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.

Continue the previous post



Minute by Minute

7.15pm, The History Channel (6.45pm, Adel; 5.15pm, Perth)

With the catastrophe unfolding in New York, the attack on the Pentagon was overshadowed. This piece, one of three 9/11 docos screening here on the second anniversary, chronicles the Washington attack.

Dirty Bomb: Catalyst Special Report

8pm, ABC

An interesting documentary from the BBC's Horizon science show on the terrorist threat from dirty bombs. However, the tone seems at times contradictory. While it argues that the health impact of such devices may have been overplayed, the editing and music suggest you should be waking in terror. Also worrying is the analysis of two attack scenarios -- way to do the terrorists' research for them, guys.

How the Twin Towers Collapsed

9.40pm, Seven

Not to be tactless, but don't we already know? This has aired twice, and surely there are better ways to remember the dead than replaying their demise, again.

True Stories: Friend or Foe

10pm, ABC

Friendly fire doesn't seem so friendly when the outcome is a tragic death. A heartbreaking British doco that talks to soldiers and their families about coping with either the loss of their loved ones or the guilt of killing one of your own.

Desperado and El Mariachi

8.30pm and 10.15pm, Encore

In 1992, director Robert Rodriguez captured the movie world's attention with El Mariachi, an engaging flick about a mariachi who is mistaken for a hit man. Three years later, he made Desperado, essentially a remake with bigger budget and better-looking cast (Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek).

Rudy fails the taste test

I HAVE many aims in life, but the one I'm most passionate about is to be the subject of a based-on-a-true-story telemovie. And not just any old based-on-a-true-story telemovie, either. For the dream to be realised, it would have to have a colon in the title and feature the words ``the'' and ``story'' after that colon. So far I've been toying with Remote Control: The Kerrie Murphy Story, although Dare to Dream: The Kerrie Murphy Story also has a nice ring to it.

This might not seem like a particularly realistic aim, but with at least 60 based-on-a-true-story telemovies having that name structure, it's not outside the realm of possibility, either. The trick is to have an interesting story to tell.

Being famous or part of a famous scandal helps, certainly. Witness A Family in Crisis: The Elian Gonzales Story (2000), Livin' for Love: The Natalie Cole Story (2000) or even Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story (2001).

Then there is the disease of the week route, with Dying to Be Perfect: The Ellen Hart Pena Story (1996) (anorexia) and Never Say Never: The Deidre Hall Story (1995) (infertility).

Being both famous and having a disease is even better such as An Act of Love: The Patricia Neal Story (1981), about the actor's struggle with a stroke, and Reason for Living: The Jill Ireland Story (1991), about the actor's struggle with cancer.

Failing that, you can be either a survivor, such as the rape victim in Taking Back My Life: The Nancy Ziegenmeyer Story (1992), or a murderer, such as A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story (1992) (TV), although that's a bit of a murky area because the telemovie implies she was driven to kill, so she's also a victim.

Of course, none of these seem like a particularly attractive method to achieve my aim, so I think I'll stick with the uplifting achievement such as being the first person to swim Canada's Lake Ontario, as in Heart: The Marilyn Bell Story (1999).

As a last resort I could take legal action, such as in Frog Girl: The Jennifer Graham Story (1989), which is about a girl who sued her school for the right not to dissect a frog, but frankly, being forever known as ``frog girl'' would make it a Pyrrhic victory at best.

The reason I love these sorts of telemovies is to see how cliched screen writers can make someone's life story if they really put their minds to it -- these things are as formulaic as their names.

So while I wouldn't for a second mock the life experiences of the person who the telemovie is based on (well OK, except maybe frog girl) it's quite easy to forget the ``true'' aspect and focus on laughing at the bad acting and predictable scripts.

My initial reaction to Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story was that they really dropped the ball on the name -- surely Zero Tolerance: The Rudy Giuliani Story is the obvious name -- but in watching it, it became clear that the real problem was that it touched too raw a nerve.

Obviously any examination of the former New York mayor is going to include September 11, which really is a topic that should be kept out of the clumsy hands of a telemovie. It uses real footage of the attacks on the World Trade Centre, intercut with cheaply staged shots of Giuliani, played by James Woods. It's footage that we've all seen a million times and to see it, with the knowledge of all the death that went with it, as stock footage is unpleasant. Of course September 11 is only one aspect of Giuliani's career and from that the telemovie flashes back to his rise from attorney-general to mayor of New York City. It's a competent, if shallow, overview of his career, but these telemovies are not exactly aimed at people who are into politics.

In future, they should stick to people like me or Frog Girl.

Top stories from spring training

The off-season is over, which means, of course, that you no longer have to read about Bud Selig's failed contraction plan or watch the baseball commissioner being verbally pinned by Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura and an arsenal of other politicians.

Now, you can actually go see the two teams run by baseball's bumbling leader: the Montreal (MLB) Expos and the Milwaukee Brewers. If you're lucky enough to be traveling to the warm-weather destinations of Florida and Arizona, you can also see a lot of other interesting stories unfold in spring training.

Here's a sampling of the top Grapefruit League and Cactus League stories for 2002.

Those damn Yankees. After winning three straight World Series and four of the previous five titles, the New York Yankees had the terrible misfortune of actually losing a World Series in a classic seven-game drama with the Arizona Diamondbacks last fall.

Then they lost Paul O'Neill and Scott Brosius to retirement and Tino Martinez to free agency.

Whatever will the Yankees do?

Get better, of course.

While they may miss the veteran savvy of O'Neill, Brosius and Martinez, they more than compensated by making free agent Jason Giambi an offer he could not refuse.

All Giambi has done the last four seasons is hit .321 with 141 home runs and 490 RBIs. He should fit in nicely with a lineup that still includes Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada.

The Yanks also brought back David Wells, the acerbic lefthander whom they traded to Toronto in order to obtain Roger Clemens.

It's in the Cards. The St. Louis Cardinals lost their icon-slugger Mark McGwire retired-and still emerged as the favorite to win the National League by making a series of outstanding off-season moves.

The Cardinals' most notable signing was Martinez, the veteran Yankee who is coming off a season in which he hit 34 homers and knocked in 113 runs. They also strengthened their bullpen by signing Oakland closer Jason Isringhausen, who grew up in the St. Louis suburb of Brighton, Ill.

Those two should nicely complement a team that already has reigning rookie of the year Albert Pujols, emerging star J.D. Drew, and a dominating staff ace in Matt Morris.

The Cardinals' best addition, however, could be lefthander Rick Ankiel, who showed signs of being a recovering walkaholic last season by striking out 158 batters and walking just 18 in 87 innings. Ankiel achieved those numbers at Johnson City, a rookie-league club where he did not have to endure any media glare.

Will his control problems return under the national spotlight this spring?

That's the best story in the St. Louis camp.

International house of nuts. Last year, the Texas Rangers made news by signing superstar shortstop Alex Rodriguez to a $252 million contract. A-Rod once again was sensational, but the pitching-poor Rangers were abysmal.

This winter, the Rangers made news by impersonating a squirrel and collecting nuts of all races and a variety of nationalities.

You have the combustible outfield combination of Carl Everett and Juan Gonzalez to go along with the world's most infuriating and immature closer, John Rocker. Hideki Irabu, the heavy drinking, underachieving, overweight pitcher from Japan, is also in the Rangers' camp.

If the Rangers struggle, former Phillies manager Terry Francona, now the Rangers' bench coach, could be in line to replace Jerry Narron.

Au revoir, Expos. Selig could not successfully eliminate the Expos, so baseball now owns them in what is almost certainly going to be the team's final season. Hall of Famer Frank Robinson was handpicked by Selig to manage the club. Robinson will be forced to relinquish his duties as baseball's disciplinarian.

"It will be interesting to see what happens to Frank if he is thrown out of a couple games," Phillies manager Larry Bowa said. "He was pretty good at handing out those fines and suspensions."

Neither the Expos nor the Florida Marlins did anything this off-season because their teams were in a perpetual state of uncertainty. The Marlins finally got a manager, a general manager, and an owner last week when Expos owner Jeffrey Loria bought the team and relocated his management team to Miami.

"I like for two teams to be in disarray, especially when they're in our division," Bowa said.

The NL beasts. The Braves have won seven straight National League East titles and believe they improved their offense by obtaining Gary Sheffield and Vinny Castilla.

The Mets underwent a major face-lift and have a real chance of leading the league in runs scored after finishing last in that department a year ago.

They are the teams the Phillies have to beat.

Encore, encore. The two best regular-season stories last year were the Seattle Mariners' run to a record 116 victories and Barry Bonds' record-breaking 73 home runs.

Logic says that neither one can do it again and that both records should stand for a while.

Of course, logic and baseball have not gone together in well over a decade.

Winning despite losing. You would think that after losing Jason Giambi and Isringhausen, the Oakland Athletics would have no chance of going to the playoffs for the third straight year.

Think again.

The A's have the best young pitching staff in the game with Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito, and they still have a formidable lineup. They also replaced Isringhausen with the hard-throwing Billy Koch.

The defending champs. Few people expected the aging Arizona Diamondbacks to win the World Series last year, but the one-two, left-right pitching combination of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling made it possible by going a combined 43-12.

Can they do it again?

They are getting quite old, you know.

Charlestone trial

"48 Hours Mystery" will be back in town today filming for its upcoming program on convicted killer Michelle Michael.

The primetime news series has been covering the Michael case since 2006 and filmed her recent Charleston trial.

In July, Michael was convicted of first-degree murder and firstdegree arson for the November 2005 poisoning of her husband, James.

Producer Tim Gorin said crews will film shots of Prosecuting Attorney Marcia Ashdown, and do interviews with fire officials and members from both Michelle and James Michael's families today. Filming will take place in Morgantown and Michelle Michael's hometown of Clarksburg.

They also did some interviews in Morgantown a few weeks ago and will be here again in September for Michael's sentencing.

The hour-long show is scheduled to air sometime early next year, but could run as soon as this fall, Gorin said.

It will include an interview with Michael.

"She's a very interesting person, a very interesting person," Gorin said. "I hope that conveys in our interview."

Gorin said Michael continued to maintain her innocence to 48 Hours correspondent Susan Spencer.

"Michelle was what we think was fairly candid," Gorin said. "You'll have to see how it turns out."

Gorin said the crime itself and the thorough investigation make the case an interesting story.

Michelle Michael killed her husband with a fatal dose of a nondepolarizing neuromuscular drug, which causes paralysis. James Michael would've struggled to breathe for several minutes before he died, witnesses testified at trial.

Then, Michelle Michael set their Killarney Drive house on fire to cover up the crime.

Ashdown said the case was suspicious from the start.

"When you first hear what sounds like a tragedy, a house destroyed by fire, and then you find out there's a body inside, you want to believe it's a horrible accident, but from the beginning, people were suspicious," Ashdown said.

James Michael was a young, healthy man found dead in his own bed. He made no effort to get away from the fire, Ashdown said. It just didn't add up.

She wasn't surprised when the case became popular in the local media -- and then the national media.

"I think the professions of all of the people involved, the extremely unusual mode of death and the attempt to cover up the crime by setting fire to your own house gets your attention," Ashdown said.

She said it was unusual to try a case, knowing it would be featured on national television.

"Although some cases in the past have been high profile, it's usually been of local interest," Ashdown said. "This is something that has caught the attention of a national media outlet."

She and Assistant Prosecutor Perri DeChristopher just tried to ignore it, though, and do their jobs.

Crews from "48 Hours Mystery" hid cameras in large, cabinet-like pieces during the trial.

"There were times when you could let those thoughts subside, but then there were times you'd realize those pieces of tall furniture in the courtroom were really cameras," Ashdown said.

The Selenski trial

Hugo Selenski isn't one to shy away from cameras.

He often smirks at television, radio and print reporters after hearings and offers a quick remark.

Selenski had plenty of cameras to glance into during the first day of his trial on double-homicide charges on Wednesday as reporters from local, regional and national media organizations swarmed the courthouse.

"In the six years I've been here, I haven't seen the volume or diversity of the media like this," said Luzerne County Sheriff Barry Stankus.

Three of the nine available seating isles in Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr.'s courtroom have been reserved for the media. Reporters from CNN, MSNBC, The Associated Press and FOX 29 in Philadelphia attended the trial on Tuesday along with members of the local media, which includes at least three newspapers and two television stations.

Because of the media attention, the typical instruction to jurors not to read local newspapers or watch the news was expanded by the judge to include a ban on all national news programs and newspapers.

"You'll be out of the loop for a while," Olszewski said.

"This case is fascinating and bizarre, I don't think anyone can deny that," said Gerald Kolpan, a reporter for FOX 29 in Philadelphia for almost 20 years. "When you get a case with so many elements with a defendant who has dodged so many bullets, it makes it an interesting story and interesting stories are what our viewers want."

FOX video photographer Bryan Zilai said he can't remember his station traveling to Wilkes-Barre for any other story in his 10 years there.

Before testimony began Wednesday, Selenski's attorney, Demetrius Fannick, sat down with MSNBC to do an interview. He said this is the first time he's been involved in a case that has generated so much interest, but doesn't consider it a distraction.

"Quite honestly I'm just trying to stay focused and do my job," Fannick said. "I would do the same job if no one was here. It's difficult because it takes time to accommodate everyone."

While leaving the courthouse for the day, a handcuffed Selenski on his way back to jail greeted the expanded media contingent and said he felt the day went well.

"He (Hugo) has certainly generated some publicity," Fannick said. "He is who he is. He's likable and charismatic."

An interesting story

Diana West's column "Dan's world" (Op-Ed, Friday), which stated, "This is CBS News: Fake but accurate," reminded me that I questioned a Third World journalist many years ago about the veracity of a quotation he had attributed to a prominent U.S. official.

"Not all our readers are as intelligent as you," he replied, "so we have to make our stories more interesting. And this is something that [the official] might have said."

Apparently, CBS doesn't think the American people are very bright, either.

Interesting story lines abound in Kentucky Derby

Of all the great sports events, the Kentucky Derby has a unique knack for producing as its winner the entrant with the most compelling storyline.

Call it the Genter Factor.

You remember 1990, when Unbridled stormed through the stretch to make his 92-year-old owner Frances Genter a Derby winner.

Who will ever forget the television tape of trainer Carl Nafzger "calling" the race for the elderly Genter, whose poor sight did not allow her to see her horse.

"He's gonna win! He's gonna win! He's a winner! He's a winner! Look, Mrs. Genter, there he is. He's a winner!"

Such heartwarming tales are as much a part of the Derby as mint juleps.

That sets one to thinking.

When it comes to picking a winner of this wild, wide-open 128th Kentucky Derby, why not cease being blinded by "science"?

Why not ditch Dosage (after Charismatic and Real Quiet, every one pretty much has), dump "dual qualifiers," skip the "speed figures"?

Instead, be a reporter. Find the best story. Go with the Genter Factor.

So it has to be Harlan's Holiday.

What a tale that would be. One of his owners, Jack Wolf, is a native Louisvillian. If his horse wins, Wolf would be getting the Kentucky Derby on his 53rd birthday.

The trainer is Kenny McPeek, who grew up in Lexington and set aside a career in finance to follow his love of horses.

To get where he is today, McPeek worked his way up from the lowest rungs of racing, once had an owner at Turfway Park stop paying him and leave him with "15 very slow, very untalented horses" to feed.

On Saturday, he sends out the likely favorite in the race he's been dreaming about since he was child.

So, using the Genter Factor, it has to be Harlan's Holiday, right?

Not so fast.

Consider Saarland.

His trainer, one Shug McGaughey, is a native Lexingtonian for whom winning the Derby would be the ultimate.

An old-school horseman, McGaughey has not brought an entry to this race since 1989, when his heavily favored Easy Goer had his heart broken by Sunday Silence.

How much would it mean to McGaughey to finally get his Derby?

Then look at Saarland's owner. Cynthia Phipps has her own heart-tugging tale.

Her father, Ogden Phipps, was one of the giants of American horse racing. The former chairman of The Jockey Club owned such champions as Personal Ensign and Easy Goer.

But Ogden Phipps died April 22 at the age of 92, having never won the greatest American race of all.

What a warm story it would be should the daughter capture the race that the famous father never did, only two weeks after his death.

So, by the Genter Factor, it has to be Saarland, right?

Don't be too fast.

Consider Essence of Dubai.

Now, you may not think a $2.3 million yearling owned by a pair of billionaire sheiks from Dubai raises the "heart-warming" meter real high.

But in the first Kentucky Derby run since Sept. 11, there would be something starkly compelling about Middle Eastern interests winning this Derby.

Having seen with tragic consequences last September how small the world now is, perhaps a victory by the Maktoum brothers could remind people all over the planet that different cultures can come together in peaceful coexistence for at least one day.

If that lesson stuck with only one person in each country, it would produce the most significant Derby "heartwarming" ever.

Using the Genter Factor, make it 1) Essence of Dubai, 2) Saarland and 3) Harlan's Holiday.