Friday, September 30, 2011

The Dirt On Walter Payton

A new biography will be published in October about the great Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton. It is to be excerpted in the next issue of Sports Illustrated, and those excerpts are already generating a huge amount of publicity and controversy. 

According to the book, Payton abused painkillers both during and after his playing days, as well as nitrous oxide (of all things). He also had a long time mistress, an airline stewardess who insisted on attending his Hall of Fame induction ceremony, sitting in the 2nd row while his wife and children were in the front row.  Payton was also suicidal at times, the book details.

You can read these controversial excerpts HERE.

"Area 51 Declassified" On Nat. Geo.

Last night I watched a 1 hour documentary on the National Geographic Channel called Area 51 Declassified. (You can watch the full documentary on You Tube by clicking on that title.)  It tells the true story of how Area 51 was started by the CIA in Groom Lake, Nevada in 1955, initially to develop the U2 spy plane away from prying eyes. It tells this story via on-camera interviews with clearly visible, fully-named, retired Area 51 personnel.  (No anonymous figures here, photographed in shadow, telling sinister tales.) About 18 months ago I wrote HERE about a similar story published in the Los Angeles Times Magazine at the time. This documentary features many of the same people and their stories.

Many of these men's anecdotes tie back to the fact that they were strictly forbidden from telling anyone, not even their own wives and families, about what they were doing.  They would just get up every day in Las Vegas (or Burbank) and fly off on a chartered plane to Area 51, sometimes coming home that night, and sometimes a week later.  And when they returned, they could offer no explanation. 

The documentary also explains that in the 1950s over half the reported UFO sightings were tracked back by the Air Force's famous "Project Bluebook" to inadvertent sightings of the U2 spy plane, primarily by commercial airline pilots and their passengers.  But because the U2 was so secret at the time, they were forced to proffer to the public all these 'BS' explanations like 'swamp gas' and 'weather balloons.'

"Prohibition" on PBS Sunday, Oct. 2

The new TV show I am most looking forward to this fall is will air on PBS starting this Sunday, October 2.  It's a three part, 5 hour documentary titled Prohibition that, "tells the story of the rise, rule, and fall of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the entire era it encompassed."  It's by Ken Burns, who made the famous Civil War documentary all those years ago. At the PBS website HERE you can watch a 2 minute trailer for it, as well as a separate interview with Ken Burns.

Al Qaeda Leader Killed! (Wait: Who?)

It made me laugh that on the CBS News website this morning the top two headlines are:

"Al Qaeda's Anwar al-Awlaki Killed In Yemen"

"Who Was Anwar al-Awlaki?"

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fast Food "Goes Low" Again

All the major fast food chains are dropping their prices again, according to THIS article in the USA Today, because of a slumping economy and because of marketing data showing that today's 20-somethings are going to fast food restaurants far less regularly than did prior generations at that age.

That's sort of interesting.  But what really caught my eye was one such deal enumerated in this article, as an example of this price cutting:

"$6.99 meals for two. For less than $7, Burger King is offering two Whoppers, two small fries and two small drinks."

Who's kidding whom, I wondered, about how many couples are coming in to Burger King together and sharing this 'meal for two.'  

New "Walking Dead" October 16th

Halloween is not too far away now.  How can I tell?  Displays of mini-candy in grocery stores? Maybe.  Or maybe it was that AMC released this 90 second trailer yesterday for the upcoming second season of its highly rated 'zombie apocalypse' drama The Walking Dead.  You can watch it on You Tube HERE.  This trailer doesn't give away anything (as least as far as I could tell).  In fact, it looked pretty much identical to season one, to me anyway.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New SAT Cheating Scandal

SAT cheating scandals seem surprisingly rare to me, at least they seem to make news infrequently.  This new one today is relatively garden variety, I thought.  A 19 year old college student named Sam Eshaghoff  allegedly flew back to his home town in New York from Emory University and took the SAT for multiple kids from his old high school (using fake IDs each time), charging them each around $2,000.

But a sentence buried deep in THIS MSNBC article seemed to raise a number of intruiging, unanswered questions. "Eshaghoff also allegedly took the test for a seventh student, a girl, but did not make her pay, the Daily News reported."

The Rise of "Awesome"

Have you ever wondered, "how did this once-awe-inspiring word become a nearly meaningless bit of verbiage referring to anything even mildly good?"  If so, you might  like THIS article from The Economist. 

WWII Shipwreck With $200M In Silver

A British cargo ship laden with over $200 million in silver, which was sunk off the Irish coast in very deep water by a German U-boat during WWII, has now been located by treasure hunters.  As THIS 2 minute segment from the CBS News last night makes clear, it's only a matter of when, not if, the silver is salvaged.

But whenever there is discussion of salvaging parts of the Titanic, which is apparently in shallower water than this wreck, a hue and cry is raised about respect for the deceased.  But no such concern is mentioned about this wreck. Are 'war dead' less worthy of respect?  Or is $200 million of pure silver simply 'a different issue' than broken china and silverware?

Final "Andy Rooney" This Sunday

A couple of years ago I shifted to watching CBS's 60 Minutes online, instead of on TV, because I found that I enjoyed only about 1 in every 3 stories they did.  On the CBS News website you can watch the show story-by-story with only one 30 second commercial.  As a result, it's been a while since I've seen an Andy Rooney segment.

I've watched 60 Minutes pretty regularly for the better part of 25 years, and I even liked Andy Rooney well after many others called him "tired" or "annoying."  But this 30 second segment from the NBC Nightly News, about the announcement yesterday that this Sunday would be the 92 year old Rooney's final appearance on the show, came as little surprise (if a bit of a shock).

It did make me wonder, though, what was the unspoken, triggering event for his abruptly-announced retirement now.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Federal Subsidies For Junk Food

A new report reveals that Federal agriculture subsidies going disproportionately to producers of high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, and soy oils are effectively subsidizing Americans' purchases of fast food and junk food. According to THIS article in the Los Angeles Times, "If these agricultural subsidies went directly to consumers to allow them to purchase food, each of America's 144 million taxpayers would be given $7.36 to spend on junk food and 11 cents with which to buy apples each year."

On a related note, the man who invented Doritos in 1964 has just died at the age of 97.   His family made news by revealing that their funeral plans include, "tossing Doritos chips in before they put the dirt over the urn." Feels like there's a metaphor in there somewhere.

"Biosphere 2" 20 Years Later

On this date 20 years ago, four women and four men began their 2-year stay inside the self-contained "Biospehere 2" outside Tucson, Arizona.  I remember thinking at the time that the whole endeavor, a stated focus of which was to develop technology for future space colonization, was sort of flaky. Nonetheless, that original mission ran as planned from 1991 to 1993. But then the problems began.  A second mission in 1994 lasted only six months before being terminated prematurely in what Wikipedia termed, "a dispute over the financial aspects of the project." (Hard to believe that a gigantic self-contained environment the size of two football fields, enclosed in glass in Arizona, might burn rapidly through $200 million in venture investment and then run into money problems.) While the 'Biosphere 2' remains open to tourists today, no other 'missions' have ever been mounted there.  In 2007, the property was sold for $500 million to a residential developer.  But the financial crisis has provided a de facto 'stay of execution' to date, apparently.

"The Wrong Man" Has Died

You probably remember the two most famous American spies in recent years, the CIA's Aldrich Ames (who was arrested in 1994) and the FBI's Robert Hansen (who was arrested in 2001).  Several books were written and movies made about the lengthy 'mole hunts' that ultimated led to their discovery and identification.

But what's considerably less celebrated is that these lengthy 'mole hunts' first came to focus incorrectly on a string of totally innocent suspects long before the real spies were finally found.  These poor souls found themselves in a horrible situation: unable to prove a negative ("I am not a spy") when the evidence against them may have been no more than mere suspicion and coincidence, and, because of the nature of their work, they were usually blackballed at the office for years at a time, if not outright suspended. To say nothing of the round-the-clock surveillance, and harsh interrogations.

One such "wrong man" has just died. CIA counterintelligence officer Brian Kelley was accused of being a spy in 1999 and was suspended from his job at the CIA for almost two years before Robert Hanssen was finally found in 2001, according to his obituary in The Washington Post HERE. In light of the fact that he was entirely innocent all along, I thought that the following was darkly humorous. "Attempting to lure Mr. Kelley into a trap, the FBI sent an undercover agent to his home in Vienna [Virginia] late one night. When Mr. Kelley opened the door... a man speaking in a thick Russian accent told him: 'I come from your friends, and we’re concerned. Meet us tomorrow night at the Vienna Metro. A person will approach you. We have a passport for you, and we’ll get you out of the country.'”

After Robert Hanssen was finally arrested in 2001, Kelley's suspension from work was lifted and he was reinstated by the CIA until he retired in 2007.  Imagine how awkward that first day back at work must have been for everyone involved.  ("We're terribly, terribly sorry... Won't happen again....")

Saturday, September 24, 2011

If A Satellite Hits Your House, Who Pays?

Apparently NASA's obsolete UARS satellite has now fallen to Earth over the Pacific Ocean.  But the headline of this related article caught my eye anyway. "If A Satellite Falls On Your Home, Who Pays?"

It turns out, to my astonishment, that there is an unambiguous answer to this question, and that it is a well-settled question of international law. NASA would have to pay if the falling UARS had hit your home.

"Liability for damage caused by objects falling from space is regulated by the 1972 Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects, according to NASA public affairs officer Beth Dickey. When the U.S. signed the pact, it agreed to be 'absolutely liable to pay compensation for damage caused by its space object on the surface of the Earth or to aircraft in flight.'"

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Man Nobody Knew, Bill Colby

A new documentary film has been released about former CIA director William Colby. Titled "The Man Nobody Knew," its been made by his son, Carl (who bears a striking resemblance to his father). Carl Coby has given a 7 minute interview to CBS News which you can watch HERE.  I particularly enjoyed the anecdote at the 2 minute mark about how Carl found out as a young boy that his father was a spy, and what his father said to young Carl in response.

Bill Colby was the head of the notorious Phoenix Program in Vietnam, and later, as head of the CIA, he revealed the CIA's darkest secrets to the Congressional Church Committee, an act many believe was devastating to the CIA's covert operations.  Years after that, in retirement, Bill Colby died in a mysterious boating accident.  All of this should make for a very interesting documentary.  You can watch the 2 minute trailer on You Tube HERE.

Nirvana Beyond The Hype Of "Nevermind"

Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the release of the first major label record by the seminal grunge band Nirvana, titled "Nevermind."  All of the praise today in the press about Nirvana's impact on popular music (and how they "changed music forever") conspicuously omits to mention, however, that they were in many ways a punk band whose live shows were far more dissonant than the heavily produced tracks on "Nevermind." 

I remember going to a Nirvana concert within the first few months of the release of "Nevermind" and complaining afterward that they had not played their #1 hit single "Smells Like Teen Spirit."  All I really saw at their live show was three scruffy guys who stared down at their shoes the whole time, while playing music that came out of the amplifiers like an angry cacophony of white noise, one song almost indistinguishable from the next.

As Nirvana became more and more famous, I used to tell this story all the time. And then, years later, after Kurt Cobain's suicide, a greatest hits album of sorts was released, featuring all live tracks.  And the version of their most famous hit, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," included on that record was recorded at the show I'd attended.

Why Shoot Gerald Ford?

Writing yesterday about the 36th anniversary of Sara Jane Moore's attempt to assassinate then President Gerald Ford in 1975, just 17 days after Squeaky Fromme's more famous attempt, got me wondering what their motives were.  Why try to kill Gerald Ford?  I was a very young child during his presidency, but my memory is that, other than pardoning Richard Nixon, he was a non-controversial,  amiable guy who liked to golf.

So I did some searching this morning and was interested to find that their respective motives are never really explained precisely anywhere.  Instead, they are variously described (or dismissed?) as "confused" or "crazed." Sometimes Squeaky Fromme is described as a follower of Charles Manson, as if that is a sufficient explanation by itself. (Weren't their Tate/LaBianca murders intended to set off a race war?  Would shooting Gerald Ford have sparked a race war?)

Shoddy reporting, I thought. But the more I dug, the more I came to believe that they may not have had clear motives, as unbelievable as that sounds.  Here's the only quote from Squeaky Fromme I could find about her motivation. "She said she knew Ford was in town and near her, 'and I said, 'I gotta go and talk to him,' and then I thought, 'That's foolish. He's not going to stop and talk to you.' People have already shown you can lay blood in front of them and they're not, you know, they don't think anything of it. I said, 'Maybe I'll take the gun,' and I thought, 'I have to do this. This is the time.' "   .... Huh?

In a TV clip from 1975, Sara Jane Moore says bizarrely, "In order to simply survive, I thought it was the only option I had at that point." .... Huh?   But in 2009, a 79 year-old Sara Jane Moore sat for an interview on the Today Show, on the occasion of her release from prison. When addressing her motive, she began with a rambling discourse. "I have no idea what was going through my mind at that moment.... We thought San Francisco was the world."  .... Huh?   But then, after several minutes, she finally addresses her motivation directly and and concisely, "I thought it would trigger a Revolution."

The Fall Of The Mafia In America

I knew that the Mafia today was much smaller and less powerful than it had been even 25 years ago. But I had no idea how far it had fallen until I saw THIS item posted on GangLand News. The underboss of the Colombo crime family apparently "copped a plea deal last week" in connection with two extortion schemes. One of which was described as, "A Bonanno associate was slapped around and made to pay $4,000 to the Colombos for stealing a pizza sauce recipe from a legendary Brooklyn pizzeria-restaurant and using it in his copycat eatery in Staten Island."

What's The Lead Headline?

 The Washington Post's website has a headline this morning declaring, "Physics Rule Broken? Scientists Say Particles Traveled Faster Than Light... would run counter to Einstein's theories," which I noted with a laugh was placed just below another story titled, "Yemeni President Returns Home."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Intruiging Story Of Gerald Ford's Assassin

On this date in 1975, a 45-year old radical named Sara Jane Moore attempted to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford, shooting at him once with a revolver from a crowd before being tackled.  She was ultimately sentenced to life in prison, but the now 80 year old woman was released on parole on December 31, 2007, a year after President Ford died of natural causes.

I was a very young child when this happened, and only vaguely remembered that there had actually been two attempts made on Gerald Ford's life. I wonder if Sarah Jane Moore ever thought, while in prison, that she had thrown her life away.  Not only was her attempt unsuccessful, but she didn't even secure much of a place in history.  The most famous Presidential assassins are, surely, John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald. For almost everyone alive today, I would suspect that the next biggest such name would be John Hinkley, Jr.  How must it feel to sit, rotting in prison, as only the second most famous attempted assassin of Gerald Ford, after someone called Squeaky Fromme.

But reading into her story a little this morning, I found a couple of notable aspects.  For one, she was apparently an FBI informant at the time of her assassination attempt.  She had also been picked up 'evaluated' by the Secret Service just months earlier, but was determined to be of 'no danger' to the President.  And the day before she shot at President Ford, she had been arrested by police who had confiscated  another revolver she was carrying.   When, the next day, she turned out to be Ford's would-be assassin, I bet that was a very bad day at multiple law enforcement agencies. (And just imagine the conspiracy theories, had she succeeded.)

I also thought it was interesting that in 1979, she escaped from Federal prison in West Virginia.  Imagine that: a Presidential assassin (and a 49 year old woman at the time, no less) managed to escape from Federal prison.  Pretty amazing for the second-most-famous would be assassin of Gerald Ford.  (Even if she was recaptured just hours later.)

Falling Satellite And Adverbs

By now you've probably already heard that a 20-year old (obsolete) weather satellite is expected to fall back to Earth sometime tomorrow. Since it's apparently "bus-sized" and weighs 6.5 tons, the prospect that large chunks of  the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (or UARS) will survive re-entry, damaging people and property as it falls, has generated an increasing amount of press coverage in recent days.

It struck me that all the news articles invariably lead with quotes from 'experts' and/or 'officials' assuring us that the debris will fall harmlessly.  But, just as inevitably, those assurances are hedged with these equivocal adverbs.  Like THIS article in the Los Angeles Times today, which begins by stating that the UARS, "is due to land Friday, most likely harmlessly, officials say."  And then, if you read further into the body of these articles, they all explain that no one really knows where the debris will land, and that these assurances that no one will be harmed are based almost exclusively on generic statistical calculations about the percentage of the surface of the Earth that is populated and how small the debris field will be. "But there is plenty the trackers don't know about the satellite's reentry — namely, where those pieces will fall — and that's what has some people spooked. 'There is no modeling that predicts where it will hit the surface of the Earth,' Duncan said."

On a related note,  this article also explains in passing that any object weighing more than 1,000 lbs. before re-entry may be large enough to generate a debris field on Earth. I'd always sort of wondered if this had ever been quantified.  Now I know.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Nationality Of Baby Born Mid-Flight?

When I was in law school years ago I remember rolling my eyes at repeated essay questions based on highly unlikely hypotheticals drafted intentionally to create ambiguous legal issues (like an airplane crashing exactly on the border between two countries).

THIS news story reminded me immediately of that. It begins by stating, "Officials were trying Tuesday to ascertain the nationality of a baby born mid-flight, apparently over international waters, in a passenger jet heading from the Philippines to the United States."  That's actually an interesting legal question, I thought. Making it more complicated, the pregnant woman is a Philippine national who apparently had a visa allowing her to emigrate legally to the United States when her flight arrived.

The article ends with these two sentences, implying to me that this is a legal issue which has arisen many times before. "According to Jennifer Vaughn, from the Center for Immigration Studies, if a child is born over open ocean it is generally considered a citizen of the country where the parent has legal citizenship in. If a baby is born in American airspace it is a U.S. citizen."

What If We Were Graded By Loyalty?

I was reading yet another story in The Economist HERE about the repressive North Korean government. I actually found it relatively unremarkable except for these two sentences, which intrigued me.

"With totalitarian obsession, it groups North Koreans into 51 social categories, graded by loyalty to the regime. Of those groups, 29 are considered to make up an underclass that is hostile or at best ambivalent towards the regime."

I found myself wondering momentarily how that classification scheme might apply in the United States.

"All Natural" Food Can Mean Anything

The FDA does not, apparently, precisely define what the term "All Natural" means when used on the labels of food products, according to this 2 minute story from the NBC Nightly News last night. I found that revelation interesting in and of itself, and reminiscent of another fight a few years ago over the use of the similarly ill-defined term "Light" on food packaging.  But if you watch this segment you'll also hear that this issue has become public now not because of the actions of any consumer watchdog organization, but because of a lawsuit filed by the 'sugar industry' against makers of 'high fructose corn syrup.'

Monday, September 19, 2011

Retreiving Data From Spy Satellites In The 1970s

I wrote HERE last week that the secretive National Reconnaissance Office, or NRO, was going to put on public display last Saturday for the first time some of its top secret spy satellites.  They did and you can read about it HERE (including a photo of the most famous one displayed, the so-called "Big Bird" HEXAGON satellite).

I thought that these few sentences sandwiched in the middle of this long story were the most intriguing, however.
"According to documents released by the NRO, each HEXAGON satellite mission lasted about 124 days, with the satellite launching four film return capsules that could send its photos back to Earth. An aircraft would catch the return capsule in mid-air by snagging its parachute following the canister's re-entry. In a fascinating footnote, the film bucket from the first KH-9 HEXAGON sank to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean in spring 1972 after Air Force recovery aircraft failed to snag the bucket's parachute. The film inside the protective bucket reported contained high resolution photographs of the Soviet Union's submarine bases and missile silos. In a daredevil feat of clandestine ingenuity, the U.S. Navy's Deep Submergence Vehicle Trieste II succeeded in grasping the bucket from a depth of 3 miles below the ocean."

Woman Calls Ex-Boyfriend 65,000 Times

I thought that the headline of this story was great: "Woman Calls Ex-Boyfriend 65,000 Times."  It details how Dutch prosecutors in the Hague have filed phone stalking charges against a 42-year old woman who allegedly called her 62-year old ex-boyfriend 65,000 times in the year after they broke up.

According to this CBS News article, that works out to 178 times a day, every day for a year. Wow.  Crazy.  "What was that lady thinking,"  I wondered. But then again, why didn't the ex-boyfriend just get a new phone (or change his phone number) after a few days or months of all this crazy phone stalking, rather than let it go on-and-on for a year?

If the headline was eye-grabbing, the last line of the story was positively priceless. "The man denied they had a relationship."

How Many Weddings Suffer "Cold Feet"?

Roughly one in 15 couples in New York City do not actually end up getting married even after they have paid the $35 to obtain a valid marriage license from the City Clerk's office, according to THIS article (which terms it the "cold feet index").  Too bad this New York Post article doesn't contain any real reporting about the underlying reasons why, however.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

High Praise For New "Tinker, Tailor" Movie

I wrote HERE back in June about the upcoming movie adaptation of John le Carre's classic spy novel, "Tinker Tailor, Soldier, Spy," which in 1979 was famously adapted by the BBC into a multi-hour TV epic starring Alec Guiness.

The new film premiered in London a couple of days ago.  The Economist magazine ran THIS enthusiastic review. Unfortunately for us in the United States, the movie does not premiere here until December 9th.

Food Stamps For Fast Food?

The USA Today ran THIS article about the push by Yum! Brands, the parent company of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, to allow government food stamps to be redeemed at their restaurants.

I hold conflicting views about this.  On the one hand, I am generally in favor of free choice in almost any situation.  On the other, there are already clearly identified correlations between poverty, obesity, and fast food.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Vintage US Spy Satellites On Display

I wish I could be there.  According to THIS article on, the National Reconnaissance Office, the secretive "government agency in charge of designing, building, launching and maintaining America's vital intelligence satellites," will tomorrow put on public display for the first time (and for one day only) some of its vintage spy satellites from the 1960s and 70s, at a Smithsonian Institution facility in Chantilly, Virginia.

Why Isn't Labor Day On May 1?

It's probably a couple of weeks too late to be discussing Labor Day.  But having lived abroad for much of the last decade, and having experienced first hand the riotous street celebrations on "May Day" each year in London, I've repeatedly wondered why we in America celebrate Labor Day in September every year, while much of the rest of the world celebrates 'International Workers' Day' on May 1st. Now I've learned why, finally.

Labor Day has been a Federal holiday in the United States since 1894.  It origins go back to the Haymarket Riot in Chicago on May 4, 1886, when a public demonstration in support of striking workers turned violent.  In 1889 an international socialist organization meeting in Paris called for annual protest marches to be staged all over the world commemorating this Haymarket Riot, to begin the following year.

After a severe financial crisis in America in 1893, on May 1, 1894, riots broke out among the unemployed of Cleveland, Ohio, and then, just a few days later, on May 11, 1894, the famous Pullman Strike by railway workers was called.  US President Grover Cleveland quickly reconciled with this increasingly activist (and disruptive) labor movement, and six days after the end of the Pullman Strike Congress rushed through legislation declaring Labor Day to be a Federal holiday. The September date was chosen specifically to avoid the day turning into an annual commemoration of these famous workers' strikes and riots, and to avoid direct association with international socialism.

As a result,  we in America now have a quiet day of BBQs in September each year, marking the effective end to summer, while anarchists and students riot in London every year on May 1st.

When Civil Rights And Fast Food Collide

THIS story in the New York Post is so uniquely American. It's about a 290 lb stock broker from New York named Martin Kessman who is suing the White Castle fast food chain under the Americans With Disabilities Act, alleging that his civil rights have been violated because their booths are too small for him to fit into comfortably. (There's a photo of him in the article.)  I think you'd be hard pressed to write a fictional story that packs in so many negative stereotypes about Americans as concisely.

My favorite part of this article details White Castle's response after Kessman wrote them an initial complaint letter in April 2009. "White Castle replied with three 'very condescending letters' -- and an offer that added insult to injury. 'In each letter was a coupon for three free hamburgers -- but the cheese was extra!' according to a lawsuit Kessman filed last week in Manhattan federal court."

The story concludes as follows, "Kessman could have approached a store manager and asked for a regular chair, said White Castle spokeswoman Jamie Richardson."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Job Program: $640K Per Job

THIS article from The Washington Post today details how the Obama administration's $38.6 billion 'green jobs' loan guarantee program, which, it was promised, "would create or save 65,000 jobs has created just a few thousand jobs two years after it began, government records show." To be precise, 3,545 new jobs, according to the Energy Department.

Even if 60,000 further jobs were 'saved' (as opposed to 'created') by the program, an assertion vigorously disputed in this article, that would still mean each job 'saved or created' by this program required $640,000 in loan guarantees.  (The collapse of one solar panel manufacturer that had benefited from such loans may cost the US taxpayers over $500 million.)

White House Crasher's New "Journey"

Do you remember when Michaele and Tareq Salahi made big news in 2009 by crashing a White House state dinner? Well, they made some news again last night.  According to THIS article from CNN, on Tuesday Tareq called police and reported his wife missing, presumed kidnapped. It turns out, however (you can not make this up), that she had run away with the guitarist for 1980s rock band Journey, Neal Schon.

Unintended Consequences of Extreme Couponing

I thought that THIS story from was interesting in a couple of ways.  It details some unexpected problems that have emerged across the country as the trend of 'extreme couponing' (i.e. using dozens of coupons to cut grocery bills to near zero) continues to grow.

One unintended consequence, apparently, is a rash of thefts of stacks of Sunday newspapers from vending machines, as shoppers seek out more-and-more coupons. 

This article also revealed to me that most grocery stores apparently have detailed, if unwritten, policies limiting coupon use; like limits on the total number of coupons that can be redeemed at once, or a limit of one product per coupon.