Thoughts Gallery May 2004
May 1
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Airline Passenger Finds Frog in Her Salad
WELLINGTON, New Zealand - Australian carrier Qantas said Tuesday it has changed its lettuce supplier after a passenger on a flight from Melbourne to Wellington found a live frog in her greens. The one-inch Australian whistling tree frog didn't get a chance to hop away. The woman plunked the lid back on her meal preventing any escape. The Qantas plane's crew notified the Quarantine Service while the plane was still in the air and officials were waiting when it landed at Wellington Airport. "I'm afraid the frog was euthanized" in a freezer, service general manager Fergus Small told National Radio. Quarantine officials made a check of the airplane "but no other frogs were detected," he said. A Qantas spokesman told National Radio that the airline had changed its supplier since the February incident. Tree frogs were common in the area where the lettuce was grown.
May 2
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Man Used Bath in Bid to Kill Wife - Police
DALLAS - A Texas man is suspected of using a bubble bath by candlelight and soothing music as bait to set a date with death for his wife. Police said that William Joseph Wolfe, an emergency room nurse, has been arrested for attempted murder after he tried to electrocute his wife in the bathtub by dropping a radio into her bathwater -- a method of execution he researched on the Internet. Wolfe is suspected of drawing the bath for his wife and bringing in a radio with an extension cord attached so his wife could listen to music during her soak.
       "He appeared to accidentally bump the radio," said Ronnie Walker, deputy chief of police in the east Texas city of Henderson. The wife was able to bump the radio before it hit the water, and thought that there might be something suspicious, Walker said. What she found was that her husband had recently visited Web sites that detailed bathtub electrocutions. Walker said an examination of the computer by a cyber crimes police unit confirmed that he visited these sites before the incident that took place. According to an affidavit presented in the case, Wolfe took out a life insurance policy for his wife a few months ago, for a "considerable amount of money," Walker said. The wife was not harmed in the incident. Wolfe was arrested last Thursday and has been released on bond. He faces a second-degree charge of attempted murder and could spend up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
May 3
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Britons Using Text to Break Up More Often
Nine percent of Britons admit to dumping a partner by sending an SMS text message — possibly signalling the beginning of the end for the "Dear John" letter — according to a new survey. Among those aged 15-24 the figure rises to 20 percent. The mobile phone has also become a magnet of infidelity testing. Forty-five percent of women owned up to secretly checking the text messages on their partner's phone compared to 31 percent of men. Philippa O'Sullivan, 15, from near Basingstoke, in southern England, said using text messages to finish relationships was common among teenagers, many of whom "find it easier to talk by text." "I've heard of lots of people, including a couple of my friends, being dumped that way," O'Sullivan said.
       The MORI poll for Sicap, a messaging services provider based in Bern, Switzerland, also found that 44 percent had used text messages of flirt; among the 14 to 24-year-olds, the figure rose to 75 percent. Some 31 percent of adults said they had sent a love letter by text — even among the over-65s, nine percent had done so — and 30 percent said they had argued via SMS, or Short Message Service. Two percent say they have used text messages to quit a job. In March alone, according to Britain's Mobile Data Association, Britons sent 2.1 billion text messages, a 25 percent increase on the same month last year.

May 4
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Sorry, This Brothel Needs an Apprentice...
BERLIN - The German government's plans to levy fines on companies that fail to hire trainees will also be applied to legal German brothels, Der Spiegel news magazine reported. Brothels failing to employ a certain number of apprentices will not be exempted from the financial penalties that Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government wants to introduce on all companies later this year, the magazine said. The legislation drafted by the Social Democrats and their Greens coalition partners will fine companies that do not have one apprentice for every 15 workers. Several members of the Greens party tried to allow an exemption for prostitutes but the Education Ministry responsible for the legislation blocked that, arguing it "would cause considerable difficulties," Der Spiegel said.
May 5
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Bush, Kerry Awash in Money
WASHINGTON — This year's presidential race — fueled by more than a million donors, including many who have never given before — is well on its way to becoming the country's first $1-billion political campaign, experts say. The money is coming in small donations and large ones, online and in the mail, from wealthy philanthropists and immigrants who can't even vote. In part, it represents unprecedented interest in the campaign from people throughout the country.
Already, donations to Bush, Kerry and the Democrats who had contested the Massachusetts senator for the party's nomination have exceeded more than $400 million — more than double what was raised at this point four years ago. By the time it's all over, when all the money spent by the political parties, state party organizations, independent groups, conventions and the candidates themselves is tallied, several campaign finance experts said the total will be up to $1 billion or more.
May 6
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I'm surprised that there's not more terrosism units out there that doesn't just gather info on all the computer systems and then write virus's for them. Seems like that would be a much more effective capital expenditure that competiting with countries that have $1.00 an hour wages or trade tarrifs.
Sasser Worm Rips Through Internet; Banks, EU Hit
LONDON - The rapidly evolving "Sasser" computer worm tore across the Internet Tuesday, hitting corporate and home computers and stoking fears worse may be to come. First detected over the weekend, the worm has already infected, by some estimates, over one million PCs. Among its victims are banks, travel-booking systems, European Commission offices and Britain's 19 Coastguard stations. "We've had to go back to plotting on paper charts rather than using the computer mapping system," said a UK Maritime and Coastguard spokeswoman. Search and rescue operations however have not been affected since Sasser first attacked its computers Tuesday. Unlike previous Internet worms, Sasser infects vulnerable PCs without any action by the user like opening attachments, allowing it to spread very quickly. Home users would likely first notice an infection if their computer mysteriously rebooted or their Internet connection slowed dramatically. Security experts were warning users to update their PCs with the latest Microsoft patches and to install a firewall to keep out future infections. With businesses throughout parts of Europe returning from the long holiday weekend Tuesday, anti-virus technicians were expecting a new wave of infections. "It's still going steady. It will be a big problem for a day or two, then it will linger on the Internet for weeks, and likely years," said Mikko Hypponen, Anti-Virus Research Director at Finnish data security firm F-Secure.
WHERE NEXT?
Security experts are analyzing the worm to determine where Sasser might hit next. "We don't know yet, for example, if it attacks machines running on Windows XP Embedded, which runs ATM machines and cash registers. That would be disastrous for banks and retailers," said Raimund Genes, European president of security software firm Trend Micro. In the space of three days, four variants have emerged, each capable of causing machines that run on Microsoft's Windows operating systems XP, NT and 2000 to reboot without warning and knocking out some computer reservation systems. Victims include Goldman Sachs, Australia's Westpac Bank and Finnish financial company Sampo. It has also hit about 300,000 computers at Germany's Deutsche Post. Staff were temporarily unable to issue cash over the counter as a result, German media reported, while a European Commission spokesman said Sasser hit 1,200 PCs Monday. "We had big problems yesterday," the EC spokesman said. Sasser attacks an exploit in Windows known as the Local Security Authority Subsystem Service, or LSASS, which had been targeted in a Microsoft security update released on April 13. F-Secure's Hypponen said the emergence of a related e-mail virus Monday called Netsky.AC may hold clues to the authorship of Sasser. Netsky.AC carries an attachment purporting to fix Sasser infections. Since spotting Netsky.AC, Hypponen and other security officials suspect Sasser was programmed by a group believed to be based in Russia calling itself the "Skynet anti-virus group."
May 7
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New Finds Put Maya Culture Back a Few Centuries
Archeologists excavating a 2,500-year-old Maya city in Guatemala have unearthed buildings and massive carvings indicating the presence of a royal metropolis of more than 10,000 people at a time when, scientists had previously believed, the Maya were only simple farmers. Few studies at the Cival site in the Peten jungle have unearthed the oldest known carved portrait of a Maya king and two massive stone masks of the Maya maize deity, discoveries indicating that the Maya developed a complex and sophisticated civilization hundreds of years earlier than previously believed.
      
The city of towering pyramids and sweeping plazas is yielding other surprising artifacts, including jade and ceramic offerings to the gods that may mark the beginnings of the Maya dynasties, Vanderbilt University archeologist Francisco Estrada-Belli said Tuesday during a National Geographic Society telephone news conference from Washington. Estrada-Belli "is pushing back the time for the evidence of Maya state institutions by several centuries," said archeologist Elsa Redmond of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. "We had hints of these kinds of buildings from El Mirador," another Maya city of the so-called Preclassic Period, which dates from roughly 2000 BC to AD 250, Redmond said.
      
The Maya civilization came into full bloom at cities such as Palenque in Mexico and Tikal in Guatemala during the Classic Period, beginning about AD 300. But other Preclassic sites have been built over, often repeatedly, rendering interpretation of the findings problematic. Cival, for reasons that are not clear, was abandoned about AD 100, "never to be occupied again," Estrada-Belli said, and has lain relatively untouched since. "It is very unusual to have a completely preserved Preclassic city that was not buried by subsequent building," he added. It may have been a forgotten city, he said, or it may have been a sacred site whose memory was preserved and where building was forbidden. And because it was preserved, it is now clear that " 'Preclassic' is a misnomer," he said. The new evidence shows that "Preclassic Maya societies already had many features that have been attributed to the Classic Period — kings, complex iconography, elaborate palaces and burials…. The origin of the Maya civilization has to be found in the first part of the Preclassic period, rather than the last part."
      
Cival, which is about 25 miles east of the much better known city of Tikal, was discovered in 1984 by Ian Graham of Harvard University. Most of the site was overgrown by jungle, however, and Graham's team thought it was a minor outpost. Estrada-Belli has been studying the nearby Classic Period city of Holmul and was using satellite imaging and global positioning systems to explore the surrounding area when he rediscovered Cival four years ago. The new technology showed that its ceremonial center spanned half a mile, more than twice Graham's initial estimate. Estrada-Belli and his colleagues have been digging there with support from the National Geographic Society. Their findings and those of others studying the Preclassic period are the subject of a National Geographic documentary, "Dawn of the Maya," which will air May 12 on PBS.
      
The most spectacular find at Cival occurred by accident. Estrada-Belli reached into a fissure in the wall while examining a dank looter's tunnel in the city's main pyramid and came into contact with a piece of carved stucco that felt like a snake or a mustache. Digging into the site from the other side of the pyramid, he discovered a 15-by-9-foot stucco mask. The one visible eye was L-shaped and the mouth was squared, with snake's fangs in its center. "The mask's preservation is astounding," he said. "It's almost as if someone made this yesterday." The looters, he added, "just missed it." More recently, the team discovered a second, apparently identical, mask on the other side of a set of stairs. The eyes appear to be adorned with corn husks, suggesting the Maya maize deity.
      
Estrada-Belli believes that the masks flanked a pyramid stairway that led to the temple room, providing a backdrop for elaborate rituals in which the king — viewed by people in the plaza — impersonated the gods of creation. The team also found a stela, or carved stone pillar, dating to 300 BC, showing the accession of a king whose name has not yet been determined. Such stelae were quite common in Classic Period cities, but none this old have previously been found. "We didn't know there were kings then," Estrada-Belli said. The large plaza in front of the pyramid was the scene of offerings to the Maya gods. In a recess in the plaza, the team found a red bowl, two spondylus shells, a jade tube and a hematite fragment. Behind the recess was a cross-shaped depression containing five smashed jars, one on each arm of the cross and one in the center. The jars signify water and date to 500 BC, he said. Under the center jar were 120 pieces of jade — an unusual concentration of wealth for the period — most of them round, polished pebbles. Nearby were five jade axes, placed with their blades pointing upward. The pebbles probably symbolize maize and the axes sprouting maize plants, Estrada-Belli said.
      
Kings in the Classic Period were thought to embody the maize god on Earth, and it seems that this tradition started much earlier than was originally thought, he said. The team also found a major clue to what probably was the ultimate fate of Cival — a hurriedly constructed defensive wall built about AD 100. The 6-foot-high wall "was a desperate attempt to close off the inner core of the site," he said. The find surprised him, he said, because "there was no previous evidence of warfare in the Preclassic Period." Ultimately, he said, Cival "probably met the same end as many cities in the Classic Period": conquest by a more powerful neighbor.
May 8
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Vandals Damage Peru's 12-Cornered Inca Stone
LIMA, Peru - Vandals have damaged Peru's famous 12-cornered Inca stone in the Andean tourist city of Cusco by scarring it with a sharp metal object, the National Institute of Culture said. The stone, which is both a national symbol and one of Cusco's best-known tourist sites, was damaged on Thursday night with either a nail, a screwdriver or a chisel, the INC said. "The stone has a scar which is 15 centimeters (6 inches) long and 4 centimeters (1.6 inches) wide," INC spokesman Ramiro Canal told Reuters, adding that the stone was also now marked with seven small holes. The INC said the stone could not be repaired because officials could not find the shards the vandals chopped off.
        The large gray stone, a product of Inca craftsmanship thought to have energizing properties, is part of an outside wall in the palace of Cusco's archbishop and is on permanent display, unprotected by glass or plastic.
Hundreds of visitors flock every day to gaze at one of the most awesome displays of the precision cutting of big blocks of rock that was the Incas' trademark. Before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s, the stone was part of a palace built by the Incas. The attack on the stone is not the first time Peru's fragile heritage has come under strain. Vandals have damaged some of Peru's mysterious Nasca lines, and a stone sun clock at the fabled Inca citadel of Machu Picchu near Cusco was chipped by a crane during the filming of a beer commercial in 2000.
May 9
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Looks like the US brain drain continues as we continue to subsidize our education of the world's workforces.
U.S. Is Losing Its Dominance in the Sciences
The United States has started to lose its worldwide dominance in critical areas of science and innovation, according to federal and private experts who point to strong evidence like prizes awarded to Americans and the number of papers in major professional journals. Foreign advances in basic science now often rival or even exceed America's, apparently with little public awareness of the trend or its implications for jobs, industry, national security or the vigor of the nation's intellectual and cultural life."The rest of the world is catching up," said John E. Jankowski, a senior analyst at the National Science Foundation, the federal agency that tracks science trends. "Science excellence is no longer the domain of just the U.S."
      
Even analysts worried by the trend concede that an expansion of the world's brain trust, with new approaches, could invigorate the fight against disease, develop new sources of energy and wrestle with knotty environmental problems. But profits from the breakthroughs are likely to stay overseas, and this country will face competition for things like hiring scientific talent and getting space to showcase its work in top journals.
      
One area of international competition involves patents. Americans still win large numbers of them, but the percentage is falling as foreigners, especially Asians, have become more active and in some fields have seized the innovation lead. The United States' share of its own industrial patents has fallen steadily over the decades and now stands at 52 percent. A more concrete decline can be seen in published research. Physical Review, a series of top physics journals, recently tracked a reversal in which American papers, in two decades, fell from the most to a minority. Last year the total was just 29 percent, down from 61 percent in 1983. China, said Martin Blume, the journals' editor, has surged ahead by submitting more than 1,000 papers a year. "Other scientific publishers are seeing the same kind of thing," he added.
       Another downturn centers on the Nobel Prizes, an icon of scientific excellence. Traditionally, the United States, powered by heavy federal investments in basic research, the kind that pursues fundamental questions of nature, dominated the awards. But the American share, after peaking from the 1960's through the 1990's, has fallen in the 2000's to about half, 51 percent. The rest went to Britain, Japan, Russia, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and New Zealand. "We are in a new world, and it's increasingly going to be dominated by countries other than the United States," Denis Simon, dean of management and technology at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, recently said at a scientific meeting in Washington.
       Europe and Asia are ascendant, analysts say, even if their achievements go unnoticed in the United States. In March, for example, European scientists announced that one of their planetary probes had detected methane in the atmosphere of Mars — a possible sign that alien microbes live beneath the planet's surface. The finding made headlines from Paris to Melbourne. But most Americans, bombarded with images from America's own rovers successfully exploring the red planet, missed the foreign news. More aggressively, Europe is seeking to dominate particle physics by building the world's most powerful atom smasher, set for its debut in 2007. Its circular tunnel is 17 miles around. Science analysts say Asia's push for excellence promises to be even more challenging. "It's unbelievable," Diana Hicks, chairwoman of the school of public policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said of Asia's growth in science and technical innovation. "It's amazing to see these output numbers of papers and patents going up so fast."
       Analysts say comparative American declines are an inevitable result of rising standards of living around the globe. "It's all in the ebb and flow of globalization," said Jack Fritz, a senior officer at the National Academy of Engineering, an advisory body to the federal government. He called the declines "the next big thing we will have to adjust to." The rapidly changing American status has not gone unnoticed by politicians, with Democrats on the attack and the White House on the defensive.

May 10
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Mexican Air Force Pilots Film 11 UFOs
MEXICO CITY - Mexican Air Force pilots filmed 11 unidentified flying objects in the skies over southern Campeche state, a Defense Department spokesman confirmed.  A videotape made widely available to the news media on Tuesday shows the bright objects, some sharp points of light and others like large headlights, moving rapidly in what appears to be a late-evening sky.
      
The lights were filmed on March 5 by pilots using infrared equipment. They appeared to be flying at an altitude of about 3,500 meters (11,480 feet), and allegedly surrounded the Air Force jet as it conducted routine anti-drug trafficking vigilance in Campeche. Only three of the objects showed up on the plane's radar. "Was I afraid? Yes. A little afraid because we were facing something that had never happened before," said radar operator Lt. German Marin in a taped interview made public.
       "I couldn't say what it was ... but I think they're completely real," added Lt. Mario Adrian Vazquez, the infrared equipment operator. Vazquez insisted that there was no way to alter the recorded images. The plane's captain, Maj. Magdaleno Castanon, said the military jets chased the lights "and I believe they could feel we were pursuing them." When the jets stopped following the objects, they disappeared, he said.
       A Defense Department spokesman confirmed that the videotape was filmed by members of the Mexican Air Force. The spokesman declined to comment further and spoke on customary condition of anonymity. The video was first aired on national television Monday night then again at a news conference Tuesday by Jaime Maussan, a Mexican investigator who has dedicated the past 10 years to studying UFOs. "This is historic news," Maussan told reporters. "Hundreds of videos (of UFOs) exist, but none had the backing of the armed forces of any country. ... The armed forces don't perpetuate frauds." Maussan said Secretary of Defense Gen. Ricardo Vega Garcia gave him the video on April 22.
May 11
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I can think of a lot better things to spend $53 billion on, things like education, nuclear waste facilities, space programs... Or how about another war, why not go after Cuba and replace their government or go attack iceland and claim it as a province of the Umited States.
U.S. Missile Shield Won't Work: Scientist Group
WASHINGTON - The multibillion-dollar U.S. ballistic missile shield due to start operating by Sept. 30 appears incapable of shooting down any incoming warheads, an independent scientists' group said. A technical analysis found "no basis for believing the system will have any capability to defend against a real attack," the Union of Concerned Scientists said in a 76-page report titled Technical Realities. The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency rejected the report. "It will provide a defense against incoming missiles for the first time in this country's history," said Richard Lehner, an agency spokesman.
       The Pentagon's initial deployment involves 10 interceptor missiles in silos in Alaska and California. It is designed to protect all 50 U.S. states against a limited strike from North Korean missiles that could be tipped with nuclear, chemical or biological warheads. Boeing Co. is assembling the shield, which would use the interceptors to launch "kill vehicles" meant to pulverize targets in the mid-course of their flight paths, outside the Earth's atmosphere. Using infrared sensors, the vehicles would search the chill of space for the warheads. So far, the interceptors have scored hits five times in eight highly controlled tests. The Missile Defense Agency "appears to be picking numbers out of thin air," the report said of past Pentagon assertions of a high probability of shooting down targets.
      
"There is no data to justify such an assumption," added the scientists' group, which is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Its findings dovetailed with an audit last month by Congress's General Accounting Office that said the system's effectiveness would be "largely unproven" when the initial capability goes on alert. Overall, the Pentagon estimates it will need $53 billion in the next five years to develop, field and upgrade a multilayered shield also involving systems based at sea, aboard modified Boeing 747 aircraft and in space.
May 12
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Price of gas at a station in Santa Barbara, Calif., was $3.11 for full service, 91 octane. It was later changed to $3.13. The Utility Consumers Action Network, a San Diego-based consumer group says California should declare a state of emergency to help fight rising gasoline prices.
May 13
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May 14
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The newest car to be used by Italian Police is seen in this photo made available by Italian police Thursday, May, 13, 2004. This high performance 2-seater Laborghini Gallardo car, using a V10 cylinder DOHC four valve V90 5 liter, 500 Hp engine, can reach the top speed of 309 km/h (192 Mph). The car, received by Italian Police as a gift from the Italian car factory, will be used along highways in southern Italy.
May 15
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Database Measured 'Terrorism Quotient'
NEW YORK - Before helping to launch the criminal information project known as Matrix, a database contractor gave U.S. and Florida authorities the names of 120,000 people who showed a statistical likelihood of being terrorists — sparking some investigations and arrests. The "high terrorism factor" scoring system also became a key selling point for the involvement of the database company, Seisint Inc., in the Matrix project. Public records obtained by The Associated Press from several states show that Justice Department officials cited the scoring technology in appointing Seisint sole contractor on the federally funded, $12 million project.
       Seisint and the law enforcement officials who oversee Matrix insist that the terrorism scoring system ultimately was kept out of the project, largely because of privacy concerns. However, new details about Seisint's development of the "terrorism quotient," including the revelation that authorities apparently acted on the list of 120,000, are renewing privacy activists' suspicions about Matrix's potential power. "Assuming they have in fact abandoned the terrorist quotient, there's nothing that stops them from bringing it back," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the technology and liberty program at the American Civil Liberties Union, which learned about the list of 120,000 through its own records request in Utah.
       Matrix — short for Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange — combines state records and data culled by Seisint to give investigators fast access to information on crime and terrorism suspects. It was launched in 2002. Because the system includes information on people with no criminal record as well as known criminals, Matrix has drawn objections from liberal and conservative privacy groups. Utah and at least eight other states have pulled out, leaving Florida, Connecticut, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
        The AP has received thousands of pages of Matrix documents in records requests this year, including meeting minutes and presentation materials that discuss the project in detail. Not one indicates that Matrix planners decided against using the statistical method of determining an individual's propensity for terrorism. When the AP specifically requested documents indicating the scoring system was scrapped, the general counsel's office for Florida state police said it could not uncover any. Even so, people involved with Matrix pledge that the statistical method was removed from the final product. "I'll put my 26 years of law enforcement experience on the line. It is not in there," said Mark Zadra, chief investigator for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He said Matrix, which has 4 billion records, merely speeds access to material that police have always been able to get from disparate sources, and does not automatically or proactively finger suspects.
       Bill Shrewsbury, a Seisint executive and former federal drug agent, said the terrorism scoring algorithm that produced the list of 120,000 names was "put on the shelf" after it was demonstrated immediately following Sept. 11, 2001. He said the scoring system requires intelligence data that was fed into the software for the initial demonstration but is not commonly available. "Nor are we interested in pursuing that," he said. The Utah documents included a Seisint presentation saying the scoring system was developed by the company and law enforcement officials by reverse engineering an unnamed "Terrorist Handbook" that reveals how terrorists "penetrate and in live our society." The scoring incorporated such factors as age, gender, ethnicity, credit history, "investigational data," information about pilot and driver licenses, and connections to "dirty" addresses known to have been used by other suspects.
       According to Seisint's presentation, dated January 2003 and marked confidential, the 120,000 names with the highest scores were given to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, FBI , Secret Service and Florida state police. (Later, those agencies would help craft the software that queries Matrix.) Of the people with the 80 highest scores, five were among the Sept. 11 hijackers, Seisint's presentation said. Forty-five were identified as being or possibly being under existing investigations, while 30 others "were unknown to FBI." "Investigations were triggered and arrests were made by INS and other agencies," the presentation added. Two bullet points stated: "Several arrests within one week" and "Scores of other arrests." It does not provide details of when and where the investigations and arrests took place.
       Phil Ramer, who heads Florida state police's intelligence division, said his agency found the list a useful starting point for some investigations, though he said he could not recall how many. He stressed that the list was not used as the sole evidence to make arrests. "What we did with the list is we went back and found out how they got on the list," Ramer said. Dean Boyd, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a descendant of INS in the Department of Homeland Security, said he could not confirm that INS used or was given the list. Although Seisint says it shelved the scoring system — known as high terrorist factor, or HTF — after the original demonstrations in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, the algorithm was touted well into 2003.
       A records request by the AP in Florida turned up "briefing points," dated January 2003, for a presentation on Matrix to Vice President Dick Cheney and other top federal officials delivered jointly by Seisint, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida's top police official. One of the items on Seisint's agenda: "Demonstrate HTF with mapping." Matrix meeting minutes from February 2003 say Cheney was briefed along with Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and FBI Director Robert Mueller.
      
In May 2003, the Justice Department approved Seisint as sole data contractor on the project, citing the company's "technical qualifications," including software "applying the `terrorism quotient' in all cases." "The quotient identifies a set of criteria which accurately singled out characteristics related to the perpetrators of the 9-11 attacks and other terrorist events," said a memo from an Office of Justice Programs policy adviser, Bruce Edwards. "This process produced a scoring mechanism (that), when applied to the general criminal population, yields other people that may have similar motives." A spokeswoman for the Office of Justice Programs declined to comment. Ramer, the Florida agent, said the scoring system was scrapped because it was "really specific to 9/11," and not applicable for everyday use. Also, he said, "we didn't want anybody abusing it." Seisint Inc., is a Boca Raton, Fla., company founded by a millionaire, Hank Asher, who stepped down from its board of directors last year after revelations of past ties to drug smugglers.
May 16
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Hospital Sued Over Photo of Man's Genitals
DENVER - Two Denver hospital workers took a photograph of a man's genitals while he lay unconscious in an emergency room after being mugged, his attorney said. Gregory Bradford, 35, was taken to Denver Health Medical Center in February last year with a cracked skull after being attacked outside a gay bar. According to Bradford, a hospital employee pushed his blanket down and took a picture of his genitals with a small digital camera that Bradford had used to take pictures of his friends at the bar. "They disrobe him and put him on display. People are coming in and out (of the emergency room) to see him," Bradford's lawyer Dan Caplis said. "Then somebody gets the bright idea to take a photo of him and leave the photo on the camera," Caplis added. "They left the picture of him to humiliate him." A hospital spokeswoman said the incident had been investigated immediately and two employees alleged to have used the camera were no longer working for Denver Health. News of the incident surfaced a week after Denver Health Medical Center announced it had fired five paramedics and disciplined 12 others for harassing or bullying patients in unrelated cases.

 

May 17
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New York man loses shirt in topless bar

NEW YORK - A New York insurance executive is suing a Manhattan strip club after a champagne-fuelled night of lap-dancing left him nursing a 28,000-dollar bill. In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Mitchell Blaser, 53, said the management at the Scores club had added bogus charges to his American Express bill, which he claimed should have been in the region of 2,000 dollars. Blaser's lawyer, Leonard Zack, said the club had mistakenly banked on the idea that his client -- the chief financial officer of Swiss Re's American unit -- would be too embarrassed to pursue the matter in court. "It's a swindle, and they probably do it to a lot of people who don't want to do anything," Zack told the Daily News. Scores spokesman Lonnie Hanover insisted Blaser had "partied like a rock star" with two of his friends.
The final credit card bill included 16,000 dollars for five bottles of Clos de Mesnil champagne, 7,000 dollars for table dances and stripper tips, 1,000 dollars for food and other drinks, and a 4,000-dollar staff tip. "If you want to live like Colin Farrell, you have to pay for it," Hanover told the New York Post. "The 28,000-dollar bill is totally legitimate." In his lawsuit, Blaser claimed Scores security personnel had intimidated him into signing a bill for 8,615 dollars. Days later, he said, he discovered that his credit card had been charged three more times.

May 18
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Wearing a life jacket, Trek, a 3-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, gets a lift from owner Timmy Gossett, crew member aboard the F/V Laguna Star, a salmon seiner moored in St. Paul Harbor in Kodiak. Equipped with a handle, the life jacket provides an emergency lifting point should the dog fall overboard.
May 19
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How nice of the news to highlight the best location to reduce the US oil reserves in Texas. I think someone could get a little VW bug in-between those oil reserve tanks.
The US Department of Energy's Bryan Mound storage facility in Texas. The White House ruled out tapping the US strategic petroleum reserves in response to soaring gas prices that may pose a political threat to US President George W. Bush's reelection bid.
May 20
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Hungarian fireman lieutenant Andras Samu gives a thumbs up sitting on his wooden bicycle which was made by his colleagues after his mountain bike got stolen in Hatvan, some 60 kms northeast of Budapest,
May 21
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Aila, a 10-year-old capuchin monkey, retrieves a compact disc from inside a cd player as she demonstrates the tasks that trained monkeys can accomplish for the disabled at the 'Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers for the Disabled' organization's 'monkey college' facility in Boston. The organization, which has already trained more than 93 monkeys to live with and assist severely disabled or paralyzed people, hopes to enroll many more student monkeys in its 2-3 year 'monkey college' training program and then provide them to the disabled for assistance.
May 22
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These alligator snapping turtles were recovered in Greenwood, Miss., in a sting operation that ended in the arrest of a seller from Greenwood, Miss., and a buyer in Jacksonville, Ark. Both men were successfully prosecuted last year. Alligator snapping turtles can be raised in captivity but cannot be caught in the wild. The larger turtles found in the wild fetch more snappers weighing over 100 pounds have gone for as much as $10,000 and are sold to aquariums overseas or to restaurants and suppliers.
May 23
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Coffins shaped like a fish, a giant onion and a Mercedes have gone on display in Berlin in an exhibition on sepulchral culture aimed at reminding Germans they can go out in style. The exhibition opened in Berlin and features chic black-lacquered and gold encrusted caskets by German and Italian designers alongside novelty shaped coffins created by the African artist Kane Kwei.
May 24
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Deserted Ducklings Caught in Highway Chase
BERLIN - Five frightened ducklings abandoned by their mother next to a busy German motorway were rescued when police ran after them and trapped them under traffic cones. Drivers had called police to warn that a family of ducks was dangerously close to traffic on a highway in northern Germany."When the squad car arrived the mother duck fled across the railing of a bridge and into the Oker river and left behind five ducklings," police in the city of Braunschweig said in a statement. After a zig-zag chase, the ducklings were reunited with their mother and swam away.
May 25
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Dish Cooks Up Controversy

LONDON - Britain's television watchdog banned a supermarket chain on Monday from using the word "faggot" in a commercial, referring to a traditional British dish. Somerfield's ad featured a husband complaining about his wife's repetitive cooking. When she told him it was Friday so he was getting his usual faggots, a traditional dish of meatballs in gravy, he said: "I've nothing against faggots, I just don't fancy them." "Three listeners were offended, as they believed the husband's response alluded to homosexuals, faggots being a derogatory term for them," said media watchdog Ofcom. But Somerfield denied Ofcom's charge. "Faggots were chosen to demonstrate the idea because they are commonly perceived as an outdated and slightly comical product, not because of any allusions to homosexuality," it said. But Ofcom ruled that the term was "highly derogatory" and banned the advert from being broadcast again.

 

May 26
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Teens Grounded Under New Scooter Law
ROME - An estimated 400,000 Italian teenagers were forced to hang up the keys to their scooters and walk on Thursday when a new law came into force making it illegal for them to drive without a permit. Previously anybody was allowed to drive a scooter with an engine of up to 50 cc from the age of 14 without so much as a license or a driving lesson. Under the new law under 18s have to take classes in the rules of the road and pass a written test.
Motor organizations and teenagers have complained there has not been enough time to complete the courses and the tests, and only around 442,000 so-called "mini-licenses" have been issued, leaving several hundred thousand more scooter drivers stranded. Transport Minister Pietro Lunardo has resisted calls to postpone the introduction of the new law but he said this week that he had appealed to traffic police "not to pursue people so as to avoid accidents."
Those caught riding their scooters without a mini-license face a fine of more than 500 euros ($604) and if they are involved in an accident their insurance will not be valid. "The high figures of road accidents, especially fatal ones, convinced the government to introduce a driving certificate for scooters," said Mariolina Moioli, director general of the education ministry. Deaths in road accidents in Italy have halved in the last three decades to around 12 in every 100,000 people a year but the rate of deaths in the 15-29 age group has barely changed.
May 27
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Rat Population Dilemma for Elderly, City

TOKYO - The number of rats in Tokyo is surging, but it's their choice of abode that is most worrying to city officials: the long-tailed rodents appear to prefer homes occupied by the elderly. The problem has prompted the city to launch a probe into how rodents affect elderly people. "Rats are rampant, particularly in the homes of elderly people living alone," one Tokyo metropolitan government official said Thursday.
"We have to do something about this because most of the elderly people can't cope with it by themselves." Tokyo officials said they had received 17,388 complaints -- many from the elderly -- about rats in the 12 months to March 2004, a jump from 10,000 five years ago. The officials said rats tended to find their niche in homes where elderly people live because food is often left out. A survey in 2002 showed that about 14 percent of all households in the nation's capital were comprised of elderly residents and more than half of those lived alone. "Rats have made a nest in my 'futon' bedding," the Yomiuri newspaper quoted one distressed senior citizen as saying. "They just crawl in and out at will."

 

May 28
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Mooshu, an older neighborhood cat who has lived most of his sixteen years in the Lanikai section of Kailua, Hawaii, takes a cat nap on a skateboard belonging to his owner's children.
May 29
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Man Tries to Rob Bank ATM with Bulldozer
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia - A Saudi man posing as a municipal worker used a bulldozer in an inept attempt to rob a bank's automatic teller machine but fled when the police arrived, a local daily reported on Tuesday. The English-language Arab News said residents of the Red Sea city Jeddah called the police after being woken by the noise of the bulldozer, but did not realize for some time that the man was trying to rob the bank. "It was disturbing. But it never crossed my mind we were watching a theft," witness Mohammed al-Assiri told Arab News. "With all that's happening this is the last thing we need." Saudi Arabia has been rocked by a wave of shooting and bomb attacks attributed to al Qaeda in the past year, in which up to 85 police and civilians, many of them foreigners, have been killed.

 

May 30
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Japan Firm's Chip Tells Mom if Kids Out of School
TOKYO - Forget the notebook and the multicolored pen, a Japanese firm has developed the latest in school supplies -- chip-embedded student ID cards. The cards make it easier for parents to keep tabs on their youngsters, said Toru Hasegawa, a spokesman for software firm NAJ Corp, based in western Japan. Students scan ID cards on passing through the school entrance and the time is recorded and sent via email to their parents' mobile phones or computers, he said. Parents are also alerted if their child fails to arrive at school.The same happens when school is over, so parents know when to expect their children to arrive home, Hasegawa said.
       The system, which will go on sale in August, was conceived in response to growing concern about violence in Japan, he said. "Being able to quickly get the information that their kids are leaving school is a relief for parents," he said.Japan has long prided itself on being relatively crime-free but has been horrified in recent years by increasingly violent crimes committed by ever-younger children. Despite safety worries, many education-obsessed parents send small children to late-night cram schools. It is not unusual for primary or junior high school students to be returning home at 10 p.m., Hasegawa said.
May 31
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Roses are blue? : The world's first 'blue rose' developed by Japanese brewer Suntory is displayed during a press conference in Tokyo.