вторник, 10 июня 2008 г.


It's a safe guess that last Valentine's Day will always be memorable for Elizabeth Vanderhoof. She took her seat for a showing of "Titanic" at a Kenosha, Wis., theater next to her longtime boyfriend, Fred Conforti. When the house lights went out and the curtain in front of the screen parted, there was her name in pink lights against a red background. It was in a message from Fred, asking her to marry him. The audience erupted in applause as he produced a jewelry box, dropped to one knee, and offered a diamond ring. By the way, the answer was yes.

Politicial leaders and the journalists who cover them in France are having a hard time coming to terms with that ubiquitous communications tool, the cellular phone. Employment Minister Martine Aubry recently upbraided a reporter whose ringing phone interrupted her news conference. But the tables were turned when her colleague, Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn, felt it necessary to apologize after his cell phone did the same at a comparable event. Cities With Top Records For Snuffing Out Smog

"The average number of days with poor air quality dropped by nearly two-thirds" in the nation's largest urban areas over the last decade, according a newly released report by The Road Information Program (TRIP), a nonprofit group based in Washington. After analyzing the federal Environmental Protection Agency's 1996 National Air Quality and Emissions Trends Report, TRIP attributed the improvements to cleaner vehicle engines and fuels. The top 10 smog-reducing cities in the US:

1. Seattle

2. Buffalo, N.Y.

3. Tucson, Ariz.

4. Tacoma, Wash.

5. Albuquerque, N.M.

6. Denver

7. Miami

8. Boston

9. Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, N.C.

10. Charlotte, N.C.

Passengers Pick Tampa As Nation's Best Airport

You'd think his dialect would have given him away, but from a military base in St. Mawgan, England, comes word that a British restaurant doorman named Mark Looney successfully posed as a US Navy officer for five days before being unmasked. "Lieutenant" Looney regaled listeners with stories of his exploits in Bosnia, until a real American officer noticed that medals on his uniform were plastic. No, he won't be court-martialled, but security at the base is being reviewed.

Then there's the Bulgarian businessman whose striking resemblance to Saddam Hussein prompted him to think he could be of help to Iraq's armed forces. Lyuben Kovachev volunteered - in a letter to the Iraqi embassy in Sofia - to join the defense against a US-led attack. The Iraqi leadership has called on civilians to volunteer for a self-defense force, but Kovachev's offer was declined.

Heard about the fellow in Great Falls, Mont., who was arrested for driving 104 m.p.h. in a 45-m.p.h. zone? His excuse: He was air-drying his pickup truck, which he'd just washed.

The Day's List Passengers Pick Tampa As Nation's Best Airport

Airports in Tampa, Fla., and Detroit were rated the best and the worst in a survey of about 90,000 air passengers commissioned by 36 of the largest US airports. Their facilities were rated in eight categories, from speed of baggage delivery to quality of restaurants. Passengers were surveyed in the first six months of last year; results were obtained last week by The Detroit News. The poll's top-10 airports:

1. Tampa, Fla.
2. Pittsburgh 3. Charlotte, N.C.
4. Nashville, Tenn.
5. Denver 6. Phoenix 7. Las Vegas 8. Salt Lake City 9. Atlanta 10. Baltimore

Countries That Send The Most Visitors to US

Fannie Barnes is not one to be afraid of a steep challenge. No thanks to most of her male co-workers, she's now the first female "gripman" in the history of San Francisco's cable-car system.

Despite her six years as a ticket-taker, few of the men would help her learn the responsibilities involved in wrestling an eight-ton car up and down the city's famous hills. But she went ahead anyway. "The guys who were against me," she says, "gave me even more inspiration. No way I was going to let 2000 come and not have a woman [in] this job."

Three patrons at an Urbana, Ill., restaurant didn't exactly start the day off right when they tried to skip out without paying for the breakfast they'd just eaten. Also dining there were members of a police SWAT team. The cops followed them outside and arrested each on misdemeanor theft charges. Countries That Send The Most Visitors to US

If nothing else, the North American Free Trade Agreement has ensured that more visitors to the US continue to come from Canada and Mexico than from any other country. The Commerce Department's International Trade Administration ranking of the top 10 source countries for such visitors in 1996 (the most recent year for which statistics are available) and the number of visitors from each (in millions):

1. Canada 15.3
2. Mexico 8.5
3. Japan 5.0
4. United Kingdom 3.1
5. Germany 2.0
6. France 1.0
7. Brazil 0.9
8. South Korea 0.8
9. Italy 0.6 10. Australia 0.5

Which US Airlines Have Best On-Time Records?

The new academic year is a little over a month old, but already public-school children are finding themselves in trouble because of local "zero tolerance" policies. The latest is fifth-grader Christopher Wood. He was suspended and - by tonight - could be expelled from Horrell Hill Elementary in suburban Columbia, S.C. His offense: violating safety rules by bringing a butter knife with his lunch. Christopher has new braces on his teeth and his mother wanted him to be able to cut up a banana for easier chewing. Said a school spokesman: "The community wants safe schools, and they are going to get them."

Maine's police chiefs are asking the legislature to ban laser pointers, the new "in" gadget for children, especially teens. Reason: It's difficult to distinguish the red dot they project from those projected by gun-mounted lasers. The devices are readily available from electronics, convenience, and school-supply stores. Police in Brunswick report numerous complaints from residents who were targeted even through the windows of their homes or as they were driving the city's streets. The laser beam also is considered dangerous to the eye. Which US Airlines Have Best On-Time Records?

Booking travel reservations for the coming holidays? You might be interested in some relevant statistics kept by the US Department of Transportation, which keeps a running record of the percentage of commercial passenger flights arriving on time at the nation's airports. The DOT's ranking of major domestic carriers, based on on-time arrivals from September 1997 to August 1998, and the percentage for each:

1. Southwest 81.1%
2. American 80.6%
3. US Airways 79.8%
4. Delta 77.6%
5. TWA 77.0%
6. Continental 76.0%
7. United 74.1%
8. Northwest 72.8%
9. Alaska 72.5% 10. America West 71.6%

Promises, Promises For the New Year

"Where's Kyle?!" That's probably what two parents exclaimed when they discovered their young son disappeared during a drive to London. He had slipped out of his mother's car in search of candy at a gas station. His parents, driving in separate cars with their three other children, thought he was with the other. The family was reunited after Kyle spent the day at a police station.

Students in Ray Greco's 11th-grade science class in Butler, Pa., conducted an "interesting" experiment in alternative foods: They fried worms, dipped them in chocolate, and ate them. In a brave move, Erica Link passed up the chocolate to report they tasted like pumpkin seeds -"crunchy and hollow." Andrea Karenbauer skipped class, saying she had "better things to do than eat worms." Promises, Promises For the New Year

Of the 26 percent of Americans who made resolutions last year, 52 percent say they kept them, according to the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Here's what some people are resolving for 1998 (with percentages) in the institute's survey of 935 adults:

Lose weight 19% Spend less money 12 Stop smoking 11 Eat healthier 10 Get rid of a bad habit 5 Go back to school 5 Exercise more 5 Be a better person 4 Get a better job 4 Get closer to God 4 Get organized 3 Be a better parent 3 Be kinder to others 2 Increase family time 2 Volunteer 1 Move/buy a new home 1 Other 9

The Baltimore Sun Peter Schmuck column: Story lines

It doesn't get any better than this. The second round of the NFL playoffs has more subplots than Pulp Fiction, and all of them are going to play out right in front of our La-Z-Boys over the next couple of days.

The star quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys is taking heat for spending a weekend in Mexico with his celebrity babe girlfriend.

The star quarterback of the Green Bay Packers is already pondering nonretirement after keeping everyone in suspense about his future the past couple of seasons.

The star receiver of the Cowboys returned to the practice field Thursday in hopes of limping through tomorrow night's game against the New York Giants.

That's just a sampling of the interesting story lines that have developed around a postseason that could produce the first 19-0 Super Bowl champion. Here's a closer look at some of them:

Wherefore art thou, Romo?

Dallas fans might never forgive Tony Romo for his little Mexico getaway if the New York Giants find a way to beat the Cowboys at Texas Stadium. Some have already begun to refer to girlfriend Jessica Simpson as, get this, Yoko Romo.

Personally, I don't care what he does with his time off, but I'll defer to former Super Bowl quarterback and football commentator Terry Bradshaw on whether it would have been more prudent to hold off on Margaritaville until after one of the biggest games of his young career.

"For an athlete, there's no time off ... until it's over," Bradshaw told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "You don't take a mental break. ... No way that I would ever, ever do what Tony did. Everybody in Dallas knows you played horribly when Jessica showed up [against the Philadelphia Eagles]. OK, now what if you play poorly [against the Giants]? You haven't exactly lit up the place lately. I don't understand. Why set yourself up?"

Obviously, Bradshaw has never seen Jessica fill out those short shorts in The Dukes of Hazzard. It was a no-brainer.

Strahan agrees with me

Giants defensive end Michael Strahan also has come to Romo's defense, though I'm not sure I'd want him in my corner if my love life were in the spotlight. He recently had to pay his ex-wife $15.3 million in a messy divorce.

"Heck, if Jessica Simpson wanted to date me, I may give her a shot," Strahan told the Daily News on Thursday. "So I can't blame the guy."

Brett might do Packers a Favre

Packers quarterback Brett Favre has kept Green Bay fans hanging the past few years as he agonized over whether to retire from the NFL. His current situation is just as tenuous, but at least he's presenting in the context of coming back instead of heading off into the sunset.

"For the first time in three years, I haven't thought this could be my last game," he told the Biloxi (Miss.) SunHerald. "I would like to continue longer."

The Packers will settle for him continuing past today's game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field.

Don't underestimate Owens

Terrell Owens returned to the field Thursday and limped through practice, so you can bet he'll be ready to go in tomorrow night's game.

If you have any doubt about that, you might want to refer to the 2005 Super Bowl, when he came back too early from ankle surgery and still caught nine passes for 122 yards. This time, he's only trying to come back from an ankle sprain.

Hmmm. I wonder if he still has that hyperbaric chamber.

If he does ...

Owens might want to lend it to San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, who remains a game-time decision with a toe injury but appears unlikely to play against the Colts tomorrow.

If he can't play, I don't see how the Chargers can stay in the game.

Batteries included

Seattle kicker Josh Brown revealed this week that he wears heated pants on the sidelines when the Seahawks play in cold weather. His warm-up pants are actually battery-powered.

Given the choice, I'd rather see Jessica in hot pants, if you don't mind.

My picks

Since I wowed everyone last week by picking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, I'm sure you're clamoring to hear my picks for this weekend's action:

--Straight up: Seahawks, Patriots, Colts, Cowboys.

--Against the spread: Seahawks, Jaguars, Colts, Giants.

Of course, those picks are for recreational purposes only and should not be construed as an encouragement to wager on the games. I won't be.

Did Russian Spies Know of the Clinton-Lewinsky Affair?


O'REILLY: ... segment tonight, a big story. Did the Russians compromise White House security and know about Monica Lewinsky long before the American public did? That's the assertion in an article written by UPI Terrorism Correspondent Richard Sale, who joins us now.

You know, this, when I read your story here, Richard, this is a hell of a story. This is a big story.


O'REILLY: If the Russians knew that Mr. Clinton was fooling around the Monica Lewinsky, they could have done all kinds of things to blackmail him. Let's take it step by step. How did they get the information?

SALE: That isn't really clear. Everybody -- the intelligence officials that I talked to, the question they're asking themselves over and over is how did the Russians come to know this? Did they intercept it through the embassy? Did they make interceptions between Air Force One and Lewinsky's phone? Nobody's quite sure how it happened.

O'REILLY: So if you had to do some deductive reasoning, you would say maybe they tapped the phone conversations or picked up a phone conversation between Lewinsky...

SALE: They have the -- they would have the capability of doing that. Probably withheld, possibly withheld from Hanssen.


SALE: Very possibly they may have placed a bug in Lewinsky's apartment.

O'REILLY: Really?

SALE: Oh absolutely. That's a likelihood.

O'REILLY: Because I mean from the reports that we got, Clinton did his phone sex deal with Lewinsky on a secure Washington line.

SALE: Seventy hours, yeah.

O'REILLY: Seventy hours?

SALE: Yeah.

O'REILLY: Oh my -- 70 hours?

SALE: Yeah. I can't even imagine wanting to think about sex for 70 hours. But that's 70 hours, yes.

O'REILLY: Of phone sex or phone conversation with...

SALE: Yes. Yes.

O'REILLY: My God. If what you're saying is true, the FBI then knew about this, if Hanssen, the spy who was arrested, knew about it and passed it along to the Russians, the FBI knew what was going on here.

SALE: It's very probable that the reason I would suspect that Hanson played a role is that most major intelligence failures are due to breaches in communications' security. So that is one of the things that his Russian handlers would be tasking him (unintelligible)...

O'REILLY: All right, but in order for Hanssen to know a lot of people in the FBI would have to know. So the FBI knew this was going on if this scenario is accurate?

SALE: I do not know that -- how much the FBI knew about this.

O'REILLY: Yeah, but it strains credibility to think that just one agent, Hanssen, would know and pass it along.

SALE: Well, it strains credibility to think that when Monica in her testimony March 29th, 1997 said the President told her be careful, you know, in our little phone sex because I believe my phones are tapped -- are being tapped...

O'REILLY: And he did it anyway.

SALE: ... by a foreign embassy. But I mean nobody seems to have really sort of, you know, been taken aback by the fact that the president would say his phones are being tapped by a foreign embassy.

O'REILLY: Right. And still have, still go on with all of this stuff.

SALE: Yes. Yes.

O'REILLY: And if they intercepted this, God knows what else they intercepted on the phone.

SALE: (unintelligible).

O'REILLY: Now you got your information from the Russian side, right?

SALE: No. No. I got my information from U.S. intelligence officials who were tracking the Russian capabilities.

O'REILLY: Oh. So the Russians had to...

SALE: Originally...

O'REILLY: ... tell them that we had this. Yeltsin, I guess, admits that he had it, right?

SALE: He admits that he had it. He got an encrypted telegram, which is just a fancy word for an intelligence report. The fact that he would be given an intelligence report of that nature shows -- gives you a sense of its importance.

O'REILLY: Do you know what the telegram said?

SALE: Yes.

O'REILLY: What did it say?

SALE: It said that Republican activists were planning to plant an attractive woman in the White House to embroil Clinton.

O'REILLY: But what is that, a code? I mean no Republican activists did that.


O'REILLY: She just showed up and they fooled around.

SALE: No. All right, this is entirely the way the Russians would interpret our politics because I mean every...

O'REILLY: Well, they wouldn't just think that...


O'REILLY: ... Clinton just picked her out of a gallery to...

SALE: Exactly. They're looking at this through the prism of their own...

O'REILLY: So they made it a lot bigger deal than it was?

SALE: Because they have a tremendous history of, you know, double and triple agents and provocateurs and whatnot.

O'REILLY: Right.

SALE: So they would automatically think that.

O'REILLY: You know, this is a frightening story, though, if the Russians can get private information that the American people did not have for two years.

SALE: Well, what's kind of scary is that we didn't start to put it together. I mean even experienced, I would say, Moscow watchers, this sort of went past everybody.

O'REILLY: Well, keep us posted on this. If we get any more hard information on it, I'd really like to know about the Washington -- the White House security breach.

SALE: Oh, yeah.

O'REILLY: Thank you very much, Mr. Sale.

SALE: It's been a great pleasure.

O'REILLY: OK, thank you.

Plenty more ahead as THE FACTOR moves along this evening. Next, attack journalism. We'll explain it to you.