at all their information easily. Vista is creeping in that direction, with improved search functions and nicely built-in music and photo organizers — you can actually "tag" photos with keywords, which is very handy. Useful widgets like clocks and photo albums cluster happily at the edge of the screen like attentive waiters, happy to serve you.


What truly makes a great user interface is an ineffable internal logic, a set of consistent internal rules that one absorbs without their having to be stated (like in a manual, for example), and I don't see that quite yet in Vista. You don't always instinctively know where the back button will be, or the "close this window" button. If your desktop is overcrowded with windows, you can hit an icon that will line them all up for you, tilted at an angle, so you can pluck out the one that you need. Nice — but at the same time, it breaks with the visual metaphor of a flat desktop.


3. Vista is secure, or at least it's securer. If that's a word. Being a near-monopoly makes Windows a magnet for phishers, viruses, adware and other malware writers. So Microsoft has worked on that, mostly under the hood. I think what most impressed me were the built-in parental controls: you can decide when your kids will use Vista, what websites they can go to, what applications they can run, whom they can IM with, and so on. And if they try to break the controls, Vista will rat them out.


4. Vista is expensive and a bit of a resource-hog. There are two versions targeted at home users : Basic ($199, which is about what OS X costs) and Premium ($239). (Note that Basic doesn't give you that nice pretty translucent look, which is Vista's most immediately appealing feature.) Most people won't buy Vista at retail, but you'll feel the burn somewhere in there whenever you buy your next computer. For the Premium edition Microsoft recommends a 1Ghz processor and 1GB of RAM, as well as a respectable graphics setup, but I think you'll need quite a bit more power to get the full, smooth experience. The laptop Microsoft loaned me to test Vista had 2Ghz and 2GB, so be careful not to buy more Windows than you can run.


To sum up: Vista is a perfectly respectable new iteration of Windows. They've even, finally, come up with a decent way to make laptops sleep and wake up again, which XP was never very good at. The fact that it took Microsoft over five years and $6 billion dollars to create Vista is — and I mean this quite seriously — an embarrassment to the good name of American innovation, but it's perfectly fine.


Two closing thoughts. One, there's a lot of functionality built into Vista — look at the photo editor, which is integrated with the operating system and which works like a stripped-down version of the already-stripped-down Photoshop Elements. Isn't that the kind of anti-competitive integration that got Microsoft into anti-trust court last time around? (Not that they ever left: they're facing hundred-million Euro fines in Europe as we speak.)


And two, Vista's real test won't be some reviewer checking off features in his lonely office. It will come when millions of Vista users make their way out into the deep waters of the greater Internet ecology, where legions of Internet-based criminals will start banging away on its security features, looking for a way to fool it, break it or hijack it. Translucent borders are all well and good, but out there in the jungle, no one cares how pretty you are.






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How the very rich invest their wealth

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Wii news for gamers













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Revealed: How eBay sellers fix auctions



Recorded excerpts of meetings with Paraskevaides:


CUSTOMERS of the internet auction site eBay are being defrauded by unscrupulous dealers who secretly bid up the price of items on sale to boost profits.


An investigation by The Sunday Times has indicated that the practice of artificially driving up prices — known as shill bidding — is widespread across the site.


Last week one of the UK’s biggest eBay sellers admitted in a taped conversation with an undercover reporter that he was prepared to use business associates to bid on his goods for him.


Our inquiries found evidence that a number of businesses — ranging from overseas property agencies to car dealerships — have placed bids on their own items using fake identities.


The cases raise questions about whether eBay, the world’s biggest auction site, is doing enough to protect consumers.


Shill bidding is against eBay rules and is illegal under the 2006 Fraud Act. However, the resulting higher prices on the site boost the value of eBay’s share of the sales.


Last November eBay changed its rules to conceal bidders’ identity — making it even more difficult for customers to see whether sellers are bidding on their own lots. Since its launch seven years ago, eBay’s UK website has attracted more than 15m customers. It sells more than 10m items at any given time.


One of the beneficiaries of the boom is Eftis Paraskevaides, a former gynaecologist, from Cambridgeshire. He has become a “Titanium PowerSeller” — one of eBay’s handful of top earners — selling more than £1.4m worth of antiquities a year on the site.


In a conversation with an undercover reporter last week, Paraskevaides claimed shill bidding was commonplace on eBay.


When the reporter asked whether he arranged for associates to bid on his own items, he replied: “Well, if I put something really expensive (up for sale) and I was concerned that it was going for nothing, I would phone a friend of mine, even a client of mine who buys from me, and say: For Christ’s sake, I sell you 100 quids’ worth of items a week . . . just put two grand on it, will you?” The reporter was posing as a seller of valuable antiquities. He inquired whether Paraskevaides could sell them on eBay and guarantee a minimum price.


He replied: “Leave it to me (laughs). Don’t call it shill bidding. Then I won’t be accused of shill bidding. Yes. I mean — I’ve got people.


“I’ve got some of my big clients who buy big items off me, I look after them. So I can get on the phone to America and say: Mr XXXX . . . you’re a multi- millionaire. You buy a hundred grand’s worth off me a year. Do me a favour would you. Just put — yeah. Exactly.”


He claimed eBay would never follow up a complaint against him for shill bidding because he generated about £15,000 a month in commission for the company. “Are they going to ban somebody who’s making them the best part of 15 grand a month? No,” he said.


After being told that he had been talking to an undercover reporter, Paraskevaides denied that he had ever shill bidded on eBay and claimed he was talking about clients who sometimes bid on expensive items if they wished to protect the price.


However The Sunday Times discovered businesses that have been bidding on their own items. One leading dealer from London admitted last week that that he had shill bidded in the past.


A spokesman for eBay said he expected that the company would now launch an investigation into Paraskevaides. Anyone caught shill bidding risks a permanent ban.


The spokesman added: “The change to the way bidder IDs are shown has already resulted in a safer environment for users.”




Watching Whether Companies DoTheRightThing.com


Do The Right Thing Site: http://dotherightthing.com/

Do The Right Thing <the blog> http://blog.dotherightthing.com/





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Google TV - An Elaborate Hoax







My Life As An RSS Junkie


My name is Kirk Biglione and I have a problem. I’m addicted to RSS.


Like most addictions my problem started as innocent experimentation. I began dabbling in RSS years ago when it was still a relatively new technology. I told myself that it was a better way to keep up with the news. I rationalized that I’d save hours every day by using RSS to take a more focused approach to online reading and research. A few minutes with my feed reader was supposed to be like an hour or more of surfing the hundreds of the websites that I try to keep up with on a regular basis.


Well, that’s the way it was supposed to be. How was I to know that RSS would turn into the pervasive and addictive social menace that it’s become today?


In retrospect, I probably should have known better. I have a history of information addiction. Way back in the mid-80’s (pre-web, of course) I was program director at KFSR. At some point we decided it would be a good idea to subscribe to a wire service. One day some nice men came and installed a UPI wire machine in our office. This magic box was a sort of souped up a dot-matrix printer connected to some kind of dish mounted on the roof. The machine received current news updates from the sky and printed them out in real-time. Suddenly I had access to an unlimited supply of current news with no intermediary.


It wasn’t long before I started making excuses to go to the KFSR office after-hours and on the weekends. I’d linger over the wire machine waiting for updates. What if something interesting came in? I’d be the first person to know … unless the ink ran out or the paper jammed.


From this story you can probably tell that I’m not the sort of person who should have access to a feed reader. At least not if I hope to be a productive member of society.


Things really started going down hill around the time I discovered FeedDemon. Damn that Nick Bradbury! With FeedDemon I was tracking nearly a thousand feeds a day. I’d focus on the topics I was most interested in by setting up watch lists. At first I thought that FeedDemon was helping me to effectively manage my information addiction. On the contrary, the problem was actually getting worse. I eventually realized that the more blogs I read, the more blogs I subscribed to. Each day I’d add a dozen new feeds to FeedDemon. It was a vicious circle. My feed reading began taking up larger chunks of my day.


At some point I came to my senses and realized that I had a serious problem. I had become overwhelmed by the sheer number of feeds that I’d subscribed to. That’s when I stopped. I went cold turkey. This happened around the time I completed my switch from Windows to Mac. My decision to quit was, in part, supported by the fact that I had a hard time finding a Mac-based feed reader that I liked. I tried nearly every available aggregator and none of them lived up to FeedDemon. I know many of you think highly of Net Newswire, but it just doesn’t feel right to me.


Unfortunately my experiment with RSS abstinence didn’t last long. It’s almost impossible to be a functional RSS addict in our society. RSS has become so pervasive there’s simply no way to escape it. Everywhere I look I see those damn orange icons.


My return to RSS indulgence started innocently enough. At first I plugged a few of my favorite feeds into MyYahoo. Eventually I found myself subscribing to feeds in Firefox. “These are live bookmarks” I told myself. “Entirely different concept”. But deep down inside I knew that they were the same old thing and that my RSS addiction was resurfacing.


As my collection of live bookmarks grew, I began grouping them in folders, and then sub-folders. At some point they became so deeply nested they were almost impossible to use, and I found myself out on the street again, desperately looking for a reliable feed reader to give me the full-featured RSS fix I can’t live without.


I finally turned to Shrook. I’d experimented with it briefly in the early days of my transition to OS X. I know some Shrook detractors, but for me it comes the closest to replicating what I loved about FeedDemon. I like Shrook’s Smart Groups, as well as the ability to synchronize my reading activity between multiple computers. I can start reading feeds on my desktop, then switch to my laptop later in the day and Shrook will mark the feeds I’ve already read.


Lately I’ve been hearing good things about Google Reader. As a Google beta application it’s under active development and improving rapidly. I try it out periodically to see if it meets my needs, and I have to admit it’s getting pretty close. At some point it may become my feed reader of choice. Fortunately when that day comes I know that I can easily transfer all of my feeds from Shrook by exporting them to an OPML file and then importing them into Google Reader.


In the meantime I’m trying my best to manage my problem while maintaining a relatively normal and active life. Some days are harder than others (especially when there’s a Stevenote). To be honest, I’m not sure there’s a chance I’ll ever fully recover. When all is said and done I sort of like being an RSS junkie.





Medialoper blog






links for 2007-01-28




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Plucky duck survives another brush with death


TALLAHASSEE, Florida (AP) -- Perky is one tough bird.


The ring-neck duck survived being shot and spending two days in a hunter's refrigerator -- and now she's had a close brush with death on a veterinarian's operating table.


The one-pound female duck stopped breathing Saturday during surgery to repair gunshot damage to one wing, said Noni Beck of the Goose Creek Wildlife Sanctuary.


Veterinarian David Hale revived the bird after several tense moments by performing CPR.


"I started crying, 'She's alive!"' Beck said.


Perky entered the headlines last week after a hunter's wife opened her refrigerator door and the should've-been-dead duck lifted its head and looked at her. The bird had been in the fridge for two days since being shot and presumed killed January 15.


Perky is recovering with a pin installed in the fractured wing, and probably will not have more surgery because of her sensitivity to anesthesia, Hale said.




Israel's use of cluster bombs from U.S. examined










Tiny horse is a big help to blind owner


BETHLEHEM, New York (AP) -- Panda is everything you would want in a pet and guide animal for the blind -- protective, alert, house-trained, and she loves to play fetch. And at 29 inches tall and 120 pounds, she's a darn small horse.


Panda, named for her black-and-white coat, is a miniature guide horse that has helped 58-year-old Ann Edie navigate the world of city streets and country lanes since 2003.


"Panda loves her work," said Edie, a special education teacher. "She knows what she's supposed to do. When I pick up the harness, I get the feeling from her of, 'I'm ready for anything. Let's go have fun."'


When Edie's chocolate Labrador helper Bailey died after 10 years on the job, she tried out two other dogs before learning about guide horses in 2000.


Although she appreciates the attributes that dogs bring to guide work, Edie said she is sold on the mini-horses.


"I've found that horse intelligence lends itself well to guide work," she said.


Edie visited the Guide Horse Foundation in Kitrell, North Carolina, where the animals are trained, and began a search that led her to Panda, who was 6 months old.


Edie, who owns other horses, commissioned her riding coach, Alexandra Kurland of Delmar, New York, to train Panda using a method of positive reinforcement.


"It creates a very enthusiastic, eager-to-work-for-you animal," Kurland said. "You are giving them things they actively want to work for and you aren't poisoning the experience with corrections."


Kurland taught Panda regular obedience and then guide training, showing the horse what would happen if she led her blind companion astray. For instance, if there was a trash can lying on a sidewalk, Kurland would show Panda how much room she would need.


Because they are herd animals, they can predict where a moving object is heading and help adjust, said Edie.


At home, where she's not working, Panda snuggles, naps on a carpet or plays with toys. If she needs to go out, she rings a small bell that hangs from a doorknob.


The partnership with Panda is an experiment, Edie said, but it's going well and, with an expected life span of 30 to 40 years, Panda should be around for quite a while.








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Are Prisons Driving Prisoners Mad?


There's no such thing as a good day for a prisoner at the highest level of security within the Ohio State Penitentiary, a 504-bed supermax prison in Youngstown, Ohio. Every inmate lives alone in a 7-ft. by 14-ft. cell that resembles nothing so much as a large, concrete closet, equipped with a sink, a toilet, a desk and a molded stool and sleep platform covered by a thin mattress. The solid metal door is outfitted with strips around the sides and bottom, muffling conversation with inmates in adjacent cells. Three times a day, a tray of food is delivered and is eaten alone. The prisoner may spend 23 hours a day in lockdown, emerging to exercise once a day. The lights in the cell never go off, although they may be dimmed a bit at night.


If there's not much to like about the conditions in Youngstown, there's not much to like about the people confined there either. These are the men corrections folks like to call "the worst of the worst," the kind of felons who dealt drugs or led gangs or killed on the outside and continued to do so in prison. For them, maximum security would not be enough--only supermax would do. And say what you will about the draconian environment, it keeps them under control.


But that level of control may be counterproductive. It's possible that the very steps we're taking to keep society safe and such prisoners in check are achieving just the opposite. The U.S. holds about 2 million people under lock and key, and 20,000 of them are confined in the 31 supermaxes operated by the states and the Federal Government. That may represent only 1% of the inmate population, but it's a volatile 1%. Push any punishment too far and mental breakdown--or at least a claim of mental breakdown--is sure to follow. When that happens, a constitutional challenge can't be far behind.


In December, officials in Texas and California conceded that the suicide rates in their prisons are on the rise, with the majority occurring among inmates in solitary. This prompted an outcry against both systems. Lawyers for accused terrorist facilitator Jose Padilla challenged his fitness last month to stand trial, arguing that his 312 years in solitary lockdown at a South Carolina military brig have rendered him unable to assist in his own defense. Around the same time, convicted bomber Eric Rudolph began corresponding with a reporter for a Colorado newspaper, describing his days in his 7-ft. by 12-ft. cell as a form of confinement "designed to inflict as much misery and pain as constitutionally permissible."


But is it constitutionally permissible? And even if it is, is this the kind of open-ended mental-health experiment the government should be running? "We have to ask ourselves why we're doing this," says psychiatrist Stuart Grassian, a former faculty member at the Harvard Medical School and a consultant in criminal cases. "These aren't a bunch of cold, controlled James Cagneys. We're taking criminals who are already unstable and driving them crazy."


The origin of solitary confinement in the U.S. is actually benign. It was the Philadelphia Quakers of the 19th century who dreamed up the idea, establishing a program at the city's Walnut Street prison under which inmates were housed in isolation in the hope of providing them with an opportunity for quiet contemplation during which they would develop insight into their crimes. That's not what has happened.


By the 1830s, evidence began to accumulate that the extended solitude was leading to emotional disintegration, certainly in higher numbers than in communal prisons. In 1890 the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in, deploring solitary confinement for the "semi-fatuous condition" in which it left prisoners. The case was narrow enough that its effect was merely to overturn a single law in a single state, but the court's distaste for the idea of solitary was clear. "The justices saw it as a form of what some people now call no-touch torture," says Alfred W. McCoy, a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and author of the book A Question of Torture. "It sends prisoners in one of two directions: catatonia or rage."


Modern science has confirmed this, with electroencephalograms showing that after a few days in solitary, prisoners' brain waves shift toward a pattern characteristic of stupor and delirium. When sensory deprivation is added--as when Padilla was seen being led from his cell wearing a blindfold and sound-deadening earphones--the breakdown is even worse. As long ago as 1952, studies at Montreal's McGill University showed that when researchers eliminate sight, sound and, with the use of padded gloves, tactile stimulation, subjects can descend into a hallucinatory state in as little as 48 hours.


All of this is providing legal traction for constitutional lawyers. The most obvious point of attack is the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. One suit involving prisoners in a Wisconsin supermax has led to rulings requiring that mentally ill inmates be kept out of such facilities. The state is challenging the decisions, and arguments will be heard in February, but at least six other states have fought similar suits, and all of them have failed. "So far, the prisoners are batting a thousand on the issue of mentally ill inmates," says David Fathi, a senior staff counsel with the A.C.L.U.


Another approach--one that's a bit of a constitutional bank shot--is to rely on the 14th Amendment's requirement of a due-process hearing before the state denies an inmate a "liberty interest," something courts define as a reasonable expectation of a freedom or right. People confined to prison have few liberty interests left and thus have little ground to challenge assignment to a strict level of security. Confinement to supermax, however, may be so qualitatively different that it does require a hearing. That's the argument Ohio inmates made in 2005, and that's the argument a unanimous Supreme Court bought, with Justice Anthony Kennedy writing that supermax isolation imposes such an "atypical and significant hardship" that prisoners must have a formal opportunity to make their case against the assignment before prison officials decide.


The eventual ruling on Padilla's fitness could liberalize things further, and similar suits are sure to follow. Even so, no one thinks the supermax system is going away soon. For all the debate the prisons generate, it may not take much to make them more palatable to civil libertarians. TVs or radios, reading material and clocks, as well as a bit of natural lighting--which provides critical time-of-day orientation--would help stabilize inmates. So would human contact with guards or other prisoners.


"Just how sterile do you have to make that cell?" asks retired prison expert Chase Riveland, who spent his career as an official in the Colorado, Wisconsin and Washington prison systems.


What's more, inmates aren't the only ones hurt by extreme incarceration. People like Padilla or the Guantánamo Bay detainees are, in theory, resources for information about the extremist groups with which they are putatively associated. "To an overwhelming degree, such people are not threats behind bars. They're opportunities," says Grassian. "We hurt ourselves by destroying their sanity." Closer to home, prisoners serving sentences for more mundane crimes do sometimes get released. Demolish their psyches while they're in prison, and nobody's safer when they get out.


Part of the reason we build prisons at all has always been the retributive urge. Those who do very bad things while they walk among us should lead very hard lives after they have been removed. That makes a lot of emotional sense. Whether it always makes practical sense is something else entirely.







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U.S. Government Seizes Yahoo User Records


The United States Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) department issued a warrant last week for a particular user's information in connection with a series of money laundering scams.


Imagine perusing your inbox to find an e-mail message from an African dignitary entitled, "Job Opportunity For You" and the subsequent excitement that is sure to follow.


The offer seems too good to be true. All one has to do is open these packages, cash the checks, keep 10% for themselves and send the next set of documents along? It's brilliant, the domestic work opportunity that retirees and stay at home moms have been waiting for their entire lives!


It's also money laundering, which is very much a felony.


These types of scams are no strangers to inboxes across the Internet. It seems like every few months there's a new scam targeted toward the unsuspecting virtual community, usually involving an African country and the exchange of money.


The ICE, which is the largest division of the Department of Homeland Security, is taking an aggressive posture in cracking down on these scams. Steve Bryant at Google Watch reports on the ICE's seizure of a user's data that is allegedly linked with these illegal transactions:


The search warrant was served on January 25th, and Yahoo complied by sending a CD with the affected user's information to ICE. The warrant requested all emails, histories, buddy lists, profiles, subscriber information, personal info including contact address and numbers, and detailed billing records and connection logs.


In this case, the ICE was completely within the bounds of its authority to demand the disclosure of the user's information without his or her consent.


For the purposes of criminal investigation, I doubt that anyone would challenge the government's intentions in seizing such sensitive information from Yahoo. Probable cause was clearly established, and the need for the data was clearly eminent.


The ease of obtaining such data, however, leaves me wondering if the government will try to start tracking this type of user data without probable cause, and whether or not such a practice would be considered a violation of the fourth amendment.


Another question for another day, I suppose.



Department of Homeland Security seizes Yahoo records while investigating money laundering scam






Wellsphere Launches Wellness 2.0



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Would You Trust Your Social Security Number to a Search Engine?










Web Development On Your Own Terms


The early days of web development saw a relatively small handful of 'experts' and had them seeking to find ways to make a website do what their client wanted them to do.


There was very little standardized methods to make website development an easy process and each site may have been designed with customized programming that may have been totally incompatible with any other site.


When the number of programmers raised from a few hundred to more than 30,000 it became much clearer that there needed to be some cohesive way to simplify things.


This process led to new partnerships and development applications that have become the standards of the day.


As new developments are unveiled they are field tested by programmers and implemented once it is clear that the methodology is workable.


In many cases these new development programs can be refined and repackaged into a form based method that allows non-tech customers to develop a website that is as functional as any other site and at a fraction of the cost.


Certainly this was not possible in 1995, but through the trial and error of more than ten years the best features have risen to the top and the have proven very useful to both programmers as well as online business.


With so many programs available to developers today it is becoming much easier to upgrade features and enhance website productivity.


Many programmers are very interested in making site developments self-directed by their customers.


The reason is simply the sheer numbers of new sites that are being developed. If at least a portion of the site can be managed by the customer there are two benefits, 1) less need for one on one development for the programmer and, 2) more direct control by the website owner.


When the business owner has the capability of managing the functions of the website the faster the clarity of vision can be realized.


This is largely viewed as one of the predominate features of self-directed programming on website developments.


The cost effective nature of self-directed site development has caused many to wonder why they didn't look into this solution before.


Many new start-up ecommerce sites have discovered this method to be the quickest way to provide their potential customers with the full benefit of their services.


The future of web development has a lot to do with the expectations of website owners and the demands of the consuming public.


It is a safe assumption that as new technologies are required there will be programmers who can assist in its development and then work to refine the function so that ecommerce can implement the technology in a self-directed user-friendly format.






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Does Your Designer Do SEO?, by Mike Belasco


Lee Odden has an brought an interesting issue to light in one of his latest blog posts.


The issue at hand is client/web designer/SEO relations and responsibilities. I wanted to expand on Lee's topic for a moment and discuss a few of my recent relationships with clients and their web designers.


Client #1 - a local business


Client #1 needed to get a website designed for her business. Her goals were to get traffic off the internet to give her a call regarding the services she offered. The client found a designer who claimed the website he designed would be "optimized" and search engine friendly. With no reason not to believe what the designer promised, the client proceeded with the web site design project and is now upset at the lack of rankings in the search engines.


Client #1 came to me with this website that had been designed for a cost of around $2000. I would say normally for this type/size of project the design fee was fair. However, to help this client out, I must essentially redesign parts (read most) of her website to get it to a point where I can start optimizing. The design itself looks pretty good, however heavy use of images and the limited/somewhat weak information architecture will make it difficult for me to optimize(on-page) without redesigning the site significantly.


I now have to tell the client in order to get the best results, the website she not only just paid for but put time into as well, must be restructured to succeed in the search engines. This is a very hard part of my job. Obviously the client is upset with her designer and has to consider whether she has any more budget to throw into this project to make it a success.


Client #2 - brick and mortar retailer


Client #2 runs a retail business in town. He just finished with a design company building a website and e-commerce store. Unfortunately, the design company used off-the-shelf shopping cart software that can't be customized to utilize some SEO tactics I feel are important for the website.


I met this client at a social function and when I told him what I do for living he said "I'll need to call you next after the official site launch." Of course I smiled and nodded and said "sounds good." It was too late to intervene. Client #2's website would be launching in the next few days. This client knew about SEO, but thought it would be a better "next step" than to consider SEO in the beginning stages of the website design project.


I have a couple more examples that I will share in another blog post soon. For now I think is important to note that my point is SEO education for web designers is a must. They don't need to do the SEO work, or even understand some of the more technical concepts, however they need to be SEO aware. The designers that add "search engine friendly" or "search engine submissions" to their design proposals without fully understanding the issues, should seek professional SEO help. In most cases these designers are misleading their clients (even if not intentionally) which is no way to run a business. At the same time you could argue "buyer beware" still applies for clients.


So for all you designers out there, get a grip on what SEO services you are offering and promising your clients. Go out and do a little reading and seek help where you need it. Of course if you are a designer and are reading this post, we probably don't need to worry about your SEO education.







Beaconvertising And New Social Media Phones










Search Engine Optimization For Newbies


Explaining search engine optimization to newbies is something that anyone with sales or account support responsibilities at a search marketing or interactive agency is going to have to get good at.


I used to spend a lot of time using the notion of "organic" and the whole "making fertile ground, planting seeds, nurturing, cultivating, watering, air, sun, bear fruit" kind of analogy but it gets old using the same description all the time.


The best way to explain the notion of optimizing web sites for search engines can vary depending on the starting point. For people stuck in 1999 SEO land, where it's all about meta tags, submissions and SEO as a "one time" event, an explanation of the need for fresh, themed content and an ongoing pursuit of inbound links can become the focus.


On the other hand, if the company has been through 3 or 4 SEO overly aggressive SEO consultants, the situation may warrant some bad news about all the reciprocal links, third rate directory listings and keyword stuffed doorway pages that need to be cleaned up or dealt with before a reinclusion request can be filed.


The thing is, many of the companies that think they need SEO are in dire need of other process improvements first, such as a well defined conversion process, tracking and analytics. Sending a ton of qualified traffic to a site through relevant visibility on the major search engines, news search, blog search, social media and high profile links isn't going to do you much good if there's no accountability between the marketing and sales departments.


Many companies think they're getting results from their online marketing, but do they REALLY know? In many cases, they don't and need to spend some time on process and interdepartmental communication right along with their search marketing.


Search engines aren't the only source of quality traffic either. The art and science of optimization can be extended to any document or file that can get crawled, indexed and ranked. Add to that the idea of social media and the effects of personalized search and explaining the variety of ways to optimize can become information overload.


The moniker, "search engine optimization" is a bit of a misnomer, since you're not optimizing seach engines, you're optimizing FOR search engines. SEO is fundamentally a set of methodologies that make it easier for search engines to find, include, categorize and rank your web content. That's the starting point.


Because so many companies are in dire need of improvements with other matters related to marketing and business processes, many search marketing agencies that specialize in SEO provide a lot more than just keywords and links. That means the definition of what SEO "is", means more as well.


So rather than spending a lot of time explaining algorithms, ranking and conversion analysis to someone who is very new to the idea of SEO, another explanation might have more to do with business marketing optimization. Or as an upcoming article I'm writing is titled, "Optimize Your Business for Search".


This is a holistic approach to optimization that can affect a company from branding and communication to public relations, direct marketing and online marketing. For example, something as fundamental as including keyword research into corporate wide messaging can create many opportunities for search visibility as part of an ongoing process rather than individual "optimization" events.


How do you explain search engine optimization to newbies? Have you found clever analogies or metaphors?







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New Orleans mayor: Where is the promised money?



Agency: Nuclear plants secure enough if attacked by air



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Which companies were on the most Fortune, Business 2.0 and FSB lists - including the FORTUNE 500, Fastest-Growing and Best Companies to Work For - this year? Here are the top 10, by number of list appearances and Fortune 500 rank.




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WWII vet, 84, claims $254M lottery prize



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Bush nominee: New actions needed in Iraq



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Lawmakers take aim at sex offenders on Internet


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday proposed requiring sex offenders to register their e-mail and instant messaging addresses with law enforcement authorities in a bid to protect children using popular social Internet sites like MySpace.


The legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives also would require the Justice Department to develop a system that would allow commercial social networking Web sites to check members' addresses against individuals listed in the National Sex Offender Registry.


Violators who fail to comply with registering their online communication identities would face up to 10 years in prison under the bill. If the offender was on supervised release from prison, the individual's probation would be revoked.


The measure would also make it a crime for anyone over the age of 18 to misrepresent their age for the purpose of luring a minor over the Internet for illegal sexual conduct.


The move comes as MySpace, owned by News Corp., has boosted efforts to block convicted sex predators from the site. Earlier this month, the families of five girls abducted by adults they met on MySpace sued the company for negligence.


"Many children who access the Internet in a safe environment -- such as their home or school -- forget that they are sharing personal information with complete strangers," said Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican and co-sponsor of the bill.


He said MySpace and another popular site, Facebook, have endorsed the measure.


"This bill provides social networking sites, which are an increasingly popular way for kids to connect with their friends, with one more tool to help keep our children safe from dangerous predators on the Internet," said Rep. Earl Pomeroy (news, bio, voting record), a North Dakota Democrat who also sponsored the bill.


The legislation also follows the resignation last year of a Republican House member from Florida, Mark Foley, after ABC News reported that he had sent sexually explicit messages to former teen-age male interns, known as congressional pages.


Sex offender data is currently collected by individual state authorities. MySpace and background verification company Sentinel Tech Holdings Corp. developed a technology that combines those registries to help police track some 600,000 convicted sex offenders.


MySpace struck a partnership with Sentinel in December to create the database and has been using it to identify, block or delete the accounts of known sex predators on its service.






Senators warn against war with Iran




Chairman: Bush officials misled public on global warming



Four killed in West Virginia gas station explosion




GOP senator challenges Bush on war powers



Are the Iranians Out for Revenge?



Microsoft Vista for dummies

Everything you need to know about the new operating system, including whether you should buy it now.




Nearly 100 bodies unearthed from Guatemala mudslide



Stonehenge workers' village found



The secrets people reveal



Police use stun guns on greased, naked student



'Time is short' in Iraq, commander nominee says



New DNA tests OK'd in 1982 Atlanta murder cases



Wife guilty of Marine's arsenic murder



Underwear tossing a deal breaker for opera star



Microsoft's Vista goes on sale



Scientist snoops in astronauts' journals



Is using lasers on eye gunk worth risk?



Six states get an 'A' for work against kids' obesity



Super Bowl ads: K-Fed, Jay-Z, Robert Goulet?

Advertisers are hoping that celebrities, animals and other gimmicks will attract buzz during Super Bowl XLI.





In the Land Of the Lonely




Stocks rise ahead of Fed

Major gauges gain as investors eye strong earnings, upbeat confidence report; two-day Federal Reserve policy meeting is under way; oil prices jump.




School to test for students' weekend drinking





FAA proposes raising pilot retirement age to 65




Family trips, European ports among trends in cruising



Scientist snoops in astronauts' journals



Appeals court reinstates key Padilla charge



Cuba TV shows Castro meeting with Chavez



Panel hears climate 'spin' allegations


















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NATO, U.S. neglect "psychological warfare": report



9 nabbed in Britain on terror charges



US Airways withdraws bid for Delta



U.S. may have botched training of Iraqis



Justice to release spy program details



How Do Airlines Create Their Flight Numbers?



Fed holds rates steady, sees housing stabilizing



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When Somebody Steals Your Copy Or Design



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Online TV Revenue To Reach $6.3 Billion



Search Overtakes Porn In The UK



Restaurant Review Site Brings Little To The Table



MTV And There.com Hit The Avatar Zone



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Jeremy Zawodny Apologizes




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Google AdSense Spills the Beans to Shoemoney



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U.S. plans hike in immigration, citizenship fees



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Senate foes of troop buildup join forces



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N.Korea eyes 2nd test if dispute not resolved



Rape victim is jailed on old warrant



Biden's comment on Obama: Racist or not?



Alleged con artist baffles police ... and me



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Man held after ad campaign triggers Boston bomb scare



Vet: Barbaro was 'different horse' in final hours



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Computer scientist missing off California coast



Biden's description of Obama draws scrutiny



Ice storm threatens Southeast; flights canceled



Students back in dorm after arena overnight



Recent college parties mocking black stereotypes spark outrage



Transylvanian manor house lures lovers of rustic life



Sky high: A hole in the ceiling feels like so much more



Stonehenge workers' village found



Toxic leak misses spacewalkers



U.S. doctors warn of poisoning from hand gels



Satisfaction guaranteed: How certain foods help you feel full



Cop killer gets federal death sentence



Molly Ivins, known for poking fun at politicians, dies at 62



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Nigeria reports first human death from bird flu



Venezuelan lawmakers give Chavez sweeping powers



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25 Rules to Grow Rich By

Follow these guidelines and feel confident that you'll be making the right financial decisions.



Nice car, nice condo - no money

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Profits nearly triple at No. 1 search engine, topping forecasts, but investors sell on the news.





Michael Dell: We 'can execute better'

In an exclusive interview, the newly reinstated CEO reveals to Fortune's David Kirkpatrick his strategy for restoring the computer retailer's battered reputation.
















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UK police quiz Muslim soldier kidnap suspects



Exxon Mobil posts record annual profit



2006 personal savings drop to 74-yr. low



Casey favors smaller troop boost in Iraq



Casey: Only half of troop boost needed



Where's The Fire? It's On Technorati



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Flixster Closes Very Competitive Financing Round



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Tagging Gains US Fans


Survey: "Tagging" content popular online




WSJ Gets Print Edition Feeds



Mossberg Hints My Yahoo Will Host Web Widgets



links for 2007-02-01



The Ever-Changing Widget Landscape



CBS News Offers Full-Length Katie Couric Podcast



Demo '07 on parade



Google's Gmail loses trademark ruling in Europe



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Coast Guard to halt search for Microsoft researcher



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Upgraded SBB to WordPress 2.1



rfields' bookmarks on del.icio.us



Google Q4 Profit Nearly Triples



The Downward Spiral of Google's Search Network



OpenStreetMap hits North America



MSN loses 10% market share - now on par with AOL






Subway Blogging. Get a Free Pizza When Viral goes Wrong



MIVA Launches Vertical Ad Network



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Shriek! Shrek a Bad Marketing Icon



Technorati Launches Where’s the Fire? (WTF)



MyBlogLog Background and Feature Requests



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National Pork Council Threatening Breastfeeding Bloggers?



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U.S. hands major weapons supplies to Afghan army



Senate approves minimum wage hike




Engineers: 122 levees at risk of failing



Ahmadinejad defiant on nuke program









1867 nanomachine now reality


LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Nearly 150 years ago it was no more than a concept by a visionary scientist, but researchers have now created a minuscule motor that could lead to the creation of microscopic nanomachines.


Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell first imagined an atom-size device dubbed Maxwell's Demon in 1867. Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have made it a reality.


"We have a new motor mechanism for a nanomachine," said David Leigh, a professor of chemistry at the University.


A nanomachine is an incredibly tiny device whose parts consist of single molecules. Nature uses nanomachines for everything from photosynthesis to moving muscles in the body and transferring information through cells.


Scientists are trying to unravel the secrets of nanomachines and nanotechnology, which works on a tiny scale. One nanometer is a billionth of a meter, or about 80,000 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair.


"Molecular machines allow life itself to occur at a molecular level. Our new motor mechanism is a small step towards doing that sort of thing with artificial molecular machines," Leigh told Reuters.


His mechanism traps molecular-sized particles as they move. As Maxwell had predicted long ago, it does not need energy because it is powered by light.


"While light has previously been used to energize tiny particles directly, this is the first time that a system has been devised to trap molecules as they move in a certain direction under their natural motion," said Leigh who reported the findings in the journal Nature.


"Once the molecules are trapped, they cannot escape."


Leigh credits Maxwell for establishing the fundamentals for understanding how light, heat and molecules behave.


In an earlier study, he and his team showed that a nanomachine could move a drop up water uphill by using molecular force. Although the movement was small, it was a big step in learning to make machines with artificial molecules.


The new motor mechanism will enable scientists to do things that are much closer to what biological machines do.


Nanotechnology is already being used in cosmetics, computer chips, sunscreens, self-cleaning windows and stain-resistant clothing.


Leigh believes nanoscale science and engineering could have a huge impact on society -- comparable to the impact of electricity, the steam engine and the Internet.


But quite how, is difficult to predict.


"It a bit like when stone-age man made his wheel asking him to predict the motorway," he said.


"It is a machine mechanism that is going to take molecular machines a step forward to the realization of the future world of nanotechnology. Things that seem like a Harry Potter film now are going to be a reality."








Apple revs up Mac attacks on Vista



Anti-AIDS gel studies in Africa, India halted



Blair quizzed again in funds probe



'Kidnap plot:' Police get more time



Cheney's daughter: My baby 'is not a prop'



Flights canceled as storm socks Southeast



Here, women propose marriage and men can't refuse



Miss USA: 'I would try anything once'



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Priest arrested in Las Vegas church attack



Cost balloons when 'surge' support troops are counted



Bush allies scramble to stop Iraq policy defections



Two plead not guilty to Boston hoax charges



Senate passes minimum-wage, tax break bill

Conflicting bills to put House, Senate Democrats at odds over amendments.




Hot toys for 2007: Flying robots, guitars, and a singing Barbie

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Print this guide and take it to your electronics store - it's all you need to get the right HDTV.




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Hillary: "I Have to Earn Every Vote"



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Government revisions to payrolls are likely to show job growth has been much stronger than first thought.




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Report links global warming to humans



Erectile dysfunction affects 18 percent of U.S. men



Heart disease often misdiagnosed in women



Frustration over Iraq falls on general



Mom gets 10 years for drowning kids



No death penalty sought for cops in Katrina shootings



David Hasselhoff puts on a dress



Iran president vows to push nuke program












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What a fruckin' CROCK!! WTF!! Has Bill Gates Finally Jumped the Damned Shark?!!

Bill Gates: Vista is so secure it could run life support systems.


Bill Gates on running life support systems using Vista : Vista is the most secure operating system we’ve ever done, and if it’s administred properly, absolutely, it can be used to run a hospital or any kind of mission



Bill Gates: Vista is so secure it could run life support systems.


While on a visit in Romania, where Bill Gates participated in the celebration of 10 years since the Microsoft branch has been running there, and the launch of Vista, Microsoft’s president declared that, with the right amount of administration, the new Vista could run life support systems in hospitals. Here is a fragment from the interview:


Journalist: Let’s imagine a hospital where life support systems are running Vista. Would you trust it with your life?


Bill Gates: Security has been the top priority for Microsoft for quite some time and that’s why I put out a key call for us to focus on that in a very big way over three years ago, and that’s why we’ve made investments like having people from Gecad ( Romanian company ) join on the security action from Microsoft. The answer to your question is that, absolutely, Vista is the most secure operating system we’ve ever done, and if it’s administered properly, absolutely, it can be used to run a hospital or any kind of mission critical thing. But it’s not as simple as saying “If you use Vista, that happens automatically”. The issues about patient records and who should be able to see them, the issue about setting up a network, so that authorized people can connect up to that hospital network, the issue about having backup power, so that the computer systems can run even if the generators go down. There are a lot of issues to properly set up that system, so that you have the redundancy and the security walls to make sure it fullfils that very critical function. So we are working with partners to raise their skills to make sure that when get involved in an installation like that they can make it secure. So I feel better about Vista than any other operating system, but there’s a lot of things that need to be done well, and we’re certaintly committed to step up and make sure these security issues are easier and better understood.


This could be the truth or it could be one man’s opinion. You can download the above segment of the interview here. (Big thanks to Alex Radescu ( http://www.alexradescu.ro/ ) for the recording)






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Global warming report: Your e-mails


(CNN) -- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- a group of scientists and government officials from more than 130 countries -- issued its most detailed report to date on the links between humans and global warming on Friday.


CNN.com asked its readers to share their thoughts on global warming. Here is a selection of their responses, some of which have been edited for length and clarity:


Jim Raye of Eastport, Maine

I think global warming is here to stay. As things get worse, governments might decide to put down the rifle and pick up a shovel. Working together, people might be able to survive the oncoming weather war. But it will take everybody working together to win. This will be our greatest challenge.


Lynne Loots of Cary, North Carolina

All property owners should develop vegetable gardens to provide food for themselves and their families. A more independent lifestyle will mean fewer car trips to purchase food and other life provisions. In addition the effort and work of growing vegetables will provide physical exercise to individuals. A greater understanding of the effect of microorganisms and worms in the cycle of plant production, decay/rotting, and regeneration and its importance to our survival is imperative. Worm boxes need to be in every urban household to produce soil conducive to growing food. We depend on our soil's gifts for our human existence.


Terry Brennen of Syracuse, New York

I think the "runaway train" is the way the press ignores the other scientist whose studies show that although we may add to a global warming trend, there will be global warming with or without mankind. We think that we are so influential as humans that we can change Earth's normal cycles. I don't think we are that powerful. I think Mother Earth will change regardless of our feeble influence. Let's drop the scare tactics and be honest. The real focus should be on quality of life -- to reduce pollution for the sake of our own health -- because as she has shown time and again over the last few billion years, Mother Earth can take care of herself.


K.L. Kwang of Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia

Global warming is caused by our comfortable lifestyle. We should practice the 5 Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse and re-educate) and start the recovery now before it's too late. Please for our children and grandchildren's sake. Do it now, or they will suffer from our indecision.


Kenn Elsner of Detroit, Michigan

Global warming is alive and well here in Detroit, where it was a high of 18 degrees without the wind chill. This weekend it is supposed to be even colder. It was just last week and the whole western half of the U.S. was freezing while awaiting this report. I am not a scientist, and I'm all for doing anything reasonable to lower pollution in the air, ground and sea, but to blame humans "only" for what is an obvious history of whacked out weather since the beginning of time is just ludicrous to normal everyday people.


Nick of Stockholm, Sweden

I would like to see some leadership from Congress and the White House, not only through supporting new inventions that may be on the market many years down the road, but active, radical changes that reduce CO2 emissions now. Could you Americans try to convince your politicians of this, please?


Mariann Wizard of Austin, Texas

I believe the phrase "global warming" should be dropped in favor of "climate change." To too many people, global warming sounds good, especially here and in Europe at this time of year. We need to understand that a small change in world temperatures can result in more severe temperatures at both ends of the thermometer, as well as stronger winds, bigger storms and generally less predictable weather patterns. Failed crops are one likely outcome, and food shortages. Also, the more the Arctic and Antarctic ice shelves deteriorate, the faster they deteriorate, so that the problem increases exponentially. "Global warming" is a comfort phrase. Let's get real about what's happening.


Dale Nenadal of Solon, Ohio

Spend all the money you want on global warming. In reality the issue is people on the planet. There are too many of us. That is the "runaway train." Reduce the world population and global warming will correct itself. We need to control our population or the problem will never go away. No one ever talks about world population as a major contributor to "global warming."


Kevin Brooks of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

Does it really take this kind of a report for people to pull their heads out of the ground on this issue? The real question here is what will world governments do with the information? Many are trying to play it down or discredit the report. Twenty years down the road, our children will wonder, "How could you let this happen? What were you thinking?"


Eric McKenzie of Lakeland, Tennessee

Global warming is the scam of the century. Just a few years ago these same scientists were saying the planet was in a global cooling. The media needs to look at both sides of the issue. There are many scientists that say the world is in a natural, gradual warming cycle not caused by man but by the natural cycle of the sun and the universe. This planet of ours has gone through these cycles since the beginning before man had a chance to make this happen. My question is this -- if man didn't cause the change in the past, how can we say we cause it now? As humans we aren't capable of such a task. If as a whole we humans were given a task of raising the global temperatures we could not do it and are not doing it today. Don't give yourselves that much credit as a species; we are not that powerful. I believe this new fad of global warming is politically motivated and scientists with opposing opinions are intentionally silenced. Manmade global warming is a fraud.


Collin Schwartz of Malta

Let's confront the powerful oil and car manufacturing industry lobby, who denied any link between their business activities and climate change, and heed the genuine scientists' appeals to start doing something today. We are already decades late.


Alex Marx of Singapore

Though the Earth might be warming, I still do not believe that humans are the sole cause of global warming. If that were the case, then the Earth's temperature should have been stable since time began. There are data anomalies that exist in the time series that are under consideration and very questionable assumptions made.


Thus it makes the bold statements about what the temperature will be 50 years hence rather pompous on the part of scientists. The West has strangely become a slave to science and the pronouncements of scientists without realizing that they too are human have their own frailties. Think back to the '70s and the pronouncements of an impending ice age by scientists.


Anyway, I would prefer heat to cold. I also believe that we will adapt and by saying we, I mean the entire planet. It is a system that adapts. I am not a believer in Malthusian doom. Everything will work out just fine.


Aleksandar Shulevski of Bitola, Macedonia

Global warming is intimately connected with our habits, with our consumerism and our fear of lifestyle change. I believe these are the issues at the heart of the problem. As long as the profit-driven economy pushes the care of the environment or human life to second and third place, we will face these problems. Global warming will ease off once we learn to "ease off."


Craig Mellin of Exeter, New Hampshire

Ahhh ... another report on global warming by the "scientists." Those are the clowns who brought us "the world is round" and "revolves around the sun" and who can forget "evolution." I really hope that we have one of those fair and balanced debates where some PR guy funded by the coal industry and has a marginal scientific background gets to debate some Ph.D. from NASA on this -- because all opinions are created equal.


I also can't wait to hear all the people who have no idea what they're talking about say how in 1964 there was a day that was hotter than a day this past year, so global warming can't exist. Let's debate this issue for another 25 years, and once we have destroyed the ecosystem maybe we can all reach a consensus.


Jeremy Thornton of Johnston, Iowa

Global warming is the most significant threat to the human race at this time. It's preventable, and the U.S. and world for that matter are not doing enough to slow or reverse the effects caused from global warming over the past 40 years. This needs to be a worldwide priority.


What the U.S. government is saying now, along with many nations across the world, is that money is more important than essentially everything. What good is all of this money doing the businesses, government and people with money if the world is brought to its knee's by global warming? Global warming could have much greater consequences for the entire world than terrorism. People need to regain sight of what's most important to them -- their homes, families, friends and all of the things they enjoy. Which happen to be on planet Earth.


Neill Glancy of Chicago, Illinois

I think it's really apparent now that we have damaged our world, our home. I feel the question that's unclear to most folks is what can we do about it now, and in what time frame will this make a difference, if at all? It seems like a world issue. Everyone on the planet would have to make a change to really help the planet heal, if that's even possible. It's not going be enough for folks to switch to hybrids. I think that's the sad part, because the world can't agree on anything -- we may have sealed our squabbling fate. Maybe when we are all gone, the Earth will heal, and a more intelligent species will replace us.


Ross from South Africa

We are seriously jeopardizing the future of life on the planet. If we do not act now it will be too late. America as a global leader must realize that it has to set the ball rolling in the adoption of alternate fuel sources. I don't think enough is being done. It is time [for] America to curb your consumption and set an example. It is ignorant to think that we are not responsible for global warming. I can't believe that this is only now becoming a realization.


Jay Gladieux of Crawfordville, Florida

First it was an impending ice age, now it's global warming. I think it's all hogwash. The Earth is an ever-changing planet, and I believe the changes we are seeing would have happened if there were no humans on this planet. The scientists are all saying what they think the people want to hear in order to continue to collect government money.


Robert Todd of Fårevejle, Denmark

Many believe that it is too late to do anything about global warming. It is never too late. Each small [step] we take as individuals may seem insignificant but are not if enough of us do things. Last year we heated with oil. This year we use a wood-burning stove, a fuel alternative that is CO2 neutral because it releases the same amount of CO2 whether burned or decomposed. I'm sure we could come up with a hundred small ways to cut our CO2 emissions individually. These efforts will make a difference.


Richard Keller of Toronto, Ontario

My thoughts to combat global warming:

1. Start converting water from the ocean to fresh water to be used on land.

2. Make a law that requires houses to produce some of their own electricity.

3. Require gas stations to have alternative fuel sources.

4. Change roofs of houses/buildings to include solar panels and gardens.


Adam Cleary of Atlanta, Georgia

I'm no scientist, but I wish this report would explain the drastic global warming and cooling that occurred before humans roamed the Earth. Also, I saw nothing mentioning the fact that in some Arctic areas ice sheets are actually growing in size rather then shrinking and sea levels are shrinking. It's hard to go against the educated masses, but at one time in this world everyone thought the Earth was flat.


Michael Wang of San Diego, California

The U.S. and China need to take action. Laws must be passed to discourage automobile makers from selling gas-guzzling vehicles and invest more in researching alternative fuels. What little nature that remains must be preserved, and we must create several committees to find ways to replenish our natural habitats, decrease pollution, encourage environmental consciousness and drive against global warming.


We need a president that will take drastic measures to lead the world in a positive direction and not into war. We need the people to vote for such a president and support every step toward this goal. I am fresh out of college, and already I fear for my future children's health and the future of mankind. I certainly do what I can to help, but there is only so much I can do. I am writing to you because I believe the media can greatly increase awareness and encourage action. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts.





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Violence erupts in Italy

All matches suspended after officer killed in fan riot


CATANIA, Sicily (AP) -- A police officer was killed Friday when fans rioted at a Serie A game between Sicilian sides Catania and Palermo, prompting the Italian soccer federation to suspend all league matches in the country's top two divisions this weekend.


Fans rioted outside Catania's Angelo Massimino stadium during the second half. Police fired tear gas, which wafted into the stadium and forced the match to be temporarily suspended in the 58th minute with Palermo leading 1-0.


Police said the officer died after an explosive device was thrown inside his vehicle.


The violence continued after the game, in which Palermo beat Catania 2-1, trapping hundreds of fans inside the stadium as authorities sought to avoid further violence and stop people from leaving.


Federation (FIGC) commissioner Luca Pancalli called an emergency meeting in Rome late Friday, and announced he was canceling all games, the federation said.


"The decision to block the championships was immediate," Pancalli told a news conference after the meeting. "We cannot continue like this. What we're witnessing has nothing to do with soccer, therefore Italian soccer is stopping."


He added that the decision to stop the games for the duration of the weekend was not enough, and said there would be more meetings Monday "to identify those drastic measures that will allow us to restart. Otherwise, we're not restarting the games."


The FIGC also cancelled the Wednesday friendly between Italy and Romania and an under-21 friendly scheduled for Tuesday against Belgium.


The federation said that another police officer was in critical condition, and police said dozens of people with lesser injuries had been taken to local hospitals.


Police defended security measures at the game.


"We're talking about incidents that happened outside the stadium and after the game had already started," Police Cmdr. Piero Gambuzza told Sky TG24 News. "Police did not allow anyone with explosives to enter the stadium."





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Storms a real nightmare to Florida retirees


THE VILLAGES, Florida (CNN) -- The Villages was a shambles Friday. The retirement community that describes itself on its Web site as a place "to enjoy life as you've always dreamed" is now a nightmare come true.


What the weather service said were likely tornadoes ripped through the central Florida darkness early Friday, killing at least 19 people and destroying homes, churches and businesses.


In The Villages, resident Jack Hurst felt lucky Friday afternoon. "We felt the house vibrate," he said, describing the wind as roaring by like a freight train.


But the damage to his home was limited. "We had probably seven shingles out and a couple of holes in the screen."


Just a few doors away, neighbors were not so lucky.


"Within a few yards, there were houses that had no roof, no walls," Hurst said.


Villages resident Irene Shaver had walls, but the tornadic winds fired fence posts into them, leaving the posts embedded in the walls.


"Every muscle and bone in my body shook," Shaver's husband, Lee Shaver, 54, told The Associated Press. "We don't know what to do. We have no cell phones, wallets, IDs."


In nearby Lady Lake, they thanked God they were alive and pledged to rebuild.


The Rev. Larry Lynn was consoled by church members who came by the Lady Lake Church of God, a steel-reinforced structure, that was built to withstand 150-mph winds. It was turned into debris.


"That's just the building. The people are the church. We'll be back bigger and stronger," Lynn told the AP.


While the storms hit Volusia and Sumter counties, Lake County took the biggest blow. The 19 who died had lived there.


Jerry Smith, the county's emergency management director, said it was the county's worst-ever disaster. (Watch an aerial view of miles of destruction Video)


"We have complete devastation of homes, businesses, religious institutions," said Christopher Patton of the Lake County Emergency Operations Center. "It was unlike perhaps even the hurricanes of 2004."


Thirteen of the 19 people who died were in Paisley, on the county's eastern edge -- an hour and a half away from Lady Lake. Three of the deaths were in Lady Lake, where the storm bulldozed through a 20-square-mile area containing thousands of homes, Smith said.


Crews were conducting house-to-house searches, he said, and the death toll could rise.


Two of those killed were high-school students -- a 17-year-old girl and a freshman boy, said Anna Cowin, school superintendent. The boy, one of triplets, was killed along with his parents, while a sister, another triplet, was in serious condition at a hospital, Cowin's office said.


Villages resident Rhett Boswell said although snowbird retirees expect to face hurricanes in the summer, they were totally unprepared for tornado-like winter storms that struck just a few days after freezing temperatures in the area.


Hurst said he appreciates the response and offers of help for those affected by the storms.


He said he still has a roof over his head and will try to help neighbors. "My mission right now is to help others who need help more than I do."


But he had a message for the gawkers looking at the destruction in his neighborhood.


"If you don't have a reason to be there, then don't get in the way of the folks who do."






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Closeted snowmobiler comes out in snowless South


RICHMOND, Virginia (AP) -- It's a cruel irony of climate, attitude and geography.


When I lived in western Massachusetts, home to Red Sox Nation, the culturally rich Berkshires and rarified colleges such as Smith and Williams, I was a closeted snowmobiler. I rode my machine (the preferred nomenclature) at speeds of 60 mph over snowy fields and dodged trees through twisty wooded runs.


But it was not a sport I openly celebrated.


While not universally reviled, snowmobiling was viewed by the Tanglewood set as the province of a boozy class of speed freaks. The machines fouled the pristine woods with their gassy, oily fumes and terrorized cross-country skiers solemnly gliding through virgin snow.


Now I live in NASCAR Nation, where the combustion engine and fossil fuels are celebrated and speed rules. The attitude is in place but the prime ingredient -- snow -- is not. (Of course, this winter, there's even been a shortage of snow in colder parts of the country.)


But the greater Richmond Yellow Pages doesn't even list a single snowmobile dealer. And several inches of snow can cripple this city of 200,000 for days.


Ed Klim isn't troubled by either attitude or climate. The president of the International Snowmobile Association lives in snowy Michigan, which ranks as the No. 1 state for snowmobiling with 381,157 machines registered there, and he has four snowmobiles from which to choose: Arctic Cat, Polaris, Yamaha and BRP, the big four in the business.


Klim said the snowmobiling I recall -- mixing oil and gas, screaming two-cycle machines and back-wrenching pull cords -- has been replaced by a new generation of sleek, high-powered sleds. Much of the engineering is based on motorcycles.

Sales slump


The price of a snowmobile ranges from $5,500 to more than $10,000. They have quieter, cleaner four-stroke engines, heated seats and hand warmers and outlets for cell phones and other gadgets. Some even come equipped with global positioning systems, a great feature for riders who prefer to explore deep woods.


The tracks -- deeply grooved rubberized belts -- are wider, more pliable and quieter, and metal skis have been replaced by space-age compounds.


High-tech snowmobile suits come with heating elements and helmets with just about every feature NASA could cook up.


Despite the creature comforts, worldwide snowmobile sales have been in a steady decline, according to Klim's association. Since 2001, snowmobile sales have declined from 208,297 units sold to 164,860 in 2006. In the U.S. in 2006, 91,670 units were sold. Worldwide sales peaked at 260,735 in 1997.


"The snow conditions have not been good," Klim said of declining sales. "There's no snowmobiling if there's no snow."


A bright global spot: Sales have increased in Scandinavia.


Klim acknowledges a certain elitism among winter enthusiasts and their views of snowmobiles and those who enjoy them.


"They think the only way to enjoy the outdoors is their way or the highway," he said. "That's fine."


Conditions aside, the anti-snowmobile sentiment is pervasive, and not limited to certain segments of the Northeast, either.


Snowmobile disputes


Disputes erupt periodically in parks and other public areas over whether snowmobilers should have access. The West Yellowstone entrance at Yellowstone National Park bills itself as the "snowmobile capital of the world," but confusion about snowmobile use in the park caused by competing court rulings has put a crimp in businesses there in recent years. The temporary rules, in place through 2007, allow a maximum of 720 guided best-available-technology snowmobiles in the park each day, including a limited number through the east entrance; there were 6,050 snowmobilers counted in the park in December 2006.


In Idaho, snowmobilers are fighting a wilderness proposal on Mount Jefferson under which the U.S. Forest Service would close the area to motorized vehicles. Conservationists say the proposal would protect wildlife and bring in tourists looking for quiet recreation, but local businesses that depend on snowmobilers, along with U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, have asked the Forest Service to alter the plan so the snowmobilers can keep coming.


Snowmobilers are under fire from other quarters as well. Slate, the online magazine, once called the sport "the most noxious of the lot" of winter pursuits. The typical snowmobiler, Slate wrote, "is a grunt from Michigan's Upper Peninsula, a man who pauses on 100-mile rides to hit a circuit of boozy 'pit stops' with names like the Hoop 'N' Holler (an actual destination)."


Joan Livingston, a novelist and avid snowshoer and former cross-country skier, learned to co-exist with the men and women who prefer motorized sleds when she lived in Western Massachusetts. She and her husband, Hank, discovered that the trails groomed for snowmobile use formed a great base for skiing or shoeing there.


"The trails are there thanks to the good graces of local landowners who consent to let the local snowmobile club maintain them," she wrote in an e-mail. "At the end of the year, the Worthington Snowmobile Club has a dinner for the landowners in that town."


The club, she said, has a groomer that packs the snow in "a nice aisle through the woods." She added, "The trails give you a unique perspective on a town's innards, and I can see why the snowmobilers like zipping through these frontier-like parts."


Livingston, who now lives in Northern New Mexico, where there is plenty of snowmobiling and other winter sports, recalls getting along just fine with her speedier neighbors back in New England. If she was on foot on a snowy trail, she'd just hop aside to let them by, and found that "unfailingly," they'd wave as they passed. The only drawback, she said, was "the smell of exhaust" left in their wake.

Getting the hang of it


In my snowmobiling days, I had access to hundreds of acres of forest and field. Trails I carved with my sled would leave a packed surface that my wife, Mandana, would use to silently retrace my tracks. I occasionally would don the narrow skis to join her.


Owning a sled without immediate access to trails is a bit like owning a boat without a marina. Throughout destinations that typically receive a fair amount of snow in the winter, like Maine, upstate New York and the northern Midwest states such as Wisconsin and Michigan, enthusiasts can be seen on the highways hauling their machines on ramps to wilderness areas. These can run anywhere from $600 to several thousand dollars.


If you can haul your sleds, there are more than 225,000 miles of groomed trails throughout the U.S.


For beginners, getting the hang of a snowmobile is somewhat like riding a motorcycle or a horse. You lean into turns, look ahead to where you want to go rather than down at the skis, and stay alert to hazards -- low tree limbs, fences hidden by deep snows.


In states where snowmobile use is high, deaths related to the machines' use routinely number in the double digits. Wisconsin, for instance, records an average 25 snowmobile deaths a year.


Klim recommends newcomers to snowmobiling "go with someone who's done it" rather than attempt a solo trip. He also advises contacting a local snowmobile association, such as the Worthington, Massachusetts, group to learn the ins and outs of the sport.


As for children, many states and provinces regulate the operation of snowmobiles by young people. The industry also offers mini versions of the powerful machines that top out at speeds of 7 or 8 mph, Klim said.


I haven't been on a snowmobile for a half-dozen years, and I do pine for those cold, blindingly sunny winter days when I would hop on my machine and gun it through a fresh snowfall.


But NASCAR's the sport here in Richmond and maybe it's time I switched to a warmer version of a speed sport.




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Google Getting More Personal Why You Should Care


Google has stepped up the personalized SERP's ( http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2007/02/per...y-speaking.html ) and is now serving them to everyone who has a google account and is logged in. For an in depth look at exactly what's happening check out SEL Google Ramps Up Personalized Search ( http://searchengineland.com/070202-224617.php ).


Personally I'm not a big fan of it, to be more specific I'm a big fan of them not telling me when I'm getting personalized and allowing me to toggle it off like they used to. I understand that I'm in the minority of people who want that feature, but since it was already there why remove it? Unless of course it's more about obfuscating data from the web publishing community like the "link:" command and more recently the "site:" command. I'm also not a big fan of obligating people who want search history left on to take personalized search. I can see how personalized results would be dependent on history but not the other way around. The only out of the plan is to log out, and then log back in which is annoying to say the least, or completely de-activate your search history with your google account [ https://www.google.com/accounts/DeleteService?service=hist ] (if you don't have an account, aren't logged, or have search history turned on the page won't work).


From a marketers perspective the need to get your URL passing through people's google toolbars, google bookmarks, google rss readers, gmail, and each and every part of the Google data gathering machine is growing more and more important in this increasingly personalized SERP world. If you aren't taking steps to understand how this all works you are going to be missing out on first hand knowledge. At this point ignoring and trying to avoid being part of the Google Borg might be to your disadvantage.





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Federal agent penetrated Hells Angels, fears for his life


MESA, Arizona (CNN) -- For nearly two years, Jay Dobyns led a double life. He rode alongside the Hells Angels, becoming a member of one of the nation's most feared criminal gangs. But at the same time, he was working as a federal agent in an effort to bring the Hells Angels down.


Jay Dobyns works for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the federal agency responsible for enforcing the nation's gun laws. His deep undercover work with the Hells Angels from 2001-2003 ultimately helped bring the indictment and trial of 16 gang members and their associates.


As a result, Dobyns was awarded a top cop award by the National Association of Police Organizations. He also was hailed on America's Most Wanted as one of the "Good Guys" who brings down the criminals.


But today, just a few years later, Dobyns says that after risking his life on assignment, he has been left vulnerable by the very agency that he proudly served. (Read Dobyns' account of faking a murder to get into the Hells Angels: http://www.cnn.com/2007/LAW/02/05/dobyns.h...gels/index.html )



Feeling abandoned


With his undercover work done and his real identity as a law enforcement agent exposed, Dobyns says the Hells Angels and other gangs enlisted by it came after him, issuing death threats. Dobyns claims that the ATF -- rather than protecting him -- abandoned him.


"There was a murder contract on me and there was what was called a green light list, which was circulating in the prison, which was a list of people that various gangs wanted killed," Dobyns told CNN.


In response, Dobyns says, the ATF gave him a routine transfer with no special protection, despite his repeated protests. The ATF could have moved Dobyns and his family under what is known as a "threat policy" -- similar to the kind of protection the government routinely gives witnesses in organized crime cases.


But federal agents who go undercover don't automatically get a high level of protection, according to Dobyns and other ATF agents CNN interviewed.


"In order to save money, I was told it wasn't cost effective," Dobyns says.


Dobyns says he has moved himself and his family several times to elude those who've threatened to kill him. He has filed a claim with the ATF for the emotional stress and financial burden he says he's had to bear as a result.



The ATF responds


In a note to CNN, ATF acting director Michael J. Sullivan wrote that privacy and personnel matters prohibit him from commenting directly on Dobyns' allegations, but he assured CNN that Dobyns' allegations are being fully reviewed by the ATF and the Department of Justice.


"[T]here is nothing more important to ATF and to me than the safety and protection of our employees and their families. We at ATF understand that we have a solemn responsibility to protect the people whom we charge to investigate and arrest the country's most violent criminals," Sullivan wrote.


But more than a dozen former and current ATF agents interviewed by CNN, many of whom have their own lawsuits, claims and serious concerns, said the ATF is failing to protect its agents.


Charlie Fuller is a 23-year retired veteran ATF special agent and a former top trainer of undercover agents, who wrote a manual on undercover work, "The Art of Undercover." He trained Dobyns and many other top ATF undercover agents.


"What happened to Dobyns is not an isolated incident," said Fuller. In many cases, he said, managers don't thoroughly understand the complexity of the undercover work or how to best work with and manage the agents once they're back in the real world.


He said agents are seen as troublemakers or retaliated against if they raise complaints or report problems.


"Threats like what Dobyns faced -- this is the most serious thing an ATF agent can face -- the threats against his family," said Fuller. "How could they ignore something like that?"


Asked about Fuller's claims, the ATF said it would have no further comment for now, saying it would stand on Sullivan's previous statement.


"As ATF executes its mission to prevent terrorism, reduce violent crime and protect the public, we will continue to place the highest value on ensuring the safety of our employees and their families," Sullivan said.










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Texas police ID suspect in male rape


BAYTOWN, Texas - Police identified a 19-year-old man as the suspect in the rape of another man and said they were "optimistic" more charges would be filed involving assaults on four other men.


Keith Chester Hill was being held Wednesday on $60,000 bail on two charges of aggravated robbery and one charge of aggravated sexual assault.


Hill was arrested late Tuesday night at his parents' Baytown home after DNA testing connected him to a May attack, said Capt. Roger Clifford of the Baytown Police Department.


Police for months have been investigating five cases in which young men were surprised at or near their homes by a gunman demanding money. The last reported attack was in November.


One of the victims pointed investigators to the man, Clifford said.


"We're optimistic that additional charges will be filed on our four remaining cases," Clifford said. "We've got lots of evidence that we'll have to sift through — good, solid evidence."


The investigation was complicated, in part because profilers don't have a basic standard for investigating male-on-male rapes, Clifford said.


Hill's parents did not answer the door of their home when approached by a reporter.


The attacks happened in the Baytown area or in Harris County, just southeast of Houston.


The U.S. Justice Department says one in 33 men in the United States has been a victim of a rape or attempted rape, compared with one in six women.






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