Dateline: Week Of February 15, 2010 In News, Pop Culture, Tech News & Fascinating Facts
In The News -
Two commuter trains collided head-on after one ran a stop light at rush hour in a Brussels suburb, killing at least 11 people, a Belgian official said. Other officials said the death toll was higher. The impact peeled away the front of one train car and threw at least one other off the tracks, causing amputations and other severe injuries, witnesses and officials said. Train service across across Western Europe was disrupted.
Snow and ice pelted parts of the South on Monday for the second time in a matter of days, glazing Tennessee highways and reaching into northern Alabama. But the South's biggest city, Atlanta, was spared a second coating after a snowstorm Friday and Saturday that was blamed for hundreds of traffic accidents. Forecasters had warned another 2 inches of snow could fall early Monday, but overnight temperatures stayed above freezing and it rained instead. Snow fell in parts of Alabama and the National Weather Service said northern Alabama could see up to 3 inches.
Winter Olympic Games - Vancouver - February 15, 2010 -
Vancouver - Chinese married couple Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo broke their own world record with a mesmerizing performance to open the pairs short program competition Sunday, and it took until the very last pair -- about three hours later -- for anyone to come close to topping the Chinese duo. With a score of 76.66, the pair lead two-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany by just .70 points.
Thank goodness for Lindsey Vonn. She’s the U.S. skier who’s also a Sports Illustrated bikini model. Now I can cheer on a hot American athlete and not feel like a pervert. At least once during the ice skating events I see a skater, think “wow, she’s cute” and then realize she’s like 10. Lindsey has a sore shin, by the way. I couldn’t tell you the status of one other athlete. (Ken Levine)
Lindsey Vonn vowed to "push through" the pain, and push through it she did — crossing the line in the downhill at the Winter Olympics on one ski to win her first career gold medal. Overcoming a shin injury and living up to huge expectations, the most decorated female alpine skier in U.S. history tore through the rugged and ragged course Wednesday, winning by more than half a second. Teammate and 2006 giant slalom gold medalist Julia Mancuso finished second, followed by Austria's Elisabeth Gorgl.
More News - February 15, 2010 -
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that Iran is becoming a military dictatorship, a new U.S. accusation in the midst of rising tensions with Iran over its nuclear ambitions and crack down on anti-government protesters. Speaking to Arab students at Carnegie Mellon's Doha campus, Clinton said Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps appears to have gained so much power that it effectively is supplanting the government. "Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship," she said. "That is our view."
Vice President Joe Biden says he's less worried about another Sept. 11-style attack than a strike by a lone bomber like the man who tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines plane last Christmas. Discussing U.S. vulnerability in an interview on CBS's "The Early Show," Biden said, "Am I less worried about a catastrophic event? Yes." Biden said he's more concerned about an attack "along the lines of the Christmas Day bomber." He said he considers that a greater threat than terrorism which requires "the kind of planning that's needed to pull off a very complicated 9-11."
A Haitian judge has ordered the release of eight of 10 American missionaries accused of kidnapping children, while the remaining two would be held for further questioning. Laura Silsby, the leader of the group, and Charisa Coulter, were being kept for further investigation, said investigating Judge Bernard Saint-Vil. He said those released would be allowed to return home without posting bail if they agreed to return to Haiti for any more questions in the pending investigation. "They will not have to post bail," the judge said. "But they will have to come back at the request of the court."
Pakistani authorities using U.S.-gathered intelligence arrested up to nine al-Qaida-linked militants in a series of overnight raids in the southern city of Karachi, officials said Thursday. The arrests follow the recent detentions in Pakistan of several Afghan-linked militant leaders, including the capture of the Taliban's No. 2 chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, indicating that Pakistan may be stepping up its cooperation with the U.S. against extremism.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. reported a 22 percent increase in its fourth-quarter profit as the world's largest retailer cut costs and slimmed down its inventories. But a key measure of sales showed its third consecutive quarterly decline, the discounter said Thursday, as it continues to grapple with deflation in groceries and electronics and a tough economy. The company also offered a tepid earnings outlook. Wal-Mart shares fell 82 cents to $53.24 in premarket trading.
Fewer airline crashes occurred around the world in 2009 than during the previous year, but deaths were up, an industry group said Thursday. There were 18 fatal airline accidents last year compared with 23 fatal accidents in 2008, the International Air Transport Association said. However, there were 685 fatalities in 2009 compared with 502 the previous year, the association said. Those numbers include both jet and turboprop planes.
A software engineer upset with the Internal Revenue Service set fire to his home Thursday and then flew his plane into a multistory office building that houses federal tax employees, authorities said. The pilot was presumed to have died in the crash, federal law enforcement officials said. At least two people were injured and a third person who worked in the building was unaccounted for, fire officials said. The crash caused a raging fire that sent black smoke billowing from the seven-story Echelon Building. The fire was extinguished hours later.
The pilot, listed in FAA and property records as Andrew Joseph Stack III of Austin and identified by law enforcement sources as Joseph Stack, apparently had a long-running dispute with the IRS. Stack, 53, is listed as the owner of a Piper PA-28 Cherokee registered at a previous address in Lincoln, Calif. Officials believe that is the plane that he crashed Thursday.
President Barack Obama is emphasizing his administration’s actions on the economy during a two-state Western state swing that comes as he’s trying to bolster the chances of Democrats in November’s elections. The president plans to announce today in Las Vegas $1.5 billion in funding for housing finance agencies in states where the average prices for homes have fallen more than 20 percent from their peak, according to an administration fact sheet. The funds, from money earmarked for housing in the Troubled Asset Relief Program, will be provided for state programs such as those to assist unemployed homeowners and mortgage holders who owe more than their houses are worth, the fact sheet says.
Passing - Former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, a four-star general who served as a top adviser to three presidents and had presidential ambitions of his own, died Saturday of complications from an infection, his family said. He was 85. Haig's long and decorated military career launched the Washington career for which he is better known, including top posts in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations. He never lived down his televised response to the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.
All Decked Out In Space - Astronauts successfully attached a fancy new observation deck to the International Space Station early Monday after a long, frustrating night spent dealing with stuck bolts and wayward wiring.But they will have to wait a few more days before gazing out the $27 million domed lookout, expected to provide unprecedented 360-degree views of Earth, outer space and the space station itself.
The Wal is greener - Walgreen Co will buy Duane Reade for $618 million in cash, catapulting the largest U.S. drugstore operator into the top spot in the New York City area. Duane Reade is owned by private equity firm Oak Hill Capital Partners LP and operates 257 drugstores in the New York metropolitan area. Its sales totaled $1.8 billion last year and it has the highest sales per square foot in the U.S. industry, according to Walgreen. "We like their footprint, how it matches up with us," Walgreen Chief Executive Greg Wasson said of Duane Reade in a Reuters interview. "(It) gives us a leading presence in Manhattan as well as supplements what we have in the boroughs in New York."
Sports News - February 15, 2010 -
Catch That Tiger - The NY Daily News reports that Tiger Woods made regular hush money payments to quiet two girls he had a threesome with on tape.The fidelity-challenged superstar golfer was in bed with the pair in Phoenix three years back when he noticed one of them taking pictures or videotaping him with the other girl, the newspaper said, citing a source familiar the situation. “"Tiger goes ballistic. He starts chasing the girl around. She runs out the door. He runs out after her. I don't know how much clothing either of them is wearing, but Tiger finally catches up with her and grabs her cell phone or camera or whatever it was that had the evidence,” the source said.
More Tiger -Tiger Woods allegedly impregnated his porn star mistress twice, both times when his wife was also pregnant, according to an interview with the woman set to air Monday. Joslyn James said her lengthy and steamy affair with Woods always involved unprotected sex. Using protection "was never talked about," the actress told U.S. television show "Inside Edition." "It was never protected." James, 32, who claimed she carried on an affair with Woods from 2006 to 2009, said she miscarried in her first pregnancy at about the same time his wife, Elin Nordegren, gave birth to daughter Sam Alexis on June 18, 2007.
Woods Apologizes - Tiger, appearing in a 13-minute press conference - admitted that he is the only one to blame, admitting, "I was unfaithful." He also apologized to his family, friends and fans, and said he thought he played by different rules because of money and fame, but agrees that those "actions were wrong."Tiger admitted "he has a long way to go," but he is taking steps in the right direction, and said that no matter what people want to know about his marriage, it is going to stay within the family. "Please leave my wife and kids alone," Tiger stated.
Jamie McMurray wins the Daytona 500 - On a track where crumbling asphalt caused almost 2 1/2 hours of delays, McMurray persevered to win NASCAR's biggest race, holding off a furious charge by the sport's most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., on the final lap.
Michael Phelps - The most decorated athlete in Olympic history began a five-day trip to Vancouver by making a little news of his own. Michael Phelps told reporters that the 2012 London Olympics will be his last and that he won't attempt to repeat his eight-gold-medal performance in two years. "I told myself I will not swim over the age of 30, and I will not swim over the age of 30," he said. Phelps has won 14 gold medals in his career, five more than any other athlete. Though he didn't specifically say how many events he'd do in London, five or six would be the most likely (three relays plus two or three individual events).
Denver Nuggets coach George Karl has been diagnosed with neck and throat cancer and likely will miss some games and practices while undergoing a rigorous six-week treatment program of radiation and chemotherapy. His voice breaking at times, Karl revealed the diagnosis Tuesday night with his doctor, Jacques Saari, at his side and surrounded by his team and members of the Nuggets organization.
Here’s a Kicker - Sebastian Janikowski and the Oakland Raiders agreed on a $16 million, four-year deal that is the richest contract for a kicker in NFL history, the team said. Janikowski will be guaranteed $9 million in the deal, a person familiar with the contract said on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms. Janikowski was eligible to be an unrestricted free agent if the Raiders did not sign him to a contract or place the transition or franchise tag on him by Feb. 25. But the team was able to lock him up by giving him the same contract All Pro punter Shane Lechler got a year ago to stay out of Free Agency.
Technology News - February 15, 2010 -
Google has expressed a desire for access to larger amounts of renewable energy to help produce the electricity it consumes as part of its vast search-engine empire. Google has long maintained that its goal is to become a carbon-neutral company. As a side note, it's not unusual for large companies to be granted the authority to trade in the wholesale electricity market for the purpose of managing their own energy costs.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has authorized Google Energy to buy and sell electricity in bulk like any other utility. The FERC, the agency with oversight of the U.S. power grid, signed an order that grants Google Energy market-based rate authorization. This paves the way for the search giant to not only better manage its own energy costs, but to possibly add electricity marketer to its repertoire of services. The order specifically grants Google Energy--a subsidiary of Google--the rights "for the sale of energy, capacity, and ancillary services at market-based rates" while acknowledging that neither Google Energy nor its affiliates "own or control any generation or transmission" facilities.
Entertainment News - February 15, 2010 -
He had the Knack - Doug Fieger, leader of the pop band The Knack who sang on the 1979 hit "My Sharona," died Sunday. He was 57. Fieger, a Detroit-area native, died at his home in Woodland Hills near Los Angeles after battling cancer, according to The Knack's manager, Jake Hooker.Fieger formed The Knack in Los Angeles 1978, and the group quickly became a staple of Sunset Strip rock clubs. For a short time in pop history - "The Knack" was the most popular and sought-after band in the U.S.
Madonna is going to be sitting in the throne of the director's chair. According to Variety, the material mom will direct "W.E." The film chronicles the romance of King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. The affair instigated the crowned king to abdicate his office to marry his divorcee love.
Jay-Z Not Crazy - Rap superstar Jay-Z turned down the opportunity to join Quincy Jones’' star-studded remake of "We Are the World” -- because he didn't want to touch the classic. Jay-Z tells MTV.com, "'We Are the World' is like 'Thriller' to me. I don't ever wanna see it touched. "I'm a fan of music. I know the plight and everything that's going on in Haiti. I applaud the efforts: (Millions have been raised) through text (donations) to Haiti. So I appreciate the efforts and everything, but 'We Are the World' is (musically) untouchable like 'Thriller' is untouchable. Some things are just untouchable. It was a valiant effort, but for me, it's gonna be untouchable."
Cash-strapped music company EMI Group Ltd. is seeking a buyer for Abbey Road studios, where The Beatles recorded some of their most famous songs, a person familiar with the situation. The person said talks had been going on for several months, but a buyer had not yet been found. The individual spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are private. A spokesman for EMI refused to comment on the sale bid, which could raise tens of millions of dollars for the label.
Idol revving up - It's an “American Idol" first -- some of the Top 24 members will be officially revealed early. According to the FOX, some of the Top 24 semifinalists will be revealed in a special two-hour event airing Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. on FOX. During Tuesday's episode, the remaining contestants will take the stage to perform their final solo numbers in front of Simon, Ellen, Kara and Randy. Following these performances, the judges will deliberate and will announce some of the Top 24 semifinalists. Wednesday, Feb. 17 at 9 p.m., the judges will reveal the remaining contestants who will round out the Top 24.
Howard Stern No Idol - Executives at a parents' rights group are urging "American Idol" bosses not to hire Howard Stern to replace Simon Cowell - insisting the shock jock is too controversial for the family-friendly TV show. Cowell recently announced he will leave the judging panel of the hit singing contest next year, and early rumors suggested Howard could take over. But the news has infuriated bosses at The Parents Television Council who fear Stern's bad boy reputation could be disastrous for the popular talent show.
Sarah Palin Peeved - In a Facebook posting headlined “Fox Hollywood — What a Disappointment,” the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and current Fox News contributor said Sunday night’s episode felt like “another kick in the gut.” Palin’s youngest son, Trig, has Down syndrome. The episode features the character Chris falling for a girl with Down syndrome. On a date, he asks what her parents do. She replies: “My dad’s an accountant, and my mom is the former governor of Alaska.” Palin resigned as Alaska governor last summer. Palin’s oldest daughter, Bristol, also was quoted on her mother’s Facebook page, calling the show’s writers “heartless jerks.”
A truce has been declared in the war between TLC and Jon Gosselin. Both parties have settled their lawsuits against each other, clearing the way for the “Jon & Kate Plus 8” " patriarch to once again appear on the cable network -- assuming, of course, that TLC even wants him back. "TLC has reached a settlement with Jon Gosselin and will be undertaking procedural steps to conclude the litigation," a network spokeswoman told TheWrap. "All terms of the settlement are confidential."
Rowling razzed - J.K. Rowling has been named in a lawsuit alleging she stole ideas for her wildly popular and lucrative "Harry Potter" books from another British author.The estate of the late Adrian Jacobs on Wednesday added Rowling as a defendant in a lawsuit it filed in June against Bloomsbury Publishing PLC for alleged copyright infringement, according to a statement released by the estate's representatives, who are based in Australia.The lawsuit, filed in a London court, claims Rowling's book "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" copied substantial parts of Jacobs' 1987 book, "The Adventures of Willy the Wizard — No. 1 Livid Land." Jacobs' estate also claims that many other ideas from "Willy the Wizard" were copied into the "Harry Potter" books. Jacobs died in London in 1997.
After dating for two years, actress, singer and former superstar Disneygirl Hilary Duff, who had a recurring guest role on the popular CW series last season, is engaged to Edmonton Oilers forward Mike Comrie. The proposal comes during the NHL's two-week break for the Olympics. Hilary recently appeared in the CW’s “Gossip Girl.”
Top Music Albums - February 15, 2010 –
Another Round – Jaheim
Need You Now – Lady Antebellum
Soldier of Love –Sade
Haywire – Josh Turner
Rebirth – Lil Wayne
The Fame – Lady Gaga
Tonight – Toby Mac
Fearless – Taylor Swift
I Dreamed A Dream – Susan Boyle
The E.N.D. – Black Eyed Peas
Crazy Love – Michael Buble
Stronger With Each Tear – Mary J. Blige
The Element of Freedom – Alicia Keys
The Foundation – Zac Brown Band
Live in Las Vegas – Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds
My World – Justin Bieber
The fame Monster – Lady Gaga
Valentine’s Day soundtrack
Animal – Ke$ha
Play On – Carrie Underwood
Funhouse - Pink
Alvin & The Chipmunks soundtrack
Michael Jackson’s This Is It
Top Movies - February 15, 2010 –
Valentine’s Day (first week - $52,410,000 take)
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightening Thief
From Paris With Love
Edge of Darkness
When in Rome