Saturday, January 31, 2009

Erica Desai: Runaway or Victim of Foul Play?

19-year old Erica Desai of North Carolina has gone missing...
Ran away with stranger... checks in with folks...
SHE'S BaaaaaaCK! (Update)
the St. John's University freshman hasn't been heard from since Jan. 20th, She was last seen when a cousin dropped her off close to her dorm on Union Turnpike after she returned from a trip to North Carolina. But she reportedly never claimed her luggage and hasn't tried to contact her family. Her father said she usually calls home three or four times a day.

This reminds me of the Suzanne Lyall case (the ATM card part): Police seek two who used missing woman's debit card

Erica's bank card was used Jan. 21st at a Midtown automated-teller machine about 12:45 p.m., according to NYPD reports. Surveillance footage shows an unidentified black man and an unidentified Indian woman at the machine. Desai's sister, Seena, told The New York Post that the woman in the picture "definitely is not Erica."


Erica is 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighs approximately 120 pounds. She was wearing a blue blazer, green jumpsuit and black shoes when she disappeared.

At right there's a photo from her Facebook page. Erica was last seen about 10:35 p.m. EST Jan. 20 in the area of Union Turnpike and Utopia Parkway in Queens. The NYPD is asking for the public's help in finding her.

Anyone with any information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or text tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577.

Click here for more on this story from MyFOXNY.com.

Click here for more on this story from the New York Post.


Human trafficking is the modern-day equivalent of slavery - I wonder if people who have vanished, people like Suzanne Lyall and perhaps Erica Desai may still be alive, enslaved right here in North America?

If you would like to learn more about human trafficking, I have a snapshot here. I've also posted info regarding Human Trafficking in New York State and another article where you can read all about how a wealthy Long Island family was caught keeping slaves... this kind of thing happens. I wonder too just how many of all the "missing persons" in the United States have been hauled off in modern-day "slave ships" bound for distant lands.


(330) 739-2210

Another "your car warranty has expired" call. Even 10-year old kids get this one on their cell phones! They called me this evening at 5:30, New York time!

The company behind this telemarketing blitzkrieg rotates numbers every six days and rumor has it they operate from remote locations just outside U.S. borders, routing the calls through a valid U.S. Area Code. They particularly target cell phones and word is that if you ever gave your cell number when downloading ringtones or handphone software from third party websites, your number was captured.

It gets worse. Even if you just bought a phone, the number assigned to you may already be "on the list" and you can forget the National "Do Not Call" list. These guys pay no attention to it.

Have gotten this call and similar calls from different numbers. 616-980-2674 213-416-0125 207-925-1732 251-947-8966 517-931-2251 760-204-8423 and 786-486-4635.

Some of these number are "spoofed" so when you try to call back what you see on your caller ID you'll hear a message saying the number is either out of service or "unassigned" at this time.

Fight back! If you find that you can call the number back, start leaving it everywhere: on websites, on Craig's List ("For a good time, call..."), write it on the walls of phone booths and by all means give it to other telemarketers and bill collectors!

Global Warming Blues, perhaps...

Monster Ground Hog Day Storm May Be First of Many

This could be one to write home about... we'll see... AccuWeather.com reports that a
storm which could bring a major snowfall to parts of the East next week is part of the major weather change going on across the country. AccuWeather.com Expert Meteorologist Joe Bastardi says the pattern across the eastern part of the country will yield several major snowstorms that could bring snowfall for the year above normal in many areas, including the major cities along the I-95 corridor. The storm coming Monday and Tuesday next week will track from the Gulf of Mexico to a position near Baltimore by Tuesday morning.

The Flood Coming?

The exact track of the storm will draw the line between which areas of the East receive substantial snow or heavy rain. It will also determine how many places in the Southeast will be threatened by severe weather.

A track along or just west of the Appalachian Mountains would result in disruptive snow from the Ohio Valley to the eastern Great Lakes. Soaking rain would spread over the rest of the Eastern Seaboard with potentially damaging thunderstorms from the eastern Carolinas to Florida.

A plethora of moisture being drawn into the storm could produce 1 to 2 inches of rain. Flooding could ensue, especially in the Northeast where the frozen ground will not be able to soak up the rain water.

A deep snowpack over New England and the mid-Atlantic's interior will further heighten the potential for flooding. If the snow fails to absorb all of the rain, the combination of rain and melting snow could severely swell streams and rivers.
Meanwhile, Down Under...

MediaWatch 31 January 09

Image: Internet censorship, Cambodian style (click on the graphic for more!)

LiveJournal member and Greenpeace activisit trashman_2009 posts pictures of himself dressed as a green garbage container, being dragged away by Moscow riot police after a failed attempt to get an appointment with the Moscow mayor and talk to him about recycling (RUS).

Kazakhstan: Livejournal Unblocked. Then, Blocked Again!

Haunted hospital calls in exorcist...

Lori Harfenist: "NBC rejected my piece this week, it was TOO CONTROVERSIAL!"

Japanese electronics giant NEC to cut 20,000 jobs worldwide

Paul Krugman: Health Care Now (nytimes.com) — Why has the Obama administration been silent about one of the key promises during the campaign — the promise of guaranteed health care for all Americans?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Barackcracy 101: Obanomics in Albany

Leaders meeting with Congressman Paul Tonko, as seen from the business end of media coverage of the event.

Back in the day, the media used to jabber about Reaganomics. However you feel about national economic policy, I myself think of President Barack Obama's modern "New Deal" as "Obanomics." President Obama says the economic slump is a "continuing disaster" for America's families.

CNBC Video: President Obama on the Economy
Timeline: U.S. Credit Crunch & Financial Failures
Article Gallery WNBC: Are You With Obama or Rush?

Economists are pessimistic. As the recession accelerates, Friday morning I was assigned to cover Congressman Paul Tonko's special meeting in Albany with elected & community leaders from across the 21st Congressional District to discuss details of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 passed by the House Wednesday night, specifically how it will affect local communities.

The focus is on growing the economy and getting money into needy areas quickly. Tonko notes Upstate New York is positioned to receive 863 Million dollars in School Aid... he says there's also plenty of transportation aid and Billions marked for Food Stamp Assistance and that the combined effect of the funding infusion should help "springboard the economy" - Let's hope so!

The $819 billion stimulus package is designed to create and save millions of jobs, invest in green energy projects that will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil, lay the groundwork for an innovation economy, and fund projects to rebuild and repair roads and bridges. The legislation is targeted at getting money into the economy quickly.

The package includes:

$3.6 billion for New York State in federal funding for infrastructure projects that includes money for highways & bridges, transit projects, and clean water and other environmental initiatives.

An estimated $63 million in aid to school districts in the 21st Congressional District to modernize school buildings and classrooms, and provide additional aid for low-income students and students with disabilities.

$12 billion in additional federal Medicaid funding for New York State.


Congressman Tonko believes meeting the leaders was a neccessary step before the final version of the stimulus package is ready to be presented to President Obama. If the measure is enacted by both houses by mid-February, Tonko says Obama will probaby sign the bill "in a matter of days."

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Super Bowl 43

The NFL has been using Twitter to spread the word about the latest and greatest happenings in Tampa during Super Bowl week.

Super Bowl XLIII Start Time and TV Viewing Guide

PETA Super Bowl Ad Too Sexy For TV

Sneak peak: automotive commercials of the Super Bowl 43

Super Bowl 43 betting odds and point spread.

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Around The Blogosphere 30 January 09

My digital friend "Miss Izzy" frequently shows up in searches through which websurfers arrive at this humble blog. Isabella is quite the blogger: she writes a tech blog for CNet and recently listed 25 things about herself in a meme (not on any blog) that's been sweeping thru the Asian blogosphere. If you're looking for that list, or the meme, which XiaXue has also participated in, you'll have to figure out how to find it! Here's a hint: Izzy has a pretty face.

Ever hear of Michael Arrington? He started the TechCrunch blog. But now something has happened to him that happens to certain celebrities, seemingly for no particular reason. Jeff Segal of breakingviews.com has details.

Friends Needed: for Aschelew, The Boy Without Arms: 48 hours to change a life... and a town... Jan 29-30! We're going to turn an awful situation around, with a hand up not a handout. To do it, we need the help of friends... $10 at a time.

In Hong Kong, Filipinas are dancing in protest...

LJ user ottenki-serogo is the first Russian blogger to have officially registered his blog as a mass media outlet. Many readers are asking: “What for?” One of the 168 comments to the post (RUS) with a scanned copy of the registration certificate, by LJ user vlada_lad (RUS): “Good thing that readers don't have to register anywhere yet. :)”

Rosie O'Donnell has stopped blogging.

Why Teens Haven't Embraced Twitter…Yet

Ashley Wheaton at The Dhaka Diaries portrays the urban life of Bangladesh through a series of photo essays.

From gamesradar.com: Top 20 Overlooked Game Babes

Check out the manga blog [ja] of the artist Junko Kawashima.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Shhhh! The Boss Is Coming!

New York Magazine offers a PDF file all about "The Boss" - click on the picture to get to the download link!

Bruce Springsteen is coming to Albany this spring. Known for his knockout live performances, it's hard to believe he's been around for so long!

What Is Wrong With People?

Maybe the Mayans were onto something with that 2012 thing...

Scouts' dishonor
Despite a proclaimed love of the environment, the Boy Scouts of America is clear-cutting and logging to raise cash (A Hearst Newspapers Investigation appearing in the Albany Times Union)
SPECIAL SECTION: Stories, photos, slideshow, videos
READ & REACT: Share your thoughts on this series

From the very same newspaper, there is this: Two charged in $62,383 fund scam

Some crimes can only be committed by those who posess mean hearts...

Police track down violent robber from footprint left in victim's forehead...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pop Clips » 28 Jan 09

RIP John Updike

A disturbing story appearing in newspapers around the world about a distraught man (Ervin Lupoe) who massacred his family is deconstructed by Michelle Malkin. If you read nothing else today, read THIS!

The Rohingya have been called “trafficked victims”, “refugees”, “forced migrants” and “illegal migrants”. The Irrawaddy provides a comprehensive background to the situation of the Rohingya. This issue has involved Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh and even the United States.

A message on Twitter calling upon Arabs to stop saying Israel has snowballed into a movement across the Arab world, in this latest twist of the ongoing online war following the Israeli bombing of Gaza. Anas Qtiesh reports from the front lines.

Too Much Noise On Twitter? Filttr Will Tell You What’s Worth Reading - Twitter is a great resource for information, useful links, breaking news and status messages from your friends or companies you're interested in...


Jen Chung: Post Pinocchios Paterson Over Leaks

Video to go: Jessica Simpson's FORBIDDEN "Workout Video" can be checked out here!

The 45-Thousand Dollar Door

Anyone visiting the State Capitol building Tuesday morning via the Washington Avenue entrance, was greeted by a boarded-up door, (I shoulda snapped a picture!) and it's not the first time...

The Revolving Door that for years and years and years faithfully served as the entrance to the caverns and crannies of the Capitol as well as a channel to reach the LOB, Empire State Plaza Concourse etc. was recently replaced with a "SMART" door. It still revolves, but you must wait for it to "sense" your presence.

That seems to be a problem... seems folks are anxious to get in or out of the building and so they do what's logical: PUSH on th glass!

The new $45,000 door has already broken down a few times, which has resulted in placement of the PC-printed sign depicted in the photo. $45K for a self-revolving door? Was that really needed? Couldn't 45G's have been put to better use?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dream Catcher

Seen at the Empire State Plaza: The Dream - CAPTURED!


Pop Clips » 27 Jan 09

Some Conservative bloggers and radio talk show hosts are up in arms over President Barack Obama's choosing Arabic satellite TV network Al-Arabiya for his first formal television interview as president. (WATCH the interview HERE)(Here is the FULL TEXT)

Romanticized icon of rebellion Cuban revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara is awakening old passions via a controversial new "biopic" - Benicio Del Toro portrays Che - Del Toro walked out of an interview about the picture.

A young murder victim is turned into $$$$ by a company which suddenly suspended sales of its "Caylee Doll" - the twisted tale of Showbiz Promotions and its product, slain Central Florida toddler Caylee Anthony, can be found here.

Miss Info writes about two people she admires: "and the best looking interviews on the web…" D-Nice Presents True Hip-Hop Stories: Monie Love from D-Nice on Vimeo.

check out D-Nice’s site for more True Hip Hop Stories

Slumdog Millionaire

Global Voices' Kamla Bhatt blogs that the motion picture Slumdog Millionaire has started a dialog within the Indian Blogosphere about poverty, entrepreneurship and Indian films. India's movie-loving citizens have mixed feelings about the flick.

Slumdog Millionaire Is Tops at Sag Awards

Download Slumdog Millionaire 2008...

Behind the cinema fantasy: seamier, poorer side of Indian life...

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Bailout TARP Song and Video Strike Major Chord With Americans

Hey, YOU! Do "The Tarp!"

Recording artist Bill Zucker has released a new parody song about the TARP ( $700 billion Government bailout ) that's taking the nation by storm.
Well, I'm just a poor boy from the streets of Tennessee

I work real hard to pay my bills but it's too much for me

I lost my job ... they took my home ... I'm down on my knees

But I heard about this place where money grows on trees."

The 53-year old Zucker graduated from Longmeadow High School and was a longtime staple on the Pioneer Valley music scene with bands like Cruise Control and the Bill Zucker Band.
"The TARP Song" ("I want some TARP.") debuted on CNBC's Power Lunch and has become an overnight success - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGfQk9XXm24 CNBC planned to play it once, but due to the response, played it 8 times during the broadcast. Quotes from the anchors were: "The TARP Song is the wittiest, funniest and catchy song to come out in years and I can't get the song out of my head." "The video is hysterical."
Not into TARP? Try a little Hot Pastrami with your mashed potatoes!
Viewers calling in from all over the world were told they could get the song at Amazon.com and on iTunes.

Singer/songwriter Bill Zucker (originally from Springfield, Massachusetts), best known for his hit song Millennium in 2000, writes in I Want Some TARP "With all the money they've given the companies...Give everyone a brand new car insured by A.I.G...And now I know why they call it fanny 'cause their heads are up their....As I was saying." Zucker says he was trying to find a way to make people laugh in these dismal economic times and said people were sending him thank you emails for showing the lighter side of such a depressing topic. Zucker says at first people would ask, "What's TARP?" And now everyone's favorite saying is, "I Want Some TARP." (T.A.R.P. stands for Troubled Asset Relief Program). Zucker said the song is now starting to play on the radio and should spread fast across the U.S. The TARP Song video was just released and is now on the CNBC website and on CNBC's Power Lunch. It is said to be the funniest video on youtube.com.

An internet MP3 sales site, lala.com, reports Zucker's TARP song moving from #800 to #5 on their listening chart in 4 days. When asked, "What's next"?, Zucker (a Berklee School of Music alumni) replied, "I'd write a song 'Bernie Made Off With My Money', but it might be in bad taste." He smiled and said "you'll see".

For more about Zucker visit http://www.billzucker.com/

AN ECONOMIC WAR FOR SURVIVAL

A voice of wisdom and experience cries out... will you listen?

GUEST POST by Kenneth L. Russell*

The slow death of America can be prevented only by emergency measures. This means an all out war on unemployment. That means contracts to build a rapid rail system between every airport and city in the United States.

It means a new plan for transportation of goods and people. For the short haul we need the automobile and buses of which we now have an adequate supply. For intermediate distances rapid rail and the airplane. The airplane is only needed for the long haul of two or three hours or more.

It means constructing and upgrading our present rail system to rapid rail specifications. It means double and even triple and four tracks in some instances. It must be above ground in farming country to preserve the farmland for food and in tunnels through mountains. It must be electric which can also be used by non-electric locomotives.

We will need hundreds of first class modern locomotives and passenger cars built with materials made in America. It means closing down some of our automobile plants and converting them to locomotive and passenger car construction. We converted auto factories during WW II to make war materials. Don’t forget that this is a war for survival. We either win this economic war or we are finished as a nation.

It means repairing the present highway systems. Remember we must use only American materials and documented American citizens who can speak or attending class to learn to speak English.

It means protecting the health of all citizens and visitors with passports and visas for entering this country. It means kindly removing anyone not a citizen or legal guest.

It means stop subsidizing at government expense births which is essentially stealing tax payer’s money for taking care of babies whose parents do not pay for their own babies.

It means putting every able-bodied man and woman to work rather than giving them food stamps or money. It means providing jobs that handicapped citizens can do. It means taking good care of those no longer able to work. Don’t forget that this is a war for survival, so stop your beefing.

It means revising the income tax system so that every one pays taxes according to how much money he earns by his labor or investments. No exceptions. If you earn or receive money you pay a tax according to how much you earn or receive. It means a system that keeps all of the money working in America and not hidden under mattresses or drawing interest in foreign banks and off shore accounts.

It means not paying interest on idle money in your pocket or in checking accounts. It means paying interest only on true savings accounts, bonds and investments that cannot be liquidated in less than 30 days or more without a penalty.

It means war on an economic system which rewards people for sloppy money management practices and sloppy sexual activities that cost other people money. It means a totally different life style for every
American. No more multi-million dollar tax-free anything.

Please remember that just throwing money at a problem has already proven it does little if any good. Only contracts to put people to work building or repairing something that the nation needs will solve the
problem of unemployment.

Undergrounding all power lines would not only put hundreds of thousands of people to work but would also curtail the nonsense of huge storm-caused power outages that leave millions of citizens without power every year.

This will make it possible for all individual citizens to pay less taxes in the long run.

Dr Kenneth L. Russell
Professor of Education, Emeritus
Sam Houston State University

________________________________________
* Kenneth L. Russell, Professor of Education, Emeritus, Sam Houston State University Huntsville, Texas; was born on a farm near Chilhowee, Missouri on Easter Sunday, April 16, 1911.

He is founder of The Educational Video Network, Inc, also known as Educational Filmstrips, and producer of best selling titles such as “Understanding Money and Inflation” and “Parliamentary Procedure in Action” used in classrooms across the US and around the world.

Russell, 97, is a member of Kappa Delta Pi, Phi Delta Kappa, American Association of University Professors, Who’s Who in American Education, President of Alpha Gamma Sigma, University of Missouri, 1933-34. Famous the world over for his publications on Economics, Government, and Parliamentary Procedure, and showing no signs of slowing down, it is obvious that Russell has no intentions of “retiring”.

Russell and his late wife of 72 years, Marjorie, have three children. Together Kenneth and Marjorie co-founded the Universal Ethician Church and the Ethician Family Cemetery with their son George and his wife Sue.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Chinese New Year 4707!

WISH SOMEONE HAPPY NEW YEAR IN CHINESE!

Cantonese:
Gung Hay Fat Choy! (may prosperity be with you)

Mandarin:
Xin Nian Kuai Le! (Happy New Year)


The Chinese year 4707 begins today! The year of the ox. The Lunar New Year is a 15-day celebration. The actual calculation of the date for the new year is not based on the actual cycle of the moon. The calculation comes from the lunisolar calendar. In simple terms, the calendar takes into account the difference between the phases of the moon and the earth's 365-day rotation around the sun. Did you know in China, people may take weeks (yes weeks) of vacation from work to prepare for and celebrate the New Year? And you thought staying up until 2:00am was something special!

Celebrations are happening all over the planet, and if you are in a city with a large Chinese population, you can probably find a celebration to attend.


Now, some links that have nothing to do with 4707!

Two excellent posts you should definitely read if you want to succeed on web2009 come from ShoeMoney blog: Jeremey thanks Google (check out how he manages his blog via Google Docs) and for Twitter-ers, writes up two Twitter-based services.

Googlemaniacs: Get ready for G-Drive!

Wrestlemaniacs: Get ready for Mickey Rourke!

GFW Blog introduces a new tool, CyberGhost VPN, for getting around the internet filtering (Great Fire Wall) in China.

Thinking of spying on somebody else's cell phone calls and texts? Think before you spend!

The Joker

Police are investigating whether the fatal stabbing attack on a Belgian day care center was timed to mark the first anniversary of actor Heath Ledger's death. According to published reports, suspect Kim De Gelder's face was gruesomely painted black-and-white to resemble Ledger's character, the Joker, from "The Dark Knight." Witnesses also said he dyed his hair red.

When the 20-year-old was arrested, his only words were, "I have a question," The Telegraph reported. The statement is similar to a scene in the film where the Joker violently crashes a party and asks, " I only have one question: where is Harvey Dent?"

Ledger, 28, was found dead on Jan. 22, 2008 in a New York apartment. His death was ruled an accidental overdose of prescription drugs.

De Gelder is suspected of killing two babies and a caregiver at the Fairyland day care center Friday in Dendermonde, as well as seriously wounding 12 others, including 10 young children, in a rampage so bloody it left rescue workers shaken. He was arrested the same day when he calmly rode his bike away from the scene.

Killer's hero: Batman? Blogger Michel Joris examines the case:
"Why do such acts and for which mobile?
There is the thesis of tribute on the anniversary of the death of the character "Joker" in the movie "Batman" with his face painted white and black eyes (with a wide smile bright red) of the actor Heath Ledger, but it will establish possible links to the evidence for clues found in the author of carnage!
Besides the deadly sequence of events and the arrest of the accused, the prosecution is little evidence to understand the motivation of such an act excessive and abnormal...Le paradoxe de cette sinistre "mise à mort", est que l’assassin vivait dans un quartier à forte prédominance de parents avec de jeunes enfants et la proximité d’une plaine de jeux, y-a-t-il un rapprochement à établir, qu’en pensez-vous... ?"
And more sobering news:
(AP) — A man accused in a deadly stabbing spree at a Belgian day care center is also thought to have killed an elderly woman earlier this month and had plans on him to attack two more nurseries, a prosecutor said Monday.

Christian Du Four said police now believe the man they are holding in Friday's day care massacre in Dendermonde may also have fatally stabbed a 73-year-old woman on Jan. 16 who lived nearby.

"There are very clear indications of links between the murders in Dendermonde and the death of the elderly woman," said Du Four.
A local woman who resides near the crime scene was quoted in one of the New York City papers over the weekend saying something like "I thought this kind of thing only happens in America." Welcome to reality - the world is crawling with coo-coos!

Meet Miriam Celaya

Miriam Celaya is a Cuban blogger, whose Spanish-language blog Sin Evasión (English version: Sin Without Evasion) is celebrating its one year anniversary. Miriam began writing under the pseudonym "Eva González," but six months later she decided to use her real name. In a Global Voices interview with Claudia Cadelo, she talks about how she started blogging, the decision to leave her pseudonym behind, and about her participation in the recent blogger gatherings on the island.

She blogs: "Internet interactivity is, for Cubans “inside,” not only a higher challenge but almost a utopia. The conditions under which we work make it very difficult to post daily to our blog, unless we have friends outside who have been helping us. In any case, although such help is invaluable, we can’t count on the immediacy between uploading a post and our access to the readers’ comments.

In my case in particular, I try to upload my own work, in the precarious way that is possible, which is why I always upload multiple posts on the same day even though it’s not ideal for me or my readers, who often will visit the blog and see a new post and not realize there are others, posted the same day."

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Top 25 Comebacks for 2009

AOL Money and Finance site, WalletPop.com have announced the 25 things they project will make a big comeback in 2009:

The Sharper Image

The Sharper Image, once a staple at malls around the country, was snuffed out of business last year. Strangely, it seems that providing people with a free place to try out a massage recliner is not a viable business model. But there's still some value in the techno-gadget brand name, and the private equity firm that controls the company are now letting outside companies release products under The Sharper Image name, giving it new life as a "virtual brand."


Amway

Desperate times inspire desperate actions. This may be part of the business plan behind the reemergence of Amway from behind the obfuscating name it adopted, Quixtar. The company, often criticized for operating much like a pyramid scheme and sometimes referred to as a cult, is no doubt hoping to recruit new agents unable to find other work.


3-Piece Suits for Men

Hard economic times and conservative dress go hand in hand, as we found with the demise of racy Roaring Twenties fashions during the Great Depression. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the ultimate in conservative male sartorial splendor, the three-piece suit, is coming back in 2009.


'9 to 5' as a musical on Broadway

Dolly Parton's pouring herself a new cup of ambition: Broadway. One of the only bright spots in the Great White Way's season is the incoming musical '9 to 5,' based on the now-classic 1980 workplace madcap comedy. She's supplemented her famous theme song with an entire new score--her first for the theater.


Brown Bag Lunches

Thanks mainly to the economic downturn those Americans who packing their lunches will have more company in the break room this year. Prepackaged food companies have noted this sea change, too, and are busily rolling out new options to meet the demands of the modern brown bag luncher.


The Camaro

GM is bringing back the Camaro -- just in time for a baby boomer mid-life crisis. As Chevy lover Bruce Springsteen sang, "The time is right to go racing in the street." The 2010, fifth-generation Camaro can be special ordered now and ready for cruising this spring. In 1967, when Chevy first introduced the Camaro at a press conference, a reporter asked what the name meant. The product manager answered, "a small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs."


Cheap Eats

With the recession unfortunately still around and unemployment rising, finding ways to cut costs and make less expensive meals at home are some of the easiest ways to save money. One staple of the budget meal: pasta.


Classic Cocktails

The fact that Atlantic Magazine has instituted a cocktail column doesn't make a trend, but it is evidence that those who like beer cold and scotch neat are out of favor. The trade magazine Beverage World reports that sales of premium spirits – which in my opinion are wasted on sweet cocktails -- are up 92 percent in the last year. And USA Today says that the next big thing in alcohol is organic spirits mixed with natural flavoring.


Glass Baby Bottles

New parents take great pains to make sure their babies are kept out of harm's way. That includes plugging up every electrical outlet and installing safety latches on drawers and cabinets. News that baby bottles could be harmful sent them en mass toward the companies that make and market old-fashioned glass bottles.


Music Stars

For many musicians, the thought of a comeback sustains them through years of state fair and trade show gigs, but sadly, few manage to grab the gold ring twice. In 2009, however, several musicians stand a good chance of returning to prominence, including Hillary Duff, Eminem, the Grateful Dead (those of them left, that is,) No Doubt, and Natalie Imbruglia.


Home Hair Coloring

Today, more than half of Americans color their hair and they aren't all women anymore. Men - graying baby boomers likely leading the pack - are coloring their hair in record numbers. Do you dare do it yourself? Maybe. Maybe not. It's more than simply self-promotion when hair colorists report an increase in frantic calls from do-it-yourself-ers who arrive for the first available appointment wearing a large hat.


Hungry Hungry Hippos and G.I. Joe

One of the great things about being a parent is playing with your kids' toys. Or at least reliving your childhood by again playing the games you played as a child. Hungry, Hungry, Hippos, which debuted in the 1970s, and G.I. Joe, which has been around since 1964, are making comebacks this year as the parents who played with them as kids are now enjoying them with their own children.


Ironing

As families become strapped for disposable income and spend more of their resources utilizing the currency of "time" instead of "cash," the iron is coming back out of the closet. Instead of spending their ever-dwindling paycheck on dry cleaning, more and more are ironing their own dress shirts and jackets.


Line Drying Clothes

Once the clothes dryer became widely adopted, the clothesline began to represent poverty, and many aspiring communities banned them. Now, however, the Project Laundry List is successfully lobbying state governments to allow you to dry your duds any way you wish. So far, Florida, Utah, and Colorado have all supported "right-to-dry" laws. Change is in


Mashed Potato Variations

Americans love, really love potatoes; fried, steamed, baked, made into dumplings and pancakes, mashed, smashed, stewed, baked into bread and pan-fried into hash browns. In these times of mounting economic stress, our regard, reverence and outright love for potatoes has only continued to grow.


Non-Profits

Since it's so hard to make a profit these days, why not get out of the get-rich-quick rat race? That's what a lot of laid off workers are thinking these days, which is driving up interest in non-profits. Investment is up to, especially in non-profits that are developing new technologies. And with the new President as a vibrant cheerleader, this could be a great year for social responsibility.


Paying With Cash

In the sobering light of recession, Americans are taking a second look at their spending habits, and don't care much for what they see. Many are sticking their credit cards away and reverting to the old standby, cash money. If they don't have the cash, they're choosing to wait until they do rather than pile up even more debt.


Recreational Fishing and Camping

Mix together a huge population bubble approaching retirement with savings depleted by a sagging economy and you end up with a lot of people with free time and not much money to spend. This is sweet music to purveyors of cheap recreations like fishing and camping.


Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

You may already hear it swirling around in your head, that distinct, unforgettable sound of Regis Philbin saying, "Is that your final answer?" This is not your subconscious stuck in the year 2000. There is serious talk that ABC will bring back 'Who Wants to be Millionaire' next fall with Reege as the host.


$avings Accounts

To a generation convinced that an adequate rainy day fund consisted of unused credit on a credit card, the notion of actually stashing away money seemed antiquated. After the fall, however, many are rethinking their finances, and returning to that old, staid standby of the frugal consumer, the savings account.


Sewing and DIY fashions

While making your own clothes is not always no more economical than buying them new, it's an entirely different process; in fact, the process is much of the fun. Retail therapy? Meet creative, crafty therapy, creating your own fashion "out of whole cloth," as it were.


Spam (the eatin' kind)

Spam has a long and proud history. For example, it was one of the few meat products generally available in the United Kingdom during World War II. Thus, the famed Monty Python Spam sketch was born out of the fact that the meat was, literally, a lifesaver for the besieged island country.


Movie franchises

In the 43 years since the first 'Star Trek' voyage, this idealistic, Camelot-fueled vision has been replaced with far darker perspectives of the future. This May, however, the J. J. Abrams-helmed 'Star Trek' movie promises to reboot the original story. With a young, attractive, volatile crew, the new film promises to be a heck of a lot closer to your father's 'Star Trek.'


Thick shoes, fringe hairstyles and Uggs

Nowhere is the past more prologue than in the fashion industry, and again in 2009 the past-popular returns with updated details to make them appear fresh. Three noteworthy trends for the coming year are the resurrection of platform and thick shoes, fringe hairstyles, and the oh-so-comfortable Ugg line of boots.


Lance Armstrong

The story of Lance Armstrong is widely known – world-class cyclist contracts cancer, battles back from death's doorstep to recover, then wins the arduous Tour de France, a record seven times. To the surprise of many, late in 2008 Armstrong announced that he is returning to cycling at the unheard-of age of 37. Is this his attempt to silence critics who accuse him of doping to win?

Model loses hands, feet, life...

Life is like a monster sometimes. "Death comes like a thief in the night," "Only the good die young," (insert your own cosmic explanation here).

RIP Mariana Bridi

Incredibly beautiful 20-year old Brazilian model Mariana Bridi's feet and hands were amputated as a result of a severe and drug-resistant infection. She has since passed. Twice she came close to representing Brazil in the Miss World competition. Her death attributed to complications related to a rare form of septicemia caused by the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

The Espirito Santo State Health Secretariat released a statement noting that the bacteria was known to be resistant to multiple kinds of antibiotics.

Bridi had been in the hospital since the third of January.

From the AP story: "Bridi had been in the hospital in the city of Serra in southeastern Brazil since Jan. 3. She fell ill in December and doctors originally diagnosed her with kidney stones, local media said.

Doctors originally diagnosed her with kidney stones in December, local media said. But as her condition worsened, she was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection that spread."

The infection reduced the oxygen in her limbs, requiring her feet to be amputated last week and her hands this week. Doctors have no idea as to what cause the infection.

Doctors removed part of Bridi's stomach as they tried to contain internal bleeding. At the time of her death, she was no longer breathing on her own.



Horrible. Awful. Terrible. Unfathomable. Sad. Scarey. Imagine this is the slow beginning of some sort of malady that may be the 21st century equivalent of the flu epidemic, the one that took out a large chunk of the world's population in the early 1900s. Like Polio did up until 1954, Like Aids did in the 1980s, influenza frightened people and baffled doctors.

I'm NOT suggesting you worry about that happening. I AM suggesting that you take a moment to appreciate your own life and those of the friends and family around you. Be glad that your song and dance has not yet ended, and prepare for the day that it surely will.

And say a prayer for Mariana's soul. She must have gone through hell the last three or four weeks.

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