Dateline: Week Of February 1, 2009 In News, Pop Culture, Tech, Celebrity, Entertainment & Fascinating Facts
In The News -
Banks in Florida, Maryland and Utah were closed as regulators wrapped up the busiest month for failures since the housing slump began in 2006. Ocala National Bank in Florida and Suburban Federal Savings Bank of Crofton, Maryland, were shut by federal regulators, according to statements sent by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. MagnetBank of Salt Lake City was seized by the Utah Department of Financial Institutions. The banks had total assets of $876.4 million and deposits of $790 million. Six banks have failed this month as tumbling home prices and a 16-year in unemployment boost foreclosures. The FDIC classified 171 banks as “problem” in the third quarter, a 46 percent jump from the previous period amid the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression.
The Senate confirmed Eric H. Holder Jr. as the nation's first African American attorney general by a vote of 75 to 21, opening a new chapter for a Justice Department that had suffered under allegations of improper political influence and policy disputes over wiretapping and harsh interrogation practices. Holder, 58, will arrive at the Justice Department headquarters in Washington for a swearing-in ceremony and to greet some of the department's 110,000 employees.
Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination to be President Barack Obama's Health and Human Services secretary, dealing potential blows to both speedy health care reform and Obama's hopes for a smoother start as president. "Now we must move forward," Obama said in a written statement accepting "with sadness and regret" Daschle's surprise request to be removed from consideration. A day earlier, Obama had said he "absolutely" stood by Daschle in the face of problems over back taxes and potential conflicts of interest.
The mother of newborn octuplets says she had six embryos implanted in her fertility procedure — far more than industry guidelines recommend — and was well aware that multiple births could result."I wanted them all transferred," Nadya Suleman told NBC's "Today" show. "Those are my children, and that's what was available and I used them. So, I took a risk. It's a gamble. It always is." "It turned out perfectly," Suleman added in a portion of the interview broadcast Friday.Other portions of interview are scheduled to air next week.
Employers eliminated 598,000 jobs in January, the most since the end of 1974, and catapulted the unemployment rate to 7.6 percent.
Fascinating Facts – February 1, 2009
Grand Slam Breakfast giveaways - With the economy in a tailspin, Denny's shook up the restaurant industry — if not the nation — Tuesday by doing something no family dining chain had done before: giving out free meals coast-to-coast from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. The entire promotion — including food, labor and airing an ad on Sunday's Super Bowl — cost Denny's about $5 million. "We're re-acquainting America with Denny's," says CEO Nelson Marchioli. "We've never been thanked this much — and folks are saying they'll come back." The promotion was available in all but two of Denny’s 1550 restaurants nationwide.
Business News – February 1, 2009
Macy's Inc said it would slash about 7,000 jobs and cut its quarterly dividend as it forecast earnings for fiscal 2009 that fell far below Wall Street expectations, sending its shares down 4 percent. The department store operator said it took the steps to counter what it expects will be a very tough retail market this year, and that it would plan conservatively despite efforts by the U.S. government to build an economic stimulus package.
Wal-Mart - the discount retailer said sales at stores open at least one year rose 2.1% last month, excluding fuel -- better than the 1.1% gain analysts had expected. Wal-Mart got a boost from sales of medicine and groceries, as shoppers continued to focus on necessities during the downturn.
Sports News – February 1, 2009
The Pittsburgh Steelers defeat the Arizona Cardinals 27-23 in SuperBowl 43. It was a riveting fourth quarter that saw the Cardinals rally to a 23-20 lead, but during the final 2 minutes – Pittsburgh came back with a TD and field goal.
Michael Phelps was suspended from competition for three months by USA Swimming, the latest fallout from a photo that showed the Olympic great with a marijuana pipe (bong). The sport's national governing body also cut off its financial support to Phelps for the same three-month period, effective Thursday.
Cereal and snack maker Kellogg Co. says it will not renew its sponsorship contract with Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps because he has acknowledged smoking marijuana last fall. The Battle Creek, Mich.-based company said Thursday that Phelps's behavior - caught on camera and published Sunday - is "not consistent with the image of Kellogg."
Technology News – February 1, 2009
Google - An apparent system error left millions of visitors to the site puzzled when links to all search results were flagged with the warning 'This site may harm your computer'. It is thought the site had erroneously identified all other websites - and some of its own pages - as containing malicious software or 'malware'. The glitch, which prevented internet users from directly clicking through to search results, was fixed within 30 minutes although users of Google's email service Gmail have since reported finding genuine messages sent mistakenly to spam folders. The errors prompted panic among web surfers who at first feared the popular search engine had suffered some kind of major failure that could have had serious implications for internet commerce. The Google search page is by far the most popular on the internet, with the overall site receiving several hundred million queries each day. It is the most common homepage and accounts for almost four out of every five internet searches, making it a crucial part of the global economy.
Google and NASA are throwing their weight behind a new school for futurists in Silicon Valley to prepare scientists for an era when machines become cleverer than people. The new institution, known as “Singularity University”, is to be headed by Ray Kurzweil, whose predictions about the exponential pace of technological change have made him a controversial figure in technology circles. Google and NASA’s backing demonstrates the growing mainstream acceptance of Mr Kurzweil’s views, which include a claim that before the middle of this century artificial intelligence will outstrip human beings, ushering in a new era of civilization.
MySpace officials say about 90,000 sex offenders have been identified and removed from its huge online social networking Web site. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said Tuesday the new figure is nearly double what MySpace officials originally acknowledged last year when detailing who had used their site.
Panasonic recently introduced its Lumix DMC-TS1 ($399.95), billed as the world's first waterproof, shockproof and dustproof digital camera with high-definition (AVCHD Lite) video recording. The rugged 12.1-megapixel camera features a 28mm wide-angle Leica DC Vario-Elmar lens, 4.6x optical zoom (zooming up to 128mm in telephoto, even during video recording), image stabilization and an "Intelligent Scene Selector" that automatically adjust settings depending on the situation (night, macro, portrait, and so on).
Google is releasing free software that enables people to keep track of each other using their cell phones. "Latitude" uses GPS systems and what's called cell tower triangulation to do the job. The software seeks the closest three cell towers and, with GPS, combines the data to show where someone is. It is designed to work on any phone with Internet capabilities, except the iPhone.
Music News – February 1, 2009
Jennifer Hudson makes her first appearance since the October slayings of her mother, brother and nephew. Ms. Hudson lip-synced the Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl – though you would never know it.
More Super Bowl - Bruce Springsteen looked into the camera Sunday night and told the people watching at home to "put the chicken fingers down and turn the television all the way up!" Then he proceeded to give the Super Bowl crowd and the millions watching on TV three high-energy Boss standards, with the title song from his new album wedged in among them for good measure. The 59-year-old Springsteen and his E Street Band opened with "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out," then without pause ripped through "Born To Run" and "Working on a Dream," before winding up the set with "Glory Days."
Joaquin Phoenix says there's no hoax about it: He really has given up acting to become a hip-hop musician. Phoenix has been spending his time laying down tracks for a rap album in the recording studio he built at his home, the two-time Academy Award nominee said Tuesday in an interview to promote what he claims is his final movie, "Two Lovers." After video hit the Internet last month capturing part of Phoenix's debut rap performance at a Las Vegas club, speculation swirled that he was perpetrating an elaborate practical joke."I don't know where that comes from," Phoenix said. "If it comes from people that I've had a falling out with, that are (ticked) off at me?"
Elton John is playing his final notes on the red piano in Las Vegas. Promoters say the pop singer will close his Las Vegas Strip show, "The Red Piano," on April 22.The show made its debut in February 2004 at The Colosseum Theater at Caesars Palace. After initially signing on for 75 shows, John's engagement was extended.The casino says the closing show will be the 241st performance.
Recluse Eminem is back - The 36-year-old white rapper, better known as Eminem but occasionally styling himself Slim Shady, turned up at the launch of his autobiography, The Way I Am, at a sports shop in Manhattan. Look for a new album soon.
A publicist for the pioneering horror-punk band the Cramps says co-founder and lead singer Lux Interior has died. He was 60. Publicist Aleix Martinez says Interior, whose real name was Erick Lee Purkhiser, died Wednesday of a pre-existing heart condition at a Glendale, Calif., hospital. Interior met his future wife Kristy Wallace — who would later take the stage name Poison Ivy — in Sacramento in 1972.They moved to New York and started the Cramps, with Interior on lead vocals and Ivy on guitar. The group was part of the late '70s early punk scene centered at Manhattan clubs like CBGB alongside acts such as the Ramones and Patti Smith.
Television News – February 1, 2009
NBC said on the eve of Sunday's Super Bowl that it has sold the last two of the 67 advertising spots for the game, pushing total ad revenue for the event to a record $206 million. The network said its total of $261 million in ad revenue for all of Super Bowl day also is a record, calling it an especially impressive feat in the middle of the economy's steep downturn. The Super Bowl is the premier advertising event with an U.S. audience of 100 million viewers, many of whom watch closely during game breaks for the debut of entertaining, big-budget commercials. The ads have sold for between $2.4 million and $3 million per 30-second slot this year.
Nielsen Media Research ratings show the Super Bowl's audience was down from last year's peak, but about on par with the 2007 and 2006 games. The Pittsburgh-Arizona game on NBC recorded a 42.1 rating and 65 share in Nielsen's overnight measurement of the nation's top cities. The same measurement for last year's New York Giants-New England Patriots game, which was the most-watched Super Bowl ever, was 44.7. The 2007 preliminary rating was identical to this year's, and the 2006 game was 42.2, Nielsen said. Each rating point represents 1,145,000 households. The share means 65 percent of the televisions turned on during the game were tuned to the game. A viewership estimate was not immediately available, but will likely be about 90 million.