Dateline: Week Of March 22, 2012 In News, Pop Culture, Tech News & Fascinating Facts
In The News –
Mohammed Merah, the 23 year old French gunman who confessed to killing 7 people in the city of Toulouse in southwest France, is dead after being shot in the head by a police sniper during a final dramatic shoot-out with French police. It was the culmination of a 31-hour standoff with hundreds of French anti-terror police who surrounded the building where Merah had barricaded himself.
Al-Qaida's Yemen branch said Thursday that it killed an American teacher because he was trying to spread Christianity in the mainly Muslim Arab nation. Joel Shrum, a 29-year-old native of Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, was gunned down on Sunday in the central city of Taiz, where he had been living with his wife and two sons. He was studying Arabic and teaching English at a language institute.
Pink Slime Meat - Two of the biggest U.S. supermarket operators, Safeway Inc and Supervalu Inc, will stop buying the ammonia-treated beef product critics call "pink slime" because of customer concerns, the companies said on Wednesday. The halt by the No. 2 and No. 3 supermarket chains is a fresh blow to use of the ground beef product, also known as lean finely textured beef, which has drawn criticism from food activists. Although the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and industry experts said the meat was safe, "recent news stories have caused considerable consumer concern about this product," Safeway said in a statement.
A Bangladesh court on Wednesday(March22) ordered authorities to shut down five Facebook pages and a website for blaspheming the Prophet Mohammed, the Koran and other religious subjects, a lawyer said. Judges at the high court in Dhaka ordered the telecommunications regulator, home ministry officials and police to block the offending pages immediately. "These pages contain disparaging remarks and cartoons about Prophet Mohammed, the Muslim holy book of Koran, Jesus, Lord Buddha and Hindu gods," Nawshad Zamir, a lawyer of the petitioner who brought the case, told AFP.
The number of Americans claiming new unemployment benefits dropped to a four-year low last week, offering further evidence the jobs market recovery was gaining traction. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 348,000, the lowest level since February 2008, the Labor Department said on Thursday(March22).
More than 25,000 people filled Fort Mellon Park in Sanford, Florida on Thursday night(March22) to protest the lack of an arrest in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Just a few miles away, some residents of the upscale Retreat at Twin Lakes housing complex, where Trayvon was killed, were still trying to figure just how much of a role a string of small burglaries and long-held stereotypes played in the teenager’s death.
Syrian forces pounded the central city of Homs with mortar fire while troops backed by heavy armor stormed rebellious towns across the country on Saturday, leaving six civilians and four soldiers dead, opposition activists said.
A piece of an old Russian satellite whizzed by the International Space Station, forcing its six-member crew to temporarily take shelter in two Soyuz escape capsules, officials said. The incident was the third of its kind in more than a decade of continuous inhabitation of the orbiter, whose first element was launched by Russia in 1998, the US space agency NASA said in a series of Twitter updates.
On Monday(March26), the Supreme Court begins hearing oral arguments in one of the most politically charged cases in years. Attorneys representing 26 states, most led by Republican governors, and the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) will spar with Justice Department lawyers over what President Obama called his proudest achievement--health care reform. Challengers will argue that requiring all Americans to buy health insurance is an illegal and unprecedented act of government overreach, while the Justice Department will counter that it's a routine exercise of Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce. The Supreme Court will most likely hand down its decision in late June, right in the middle of the heated 2012 presidential election.
The housing market started off the new year with a thud. Home prices dropped for the fifth consecutive month in January, reaching their lowest point since the end of 2002. The average home sold in that month lost 0.8% of its value, compared with a month earlier, and prices were down 3.8% from 12 months earlier, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index of 20 major markets. Home prices have fallen a whopping 34.4% from the peak set in July, 2006.
The winning numbers for the $356 million Mega Millions lottery jackpot, the third-largest prize in the game's history, were 9, 19, 34, 44, 51 and Mega Ball 24, but they did not produce a winner, officials said. The lack of winner from Tuesday night's drawing means the estimated jackpot will grow to an estimated $476 million for a drawing Friday, according to the official Mega Millions website. Mega Millions drawings are held Tuesdays and Fridays at 11 p.m. ET and Tuesday night's drawing took place in Atlanta. The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot were estimated at about 1 in 176 million, according to lottery officials.
Jet Blue Pilot Melts Down - JetBlue CEO Dave Barger spoke out, a day after one of the airline's captains had a mid-air meltdown, causing a flight from New York to Las Vegas to be diverted to Amarillo, Texas. The captain, Clayton Osbon, became incoherent and the co-pilot locked him out of the cockpit. Osbon began shouting about threats from al-Qaida, Iran, Iraq and bombs aboard flight, and was subdued by several passengers, including an off-duty police officer. He was strapped down and later transported to a local medical facility. Barger said Obson was "under the custody of the FBI."
Vermont teacher Melissa Jenkins was strangled and police today arrested a married couple and charged them with her death, police said. Police, however, did not give a motive for the killing during a brief news conference this morning. Allen Prue, 30, and Patricia Prue, 33, who are husband and wife, are scheduled to be arraigned later this morning on charges of second degree murder and improper disposal of a body. The Prues were taken into custody early today. "They knew Ms. Jenkins and had snow plowed her driveway a few years ago," State Police Maj. Ed Ledo said. A search warrant is being executed at the Prues' home.
The Canadian government announced on Thursday that it plans to pull the penny from circulation at the end of 2012, saying the copper-coated currency is more expensive for the Royal Canadian Mint to produce than its actual currency value.
Lottery ticket-holders in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland each selected the winning numbers for the world record-breaking $640 million Mega Millions jackpot, lottery officials said early Saturday.
President Barack Obama is calling on Congress to increase taxes on millionaires, reviving a proposal he first pitched last September that aims to draw sharp election-year lines between the president and the Republican opposition.
Sports News March 22, 2012 –
March Madness - Florida Gators beating Marquette to move into the NCAA "Elite 8".
Passing - Bert Sugar, an iconic boxing writer and sports historian who was known for his trademark fedora and ever-present cigar, died Sunday of cardiac arrest. He was 75.
Magic Johnson’s Investment Group To Purchase The LA Dodgers – At A Record Price - $2.15 billion dollars, a sum decided Tuesday night, Frank McCourt believes. That's how much the Los Angeles Dodgers will cost Magic Johnson's group. Johnson's consortium beat out two others — one that included St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke, and another that included billionaire Steve Cohen and former major league manager Tony La Russa. The record amount for a major league team would top the $845 million the Ricketts family paid in 2010 for the Chicago Cubs. More importantly to Dodgers fans, it will take McCourt out of the Dodgers ownership loop after eight long years. McCourt bought the franchise for $430 million in 2004 but took it into bankruptcy. Well, he won't be bankrupt anymore once the deal closes.
Technology News March 22, 2012 -
Research from Western Illinois University showed a link between the number of Facebook friends you have and how active you are on the site to the likelihood of being a "socially disruptive" narcissist. The study -- which was recently published in the journal -- was conducted among 300 participants, who took a Narcissistic Personality Inventory questionnaire. Those with more Facebook friends, who tagged themselves in photos and updated their status throughout the day were more likely to have narcissistic traits.
U.S. teens, cell phones (especially text messaging) are a key way to stay connected with friends and other people in their lives, . Pew found that 63% of all teens say they exchange text messages every day with people in their lives, including their parents. Also, nearly half of all teens send and receive text messages with friends daily. In contrast, 28% teens say they never text their friends -- but then, 23% of teens don't have a cell phone at all. For teens, cell phones appear to correlate with social privilege. Nearly 90% of older teens (aged 14-17) have a cell phone, while just under 60% of 12- to 13-year-olds have a cell phone. White teens are most likely to have a cell phone (81%), vs. 72% of black teens and 63% of Hispanic teens.
Wall Street Journal Reports Traditional Vending Machines Disappearing - the Wall Street Journal reported that the once ever-present machines -- that take only the crispest of bills and serve up sugary and salty snacks -- are going away. According to the publication, "Traditional vending machines disappeared from 134,000 locations between 2007 and 2010, according to the latest available data from Vending Times, an industry publication. Sales from vending machines sank more than 11%, to $42.2 billion, in the same period."
That's right: Traditional vending machines that sell candy bars, chips, and soda, are losing popularity. What's on the rise instead: boutique operations. At the airport you can buy iPods, e-readers and cameras from Best Buy kiosks. Some new niche machines stock live bait in Pennsylvania and prescription drugs from InstyMeds has sold 1.5 million Rx in 24 states.
The CEO of BATS Global Markets issued a public note of apology on Sunday for withdrawing his company's initial public offering after an embarrassing computer glitch. "BATS experienced a serious technical failure Friday morning and I want to apologize for not measuring up," said Joe Ratterman, CEO of BATS in a mass email addressed to customers and members of the trading community. "On Friday we were under the brightest spotlight imaginable . opening our own stock on our own exchange for the first time ever. It doesn't get much more public than that," said Ratterman. "It shouldn't have failed, but it did, and the timing couldn't have been worse."
Losing Your Smartphone - On average, people lose their smartphone once per year, according to Lookout Mobile Security. Recently, Lookout analyzed phone loss data and found some interesting trends about where and when people lose their phones. This data is presented on a new interactive website, . Lookout gathered data from its , which is on more than 15 million cell phones around the world (mostly Android phones). In 2011, Lookout found 9 million smartphones. (The company considered a phone as having gone missing whenever a user logged in to Lookout via the Web to find a phone.) "Losing your phone is absolutely the biggest mobile security risk cell phone owners currently face, even more than malware," said Kevin Mahaffey, Lookout's chief technology officer. "People lose their phones in the places they go every day. It's not a stray comet from the sky snatching your phone. That's why we wanted to study this." When are people most likely to lose their phone? Lookout found that the vast majority of smartphone losses happen late at night, from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. But on holidays, or during major events such as festivals or big sporting events, people are especially likely to lose a phone. In 2011, phone losses around the world spiked on Christmas and New Year's Eve. In general, throughout the United States, the five types of places where people are most likely to lose a cell phone are coffee shops, bars, restaurants, at the office or at home. Also, the five U.S. cities where people are most likely to lose a smartphone are Philadelphia; Seattle; Oakland, California.; Long Beach, California; and Newark, New Jersey. One reason why losing your smartphone is so risky is that recent research by Symantec (another mobile security provider) showed that more than 95% of the time, people who find lost smartphones on those phones -- which can including e-mail, online banking, photos and more. This is why it's so important to always protect your cell phone with at least a security passcode or swipe pattern.
Online Movie Watching Outpaces DVD’s For The First Time - U.S. movie buffs will pay to watch more movies online in 2012 than they will on physical video formats like DVD. That historic first marks a tipping point for Hollywood -- and its business model. The stat comes a report that research firm IHS iSuppli released late Thursday. Online views, or paid "transactions," will hit 3.4 billion this year, compared with 2.4 billion for physical copies, according to IHS's forecast. It's a big change from the figures IHS clocked last year. In 2011, physical videos easily stayed on top with 2.6 billion views, compared to 1.4 billion for online. That's a 135% year-over-year increase for online video. IHS expects the trend to accelerate.
Research In Motion on Thursday reported a quarterly loss as BlackBerry shipments slumped again and said former co-CEO Jim Balsillie stepped down as director, part of a shake-up of the company's senior ranks by its new chief executive. RIM's shares dropped as much as 9 percent after the company said it would no longer issue financial forecasts and is reviewing "strategic opportunities" such as partnerships and joint ventures licensing, and other ways to leverage its assets.
Entertainment News March 22, 2012 –
The Los Angeles Coroner released a statement, saying cocaine attributed to the death of Whitney Houston. "We had approximately a 60 percent occlusion in the arteries, in the narrowing of the arteries," Harvey said. "So, that condition, complicated by the chronic cocaine use, all combined to result in her drowning. The final cause of death has been established as drowning due to atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use."
Hilary Duff and her husband, hockey star Mike Comrie, welcomed their first child into the world! On Tuesday, March 20, the actress delivered their little bundle of joy, Luca Cruz, said to be a "healthy 7 pound, 6 ounce beautiful boy."
American Idol Update - The 26-year-old disc jockey from South Kingstown, R.I., who dramatically chopped off her hair before Wednesday's evening of Billy Joel tunes, was eliminated from the Fox singing contest. Van Pelt didn't persuade the show's judges to rescue her from dismissal Thursday with a last-chance rendition of Whitney Houston's "I Believe In You and Me." "Ultimately, Ryan, no, sorry," judge Randy Jackson told "Idol" host Ryan Seacrest when asked if she would be saved. Van Pelt, who pleased the panel Wednesday with her shorter, darker hairstyle and sultry interpretation of "New York State of Mind," was revealed to be among the bottom three vote-getters alongside 17-year-old vocal acrobat Deandre Brackensick of San Jose, Calif., and goofy 22-year-old nonprofit organizer Heejun Han of New York.
Hunger for “Hunger Games.” There’s a huge buzz for the movie – which opens this week. Based on a three-book trilogy - Lionsgate, which is releasing the PG-13 movie, is trying to manage expectations. The studio spent about $100 million to make the movie, which became $80 million after tax incentives. This much is clear: Opening weekend is going to be huge. The audience survey firm NRG shows that overall awareness of the movie is an astonishing 92 percent. Among females younger than 25, overall awareness is an almost-impossible 96 percent.
The comedian Gallagher says he's had his fill of performing live onstage and is retiring after 32 years. The Los Angeles-based comedian, whose full name is Leo Anthony Gallagher, told an Ohio radio station on Thursday that his retirement plans include posting his writings online and possibly appearing at private parties. Gallagher is known for smashing watermelons with a sledgehammer. He had a heart attack March 14 before a performance at a suburban Dallas bar. He came out of a medically induced coma this week and was released from a hospital Wednesday.
To kick off the release of her new album, Madonna is joining Twitter for one day to answer questions from fans. The pop legend will be turning to Twitter on Monday night to promote her 12th studio album, MDNA, and interact with fans on the popular social network. She will be answering questions starting at 10:00 p.m. EST/7:00 p.m. PST.The Twitter handle sent out its first tweet on Sunday to get the word out about the Q&A. Fans can submit questions to Madonna by tweeting @MadonnaMDNAday and using the hashtag #askmadonna. The account already has over 12,000 followers.
An elderly couple has reached a settlement with Spike Lee after the pair said they had to leave their Florida home after the director help spread a Twitter posting listing their address as that of the man who shot an unarmed teen. The couple's attorney, Matt Morgan, announced the settlement Thursday. Morgan says Lee called them to apologize for retweeting their address. Specifics of the settlement weren't disclosed. Elaine and David McClain are in their 70s and say they have a son named William George Zimmerman, who lived in their Sanford area home in the mid-1990s. They say he is no relation to 28-year-old George Zimmerman, who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26.
American Idol Update - Heejun Han, who, despite redeeming himself with his finest (and most serious) performance of the season this week, was still arguably the weakest vocalist left in the very competitive top nine. And thus, when Heejun ended up being the contestant with the least votes on this Thursday's results show, the Save was not used, and he became the fourth finalist to go home this season.
Keith Olbermann is looking for a new job after less than a year as a talk show host at Current TV.The left-leaning cable network announced just hours before airtime on Friday that Olbermann's show "Countdown" would be replaced with a new program called "Viewpoint" hosted by former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, beginning that night.
Top Music Albums March 22, 2012 –
Up All Night – All Directions
Wrecking Ball – Bruce Springsteen
Greatest Hits – Guns N’ Roses
Passion: White Flag
Whitney: The Greatest Hits
Take Care – Drake
Making iros –Gotye
19 – Adele
Some Nights – fun.
Carless World: - Tyga
Tailgates &Tanlines – Luke Bryan
Talk That Talk – Rihanna
Stronger – Kelly Clarkson
Klusterfuck – Tech N9ne
I Look To You – Whitney Houston
Project X – soundtrack
El Camino – The BlackKeys
The Bodyguard – Whitney Houston
My Kinda Party – Jason Aldean
Anarchy, My Dear – Say Anything
TM: 103: Hustlerz Ambitiion – Young Jeezy
Sorry For Party Rocking – LMFAO
Own The Night – Lady Antebellum
Top Movies March 22, 2012 -
The Hunger Games (1st week $152.5 million)
21 Jump Street
Dr Seuss’ the Lorax
Act of Valor
A Thousand Words
October Baby (1st week $1.7 million)
Journey 2: the Mysterious Island