Dateline: Week Of January 1, 2009 In News, Pop Culture, Tech, Celebrity, Entertainment & Fascinating Facts
In The News -
Conflict continues - Israel bombed a mosque it says was used to store weapons and destroyed the homes of more than a dozen Hamas operatives on Friday, the seventh day of a blistering offensive in Gaza and the day after an airstrike killed a prominent Hamas figure.
In Aspen, a fireworks show was postponed and many bars and restaurants were forced to close on New Year's Eve after gasoline bombs were discovered at two banks shortly after 2 p.m., police said Thursday. Two more bombs, made with fuel and cellphone parts, were discovered in an alley, police said. "We believe the suspect abandoned his plan halfway through," Assistant Aspen Police Chief Bill Linn said. The man suspected of constructing the bombs, James Blanning, 72, apparently shot and killed himself in a rural area outside of town, police said. He had "a history of using dynamite, and is known to law enforcement," police said.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on Sunday announced that he was withdrawing his nomination to be President-elect Barack Obama's commerce secretary amid a grand jury investigation into how some of his political donors won a lucrative state contract.
President-elect Barack Obama plunged into rare pre-inaugural crisis talks with congressional leaders, declaring the national economy was "bad and getting worse" and embracing tax cuts now expected to reach $300 billion. He predicted lawmakers would approve a mammoth revitalization package within two weeks of his taking office. If the two-year plan is enacted, workers would see larger paychecks almost immediately because taxes withheld by the government would drop. The break would be retroactive to Jan. 1, and couples receiving a $1,000 tax cut would begin receiving an extra $40 in twice-monthly paychecks as the government tries to spark more consumer spending
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has ordered Gazprom to stop all shipments of natural gas to Europe through Ukraine. Russian gas is already not getting through the pipelines that cross Ukraine. Gazprom has blamed Ukraine, saying Russia has delivered the gas but Ukraine has shut down the pipelines and is stealing gas intended for Europe.
President-elect Barack Obama hailed a rare Oval Office gathering of all U.S. presidents as an extraordinary event on Wednesday as the current occupant, President George Bush reminded his predecessors and successor that the office "transcends the individual." "I just want to thank the president for hosting us," the president-elect said, flanked by former President George H.W Bush - on one side and his son on the other. Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter both smiling broadly, stood with them. "All the gentlemen here understand both the pressures and possibilities of this office," Obama said. "For me to have the opportunity to get advice, good counsel and fellowship with these individuals is extraordinary."
Joe The Plumber is putting down his wrenches and picking up a reporter's notebook. The Ohio man who became a household name during the presidential campaign says he is heading to Israel as a war correspondent for the conservative Web site pjtv.com. Samuel J. Wurzelbacher (WUR'-zuhl-bah-kur) says he'll spend 10 days covering the fighting. He tells WNWO-TV in Toledo that he wants to let Israel's "'Average Joes' share their story." Wurzelbacher gained attention during the final weeks of the campaign when he asked Barack Obama about his tax plan.
Passing - Donald Westlake, considered one of the most successful and versatile mystery writers in the United States. He was 75
Technology News – January 1, 2009
The government's $1.34 billion coupon program for digital converter boxes ran out of money on Sunday. Anybody requesting a $40 coupon to offset the cost of buying a converter box for digital TV will now be placed on a waiting list, says Meredith Baker, acting head of the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Those who still use antennas to receive their TV signals, will need the boxes as regular analog TV shuts down later next month. How long will people have to wait? "I don't know," Baker told reporters. Already, 103,000 people are on the list. Baker attributed the cash shortfall, in part, to a late surge in coupon requests.
Starting this week, Best Buy will offer refurbished Apple 3G iPhones in 350 stores. Refurbished phones will be available at all Best Buy stores by the end of January, the retailer says. Refurbished iPhones will cost $149 and $249, depending on the memory. (Original prices: $199 and $299, respectively.) You’ll still have to sign a two-year service contract with AT&T, the exclusive iPhone carrier in the USA.
Sony’s Playstation 2 leads the list for most popular game consoles in 2008:
PlayStation 2 31.7%
Xbox 360 17.2%
PlayStation 3 7.3%
Sports News – January 1, 2009
Rose Bowl - Oregon State 27, USC 21.
Capital One Bowl – Georgia 24, Michigan 12
Orange Bowl – Virginia Tech 20, Cincinnati 7
Fascinating Facts - January 1, 2009
Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt has sued two of his nephews for selling their own line of adult movies under the same family name. Flynt accuses the nephews of producing pornographic films that are "inferior products" and "knockoff goods." He said he filed the lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court to protect his family name in the industry.
Music News – January 1, 2009
Music Sales Up In 2008
Americans bought more music in 2008 than ever before, but album sales — the music industry's main source of revenue — dropped for a fourth year. According to the Nielsen Co.'s year-end figures, music purchases — CD, vinyl, cassette and digital purchases of entire albums (grouped together as total albums), plus digital track downloads, singles and music videos — attained a new high of 1.5 billion, up 10.5% over 2007. More than 70% of those transactions were digital track downloads, a record total of 1.07 billion that swamped 2007's previous high of 844.2 million by 27%. Last week's track downloads set a record of 47.7 million, and 71 songs exceeded 1 million downloads this year, compared with 41 last year (and just two in 2005). Track downloads outsold albums by a ratio of 2.5 to 1.
Low is the all-time best-selling digital song, with 4.53 million downloads. The only other track above 4 million is Timbaland & OneRepublic's Apologize, at 4.01 million.
Garth Brooks lost ground to The Beatles but is still by far the best-selling artist of the SoundScan era (post-1991, when Nielsen began tracking album sales electronically), leading the Fab Four by a tally of 68.1 million to 57.1 million.
Although vinyl albums gave way to CDs years before SoundScan launched, it's worth noting that vinyl sales hit a 17-year high in 2008 with 1.88 million, up dramatically from just under a million in 2007. Radiohead's In Rainbows was the top vinyl seller with 25,800 copies.
Leona Lewis' Bleeding Love was the year's top-selling digital song with 3.42 million downloads. Lil Wayne's Lollipop also topped 3 million, by 160,000. Rest of the top five: Flo Rida's Low, Katy Perry's I Kissed a Girl, Coldplay's Viva la Vida.
Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III was the No. 1 album, selling 2.87 million copies. Coldplay's Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, Taylor Swift's Fearless and Kid Rock's Rock 'n' Roll Jesus were the only other albums to sell 2 million in 2008, compared with eight in 2007.
Entertainment/Celebrity News - January 1, 2009
President-elect Barack Obama has kicked pal Oprah Winfrey from the top spot on this year's list of the most influential celebrity do-gooders of 2008. A poll by DoSomething.org ranks how celebrities inspire and motivate young people 25 and under to want to make a positive change in their community, country and/or world. Also on the list, in order: Oprah, Angelina Jolie, Ellen DeGeneres, Brad Pitt, Al Gore, Lance Armstrong, Michelle Obama, Bono and Michael J. Fox.
Television News- January 1, 2009
Time Warner and Viacom agree on compensation that preserves access for the cable system operator's 15.7 million subscribers to the Nickelodeon network, MTV and 17 other channels. The two sides, citing disagreement over fee hikes, had threatened a damaging blackout at a minute past midnight Thursday that would have cut off shows such as Dora the Explorer,SpongeBob SquarePants and The Colbert Report for Time Warner Cable customers. The programmer Viacom and Time Warner Cable agreed on compensation that preserved access for the cable system operator's 15.7 million subscribers to Dora's Nickelodeon network, MTV and 17 other channels.
Charlie Rose blows it – During Rose's annual New Year's Eve tribute on PBS to notable figures who died during the year, he included his friend, George Butler, whose 1977 film "Pumping Iron" featured a then-unknown bodybuilder named Arnold Schwarzenegger. The screen even flashed a Butler tombstone, 1943-2008. The PBS show had confused him with another George Butler, a longtime jazz record executive who signed Wynton Marsalis, who died April 9. What's odd about the mistake is that Rose and Butler are old friends through Rose's first wife, meeting shortly after they graduated from college in North Carolina.
An autopsy is planned for John Travolta's teenage son, who died after apparently hitting his head on the bathtub while the family was vacationing at their home in the Bahamas, authorities said. Jett Travolta, 16, had last been seen entering the bathroom on Thursday and had a history of seizures, Police Superintendent Basil Rahming said in a statement. A house caretaker found the teenager unconscious in a bathroom late Friday morning. He was taken by ambulance to a Freeport hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the statement said..