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Four at Four, at Five

Special guest host?  Nah, It’s just me.

Special edition?  You bet.  We’re in Central time now, folks.

Welcome to the Four at Four, at Five (Four Central).

  • Foreclosures in the second quarter this year were up 121% from the second quarter last year, and up 14% from the first quarter this year.

    Foreclosures were filed against 739,714 properties in the second quarter. One in every 171 U.S. homes was filed against, the report said.

    The states posting the highest foreclosure filing rates were Nevada, California and Arizona. Nevada had the highest per-household foreclosure rate, with 24,657, or one in every 43 households, nearly four times the national average.

    California posted 202,599 filings, or one in every 65 households. That is a 19 percent increase from the previous quarter and nearly three times the level reported in the second quarter of 2007.

    Foreclosure activity in Arizona, which had the third-highest number of filings, increased 36 percent from the previous quarter and almost four times the level reported in the second quarter of 2007. Arizona reported 37,230 filings, or one in every 70 households.

    The states with the lowest foreclosure activity were Vermont, North Dakota and West Virginia.

  • Seven synchronized small bombs were detonated in India, killing two and wounding at least five in Bangalore.

    There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

    The government condemned the blasts and vowed to catch those behind them.

    “Such incidents will not deter the government from pursuing its policy of dealing with terrorists in a resolute manner,” Patil said.

  • California Terminator Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a ban on trans fats in restaurants.

    “California is a leader in promoting health and nutrition, and I am pleased to continue that tradition by being the first state in the nation to phase out trans fats,” Schwarzenegger said. “Consuming trans fat is linked to coronary heart disease, and today we are taking a strong step toward creating a healthier future for California.”

    The law, AB 97 by Assemblyman Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia), will ban cooking with artificial trans fats in restaurants by Jan. 1, 2010, and bar their presence in baked goods by Jan. 1, 2011.

  • Carnegie Mellon University professor Randy Pausch, whose diagnosis with terminal cancer turned him into a widely popular inspirational speaker, has passed away at the age of 47.

    The lanky, energetic Pausch talked about goals he had accomplished, like experiencing zero gravity and creating Disney attractions, and those he had not, including becoming a professional football player.

    He used rejections he was handed when he applied for jobs at Disney to comment on the importance of persistence.

    “The brick walls are there for a reason … to show us how badly we want something,” he said. “Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”

Four at Four, at Five

Special guest host?  Nah, It’s just me.

Special edition?  You bet.  We’re in Central time now, folks.

Welcome to the Four at Four, at Five (Four Central).

  • An earthquake in northern Japan injured more than 100 people as a popular highway was pelted with falling rocks.

    Most of the injuries were minor and none was life threatening, said a National Police Agency official on condition of anonymity, citing department policy.

    The earthquake caused strong shaking for about 40 seconds in many areas of northern Japan, witnesses said. Life quickly returned to normal, however.

    “Everything — including gas, phone lines, water, electricity — is running normally,” said Takanori Hiyamizu, a city hall official in Hachinohe, one of the cities closest to the epicenter. “The damage from the quake was very minimal.”

  • The remnants of Hurricane Dolly threaten to flood the Rio Grande valley in Texas, after the storm dumped upwards of 12 inches of rain in the area and continues to deluge the area as it moves inland across the state.  So far there have been no casualties, though many homes have been damaged and about 155,000 200,000 people are without power.

    The prospect of heavy rains and a storm surge of sea water pushing back upstream spurred concern that levees holding back the Rio Grande could be breached, causing widespread flooding.

    Pat Ahumada, mayor of Brownsville, said he expected the levees to hold.

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry has put 1,200 National Guard troops on alert and issued a disaster declaration for 14 low-lying counties. Perry has asked President George W. Bush to declare a federal disaster for the storm-damaged area.

    He seemed perfectly content to watch Louisiana drown, we’ll see what his reaction is when Texas is in trouble.

  • Recent numbers from the housing slump indicate that the problems are not going away any time soon.

    Sales of previously owned U.S. homes fell in June to the lowest level in a decade as tumbling real- estate prices and consumer confidence signal no end in sight to a housing recession now in its third year.

    Resales dropped 2.6 percent to a lower-than-forecast 4.86 million annual rate from a 4.99 million pace the prior month, the National Association of Realtors said today in Washington. The median home price dropped 6.1 percent from June of last year.

    The housing slump may deepen further after mortgage rates climbed to the highest in a year this month and turmoil engulfed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which account for more than two- thirds of new home-loan financing. A record 18.6 million homes stood empty in the last three months as the industry’s recession reverberated through communities, separate figures showed today.

    The NAR report “is, unfortunately, not telling us about an end” to the slide, said David Resler, chief economist at Nomura Securities International Inc. in New York. “Housing is going to be a non-contributor, if not a drag, on the overall economy.”

  • Concerned that a child’s name would leave her emotionally scarred, a New Zealand judge made a child a ward of the state to change her name.

    A lawyer for Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii said the girl is so embarrassed by her name that friends know her as “K.”

Four at Four, at Five

Special guest host?  Nah, It’s just me.

Special edition?  You bet.  We’re in Central time now, folks.

Welcome to the Four at Four, at Five (Four Central).

  • Even though he faces arrest after being accused of genocide, Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir held a rally for himself in Darfur, in which he danced on top of his desk.

    With an international indictment looming over him on charges of genocide, Mr. Bashir returned to the scene of his alleged misdeeds in Darfur – on an uncharacteristic charm offensive.

    It was here in El Fasher, on the same airport tarmac where Mr. Bashir was blessed by a hundred elders leaning on canes Wednesday morning, that rebels blew up government planes in 2003, kicking off a conflict that would claim 300,000 lives and perpetually threaten to destabilize an entire region in the heart of Africa.

    But on Wednesday, Mr. Bashir didn’t seem to be feeling too guilty. He was all about peace, development and pleasing the crowds. The minute he stepped off the plane in El Fasher, a white dove was thrust into his hands.

    Mr. Bashir threw the bird toward the sky. It flapped a few times, but didn’t really fly.

  • A major collision between a barge and a tanker has closed the Mississippi River in New Orleans, as roughly 400,000 gallons of fuel spilled into the water.

    The river, a major shipping route between the Midwest and Gulf of Mexico, could be closed for days during the cleanup, the Coast Guard said Wednesday.

    More than 30 ships already are queued up along the river, waiting to pass through the closed zone, Coast Guard Petty Officer Jaclyn Young said.

  • President Bush is set to sign the housing bill after all, backing off his promise to veto the bill over portions of the bill that he decided he didn’t like.  He heeded advice from Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who warned him that saving Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was too urgent a need to veto and make Congress go back to work.

  • Hurricane Dolly hit Texas as a category 2 hurricane, before being quickly downgraded to a category one storm.  The storm missed most oil rigs, but has still left about 61,000 people in southern Texas without power and will likely cause wind and water damage.

Four at Four, at Five

Special guest host?  Nah, It’s just me.

Special edition?  You bet.  We’re in Central time now, folks.

Welcome to the Four at Four, at Five (Four Central).

  • While Iran and the US wrestle over nuclear power, India’s parliament voted to go ahead with a US-India nuclear deal, in which the US will provide nuclear technology and fuel to India so they can build power plants.  However, the entire process has been marred with scandal.

    The Indian government’s joy at its victory was tempered by a bribery scandal, after opposition lawmakers interrupted the debate to wave wads of cash to protest against what they said were bribes offered by the government to abstain.

    The furor was described as one of the lowest points in parliamentary history, and led to fresh demands for Singh to resign, and catcalls preventing him from delivering his concluding remarks after the two-day debate.

  • Although an agreement has been made between the recently re-elected President of Zimbabwe and his former adversary, all is still not well in Zimbabwe, and many people even doubt the sincerity of the settlement, which isn’t expected to be final for two weeks.

    With inflation at more than 2.2m%, unemployment at 80%, and basic food commodities vanishing from shelves, locals have been finding things tough, with millions forced into neighbouring countries.

  • The Congressional Budget office has determined that the federal government’s rescue of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will cost the government about $25 billion, and admitted that there was a slim chance that the total cost might reach $100 billion.

    CBO’s $25 billion cost estimate is an average based on “the path of housing prices in the next several months.” They considered three scenarios: prices stabilize, grow modestly or decline steeply.

    [Treasury Secretary Henry] Paulson requested that the Treasury be allowed to offer Fannie and Freddie an unlimited line of credit for 18 months and be given authority to buy stock in the companies if necessary.

    Anyone else find it ironic that mortgage companies are borrowing money?

  • A study on the effects of Viagra in women (yes, women) has found that Viagra may help women reach orgasm if antidepressants have reduced their libidos.

    The study, the first objective research to show a role for Viagra in boosting female sexual function, found that almost three times as many women taking the impotence pill had orgasms compared with those given a placebo.

    Researchers in the study looked at 98 women on antidepressants whose average age was 37. The women in the study didn’t have any sexual problems before beginning on antidepressants, [researcher Harry] Croft said.

    The participants, randomly assigned Viagra or a placebo, were told to take the pill one to two hours before sexual activity for eight weeks. The women on Viagra were more likely to say they had an increase in orgasms and partner satisfaction compared with those taking the placebo. Overall, Viagra didn’t increase their sexual drive or desire for sex, Croft said.

Four at Four, at Five

Special guest host?  Nah, It’s just me.

Special edition?  You bet.  We’re in Central time now, folks.

Welcome to the Four at Four, at Five (Four Central).

  • President Bush and Iraqi (puppet) Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki have agreed that an agreement over troop reductions can be reached…or something ambiguous like that.

    The long-term agreement had been held up by differences over issues like the extent of Iraqi control over American military operations, the right of American soldiers to detain suspects without the approval of Iraqi authorities and Iraqi demands for a timetable for withdrawal.

    But in a statement, the White House said Mr. Bush and Mr. Maliki had agreed “that improving conditions should allow for the agreements now under negotiation to include a general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals – such as the resumption of Iraqi security control in their cities and provinces and the further reduction of U.S. combat forces from Iraq.”

    The White House offered no specific dates for troop cuts, but the inclusion of even just a reference to a time horizon is a significant concession by the Bush administration, which has long resisted setting a timetable for cuts in combat forces. It is a tacit admission that the United States’ military presence in Iraq is not endless.

    Call me a cynic, but that doesn’t sound like a concession at all.  Putting a candle in a cowpie doesn’t make it a chocolate cake, it just makes it a pile of shit with a candle.

  • A California poll shows only 42% favor a ban on gay marriage, an initiative that will appear on the ballot in November.  On Wednesday the state’s high court ruled in favor of allowing the proposed ban to be on the ballot, which has been in development since the court first overturned the previous ban as being unconstitutional.  Of course, an initiative to name a sewage plant after George W. Bush will also be on the ballot…so there should be plenty of people at the polls…

  • Good news out of Citigroup, as the banking giant lost only $2.5 billion in the second quarter…leading its stock to rise 9% as the loss wasn’t nearly as bad as they projected.

    But it’s hard to get too enthusiastic about clearing a low bar. It was Citi’s third straight quarterly loss and neither JPMorgan nor Wells Fargo managed to notch a profit gain compared to last year. Meanwhile, the brokerage Merrill Lynch & Co. reported a wider-than-expected quarterly loss. And next week, Wachovia Corp. and Washington Mutual Inc. are anticipated to reveal losses, too, with Bank of America Corp. expected to report a steep profit decline.

    Citigroup, the nation’s largest banking company by assets, lost the equivalent of 54 cents per share in the April-June period. In the same timeframe last year, the bank earned $6.23 billion, or $1.24 per share.

  • Israel has arrested six Arabs in an alleged plot to attack George Bush’s helicopter, and according to Israel’s intelligence agency they were trying to form an al Qaeda organization in Israel.

    Israel’s Shin Bet counter-intelligence agency said one of the suspects had used his mobile phone to film helicopters at a sports stadium in Jerusalem that was used as a landing site for Bush’s delegation.

    The suspect then posted queries on Web sites frequented by al Qaeda operatives, asking for guidance on how to shoot down the helicopters, the agency said in a statement.

    Bush visited Israel in January and again in May.

    So…they waited until months after his visits to arrest these guys?  Or they are just finding out this information after the opportunities had passed?

Four at Four, at Five

Special guest host?  Nah, It’s just me.

Special edition?  You bet.  We’re in Central time now, folks.

Welcome to the Four at Four, at Five (Four Central).

  • A US District judge blocked an appeal by attorneys of Osama bin Laden’s former driver, Salim Hamdan, signaling the beginnings of war crimes trials at Guantanamo.  The appeal was a challenge to the military tribunal system.

    Hamdan, a Yemeni, would be the first prisoner tried in the U.S. war crimes court at the Guantanamo naval base in Cuba. There are about 265 detainees at Guantanamo, which was set up in January 2002 to hold terrorism suspects captured after the September 11 attacks.

    Most of those at the base have been held for years without being charged and many have complained of abuse.

    No word yet as to when the war crimes trials will begin for the current administration…

  • Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim once again faces charges of sodomy, and once again he alleges that the charges are a conspiracy aimed to discredit him after his political party won several seats in the parliamentary election.

    Anwar spent six years in prison after being convicted on corruption charges in 1999 and on sodomy charges involving his wife’s former driver in 2000. Malaysia’s highest court overturned the sodomy conviction and ordered him released from prison in 2004.

    He left prison in a wheelchair due to injuries he blamed on a 1998 beating by Malaysia’s then-police chief.

  • A Justice Department report on the conditions at Cook County jail in Chicago found that inmates are routinely put in serious risk, whether by poor health care or abuse at the hands of guards and other inmates.

    In a written response Thursday afternoon, Sheriff Tom Dart, whose office runs the jail, acknowledged that large institutions can become insulated to change, but he criticized the report for not placing its findings in proper context.

    “[The] report often relied on inflammatory language and draws conclusions based on anecdotes and hearsay from inmates,” he said in the four-page statement. “The [Justice Department] report’s allegations of systemic violations of civil rights at the jail are categorically denied by the Sheriff’s Office.”

    In one alleged incident cited in the report, guards in May 2006 beat an inmate so severely for refusing to obey orders that he needed to be taken to a top-level trauma center, where he was placed on a respirator.

    He was hit with a radio, and a guard smashed the inmate’s dentures under his boot when they fell out, it said. He sustained multiple broken bones and a collapsed lung, it said.

    I’m sure the medical reports from that beating were just taken out of context.

  • -President- Al Gore is calling for an end to the use of fossil fuels in the US by relying on solar and wind power, citing not only an endangered global climate, but also the potential for jeopardizing national security.

    Although Mr. Gore has made global warming and energy conservation his signature issues, winning a Nobel Prize for his efforts, his speech on Thursday argued that the reasons for renouncing fossil fuels go far beyond concern for the climate.

    In it, he cited military-intelligence studies warning of “dangerous national security implications” tied to climate change, including the possibility of “hundreds of millions of climate refugees” causing instability around the world, and said the United States is dangerously vulnerable because of its reliance on foreign oil.

    No, no, that’s just silly, what we need is more drilling!

Four at Four, at Five

Special guest host?  Nah, It’s just me.

Special edition?  You bet.  We’re in Central time now, folks.

Welcome to the Four at Four, at Five (Four Central).

  • George Bush has decided that the House of Representatives may not have access to documents from the CIA leak investigation, because the documents contain classified interviews with the Vice President and other White House officials, which are protected by executive privilege.

    So the FBI can ask questions, and write down the answers…but they can’t tell anybody about what was said…because of executive privilege…so, what was the purpose of that investigation, if no one but the President is allowed to see the findings?

    Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the panel’s chairman, said in a statement today that Bush’s claim of executive privilege in the case is “ludicrous” and vowed to move ahead with a contempt citation against [Attorney General Michael B.] Mukasey.

    “This unfounded assertion of executive privilege does not protect a principle; it protects a person,” Waxman said. “If the vice president did nothing wrong, what is there to hide?”

    Exactly.  Thank you, Mr. Waxman.  Now do something about it.

  • The Consumer Price Index, a measure of inflation, among things, has risen 5% over the past year, and in June rose at the highest rate in 17 years…since the end of the last Bush’s reign, in fact.  This report comes just a day after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said that inflation posed a serious risk to the US economy.

    The report reinforces what many economists, including those at the Fed, have warned about for months: Americans are being forced to pay significantly higher prices even as the job market weakens and big employers like General Motors are laying off thousands of employees.

    “There’s not enough lipstick to put on this pig,” Richard Moody, an economist at Mission Residential, wrote in a note to clients. “No matter how one slices and dices,” he added, “the bottom line is that U.S. workers are falling farther and farther behind.”

    I have no idea what pigs wearing lipstick have to do with this; all I know is, it doesn’t sound good.

  • A meta-analysis of existing research has concluded that monthly breast self-exams do not necessarily lead to cancer detection or prevention, and may instead result in unnecessary medical procedures.

    “At present, screening by breast self-examination or physical examination [by a trained health worker] cannot be recommended,” two of the study authors, Jan Peter Kosters and Peter Gotzsche of the Nordic Cochrane Centre, stated in the review.

    The current review included two studies of almost 400,000 women in Russia and China. Women who did self-exams had 3,406 biopsies compared with only 1,856 biopsies in the group that did not do the exams. Differences in biopsy rates did not translate into differences in breast cancer mortality.

    The China study found that rates of mastectomy and lumpectomy (or “breast-conserving” surgery) were similar regardless of whether women were doing self-exams or not.

  • Kirk Radomski, who has been convicted of distributing steroids, found and turned in evidence against Roger Clemens while moving a broken television.

    “The investigators knew from day one that I sent a package to Clemens’ house,” Radomski told “They knew before the Mitchell report was released and before Brian went before Congress. So this is nothing new to them.

    “I just couldn’t find the receipt. And just by [accident] this weekend, I moved my TV and whatnot and I found the package, an envelope, and it had [Clemens’] receipt and about seven or eight other receipts.”

    It sounds a little staged, but if it isn’t real I’m sure his attorney will figure it out.

  • Bonus story!

  • Analysis of new pictures obtained by the satellite orbiting Mars indicates that Mars used to be very wet.

    The key to the finding is the discovery that rocks called phyllosilicates are widespread on at least the planet’s southern hemisphere. The water present on Mars from about 4.6 billion to 3.8 billion years ago transformed some rocks into these phyllosilicates, which include clays rich in iron, magnesium or aluminum, mica, and kaolinite (an ingredient in Kaopectate).

    “In a phyllosilicate, the atoms are stacked up into layers, and all of the phyllosilicates have some sort of water or hydroxyl [oxygen and hydrogen group] incorporated into the crystal structure,” said study team member Scott Murchie of Johns Hopkins University.

    Previous data from an instrument called OMEGA – Observatoire pour la Mineralogie, l’Eau, les Glaces et l’Activite on the Mars Express spacecraft had revealed only a few large outcrops of phyllosilicates, suggesting they were a relative rarity on Mars.

Four at Four, at Five

Special guest host?  Nah, It’s just me.

Special edition?  You bet.  We’re in Central time now, folks.

Welcome to the Four at Four, at Five (Four Central).

  • In a move that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi termed “a hoax,” President Bush lifted the White House’s ban on offshore drilling.

    “Today, I’ve taken every step within my power to allow offshore exploration,” Bush told reporters. “This means the only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources is action from the U.S. Congress.”

    Congress too has a ban on offshore drilling and while it expires on September 30, it could be renewed. Plus, federal officials say it would take years for any oil to be produced in those areas, together making Bush’s move largely symbolic.

    “Now the ball is squarely in Congress’ court,” Bush said after signing a memorandum reversing a presidential ban that was instituted by his father, then-President George Bush, almost two decades ago. “The time for action is now.”

  • Nearly 200 Taliban insurgents stormed a NATO base in Pakistan, executing a “well-planned, surprise attack” that left nine US soldiers dead and wounded 15.

    The insurgents, who were repulsed, came so close that some of their corpses were lying around the base afterwards, Tamim Nuristani, the former governor of the region said after talking to officials in the district. A Western official requesting anonymity also confirmed that the Taliban did breach part of the base.

    American and NATO military officials said the attack reflected the Taliban’s resurgence from new bases in neighboring Pakistan and underscored the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, where war casualties have jumped this year.

  • The Belgium-based InBev has successfully purchased Anheuser-Busch for $52 billion, or $70 per share.

    InBev moved gently from the start, meeting with Anheuser Chief Executive August Busch IV in June 2 in Tampa to discuss a possible combination. It followed with an unsolicited offer on June 11 that included several concessions to soothe any pain for Anheuser-Busch.

    Among the concessions in the initial $65 per share bid, InBev offered Anheuser seats on the combined company’s board; promised to keep Anheuser’s St. Louis, Missouri, home as the North American headquarters; and have the merged company’s name reflect the heritage of the more than 150-year-old U.S. brewer.

    InBev also said it would keep Anheuser’s U.S. breweries open. The Belgian-based company kept all of those promises in the final agreement to buy Anheuser for $70 per share, creating the world’s largest brewer which would be named Anheuser-Busch InBev.

    No word yet as to whether InBev, which makes Stella Artois and Beck’s beers, will teach the Americans how to make actual beer in their breweries.

  • Nine British women, six British men, and six Greek men face charges after an oral sex competition in Greece last weekend.

    The women, who came to the popular resort on holiday, had been paid to take part in the competition, which was video recorded and was to be posted on the Internet, police said.

    The men were charged with encouraging obscene behavior.

    The women were charged with prostitution, as they were paid for their participation in the activities.

Buried in a story about a crazy substitute…

Kinda bored at work this afternoon, had a week’s worth of paperwork to catch up on (or to ketchup on), so naturally I found myself browsing the news.

I saw this link from about a substitute teacher’s lessons enraging parents.

I was curious.

Face, it- so are you.