Saturday, October 30, 2004
Toronto Star: Court puts heat on grow-ops

Sat Oct 30 15:23:07 2004
Police can use infrared heat scanners from outside to locate pot grow-ops.
Maybe this will stem the tide. I'm getting tired of smelling pot when I walk down the street.

Thursday, October 28, 2004
  BusinessWeek: Is China Running Out Of Workers?
More factories coming online, fewer female workers due to the one-child policy and higher income on farms due to increased food prices means fewer available factory workers per factory.

Now, much to the surprise of Lou and tens of thousands of other factory owners across China, the endless supply of new workers can no longer be taken for granted. Lou's packaging factory, for instance, is running well below capacity because he has only been able to find 170 of the 300 workers he needs. And even though he has jacked up wages some 30% since the beginning of the year, to an average of $85 a month, turnover is getting worse.

The implication of the labor shortage: sharply rising wages that could push up an inflation rate that already tops 5% on the mainland. That could translate into higher prices for Chinese exports that would push up inflation around the world. Lou says that with the cost of raw materials also rising, he needs to raise prices 30% for his plastic packaging to make a profit. But buyers have balked, and he has only been able to raise prices 10% so far. Yet the upward pressure will remain. "Very gradually manufacturing prices of goods from China will go up," says Anderson.

  Toronto Star: Ahoy, seniors: Take a cruise into retirement
Living on board ship is a feasible option for seniors, costs about the same as a room in a traditional retirement home and is infinitely more attractive, according to a study in today's issue of the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.

Lindquist compared the costs over a 20-year life expectancy of moving to an assisted living facility (similar to Canadian retirement homes) and a cruise ship.

She found the net cost of 20 years of cruise ship living was only about $2,440 (Canadian) more on the cruise ship ($282,000 versus $279,560), but the quality was higher.

In Ontario, retirement homes, which are not subsidized, range from about $1,500 to $5,000 per month for a private room, including a range of optional services such as meal plans, according to the provincial government. The cruise worked out to an average of $3,186 a month.

Lindquist used a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Majesty of the Seas, for her comparisons because it "hosts a generous mix of age groups" and travels year-round to the Bahamas and Caribbean.

Only one cruise ship, The World of ResidenSea, has 110 occupied floating condos, and the people who own them don't talk about what it's like, a spokesperson said. The condos, which range from 1,106 to 3,242 square feet, cost their owners between $2 million and $6.84 million (U.S.), plus monthly dues of about $5,000. "They're filthy rich, my dear," he explained.

  Toronto Minor Hockey in turmoil
The Toronto Star has a series of articles about certain people who seem to be taking over minor hockey in and around Toronto, raising fees for kids. 'I want them to open their books' and Team sued parents over hockey fees.

Stuart Hyman, a 40-year-old real estate broker in Toronto, has become the lightning rod for questions about the rising cost of youth hockey.

In only five years, Hyman has gained control or influence over 10 organizations that manage 93 teams in the GTHL, Scarborough Hockey Association and Ontario Provincial Junior A league. Across southern Ontario, about 1,500 players wear the colours of teams under Hyman's influence.

And he has made financial offers, reportedly reaching as high as $300,000, for control of other non-profit GTHL organizations.

Player fees on some Hyman teams are, on average, double those of their competitors. A survey of all 35 GTHL organizations that manage teams at the A and AA level found none with basic player fees as high as those of teams linked to Hyman.

In written responses to questions from the Star, Hyman states that "the clubs with which I'm involved endeavour to provide AAA services and benefits to youngsters regardless of the level in which they play," adding that "the clubs with which I'm involved are trying to raise the bar in minor hockey for the benefit of the players."

Grimes is a volunteer with the Etobicoke-based Faustina Sports Club, where he played hockey as a boy and where three of his sons now play.

Players there pay about $600 a season for basic equipment and skating sessions three or four times a week, he says. Basic player fees on some of Hyman's clubs are $1,600, including the Weston Hawks.

"That's $1,000 difference," he says. "Where the hell is this money going? Don't tell me it's (hockey) gloves and bags and pants."

The team charges its players $1,599 in registration fees, which cover such basics as uniforms, insurance and team pictures. But there are extra fees that can add hundreds to that amount.

Rod Nystrom is also paying for tickets to a Weston Hawks banquet this week, on top of $2,300 in club fees for his 14-year-old son Cody to play this year.

Calling the fees "exorbitant," he says the money is buying only one practice a week and piles of unneeded new equipment such as gloves, jackets and bags.

"We bought (Cody) a new pair of gloves last year," he said. "In a lot of cases, you're replacing stuff that's still good."

Nystrom says many parents on the team share his frustrations, but aren't sure what to do.

"There are a lot of people who feel the way I do, but you don't want to screw it up for your kids either. You're too far down the road to find another team."

One of Hyman's Toronto Penguins teams included in its proposed budget for the 2003-2004 season a line item for $10,000 to buy weekly ice time.

City records show the Penguins team was issued weekly ice time at the Agincourt arena at a cost of $120.91 per hour, for a total of just over $3,000.

Team parents say they paid about $8,000 — about $500 each — toward the ice before objecting.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004
  Toronto Star: Trash talking makes city green
Even the sophisticates of Hogtown — from Rosedale matrons to Guildwood gentry and South Kingsway executives — have embraced the vilest task known to man; they've taken to sorting waste, trash, detritus, by hand.

This minute, in the Annex and the Beach, along grungy west Queen St. W. and out to King and Parliament, Torontonians who often forget basic Fido etiquette of poop-and-scoop are scooping poop and other face-scrunching yuck into a pail perched in their kitchen.

From there, residents roll the putrefying mess locked in a green bin to the curb for what is now North America's biggest curbside organic-waste diversion program. City crews transport the icky slop to a plant, and like magic, it is converted to nutrient-rich garden compost, which is returned free to citizens.

Starting tomorrow, more than 200,000 households in the downtown, East York and York areas will join their fellow citizens in Scarborough and Etobicoke in this virtuous cycle. Etobicoke launched Toronto's massive diversion of organic household waste from landfill in September 2002. Scarborough followed in June 2003.

When council was stormed by angry northerners opposed to a plan to ship Toronto trash to an abandoned mine in Kirkland Lake, city council had no other option but to accelerate diversion efforts.

And whatever city council has asked residents to do, citizens have complied.

"Feed Blue," the politicians said, and residents dutifully overflowed the blue box with cans, bottles and paper. Recycling expanded to a gray/green box. And a wide range of products were banned from landfill.

Residents have bought backyard composters to divert leaves and yard waste from landfill. The leave grass clippings where they fall. Shrubs and trees and yard waste are placed in paper bags for pickup and composting.

Even though it took special calendars and communication to decipher the complex waste collection schedule, residents stuck with it.

Now, mixing waste is as anathema and anti-social as smoking in a restaurant or office or bus.

One should remember this when the idea of a pesticide ban for lawn weeds seems a difficult thing. Or prohibitions against smoking in one's car, when kids are passengers. Or a ban on cutting mature trees, even from private property.

Almost painlessly, Toronto has turned green.

  NY Post: Chris Byron - TRAVELZOO'S SKIDOO
Travelzoo was created in the spring of 1998 by a young fellow named Ralph Bartel, who had earned a doctorate in journalism and the media from a university in Germany and had been working as a management assistant at the Grunner und Jahr publishing house.

Meanwhile, with the bulk of the stock in the hands of Bartel, the company extended an intriguing and attention-getting offer to the public: anyone who wanted to register as a visitior to the Travelzoo Web site could receive, free of charge, shares in the company.

This led to the issuance of roughly 5.2 million such shares, reducing Bartel's stake accordingly. But this was followed in 2002 by the merger of the company into a new, Delaware0incorporated entity. And since fine print in the original offering of free stock to the public required recipients to certify that they 18 years of age and were U.S. or Canadian residents — something that few recipients bothered to do — Bartel had the right to cancel their shares after two years had passed.

By the spring of this year, Travelzoo had moved to New York and begun to gain traction as a real business. Subscribers to the website had nearly doubled from 2002 to 6.1 million, while revenues — nearly all of which was coming from travel industry advertisers promoting their deals — had likewise nearly doubled, to just under $18 million, putting $2 million on the bottom line as profit.

In reaction, the stock began to move from less than $5 per share at the start of the year to $10 by the start of spring.

THINKING perhaps that it was rising too fast, short-sellers began to circle. And when they did Bartel sprang his trap, announcing that of the roughly 19 million shares outstanding, more than four million were being cancelled because the recipients had never bothered to certify their ages and countries of residence.

This automatically reduced the public float by 80%, lifting Bartel's control back to more than 87%, while causing suddenly anxious short-sellers to begin chasing the stock that still remained public in order to close out their positions, which of course simply caused the stock's rise to accelerate.

It was the start of a classic short squeeze, and it is only now beginning to unwind as one short-seller after the next gets carried out, feet-first, reducing demand for the shares accordingly.

Monday, October 18, 2004
  Toronto Star: Quebecers love the easy life, poll suggests
Quebecers work fewer hours, sleep more and watch more TV than other Canadians, and they also read less and spend less time exercising, indicates a recent poll.

When it comes to TV viewing, Quebecers were second only to British Columbians in the amount of time spent in front of the television.

While people in B.C. reported watching 14.2 hours of television every week, Quebecers said they spent 13.2 hours in front of the television.

The poll has a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The error margin for the regional breakdowns is higher.

Claude Martin, a communications professor at the University of Montreal, said it's not surprising the poll paints a different portrait of Quebecers' lifestyles.

There are lingering signs of the linguistic and cultural differences that once isolated Quebecers from the rest of the country, said Martin.

"Traces of our Latinity remain," he said.

Martin also wasn't surprised people in the province watched more television and read less than those in other provinces.

Quebec television is produced and created by Quebecers and a star system also exists in the province, he said.

"Our interest in television mirrors our disinterest in reading," he said.

Friday, October 15, 2004
  Business Week: Now College Grads Can't Find A Job
Scary if this continues. Open source software isn't going to help the situation. It'll depress salaries for programmers compared to an environment with mostly closed-source software.

If any student trying to enter the workforce in China should have an easy time finding a plum job, it's Wang Zhaohui. In July, the 30-year-old graduated from China Agricultural University in Beijing -- China's top agriculture academy -- with a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology. That makes him well-positioned to take advantage of the government's drive to upgrade its competitiveness in science and technology. But for months now, Wang has been seeking a position with a university, research center, or biotech company -- and has had no luck. He says many classmates are having similar trouble.

For many years only the top 4% of China's students could enroll in college, and there were plenty of white-collar jobs to go around.

People's University, Beijing Normal University, and China Medical University have all opened campuses in the booming southern city of Zhuhai. Private-sector schools, both Chinese and foreign, have also proliferated.

With all this expansion, more than 17% of the country's college-age students can now find places in universities. The number of university graduates has exploded from 1.5 million in 2002 to 2.8 million this year. In 2005 the system is expected to produce 3.4 million.

The problem is that even in China, the world's fastest growing economy, there aren't enough jobs for so many graduates -- and President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have a new kind of production overcapacity to grapple with. On Sept. 28, Lin Huiqing, director of the Education Ministry's college students department, told reporters that some 30% of this year's grads are unemployed and that the increase in graduates was aggravating an already difficult job market.

What's more, Beijing may have unwittingly compounded its problem: It increased college enrollments partly as a way to keep a rising tide of high school graduates from flooding the labor market too early. That move postponed the employment problem for many of China's young people but did nothing to solve it.

Of course, in the long run, expanding the college student population is a key to development: China's huge supply of young, educated workers is crucial to its drive to achieve First World status. And even with 17% of its college-age people in school, China lags behind industrialized countries, where the proportion is 40% or more.

  MSNBC: For Starbucks, two blocks is too far
Bloody lazy people. Two blocks is too far? That means they'll use less calories to load up on those high calorie liquid caffeine rockets. Sheesh.

There are so few Starbucks Corp. stores in the world that customers are sometimes forced to journey more than two blocks to find one, the coffee retailer's chief executive bemoaned Thursday.

A big focus of that growth will be in America's suburbs and small towns, chief executive Orin Smith said, where people don't want to leave their cars to get their caffeine. Many of the new outlets will be drive-throughs.

Starbucks currently has about 8,500 stores, including about 6,100 in this country. The company has not set a target date for the 30,000 stores.

"Despite what you hear now that we must be nearing saturation in North America, that is not true," Smith told analysts.

"We know from our studies that the reason our most frequent users -- and as well our most infrequent users -- don't use us more is because there's not enough of us and we're not convenient enough," he said.

"Americans don't walk, so if you have to go more than two blocks, they don't go."

  CNN: Jim Carrey becomes U.S. citizen
"This country has helped define me and make my dreams come true," said Carrey, 42, in a statement.

Nevertheless the star of films like "The Mask," "Bruce Almighty" and the upcoming "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events," professed his pride at being born a Canadian.

"I have no intention of giving up my Canadian heritage, and all those who loved and supported me," said Carrey.

"My upbringing in Canada made me the person I am. I will always be proud to be a Canadian," he added.

  CNN: Study: One in 100 adults asexual
It offered respondent a list of options. One read: "I have never felt sexually attracted to anyone at all." One percent said they agreed with the statement.

That response level is close to the percentage of gay people in the population, which is around three percent, the New Scientist report says.

New Scientist says such studies offer insights into sexuality, but the results remain controversial.

"The closest we have got to understanding human asexuals comes from studies -- mostly surveys - of people who report not having sex," it says.

A 1994 survey, published by The University of Chicago Press, found that 13 percent of 3,500 respondents had no sex in the past year. Forty percent of those people said they were extremely happy or very happy with their lives.

  CNet: Microsoft selling new Windows at cut-rate price
Despite all the changes Microsoft is touting with the new version of Media Center, the biggest change may be one that the company barely mentions: the price drop.

Microsoft had priced the first two versions of Windows XP Media Center edition, targeted at consumers, higher than even its professional edition of Windows sold to businesses. This time, Microsoft has priced the software somewhere between Windows XP Home and Windows XP Pro, CNET has learned.

"There is a deliberate strategy to lower the price," said Tom Laemmel, a product manager in the Windows Client unit.

In its previous versions, Windows XP Media Center Edition was a niche product that sold on about 1 million PCs, mostly high-end machines that appealed to enthusiasts who wanted to record TV shows onto their computer hard drives.

By contrast, computer makers are moving rather slowly to adopt the other changes being made by Microsoft--particularly the support for high-definition television and multiple TV tuners. Microsoft only just this week gave computer makers the code they need to support high-definition, so models with that feature are not likely to be a big part of this year's holiday offerings. Also, as noted previously, Media Center supports only the kind of high-definition television that broadcast channels deliver to an antenna, not those channels offered by cable or satellite companies.

Of the big five consumer PC makers that announced systems on Tuesday, only HP is offering computers with more than one tuner, and even it is doing so only in the priciest version of its Digital Entertainment Center living room console.

Now that it costs less than XP Pro, Microsoft has altered Media Center's features slightly to ensure that businesses don't switch to Media Center just to save money.

The features that are no longer supported are things that would be largely invisible to even the most demanding home users. Media Center can no longer connect to a specific corporate domain server, nor is the technology supported to automatically manage a business user's login credentials.

Monday, October 11, 2004
  NY Times: Cellphone Industry Hits Snag as It Woos Untapped Market
Mr. Scocca and millions of other senior citizens are an alluring lot for the mobile phone industry, which has virtually tapped out the rest of the adult market. While about 80 percent of people 19 to 65 own mobile phones and more than 45 percent of those 10 to 18 do, only 39 percent of people 65 and older use them, according to the Yankee Group, a research firm. Moreover, older people who do use phones spend less money for fewer minutes each month than Americans under 65, the firm says.

"There are only so many 18-year-olds to market to," said Jeff Nelson, a spokesman for Verizon Wireless. "The senior population is a clear opportunity for growth."

But first marketers must overcome the concerns of Mr. Scocca and his peers, who say the phones are too small, too hard to hear and cost too much.

To create more converts, analysts said, the big phone makers are developing phones that will be easier to see and hear - and that will reverse the trend toward miniaturization.

Last year, in the hope of attracting more older customers, the photos in U.S. Cellular brochures started to include older people using cellphones. So, too, did those at Sprint; one of its brochures, from November 2003, had a picture of a white-haired woman playing with a young girl.

AARP believes that if the opt-in process is not made law, the cellphone industry could ultimately decide unilaterally to put names in a cellphone directory, thus, AARP says, jeopardizing consumer privacy.

In addition, Ms. Weinstock said AARP wanted companies to publish more precise maps of their coverage areas. That way, she said, people who use a phone infrequently or for emergencies only will not be surprised to find it does not work as expected.

  CNet: Phone line alchemy: Copper into fiber
I can't see fiber-to-the-home being an economical feature for the phone companies unless they can get some long term commitments from their customers.

  NY Times: A Home Theater That Rattles the Windows Without Breaking the Bank
BUT while prices have been falling and lower-end systems have gained popularity, sound quality is starting to improve, even at the low end of the market, said David Carnoy, executive editor at, a site that reviews consumer electronics.

"It's amazing what you can get for under $300," Mr. Carnoy said.

While hardly pumping out top-notch sound, such systems are often adequate for small dens and bedrooms of less than 200 square feet, he said.

For larger rooms, of up to 300 square feet, he said, buyers should consider moving up to the $500-to-$1,000 range. The larger speakers that come with these systems generally have fuller sound, and the amplifiers have more power.

For large living rooms, buyers may want to consider systems with separate components.

...But there is no need to spend a fortune, she said. A good sound system can be put together from individual components for $800 to $1,000.

A rule of thumb when buying a component system is to spend 40 percent of the budget on speakers, 30 percent on a video display and the remaining 30 percent on an amplifier, Ms. Jensen said.

Sunday, October 10, 2004
  NY Times: Erase Debt Now. (Lose Your House Later.)
MICHAEL A. KNOX thought he had run out of ways to pay off his credit card bills when he got the salesman's call two years ago. To wipe out his nearly $20,000 debt, he was told, all he had to do was take out a new, bigger mortgage on his house.

Mr. Knox, then 60 and on disability, signed up. The mortgage broker sent him eight checks already made out to his creditors, and Mr. Knox dashed to the post office the day they arrived to mail them.

But the bigger house payment devoured 75 percent of his income. He quickly fell behind. And the full meaning of what he had done suddenly became clear.

By using his mortgage to pay off his credit card debt, Mr. Knox had avoided the humiliation of filing for bankruptcy. But he had put at risk something much more important to him than his pride. In late January, with Mr. Knox in arrears, the Wall Street firm that had bought his mortgage informed him that it was taking away his home.

"They're going to have to carry me out of here," he told a lawyer in early March. Days later, Mr. Knox, who had suffered for years from depression, was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in his sealed-up car.

Encouraged by low interest rates and rising home values, millions of Americans have been using their homes to pay off credit card bills. One-fourth of homeowners who refinanced their mortgages took out larger loans on their homes in order to pay off credit cards and other debts, according to a recent study by the Federal Reserve.

The maneuver is known as debt consolidation, and mortgage lenders are using national campaigns - from prime-time advertising to e-mail spam - to pitch it as a sound way to ease the sting of credit card debt, which averages $13,000 for people who don't pay off their balance each month, according to For many, probably a vast majority, it has been a boon. Experts say the device is a factor in a recent leveling off of credit card debt and a drop this year in personal bankruptcies.

But each year, tens of thousands of people - not just the poor - lose their homes after trying to cope with their debts this way, industry figures show, and their heart-rending tales are raising alarm among consumer advocates, federal regulators and some mortgage lending officials.

  NY Times: Lies and the Lying C.E.O.'s Who Tell Them
The questioner wanted to know if customers were holding off buying PeopleSoft software out of fear that the goods would become obsolete if Oracle eventually won the battle. (Both companies sell so-called enterprise software that helps corporations handle things like finance and manufacturing.)

Playing down the bid's effects, Mr. Conway said: "I think people have lost interest in it. The last remaining customers whose business decisions were being delayed have actually completed their sales and completed their orders." In other words, not a disruptive factor, in Mr. Conway's view.

NEVER mind that back on Planet Earth, Oracle's bid was indeed creating problems for PeopleSoft. As Mr. Goldby testified in court last week, PeopleSoft's board knew immediately that Mr. Conway had erred in his comments. "We were aware that they were not wholly true," he said.

So what did the company do to correct the misstatement? It filed a corrected version of the meeting transcript with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The correction, however, was part of a document identified as being related to the takeover offer and almost certain to be seen by no one.

Gone, however, was Mr. Conway's statement about PeopleSoft's customers completing their sales. Instead he is quoted as saying: "Oracle's tactics have created concern among many users, and that's a problem for us. Fortunately we've been able to overcome much of it and we expect that we will continue to be able to do so." Words he never said at the meeting, but that the company said he meant to.

Cute, maybe, if you're a lawyer. But if you're an investor? Dishonest and wrong.

  NY Times: Wealth of Others Helped to Shape Kerry's Life
If Mr. Kerry is more vulnerable to such impressions than many other politicians, perhaps that is because of his unusual background. He grew up in a family with little extra money, but he was constantly pressed up against the windows of a more glamorous and wealthy world, thanks to his mother, Rosemary Forbes. (His mother, as one of 11 siblings in the Forbes family that made its fortune in the China trade, inherited little of her own parents' fortune.) As a boy, he often stayed at Groton House, the 300-acre Massachusetts estate owned by a maternal aunt and uncle, Angela and Frederick Winthrop. And in the summers, he stayed in Brittany at Les Essarts, as the Forbes estate is known.

Mr. Kerry also spent time in the summers on Naushon, a pristine private island off the Massachusetts coast that has been owned by another, more distant set of Forbes cousins since the mid-19th century. Only family members and their guests are allowed onto the island, which is in the Elizabeth Islands chain, near Woods Hole.

Mr. Kerry has revisited both Brittany and Naushon over the years. After his mother died two years ago, he helped scatter some of her ashes in Naushon, said his sister, Peggy Kerry. The rest are to be scattered near the family house in Brittany, she added.

Unlike Mr. Bush, whose family had similar New England roots, Mr. Kerry was drawn to the elite world he glimpsed as a young man, friends say, perhaps because his lack of family money made him something of an outsider. Relatives helped pay for his education at St. Paul's School in Concord, N.H. Later, at Yale, he formed a bond with the college president, Kingman Brewster, another scion of an old New England family and the embodiment of what used to be called the liberal establishment.

"John's drive to succeed came from being surrounded by people who had it all," said George Butler, who has known Mr. Kerry since 1964 and recently released a documentary film about him.

  NY Times: So Alike, Rivals Make It Personal
Both men are of aristocratic stock. But within the elite, where subtle gradations of background take on particular force, Mr. Kerry was an insider's outsider. Unlike the Bushes, who were Protestant, the Kerrys were Catholic and they were not wealthy.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004
  Seattle Times: "Major screw-up": Boot-camp virus runs rampant
More than three decades ago, the Pentagon created two pills to ward off a lethal virus infecting boot-camp recruits. But defense officials abandoned the program in 1996 as too expensive. Now recruits are dying, thousands are falling ill, and the military is desperately racing to bring back a vaccine it once owned.

The respiratory virus now infects up to 2,500 service members monthly — a staggering 1 in 10 recruits — in the nation's eight basic-training centers, an analysis of military health-care records shows.

Since the oral vaccinations stopped, the flulike germ, adenovirus, has been associated with the deaths of at least six recruits, four within the past year, according to military records and internal reports obtained by The Seattle Times.

Original vaccine manufacturer Wyeth Laboratories warned as early as 1984 that it would stop churning out pills costing $1 each unless defense officials allocated $5 million to repair a deteriorating production plant.

Wyeth executives shuttered the facility in 1996. A military health budget later gave a reason: "suppression of program to pay higher priority items."

The Pentagon's unwillingness to spend $5 million on health care is now costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars to remedy.

In September 2001, plagued by boot-camp outbreaks, defense officials finally agreed to spend $35.4 million to develop a new vaccine through Barr Laboratories of Forest, Va.

However, the vaccine will not be finished until at least 2007, with a "potential push out" date of 2009, Alan Liss, Barr's senior director of biotechnology, said. Although the new vaccine is a mirror of the old formula, he said the drugmaker still must adhere to a lengthy clinical-trial process.

Military and public-health professionals are deeply concerned about one of the virus' most deadly strains: Ad7d2. This strain flared up in the civilian world in June 1996, just months after the military began limiting the vaccine pills in boot camps to the winter months. The outbreak killed seven children and infected six others at a pediatric chronic-care facility in Houma, La.

In November 1998, the Ad7d2 strain killed eight children and infected 23 others in a long-term pediatric care center in Chicago.

The Chicago center was just miles away from the Great Lakes naval base that had been hit the year before with an Ad7d2 outbreak that infected 396 recruits, CDC records show.

  CNN: Most and least expensive markets
Actual data is at Most expensive housing markets Change in the Chinese Wind
The world's largest wind power project will begin construction this month near Beijing, bringing green energy and cleaner air to the 2008 Summer Olympics and city residents coping with some of the worst air pollution in the world.

Last summer at a climate change conference in Bonn, Germany, China surprised many by announcing it will generate 12 percent of its energy from renewable sources such as wind by 2020.

Another reason China is looking to wind is because it is now as cheap as coal, said Kyle Datta, managing director at Colorado's Rocky Mountain Institute, a leading independent energy research center. And if the health costs associated with coal burning are considered, wind is actually a lot cheaper, said Datta

  Mens News Daily: Kerry Actually DID Win the Debate…Before He LOST It!

  NY Times - Pension Failures Foil 6-Figure Retirements, Too
Mr. Paulsen, 61, is just one of more than 500,000 Americans whose pension plans have failed in the last three years and been taken over by the federal government, leaving many without health insurance and some, like Mr. Paulsen - high earners who retire early - with pensions much lower than those they had counted on.

As major airlines and old-line industrial companies use bankruptcy to stay alive, or simply go out of business, many workers are being thrown into a federal safety net that does not always protect them.

Among those hard hit are commercial airline pilots, who by law cannot fly passengers after they turn 60. Pilots typically retire with pensions of $100,000 or more, based on their final salaries and years of service. But the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the agency that takes over failed pension funds, usually matches the payments only for workers who retire at age 65 and earn pensions of up to $45,000 a year. The limits are set by Congress.

People who retire early or earn more can feel singled out precisely for their success. In the most recent count, in 1999, those people accounted for 7 or 8 percent of those relying on the agency, but that percentage is expected to rise when the retirees of the last few years are counted.

At the same time, a growing number of companies are discontinuing their retiree medical benefits, which are not covered by government insurance, and for which companies are not required to set aside money.

"For most people, the big hit is losing their health benefits," said Chris Dagg, a staff lawyer at the Mid-Atlantic Pension Counseling Project in New York City, which assists low-income pensioners.

When government officials proposed creating the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation in the 1970's, corporations lobbied against it, arguing that few would require its benefits, while all companies with pension plans would have to pay its premiums. Some unions fought it, too, because they thought the funding requirements would divert money away from wages.

Bill Wickert, now 72 and living in Virginia, lobbied against the proposal on behalf of Bethlehem Steel. Now he is one of its beneficiaries. "Thank goodness we lost," he said.

Nor did Congress create any insurance coverage - or even any funding rules - for retiree medical benefits, which are often promised along with pensions. As a result, retirees whose pensions have been fully covered by the pension benefit corporation - typically lower earners who could not afford early retirement - have often lost their health benefits when their companies have gone bankrupt.

  NY Times: Almost Here: Cellphones at 37,000 Feet
Airbus said the system, which relays signals from a picocell unit on the plane to a Globalstar satellite for distribution to ground-based G.S.M. networks, will be ready for installation on commercial aircraft in early 2006.

In the United States, in-seat phones are in their last stage before aircraft become widely adapted for all sorts of new consumer electronics applications, including broadband Internet service, instant messaging, and, yes, cellphones, industry experts say.

  Washington Post: A: Quiz Bowl. Q: What Do Top Game Show Players Prize?

  Washington Post: Baby Snakehead Is No Bundle of Joy
The northern snakehead, a native of China and Korea, is a voracious predator that can grow several feet long. It first gained notoriety in this area in 2002, when a pair were discovered in a Crofton pond, along with thousands of young. The pond was poisoned to kill the fish.

The species reappeared in force this summer, as anglers caught 19 adult snakeheads in the Potomac and its tributaries. Scientists aren't sure where the first Potomac snakeheads came from but say it's likely that they were imported for food or as aquarium fish and then dumped.

On Friday, it was confirmed: Skippy was a snakehead probably born this summer in Dogue Creek, a Potomac tributary that has yielded a concentration of the fish, according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Knowing that snakeheads lay a massive amount of eggs, scientists reasoned that there are likely hundreds or thousands more juvenile fish in the river.

"Eradication, then, is not going to happen," said Julia Dixon, a spokeswoman for the Virginia agency. "We're going to have to manage them."

  Globe and Mail: Woods snorkels off Barbados coast amid wedding rumours
I guess the engagement/wedding is still on.
Newspapers in Barbados and Ireland have reported that the golfer will marry his fiancee early this week at the Sandy Lane luxury resort on the Caribbean island's west coast.

The wedding is to be at the golf course country club and 500 red roses were being shipped in for it, according to another source who requested anonymity.

The only helicopter charter company on the island said it was booked for the next two days amid reports that wedding organizers planned to take aerial shots of the ceremony — and prevent any journalists trying to record the event.

The Sandy Lane resort was fully booked until Friday; its room rates this time of year range from $700 to $8,000 (U.S.) a night, according to its website.

The resort is owned by Irishmen J.P. McManus and Dermot Desmond, who are reportedly friends of Woods.

  NY Times: With Fruits and Vegetables, More Can Be Less
"People tend to eat a consistent weight of food," Dr. Rolls has found. When consuming a calorie-dense food high in fat, people are likely to eat more calories just to get in a satisfying amount of food.

What increases food volume without adding calories? You guessed it. Water. And what foods naturally contain the most water? You got that right too. Fruits and vegetables.

"People given the message to eat more fruits and vegetables lost significantly more weight than those told to eat less fat," Dr. Rolls said. "Advice to eat more is a lot more effective than advice to eat less. Positive messages about what can be eaten are more effective than restrictive messages about what not to eat."

In her studies, people ate a constant weight of food, but if water contributed significantly to the weight and volume of the food, they ate about a third fewer calories. In one study, Dr. Rolls and colleagues tested the amount people ate when offered a 270-calorie chicken-and-rice casserole with a glass a water to drink, as opposed to the same ingredients prepared as a soup. The soup eaters spontaneously consumed 100 fewer calories, she reported.

After water, which has zero calories, fiber contributes the most to food volume for the fewest number of calories. Fiber supplies 1.5 to 2.5 calories per gram, far fewer than fat, at 9 calories, or protein and carbohydrates, at 4 calories per gram. Also, fiber holds water in the digestive tract, which contributes to a more lasting sense of fullness.

Fiber is found only in plant foods: fruits, vegetables and grains, especially whole grains. Along with water, it acts as a digestive tract stimulant; cutting out fiber-rich foods can lead to chronic constipation.

  SJMercury: File-swap software gets a speedy update

It's called BitTorrent and is much faster than other file-swapping software used to exchange movies and music over the Internet. In fact, BitTorrent can transfer a feature-length film in about two hours -- a fraction of the 12 hours it typically takes with file-sharing services like Kazaa. What's more, the speed of the download actually increases with the number of people sharing a particular file.

Movies aren't the only large files that can be found on BitTorrent distribution Web sites like or For instance, on Monday, Torrentreactor offered copies of the Doom 3 video game and Apple's OS X operating system for Macintosh computers as well as dozens of other software titles.

BitTorrent is the creation of Bram Cohen, a 28-year-old Seattle resident who developed the software while living in Berkeley and paying his bills with zero-interest credit cards.

Like other software-coders drawn to Silicon Valley during the dot-com boom, Cohen toiled at his share of doomed Internet start-ups.

``I was sick of working for failures,'' said Cohen in an interview at his home near Lake Washington. ``I wanted to work on something people would use.''

Cohen struck out on his own to focus on a technological challenge: how to efficiently transfer files across computer networks.

After three years of work, Cohen produced BitTorrent. It's an open-source program, meaning anyone can download BitTorrent and tinker with its code. Cohen, who speaks about technology with a single-minded intensity, insists he has no connection with Web sites that use BitTorrent to distribute copyrighted movies and software.

Once a download is completed, the network disconnects and disappears without a trace. The ephemeral nature of BitTorrent exchanges creates a detection nightmare for companies like Loudeye, which are hired by the movie studios to disrupt online piracy.

Loudeye executive Marc Morgenstern said his company can interfere with most illicit file transfers on Kazaa. BitTorrent is another story.

  NY Times: Google Shares Just May Be Winners After All
Mary Meeker, the Internet analyst at Morgan Stanley, the lead underwriter in the offering, published a model that valued Google shares at $132 each.

Heath Terry, the analyst for Credit Suisse First Boston, the No. 2 underwriter, had a target price of $145.

Another sign that the bullish view on Google has not convinced every investor is the report on Monday by Nasdaq that as of Sept. 15, 4.1 million shares were held in short positions, meaning investors borrowed and sold the shares in a bet they would decline in price. That represents an unusually high level, 21 percent, of the company's shares outstanding.

The rise in share price since the offering also puts a different light on the decision by Google's executives and biggest investors to reduce the number of shares they would sell. The top executives, including Eric Schmidt, the chief executive, and the founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, halved the number of shares they were to sell. And the main investors, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Sequoia Capital, decided not to sell any shares.

Mr. Brin and Mr. Page each own about 38 million shares, worth $4.8 billion at yesterday's price. Many of the employees and investors will now be able to sell some of their shares over the next five months, creating a potential drag on the stock.

  NY Times: Former Executive Testifies, Offering Insider's Look at Enron's Deal Making
The executive, Michael Kopper, one Mr. Fastow's lieutenants, offered descriptions of the deals he participated in with his former boss, including efforts to obstruct justice once the scandal began to unfold by destroying computers containing potentially damaging evidence.

The most damaging testimony by Mr. Kopper involved what did not occur. In May 2000, he testified, Mr. Fastow contacted him by telephone, giggling as he asked what Mr. Kopper would think if LJM2 purchased the barge investment from Merrill. Such a deal would normally entail months of due diligence, he said, but the transaction with Merrill Lynch was wrapped up in three weeks.

That was because there was no due diligence, nor any negotiations over price, since Mr. Fastow said that the amount to be paid had been preset in the December agreement with Merrill Lynch, Mr. Kopper said. The task of putting the deal together was so prearranged that it was assigned to a junior LJM2 executive with no real experience on negotiating business transactions, Mr. Kopper testified.

"The purchase price was predetermined at a set rate of return,'' he said. "The purchase price was known.''

However, Mr. Kopper testified, LJM2 also did not assume the risk of ownership. Instead, he said, Mr. Fastow assured him that Enron executives whom he did not name had committed to buy out the investment funds' interest in the barges if a buyer could not be found by early 2001, helping to ensure that the 1999 profits from the original sale to Merrill Lynch would not have to be reversed.

  Washington Post: Higher Costs, Less Care
Nationwide, workers' costs for health insurance have risen by 36 percent since 2000, dwarfing the average 12.4 percent increase in earnings since President Bush took office, the liberal consumer group Families USA reports in an analysis scheduled for release today. The number of Americans spending more than a quarter of their income on medical costs climbed from 11.6 million in 2000 to 14.3 million this year, according to the group.

From 2001 to 2004, the proportion of workers receiving health coverage through an employer fell from 65 percent to 61 percent, according to the latest Kaiser data. That decline translated into 5 million fewer jobs providing health benefits, with the sharpest drop in small businesses.

For four straight years, Americans have paid double-digit increases in health insurance premiums, bringing the price for a typical family of four to nearly $10,000. Premiums paid by workers in 26 states and the District climbed 40 percent, according to Families USA. Premium increases in Virginia and Maryland rose at a lower rate but were still 2.4 times the average rise in earnings.

  NY Times: Condominiums for Businesses Fill a Niche in California
At 1,500 to 3,000 square feet, the units are tiny by commercial real estate standards. But they fill a niche in the San Jose area that hardly anyone realized existed before Venture Commerce opened its first condominium in 2002 in Morgan Hill, a suburb.

"Vacancies were above 20 percent in Silicon Valley, and nobody wanted to build. Then one day a fellow calls us up who ran a dental laboratory with his dad. He said his dad had been paying rent for 27 years with nothing to show for it. They decided it was time to buy something, and he asked if we would build them a small building. I said, 'We absolutely will.' "

But where small to Mr. Eves meant 25,000 square feet, the caller wanted something a tenth that size. "I had to tell him it wasn't feasible," he continued. "Cities won't allow business parks to subdivide into tiny lots. He'd have to buy a full acre of land, and the building's total cost would be so high it wouldn't make sense economically."

But subsequent calls from other small businesses seeking similar spaces convinced Mr. Eves that there was a solid market for offices under 3,000 square feet. Condominiums appeared to be the best way to meet the need.

  NY Times: Solving a Riddle Written in Silver
An archaeological discovery in 1979 revealed that the Priestly Benediction, as the verse from Numbers 6:24-26 is called, appeared to be the earliest biblical passage ever found in ancient artifacts. Two tiny strips of silver, each wound tightly like a miniature scroll and bearing the inscribed words, were uncovered in a tomb outside Jerusalem and initially dated from the late seventh or early sixth century B.C. - some 400 years before the famous Dead Sea Scrolls.

But doubts persisted. The silver was cracked and corroded, and many words and not a few whole lines in the faintly scratched inscriptions were unreadable. Some critics contended that the artifacts were from the third or second century B.C., and thus of less importance in establishing the antiquity of religious concepts and language that became part of the Hebrew Bible.

In a scholarly report published this month, the research team concluded that the improved reading of the inscriptions confirmed their greater antiquity. The script, the team wrote, is indeed from the period just before the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar and the subsequent exile of Israelites in Babylonia.

  MSNBC: Research shows walking might ward off Alzheimer’s
Walking regularly at age 70 and beyond can help keep the mind sharp and ward off Alzheimer’s disease, according to research suggesting that what is good for the heart is also good for the brain.

Previous studies have linked mental exercise, such as crossword puzzles and reading, with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. The new research shows physical exercise helps, too.

A 65 percent lower mortality risk was found in those who combined the Mediterranean-style diet with three other healthy habits — moderate alcohol use, no smoking and a half-hour or more per day of physical activity, including walking. Xbox team joins Virtual PC development
One of the features reportedly shelved until a future release was native graphics card support. But precisely what is delaying this feature remains a mystery to even some members of the Virtual PC team, as they are not the ones responsible for the implementation.

According to sources, Virtual PC's native graphics card support is being handled exclusively by Microsoft's Xbox team. Though not expected for several months, the feature will reportedly demand a graphics card that meets the same level of graphics sophistication required for Apple's Core Image and Video technology.

In February, Microsoft released the Software Development Kit (SDK) for its forthcoming Xbox 2 video game console. Since the Xbox 2 will utilize IBM processors similar to the ones used in today's Macintosh systems, the SDK was seeded to developers on dual Apple Power Mac G5 systems running a custom Windows NT Kernel.

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