Thoughts Gallery September 2004
September 1
Image of the Day
September 2
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Hardliners demand clampdown on women's dress

TEHRAN - About 500 hardline vigilantes have taken to the streets in Tehran, demanding authorities crack down on women who wear colourful headscarves and figure-hugging coats which they denounce as "prostitution". Tehran's hardline authorities have announced a clampdown on women who do not dress suitably modestly but the crowd, mainly composed of long-shirted black-bearded men, called on the police and new conservative parliamentarians to do more. "The promotion of bad dress codes is the desire of arrogant powers, shame on the government," chanted the crowd, punching the air with their fists on Friday. "Arrogant powers" is hardline rhetoric usually referring to the United States, Britain and Israel. "We object to street prostitution and vice," read one placard brandished by protesters. Dress codes eased a little after the election of reformist President Mohammad Khatami in 1997 but hardliners are trying to claw back these concessions since their conservative allies retook parliament in May.
Many Tehran girls wear heavy make-up, tight jackets, glitzy jewellery and bright headscarves that allow their hair to spill out. The placards were signed by the conservative Ansar-e Hizbollah group which last year manned checkpoints around parts of Tehran where student demonstrations turned violent. Witnesses said they saw the group's vigilantes thrashing people with sticks during the student protests.
"A proper dress code is defined by our religion and allows women to expose only their faces and hands," said a middle-aged female protester, one of more than 100 dressed in the all-enveloping black chador. "We hate these girls who go around all dolled up in the streets." The crackdown on dress has also targeted shop-window mannequins who must now wear the veil.

September 3
Image of the Day
Police Find Woodland Robbers' Camp
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - Robbers living in the forest are legends like Robin Hood and his Merry Men -- or those in Brazil's crime-plagued city of Rio de Janeiro. Police exchanged gunfire with a group of criminals who attacked tourists and joggers in the hilly Tijuca Forest in the city's posh South Zone. The robbers got away, but police found their camp and some of the booty."We found dozens of stolen credit cards, wallets and ammunition for pistols and assault rifles in the middle of the forest, which we believe is the gang's base," a police officer said. Muggings on footpaths in the Tijuca Forest and other hillside woods in Rio de Janeiro have become so common that park authorities have installed signs "Beware of robberies" in some places.
September 4
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C. Manoharan Snake Manu practices with a garden snake by running it through his nose and out his mouth in an attempt to create a Guinness Record in Madras, India. Manu plans to set the record by using a live cobra
September 5
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An injured cow hangs in the transport net of a helicopter as it is airlifted from a mountainous meadow in Riemenstalden, Switzerland. The Swiss Air Rescue organization Rega brought the animal to a nearby road, where it received veterinarian treatment.
September 6
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Bears Could Delay Start of School Year
BUCHAREST - Some 30 brown bears have been terrorizing a Transylvanian mountain village and could delay the start of the school year, local authorities said Thursday.
Villagers are afraid to let their children go outside, with the bold bears are making off with domestic animals in broad daylight, mayor Nicolae Codreanu told state radio from Poiana Marului, 106 miles north of Bucharest. Animal experts were seeking a solution before the start of the school year on September 15.
September 7
Image of the Day
Writing Better Than the Phone to Contact ET?

LONDON - Writing, rather than phoning, is probably the best way to contact extraterrestrials, American scientists said. So instead of phoning home, it could have been more energy efficient if ET had inscribed information and physically sent it, because radio waves disperse as they travel. "Think of a flashlight beam," said Professor Christopher Rose, of Rutgers University in New Jersey who reported his finding in the science journal Nature. "Its intensity decreases as it gets farther from its source. The same is true of the beam of a laser pointer, though the distance is much longer," he added in a statement. Rose and his colleague, physicist Gregory Wright, were pondering how to get the most bits per second over a wireless channel when they concluded that the detectability of a signal diminishes with distance. If the recipient isn't listening or misses it, the message may have to be sent numerous times but a physical message encoded in an object lands somewhere and stays there. Messages from aliens could possibly be embedded in organic material in an asteroid, for example. "If haste is unimportant, sending messages inscribed in some material can be strikingly more efficient than communicating by electronic waves," said Rose.

September 8
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New Orleans residents drive away from the city in an effort to avoid Hurricane Ivan. Residents of the US Gulf Coast braced for the full fury of Hurricane Ivan, which triggered a major exodus from several states after killing 70 people across the Caribbean
September 9
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A local South Austin icon...
September 10 
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Another South Austin icon...
September 11
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Nice South Austin neon sign...
September 12
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Wild rabbi icon in South Austin...
September 13
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Is it art or is it food?
September 14
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Macy Rae sits in front on a boarded up gas station as she waits for a ride ahead of Hurricane Ivan in Mobile, Alabama

September 15
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Brad Darr sprays a sign on the plywood covering the windows of his business in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The business is boarding up in preparation for the possible arrival of Hurricane Ivan.
September 16
Conservative Groups Call for P&G Boycott
CINCINNATI - A pair of conservative groups are calling for a boycott of two Procter & Gamble Co. products because the organizations say P&G is tacitly supporting gay marriage. The American Family Association, of Tupelo, Miss., and Focus on the Family, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., said they urged their supporters this week to refuse to buy Crest toothpaste and Tide detergent, two of P&G's biggest selling products. P&G spokesman Doug Shelton said the organizations have wrongly characterized the company's support of repealing a Cincinnati charter amendment to mean that it is supporting same-sex marriage.
       P&G has given $10,000 in support of a Nov. 2 ballot issue for repeal of a 1993 city charter amendment that forbids Cincinnati to enact or enforce laws based on sexual orientation. P&G said it believes the amendment makes it harder to attract visitors and potential employees to Cincinnati and that it subjects gay people to potential discrimination in workplaces and housing.
       Activists say the amendment, upheld on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1998, denies special legal protections to gays and lesbians. Sixty-two percent of Cincinnati's voters approved the amendment in 1993. The Nov. 2 ballot issue is the first time voters have had an opportunity to decide whether to keep or repeal it. James C. Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family, urged listeners of his syndicated radio show Thursday to boycott the P&G products. Dobson said P&G's statements and policies support the gay-activist notion that restricting marriage to one man and one woman is discriminatory.
       "For Procter & Gamble to align itself with radical groups committed to redefining marriage in our country is an affront to its customers," Dobson said. The American Family Association has established a Web site in support of the protest. "Procter & Gamble, to my knowledge, is the first corporation in this country that has given money for a political campaign pushing the homosexual political agenda," said the Rev. Donald E. Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association.
September 17
Wash. School Official Puts Halt to Recess
TACOMA, Wash. - Outside of lunch playtime, recess is forbidden, a Tacoma School District official has found it necessary to remind principals. "If we want students learning to high standards, we need them in the classroom, not the playground," Karyn Clarke, assistant superintendent for elementary schools, said this week. At least 20 of the district's 36 elementary schools have no breaks except for lunch, The News Tribune of Tacoma found in a quick survey. But Whittier, the one determined to have a formal afternoon recess signaled by a bell, led the district in math and writing scores for fourth-graders and ranked second in reading on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning.
"If you take it away, all the kids will be grouchy," student Elizabeth Withrow told the newspaper. At several other schools, several teachers might arrange to have recess at the same time every day, taking turns supervising. "We just can't do that," Clarke said. A teachers union leader and some parents challenged Clarke's recent memo, which she said summarized a district position established in 1997. Gayle Nakayama, Tacoma teachers union president, and others recall the 1997 recess rule as allowing teachers to schedule daily breaks if they watched children themselves. "I haven't seen evidence that getting rid of recess increases learning," Nakayama said, but there is research suggesting social, physical and emotional benefits of exercise and recess. "I think it's absolutely important kids have free time," said Elizabeth Withrow's mother, LeEllen Withrow.
Tacoma's move echoes similar actions around the country, and comes as obesity takes center stage as a U.S. health concern. Elementary students regularly move from one activity to the next within the classroom and the school, Clarke noted. And they have PE class to address obesity concerns. "I think it's just a symptom of the obsession with testing that we have with our state and across the nation right now," said Charles Hasse, president of the Washington Education Association. The statewide teachers union passed a resolution in 1996 calling for recess breaks every two to three hours for elementary students, Hasse said.
Unstructured play allows children to learn creativity and cooperation, and how to interact and constructively compete with others, according to the National Association for Sport & Physical Education, which has urged schools to keep recess and PE programs. Tacoma has a shorter school day than some other districts, Clarke said. And the district is on the government's list of those that must improve under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. It's fine for children to have a brief break on a particular day because they are restless or sluggish, Clarke told the newspaper — but it's not supposed to be a daily occurrence.
September 18

I usually don't leave all the relevant author and site information, here's an article that definitely earned the credit.
As Income Gap Widens, Uncertainty Spreads   By Griff Witte, Washington Post Staff Writer
Scott Clark knows how to plate a circuit board for a submarine. He knows which chemicals, when mixed, will keep a cell phone ringing and which will explode. He knows how to make his little piece of a factory churn hour after hour, day after day. But right now, as his van hurtles toward the misty silhouette of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the woods rising darkly on either side and Richmond receding behind him, all he needs to know is how to stay awake and avoid the deer. So he guides his van along the center of the highway, one set of wheels in the right lane and the other in the left. "Gives me a chance if a deer runs in from either direction," he explains. "And at night, this is my road." It's his road because, at 3:43 a.m. on a Wednesday, no one else wants it. Clark is nearly two hours into a workday that won't end for another 13, delivering interoffice mail around the state for four companies -- none of which offers him health care, vacation, a pension or even a promise that today's job will be there tomorrow. His meticulously laid plans to retire by his mid-fifties are dead. At 51, he's left with only a vague hope of getting off the road sometime in the next 20 years.
       Until three years ago, Clark lived a fairly typical American life -- high school, marriage, house in the suburbs, three kids and steady work at the local circuit-board factory for a quarter-century. Then in 2001 the plant closed, taking his $17-an-hour job with it, and Clark found himself among a segment of workers who have learned the middle of the road is more dangerous than it used to be. If they want to keep their piece of the American dream, they're going to have to improvise. Figuring out what the future holds for workers in his predicament -- and those who are about to be -- is key to understanding a historic shift in the U.S. workforce, a shift that has been changing the rules for a crucial part of the middle class. This transformation is no longer just about factory workers, whose ranks have declined by 5 million in the past 25 years as manufacturing moved to countries with cheaper labor. All kinds of jobs that pay in the middle range -- Clark's $17 an hour, or about $35,000 a year, was smack in the center -- are vanishing, including computer-code crunchers, produce managers, call-center operators, travel agents and office clerks.
      The jobs have had one thing in common: For people with a high school diploma and perhaps a bit of college, they can be a ticket to a modest home, health insurance, decent retirement and maybe some savings for the kids' tuition. Such jobs were a big reason America's middle class flourished in the second half of the 20th century. Now what those jobs share is vulnerability. The people who fill them have become replaceable by machines, workers overseas or temporary employees at home who lack benefits. And when they are replaced, many don't know where to turn.  "We don't know what the next big thing will be. When the manufacturing jobs were going away, we could tell people to look for tech jobs. But now the tech jobs are moving away, too," said Lori G. Kletzer, an economics professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz. "What's the comparative advantage that America retains? We don't have the answer to that. It gives us a very insecure feeling."
       The government doesn't specifically track how many jobs like Clark's have gone away. But other statistics more than hint at the scope of the change. For example, there are now about as many temporary, on-call or contract workers in the United States as there are members of labor unions. Another sign: Of the 2.7 million jobs lost during and after the recession in 2001, the vast majority have been restructured out of existence, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Each layoff or shutdown has its own immediate cause, but nearly all ultimately can be traced to two powerful forces that reinforce each other: global competition and rapid advances in technology.
       Economists and politicians -- including the presidential candidates -- are locked in a vigorous debate about the job losses. Is this just another rocky stretch of the U.S. economy that, if left alone, will foster new industries generating millions of as-yet-unimagined jobs, as it has during other times of upheaval? Or is the workforce hollowing out permanently, with those in the middle forced to slide down to low-paying jobs without benefits if they can't get the education, credentials and experience to climb up to the high-paying professions? Over the next several months, The Washington Post, in an occasional series of articles, will explore the vast changes facing middle-income workers and the consequences for businesses and society.
Some of the consequences are already evident: The ranks of the uninsured, the bankrupt and the long-term unemployed have all crept up the income scale, proving those problems aren't limited to the poor. Meanwhile, income inequality has grown. In 2001, the top 20 percent of households for the first time raked in more than half of all income, while the share earned by those in the middle was the lowest in nearly 50 years. Within the middle class, there has been a widening divide between those in its upper reaches whose jobs provide the trappings of the good life, and those in the lower rungs whose economic fortunes are less secure.
The growing income gap corresponds to a long-term restructuring of the workforce that has carved out jobs from the center. In 1969, two categories of jobs -- blue-collar and administrative support -- together accounted for 56 percent of U.S. workers, according to an analysis by economists Frank Levy of MIT and Richard J. Murnane of Harvard. Thirty years later the share was just 39 percent. Jobs at the low and high ends have replaced those in the middle -- the ranks of janitors and fast-food workers have expanded, but so have those of lawyers and doctors. The problem is, jobs at the low end don't support a middle-class life. And many at the high end require special skills and advanced degrees. "However you define the middle class, it's a lot harder now for high school graduates to be in it," Levy said. College graduates aren't immune, either. In places like Richmond, the overall health of the economy masks layoffs that have snared not only blue-collar workers like Clark, but also thousands of office workers at companies like credit card giant Capital One Financial Corp. and high-tech retailer Circuit City Stores Inc. Those cutbacks have educated even those with bachelor's degrees in the new ways of a volatile economy.
A University of California at Berkeley study last year found that as many as 14 million jobs are vulnerable to being sent overseas. Many economists, though, say offshoring is more opportunity than threat because it allows companies to make and sell goods for less, and offer even better jobs than those that are lost. "Offshoring can't explain job loss. It can only explain job switch," said David R. Henderson, a Hoover Institution economist. Henderson says the middle class is thriving, and by many measures, he's right. As a group they're earning more money than they have before, and their ranks have swollen with members who can afford the DVDs, SUVs and MP3s now seen by many families as part of the essential backdrop to modern life. Whereas Census numbers show the median household earned $33,338 in 1967 when adjusted for inflation, that number was up by $10,000 in 2003. But when compared with those at the top, the middle has lost much ground. And many in the middle have dropped well behind their peers. The gaps are likely to widen, according to Robert H. Frank, a Cornell economist. He said that as more people worldwide become available to do routine work for less money and as computers take on increasingly complex functions, the demand for those Americans whose skills are easily duplicated could drop. "The new equilibrium," Frank said, "may be a little meaner and more unpleasant than it was before."

Slipping Away at Circuit City

       Ask Richmond's leaders, and they'll say the jobs are in infotech, biotech, nanotech and other kinds of tech yet to be conceived. "People have the impression that Richmond is a good-old-boy town. And we do have some old money here. But that money is going to build the new economy," said Robert J. Stolle, executive director of the Greater Richmond Technology Council. "Tech is the backbone of the Richmond economy." One home-grown company seems to capture in its name Richmond's most deeply held ambitions: Circuit City. Born in 1949 to sell television sets to the masses, its existence attests to the enduring strength of the middle class. And all those sales of computers and video games have created a lot of jobs. With a local staff of 3,072, the chain is one of the Richmond area's largest employers. But the work has a tendency to disappear. In the eight years after he moved to Richmond to take an offer at Circuit City, Chuck Moore lost his job in that company three times, proving that a white collar and a college degree are no protection from the forces that have shifted the ground under blue-collar workers like Clark.
       At 35, Moore spent the first nine months of 2004 desperate for a job as he watched his grip on the middle class slipping away. His story complicates the idea that to be comfortable in America today, all you need is a little more education. Moore's roots are solidly blue-collar: His father worked as an electrician for the same company for 40 years. His stepfather drove a truck. His brother went to work at the Georgia Pacific plant. His mother still manages the local Shoney's. No one in his family had ever graduated from college. For nine years after his high school graduation, he and his wife, Terry, worked full time to pay for Chuck to complete his degree at the Savannah College of Art and Design. With a knack for electronics and an artistic eye, he wanted to animate movies or video games. "I thought that walking out that door with that degree in my hand, I wouldn't have to look. I would have people coming to me," Moore said. But while Moore was in school -- designing animation by day, manning a hotel desk by night -- the technology had continued to improve and so had employers' capacity to hire artists anywhere on earth. A bachelor's degree might have been enough before; now you needed a master's or even a doctorate. Moore started looking for computer jobs instead. He and Terry both had luck at Circuit City.
       Moore's first job disappeared when the company closed a tech support center and began moving its call center operations to India. His second job -- designing ads for the recruitment division -- evaporated when the tech bubble burst. His last job there ended in January when the database he built to manage marketing projects worked so well that the company no longer needed the help of a human. Until this past weekend, his job search had gone like this: 320 résumés sent out, six calls back. Three interviews. No offers. At first, he had put his old salary on his résumé: $40,000. Later he switched to, "negotiable." "I've already been willing to go down 10 [thousand dollars]. And if it goes much longer, I might have to go down 15. For a guy with a bachelor's degree to take $25,000, I might as well be working at McDonald's," Moore said in August. "There's something not right about that." Yet on Saturday, when an animal hospital offered him work as a veterinary assistant -- for half what he had been making in his old job and no benefits -- he accepted immediately. He starts today, cleaning out kennels and, he hopes, learning how to use the X-ray machines or work in the lab so he can add to his repertoire of skills. Moore has thought of going back for his master's degree. But that's hardly an option when he has a 3-year-old son, not to mention a mortgage and student loans.
       Instead, to help make ends meet, he's been teaching computer basics at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, where his students can identify with their teacher's plight. One is a 20-year Army veteran who found that the best he could do without college was become a salesman at Lowe's, the home-improvement store. He was taking Moore's class so he could go to a four-year college in the fall. "The job market for people like me is not that good," said the man, Albert DiCicco. "Maybe it is for people with bachelor's degrees." Lately, DiCicco's predicament has been on the mind of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan (news - web sites). In June, Greenspan warned that a shortage of highly skilled workers and a surplus of those with fewer skills has meant wages for the lower half of the income scale have remained stagnant, while the top quarter of earners sprints away. Greenspan said the skills mismatch "can and must be addressed, because I think that it's creating an increasing concentration of incomes in this country and, for a democratic society, that is not a very desirable thing to allow to happen."
       But it already has happened. The gap between the wages of a 30-year-old male high school graduate and a 30-year-old male college graduate was 17 percent as of 1979, according to analysis by Harvard's Murnane and MIT's Levy in their book, "The New Division of Labor." Now it tops 50 percent, with an even larger differential for women. Real wages for both high school graduates and high school dropouts have actually fallen since the 1970s. Meanwhile, wages for college graduates -- who make up only about a quarter of the adult population -- have soared upward.
       The trend seems poised to continue. The list of the 30 jobs the Labor Department (news - web sites) predicts will grow the most through 2012 includes high-paying positions such as postsecondary teachers, software engineers and management analysts. But nearly all require a college degree. There are also plenty of jobs that demand no college -- including retail sales and security guard -- but they pay a low wage. And yet, as Moore's situation shows, a college diploma offers a porous shield when demand for a certain skill evaporates. College graduates have, in recent years, become an increasingly large percentage of the long-term unemployed. When they find new work, their salary cuts have been especially deep.  The optimists among economists -- and there are many -- point to trends that could help mitigate the pain of job losses and lead to future growth. One is the coming mass retirement of baby boomers, which could leave plenty of openings for those trying to break into the workforce. Economists tend to believe, too, that trade and technology will ultimately create new efficiencies that produce far more jobs than they destroy and leave everyone, on average, better off.

A Tough Climb

Scott Clark isn't sure if he will emerge better off. Spending day and night in the cab of a van was not exactly how he planned to live out his fifties and sixties, but he'll get by. He's even managed to save enough money to begin cutting his hours from 15 down to 11. It's the end of the day now and as Clark battles the Richmond evening rush hour, his thoughts are turning to home. He's already fulfilled his part of the American dream, doing better than his parents did. "Everybody tells me I'm low class," Clark says, chuckling faintly. "But we're middle class. We're definitely middle class." Yet his kids -- his son is 26 and his twin daughters are 21 -- still live at home because they can't afford places of their own. None of them went to college, although his daughters had 3.8 grade-point averages in high school and his son aced the SATs. They're saving to go back to school -- eventually. In the meantime, they work. His son lays carpet and his daughters stock shelves in a warehouse. Will they be able to move up the economic ladder, just like he did? Clark ponders the question. After a long day, he is showing the strain, getting sleepy with his regular bedtime of 6:30 p.m. fast approaching. "I really don't know. It's just too uncertain. It really is. There's nothing there," he says, turning completely serious for the first time all day. "There's nothing you can just count on. I wish there was."

September 19
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A view of the Interstate 10 bridges leading into Pensacola, Florida, after being broken to pieces by Hurricane Ivan.
September 20
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Never take advantage of your kids like this mom did!
Presidential hairdo : A young Bush supporter wears her hair braids in the shape of a "W" made by her mother using a bent clothes hanger for a campaign visit by US President George W. Bush in Rochester, Minnesota.
September 21
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Man Tries to Sue Wife for 5-Day Sex Denial

MADRID - A Spanish man tried to have his wife charged with domestic abuse because she refused to have sex with him on five consecutive days, Spanish newspaper El Sur reported. The middle-aged man from Seville -- the city of Don Juan and Carmen -- said her refusals amounted to "degrading treatment" and domestic abuse, a term used more often to describe wife-battering. The judge shelved the case, Andalusia-based El Sur reported.

September 22
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Andy Reed of Martins Ferry, Ohio, and Chuck Saus of Wheeling, W.Va. dive into Saus's swimming pool for the last time before it too was submerged under the flood waters of the Ohio River on Wheeling Island in Wheeling, W.Va.
September 23
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Three-year-old Sophia Parlock cries while seated on the shoulders of her father, Phil Parlock, after having their Bush-Cheney sign torn up by Kerry-Edwards supporters at the Tri-State Airport in Huntington, W.Va. Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards made a brief stop at the airport as he concluded his two-day bus tour to locations in West Virginia and Ohio.
September 24
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'Miraculous' Christ Washes Up in Texas Rio Grande
MONTERREY, Mexico - A fiberglass statue of Christ that washed up on a sandbar in the Rio Grande three weeks ago is attracting scores of devout pilgrims to a police department lost-and-found and being hailed as a miracle. Police in Eagle Pass, Texas, said up to 40 people a day are coming to pay homage to the five-foot-tall figurine, known as "The Christ of the Undocumented," which was found by U.S. Border Patrol agents in the river. "Some come to pray, and some come and just touch it," police lieutenant Daniel Morales said by telephone on Monday. "We have never experienced anything like this before, and interest is growing by the day."  The border city, which lies opposite Piedras Negras in northern Mexico, has a large Mexican community. Many arrived illegally by way of the river, and most are devout Roman Catholics. Morales said the life-like statuette, which turned up without a crucifix base, would probably be given to a church in the border city if no-one came forward to claim it within 90 days. Local Catholic Church authorities called the figure's arrival "miraculous" and said they wanted to place it in a specially dedicated chapel in the city. "Jesus Christ manifests himself in many places, but he showed himself here in the way of an undocumented migrant," said Marta Ramirez, a spokeswoman for the city's Our Lady of Refuge Church. "We think it's appropriate to place it in a special chapel."
September 25
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International Truck and Engine Corp. is producing what it calls the world's biggest production pickup, a 14,500-pound monster capable of towing 20 tons. The 5- passenger 5-passenger CXT is nine feet tall, eight feet wide, 21 1/2 feet long and gets about seven miles on a gallon of diesel. The truck is manfactured in Garland, Texas. Retail price is expected to be around $100,000.
September 26
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A Blue finback whale lays motionless after being discovered impaled on the incoming ship's bow in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. The crew of the Jewel of the Sea wasn't aware of the animal`s presence until the 300-metre vessel pulled along the warf.
September 27
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No Smoking in Prison!
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who set up a tent outside his smoke-free state office to accommodate his taste for a good cigar, signed a bill barring tobacco from state prisons. The measure, signed Monday, amends the state's penal code to bar tobacco products from prisons and youth correctional facilities. Violators are subject to a fine. Supporters say the changes will help save the state money on health care and improve the health of 160,000 state inmates. Some parts California's criminal justice system such as county jails have already banned smoking. The state generated about $1 million in tobacco taxes and $370,000 in sales taxes by selling tobacco products to inmates last year. Bill sponsor Tim Leslie, a Republican assemblyman, estimates that about half of California prisoners smoke, costing $280 million in related health care costs.
September 28
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I would like to see this happen in a non-election year
Child Receives Handwritten Reply From Bush

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. - Ten-year-old Amber Easterbrook says she has three main goals in life: going to heaven, taking a trip to Hawaii and meeting President Bush.For now, at least, Amber is trying to get the third goal taken care of first. Amber, of Richland Township, wasn't able to go with her mother, Sherri Easterbrook, to Bush's rally in neighboring Johnstown on Sept. 9. So she gave her mother a note she wrote for Bush, which her mom was able to press into Bush's hand as he greeted supporters. "Amber wrote that she was a fourth-grader at Johnstown Christian School and that she would pray that Mr. Bush would be re-elected," Easterbrook said. Sherri Easterbrook didn't expect much in return, because she realized that there was no return address on the letter. But Bush sent a handwritten letter to Amber in care of her school, which she received last week. The letter, dated Sept. 12, said: "Dear Amber: Thanks for your kind letter. I wish we could meet sometime. Please give your family my very best wishes ... Best wishes always, George Bush."

September 29
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Japan Schools Tracking Students by Radio
TOKYO - Cutting class just got harder but schools are safer thanks to computer chips that help track students, Japanese officials say. Some schools here this month began trial runs in which students carry chips that have tiny antennae and can be traced by radio, with some of the kids attaching the tags to their backpacks. The chips send signals to receivers at school gates. A computer in the system shows when a student enters or leaves. School officials say rising concerns about student safety prompted the idea. "More than 70 percent of parents supported the trials, indicating there is wide appreciation for this kind of effort," said Ichiro Ishihara, a teacher at a public elementary school in Iwamura town, Gifu prefecture, about 170 miles west of Tokyo. "And the kids love it — they think it's cool," he added. Violent crimes such as murder, assault and robbery are still relatively rare in Japan. But minor crimes and juvenile delinquency have pushed total crime numbers to record highs amid a long economic slowdown. A recent survey showed that more than half of Japanese believe their country has become unsafe. Ishihara said 72 of his school's 334 students have been carrying the tags since the trials were launched in early September. On Monday, electronic giant Fujitsu teamed up with suburban Tokyo's private Rikkyo Elementary School to launch a trial in which the tracking chips were attached to 40 students' backpacks, a school official said. In Rikkyo's system, messages can be sent to parents' cell phones so they know what time their children left the school, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said. The school hopes to have all 717 of its students using the system by next April, the newspaper said.
September 30
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Foam and feathers fly in South African pillow fight
JOHANNESBURG - Armed with pillows, hundreds of South African university students beat each other senseless but fell short of setting the world record for the largest pillow fight ever staged.  For about one minute, some 800 students at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg engaged in a frenzied brawl to the pumping sounds of a local rock band, while around them the air turned thick with flying feathers and foam. "It was great fun and our official figure show that 806 pillow-fighters participated," said Catherine Salmon of the auditing firm KPMG who were acting on behalf of Guinness World Records. "Unfortunately it's not a record and they are probably going to have to try again next year," she told AFP. For most students, the record attempt took second place for simply having the opportunity to pound a friend -- or an enemy -- into submission. "I'm here because I was convinced by some of my students to come," said Lew Ashwal, a professor of geology and one of the few lecturers to venture into the enclosed area in front of the campus library. "I can see them waiting for me over there," the 54-year-old Ashwal said with a hint of trepidation in his voice, before disappearing into the maw. There had been several attempts to set a world pillow-fighting record, the largest believed to be around 2,400 students at a Rochester University in New York, but it was not known whether it was officially recognised by Guinness.