Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Letter Looking for Friendship Got a Reply After 24 Years!

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MOSCOW – Nearly a quarter-century after a German boy tossed a message in a bottle off a ship in the Baltic Sea, he's received an answer.

A 13-year-old Russian, Daniil Korotkikh, was walking with his parents on a beach when he saw something glittering lying in the sand.

"I saw that bottle and it looked interesting," Korotkikh told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "It looked like a German beer bottle with a ceramic plug, and there was a message inside."

His father, who knows schoolboy German, translated the letter, carefully wrapped in cellophane and sealed by a medical bandage.

It said: "My name is Frank, and I'm five years old. My dad and I are traveling on a ship to Denmark. If you find this letter, please write back to me, and I will write back to you."

The letter, dated 1987, included an address in the town of Coesfeld.

The boy in the letter, Frank Uesbeck, is now 29. His parents still live at the letter's address.

"At first I didn't believe it," Uesbeck told the AP about getting the response from Korotkikh. In fact, he barely remembered the trip at all; his father actually wrote the letter.

The Russian boy and the German man met each other earlier this month via an Internet video link.

Korotkikh showed Uesbeck the bottle where he found the message and the letter that he put in a frame.

The Russian boy said he does not believe that the bottle actually spent 24 years in the sea: "It would not have survived in the water all that time," he said.

He believes it had been hidden under the sand where he found it — on the Curonian Spit, a 100-kilometer (60-mile) stretch of sand in Lithuania and Russia.

In the web chat earlier this month, Uesbek gave Korotkikh his new address to write to and promised to write back when he receives his letter.

"He'll definitely get another letter from me," the 29-year-old said.

Uesbeck was especially thrilled that he was able to have a positive impact on a life of a young person far away from Germany.

"It's really a wonderful story," he said. "And who knows? Perhaps one day we will actually be able to arrange a meeting in person."


Eddy reported from Berlin.
with image from AP (Associated Press)

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Controversial New Wonder Woman Costume

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When "Wonder Woman" announced that Adrianne Palicki had been cast in the title role, buzz on the superhero show quickly shot through the roof. But then fans got a look at the ill-advised costume. Outrage quickly ensued. And hell hath no fury like a comic fan outraged.

The anger stemmed from Wonder Woman's shiny, rubber-like pants and high heels. It looked like a cheap version of a "sexy" Halloween costume. Fans cried out -- this is no way for a superhero, especially one of the most beloved of all time, to dress.

Here's the first costume and the revised one(right corner)
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The blogosphere immediately went into cynical overdrive. Commenters on EW's article speculated that the show would be canceled in a matter of weeks. SlashFilm wrote that the outfit did little to inspire confidence in the show's prospects.

Apparently the producers of the show were listening. Some photos of the actress on the set have surfaced, and eagle-eyed fans quickly spotted the changes to Wonder Woman's threads. The shiny pants have been replaced by a more natural-looking fabric. Her footwear has gone through a transformation as well. The bright boots, which were once blue, are now red. And, even more important, no more high heels.

But even though some of Wonder Woman's outfit has changed, much of it remains the same. The red bustier is still intact as are her trademark tiara and lasso of truth. Time will tell if these modest changes to Wonder Woman's threads have a positive effect on the show when it premieres on NBC this fall.

Here's another fan-made version of the costume. The right corner is the revision.
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Ms. Palicki is probably best known her work on the acclaimed TV series "Friday Night Lights." And though she isn't well known, fans seem to be pretty supportive of her taking up the tiara. That includes Lynda Carter, who played Wonder Woman in the beloved (and campy) TV show from way back when. Carter even liked the original outfit, saying: "What's not to like! Adrianne [Palicki] looks gorgeous."

The original wonder woman costume during the 70's
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Article By Mike Krumboltz, Yahoo! Buzz

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

3 Filipinos Executed in China

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Vice President Jejomar Binay confirmed that the three Filipinos found guilty of drug trafficking were executed in China on Wednesday.

"I just want to inform you that our three compatriots have been executed," Binay told ABS-CBN television, citing information from the Philippine foreign affairs ministry.

In a statement, the Philippine government said that it has done everything in its power to stop the executions.

"We have been informed that Ramon Credo, Sally Ordinario-Villanueva, and Elizabeth Batain were administered lethal injections to carry out the sentence imposed by the courts of the People’s Republic of China this morning," deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

"Our government had taken every available opportunity to appeal to the authorities of China for clemency in their cases, to which the Chinese government responded with a postponement of the execution. In the end, however, the sentence was imposed.

"The nation sympathized with the families of the condemned, sharing their sense of looming loss. We sympathize with these families now. Their deaths are a vivid lesson in the tragic toll the drug trade takes on entire families," she added.

The government spokesperson said that government will "ensure that the chain of victimization, as pushers entrap and destroy lives in pursuit of their trade, will be broken."

"Those who traffic in illegal drugs respect no laws, no boundaries, and have no scruples about destroying lives. Our response must be relentless, with government and the citizenry working together to ensure vigilance and mutual support to prevent our countrymen from being used by drug pushers as sacrificial pawns, whether at home or abroad," the spokesperson added.

From Yahoo news Philippines, with additional reports from Agence France Presse / / AFP

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An Ad Insulting 9/11 Tragedy?

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One of New York's Bravest is objecting to the use of his likeness in a poster marketing the services of a New York law firm that specializes in 9/11-related illnesses.

The ad in question features a firefighter holding a photo of the devastated World Trade Center site, accompanied by the words, "I was there. And now, Worby Groner Edelman & Napoli Bern is there for me." And therein lies the issue: the man in the ad, Robert Keiley, didn't become a firefighter until 2004.

According to the New York Post's Reuven Fenton and Jennifer Fermino, Keiley is particularly upset that the photo in the poster was manipulated from a generic promotional photo for the department--of Keiley holding his fire helmet. The law firm's ad agency, Barker/DZP, swapped a picture of the World Trade Center in place of the helmet. They then debuted the poster at a fundraiser, the World Police Fire Games Event Gala; a move Keiley thinks makes him look like a "scumbag."

"It's an insult to the Fire Department. It's an insult to all the families who lost people that day," Keiley, an ex-cop who also works part-time as a model and actor, told the Post. "It makes me look like I'm cashing in on 9/11, saying I was there even though I was never there, and that I'm sick and possibly suing, trying to get a chunk of money."

The ad sparked the ire of popular anonymous advertising blogger Copyranter, who expressed to us that the ad reinforced his long-held belief that "law firms shouldn't advertise" because it's "unethical, and they just plain don't know how."

"The 'Fake Testimonial' is a popular sleazy creative method used in advertising -- particularly by hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and in business to business ads," he wrote in an email to The Lookout. "But from what I've seen in my 20 years in this sleazy business, this takes the sleazy cake."

Sadly, this isn't Worby Groner's first brush with 9/11-related controversy. Fenton and Fermino note that the firm was blasted by a federal judge last year for trying to assess a contingency fee of one-third of whatever it wins for its 9/11 responder clientele. The judge stepped in and reduced the fees.

Kim Tracey, a spokesman for Barker/DZP, told the Post that it was fully legal to use and manipulate the image of Keiley in any way the agency and its client choose, saying that in signing the release last year, "he really signed his rights away."

But Barker/DZP did an about-face Monday afternoon, emailing The Lookout a statement offering its "sincerely apologies" for the flap and noting that it had "voluntarily withdrawn from this assignment."

"While our mistake was entirely inadvertent, we understand why the ad has caused hurt, we regret its use, and we accept responsibility," Barker/DZP president John Barker wrote. "We sincerely apologize to Firefighter Keiley, as well as the New York City Fire Department, and the brave firefighters who fearlessly served their city and gave their lives on 9/11."

(Article from Yahoo News by By Brett Michael Dykes)

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Meet The New Superman Actor

The latest issue of EW takes a look at the heavy-duty upcoming superhero movies of 2011, along with a cover story on how “Tudors” star Henry Cavill became the new Superman. Here’s an excerpt:

Among the topics of discussion: Cavill’s audition, which included shooting a screen test wearing a replica of Christopher Reeve’s once impressive, now dated Superman suit.

“If you can put on that suit and pull it off,” says Snyder, ‘that’s an awesome achievement.”

Cavill was feeling less than super in the moment, at least about his ability to fill out the costume: He had just finished shooting a film with Bruce Willis called The Cold Light Of Day, and the part required to him to shed the impressive abs of steel and muscle tone he had put on for the movie he made right before that, the forthcoming mythic fantasy Immortals.

An artist rendition of the new Superman actor in cape.
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As an assistant helped to him put on the Super-suit, Cavill recalls: “All I could think was: Oh, god. They’re going to look at me and go ‘He’s not Superman. Not a chance.’ The actor inside me was going: You’re not ready! You’re not ready!”

Snyder saw something — or rather someone — different. “He walked out, and no one laughed,” says the director. “Other actors put that suit on, and it’s a joke, even if they’re great actors. Henry put it on, and he exuded this kind of crazy-calm confidence that just made me go ‘Wow.’ Okay: This was Superman.’”

Cavill puts the Big “S” on for real in 2012.

Article from

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Are Expensive Skincare Products Really Worth it?

One of the most frequent questions I get from patients is, “Are expensive skincare products really worth it?” Based on my experience working with a variety of companies and countless formulations, my answer is often no. In a nutshell, beauty behemoths like Unilever (the company behind Dove and Ponds), L’Oreal (responsible for lines like Vichy and La Roche Posay) and Johnson & Johnson (maker of Neutrogena and Aveeno) have deep pockets, so they have more resources to research, develop and test their products. Of course there are some higher priced companies like Estée Lauder that do great research and have products worth the cost. It really depends upon your skin type and what ingredients are right for you. Once you know your skin type—find out at—it will help you decide when to save money on skin care and when to pay more.

When large personal care companies like the ones mentioned earlier start the product development process, it can take years (and millions of dollars) for the actual product to hit store shelves. They undergo extensive testing both in the lab and on real people, and many of these companies have their own research institutes devoted to product testing—because they can afford them. For example, a few years ago, Loreal’s research budget was over $200 million.

Smaller boutique brands, on the other hand, conduct their research and development on a much smaller scale. While they may create their formulations in smaller batches and with more rare or expensive raw materials, these costs are passed along to the consumer. But does this mean these products are more effective? Not always—and they seldom have the independent clinical studies to back their claims because clinical studies cost a lot of money. It is important to look for the words “clinically tested” on the packaging to know that the actual formulations have been studied.

When considering costs, consumers often turn to generic brands instead of brand names—but these products are not identical. Brands do the research and then generics just copy the ingredients, but the actual formulation is often different. The order in which the ingredients are added, the temperature used during mixing and the pH of the ingredients are trade secrets that greatly contribute to the efficacy of the products. While I love CVS, I have found that their generic versions do not work as well as the brand-name products they are copying. In my opinion, stick with Vaseline, Aveeno and Cetaphil—and don’t be fooled by the similar packaging.

A recent study featured in Consumer Reports compared mass-market anti-aging brands with pricier boutique counterparts, and the results may come as a surprise—especially if you’re one of those people who believe you get what you pay for. These creams were ranked by effectiveness (as determined by their effect on wrinkle reduction), and five of the top nine were inexpensive mass products.

So if less expensive products are often just as effective, or even more effective, than department store skincare offerings, you may be wondering what else contributes to their cost. In addition to the research and development mentioned above, elaborate packaging and celebrity endorsements contribute to the price as well.

(Article By Leslie Baumann, M.D.)

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Labelled as Natural or Organic Skincare Doesn't Always Mean It's Better For You

More and more of us are turning to natural and organic skincare products, but this segment of the beauty industry can be compared to the Wild West. There’s little regulation and oversight when it comes to this labeling, so it’s important to be educated when opting for these types of products. Unfortunately there are some unscrupulous companies out there who are just trying to capture a piece of this burgeoning market, so here’s what you need to know.

You can find so-called “organic” skincare products just about everywhere these days, including drugstores, department stores and natural markets like Whole Foods. But don’t just take their word for it, look for these labels.

USDA: Among the strictest of organic certifications, when a product has a USDA Organic seal, that means at least 95% of the ingredients are certified organic (and there are strict guidelines for what the remaining 5% can be). The ingredients in these products meet the same standards that foods must meet to be considered organic, which means they meet the same guidelines for how they are grown, raised, processed and sold.

COSMOS (Cosmetics Organic Standard): This European-based oversight will be in full effect by December 2014, but its certification is slowly being attached to personal care products. Although this is a for-profit association formed by six of the first E.U. organic certifiers, this label indicates a product is free of GMOs (genetically modified organisms), irradiation, parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, animal testing and other controversial ingredients. COSMOS also requires that 95% of the agricultural ingredients be certified organic, and 20% of the total product by weight must be organic (including water).

NaTrue: This relatively new non-profit out of Europe has created a 3-star system that rates products as “natural,” “natural with organic content” and “organic.” To receive 3 stars, 95% of the agricultural ingredients must be certified organic, while products with 70% certified organic ingredients receive 2 stars.

It’s important to keep in mind that just because a product is labeled as “natural” or “organic,” that doesn’t mean it’s better for your skin. Sometimes a product with naturally derived ingredients that have been tweaked in a lab can have more benefits for the skin than a truly organic product. Anyone with sensitive skin needs to read ingredient lists carefully, since essential oils—which can be a major cause of skin reactions—are often used as preservatives. There are also common plant-based ingredients that can be irritants, whether they are organically grown or not.

(Article By Leslie Baumann, M.D.)

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Virtually Indestructible Wallet???

This biometric wallet has a Bluetooth proximity alarm, carbon fiber shell, and fingerprint sensor for maximum security. It will set the rich and paranoid back about $825.

Afraid someone might take something out of your wallet? If you have $825 to spend, fear no more. Dunhill is selling what it calls a “Biometric Wallet” that it claims is virtually indestructible and can only be opened with your fingerprint. Scared of someone taking the entire wallet? It can be linked to a mobile phone via Bluetooth and set to sound an alarm if your phone and wallet are separated by more than five meters (15 feet).

This wallet is built to be durable. It has a carbon fiber shell, leather interior, and stainless steel money clip. If only its design matched its top-notch construction. Almost any standard wallet looks slicker than this clamshell.

Would you invest more than $800 into a wallet? If so, what features would you require?

By Jeffrey Van Camp,

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Meet the New Lois Lane in the new Superman Movie Set for 2012

Amy Adams has landed the iconic role of journalist Lois Lane in the upcoming Superman reboot from Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures.

Adams joins Henry Cavill, Diane Lane and Kevin Costner on the production, which will be directed by Zack Snyder.

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"There was a big, giant search for Lois," Snyder told the LA Times. "For us it was a big thing and obviously a really important role. We did a lot of auditioning but we had this meeting with Amy Adams and after that I just felt she was perfect for it."

Superman: Man of Steel is currently set for a December 2012 release.

In 1978, Margot Kidder played the role of Lois Lane in Superman The Movie
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Source: The Hollywood Reporter through

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

TIME's TOP 10 Unsolved Crimes

1)Jack the Ripper
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1888 was a bad year to be a prostitute. Between August 7 and November 10 of that year, five women were killed in the Whitechapel district of London’s East End, their throats slashed and their bodies mutilated in a way that indicated they all met their fates at the hands of the same person. One victim’s kidney was even mailed to the police, along with a series of taunting notes penned by someone calling himself Jack the Ripper. Serial murder was a relatively new phenomenon and the attacks were highly publicized. The law's failure to identify the killer led to such an outcry that both the home secretary and London police commissioner resigned in disgrace.

Jack the Ripper, whoever he was, has been the subject of hundreds of books and articles. The theories surrounding his identity vary from a covert Masonic plot to a member of the royal family. Here are the most likely suspects:

Montague Druitt, a barrister with knowledge of human anatomy. Rumored to be insane, he disappeared after the last murder; his body was later found floating in the River Thames.

George Chapman, a barber who lived in Whitechapel during the time of the murders and who was later found guilty of poisoning three of his wives.

Aaron Kosminski, a Whitechapel resident known for his affinity for prostitutes. He was hospitalized in an asylum several months after the last murder.

2)The Zodiac Killings

"I like killing people because it is so much fun."

So began one of the many encrypted letters sent to San Francisco newspapers by the man who called himself the Zodiac. For most of 1969, a serial killer terrorized Bay Area residents, killing five and possibly more. It started on Dec. 20, 1968, when a couple was shot to death while sitting in a car on a lover's lane. The killer would strike several more times over the next 10 months, shooting a couple in a public park, trussing up and stabbing yet another man and woman near a peaceful lake, and shooting a cabdriver in the head.

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What made the case so fascinating, though, was the way he toyed with police and reporters. He called in several of the murders and began to send coded letters to newspapers, using a cross within a circle as his symbol. At one point, he mailed in a piece of bloodied shirt to prove he was who he claimed to be. Another time, he threatened to shoot up a school bus full of children. The investigation went on for years. Several suspects were considered and questioned, but to no avail. The Zodiac was never caught. The story continues to terrorize people to this day (see David Fincher's masterful 2007 film).

3)Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G.
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(photo from

Tupac Shakur had been shot before. The tattooed, urban poet and self-identified thug was a central figure in the East Coast-West Coast hip-hop rivalry. The first Tupac shooting —November 30, 1994— left the rapper with five bullet wounds, including two in the head. Los Angeles-based Shakur pointed his finger at a number of New York rappers, including Sean Combs and the Notorious B.I.G. He would later release a number of scathing rhymes against both Combs and Biggie, including one in which he claimed to have slept with Biggie's wife.

On September 7, 1996, Tupac Shakur attended a Mike Tyson boxing match at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, then got into the passenger seat of Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight’s car. At a stoplight, a white Cadillac pulled up next to Knight’s car rolled down its windows and fired multiple rounds into Shakur’s passenger seat. Shakur was taken to the hospital, where he died of internal bleeding after six days. A few months later, while waiting at a Los Angeles stoplight, the Notorious B.I.G. met the same fate. Thanks to fanatical conspiracy theories, uncooperative witnesses and shoddy police investigations, neither murder case has ever been solved.

Shakur’s last album, Makaveli: The Don Killuminati/The 7 Day Theory, was released a month after his death. The title referenced Niccolo Machiavelli, the Italian philosopher who was rumored to have faked his own death (this has been largely disproved) and whose works Shakur studied while serving an eleven-month prison sentence in 1994. So did Tupac Shakur really die, or does he still walk among us, cloaked in a new identity?

Nah, he died.

4)Tylenol Poisonings
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In late September/early October 1982, seven Chicago-area people died from popping Tylenol pills laced with cyanide. Adam Janus was experiencing chest pain. He popped a few Extra-Strength Tylenol and collapsed an hour later. He died. That night, Janus' younger brother and sister-in-law, grief-stricken and achey, popped a few of Adam's Tylenol pills. They died. A 12-year old girl with a cold took some Extra-Strength Tylenol on account of a cold. Dead. All in all, seven were felled by the poisoned pills. Hysteria followed. A 1982 TIME story reports, "Police cruisers, rolling through Chicago streets Thursday afternoon and evening, blared warnings over loudspeakers." The drug was removed from shelves. Vague copycat incidents — pins and needles discovered in candy bars — led several communities to ban Halloween trick-or-treating. A gentleman was arrested after trying to extort Johnson & Johnson for $100,000, though he was never charged with the murders. Tamper-proof seals became the norm.

5)The Death of Edgar Allen Poe
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The Raven author left New York City in 1849 bound for Richmond, but only made it as far as Baltimore, where a passer-by noticed the delirious and incoherent writer slouched in front of a bar on October 3. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died four days later. The local newspaper attributed his death to "congestion of the brain," then a common euphemism for alcohol poisoning. But scholars later discovered that rumors of his drug and alcohol abuse were greatly exaggerated, especially by vindictive literary critics like Rufus Wilmot Griswold. The death certificate, if it ever existed, cannot be found.

Some historians believe Poe may have suffered from rabies, cholera or syphilis. But because he turned up on the streets the same day as a citywide election, others argue that Poe fell victim to "cooping," a fairly common practice back then in which corrupt politicians paid thugs to kidnap men (especially the homeless), drug them, disguise them, and drag them to polls all over the city or state. This may at least explain why Poe turned up in Baltimore wearing clothes that weren't his.

6)The Nicole Brown/Ron Goldman Double Murder

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Your objection is noted and overruled. Yes, you might have a hunch who killed O.J. Simpson's ex-wife and her lover on June 12, 1994 in Los Angeles. We all do. But though the court of public opinion has long pinned this crime on "The Juice," the law says otherwise. With circumstantial evidence piled up against him — from forensics to the slowest, most riveting high-speed chase in history to the dubious decision to pen a book called If I Did It — Simpson, the former All-Star running back and B-list actor, assembled a dream team of lawyers who convinced jurors that since the glove didn't fit, they had to acquit. And to the disbelief of a transfixed nation, on Oct. 3, 1995, they did. Though Simpson was found liable for the deaths in a related civil suit, the criminal matter remains unsolved.

7)The Case of the Disembodied Feet
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Since August 2007, five human feet have washed ashore near Vancouver, British Columbia. No bodies, no heads, no clothes, just feet (4 left, 1 right), nearly all still clad in sneakers. Canadian authorities have yet to determine how the feet ended up there or why, though DNA tests matched one of the severed feet to a man who'd been missing for several months. A number of theories have been tossed around, including the possibility of foul play (though coroners familiar with the case say ocean currents and decomposition could have naturally separated the feet from their owners). Others speculate the remains might belong to four unrecovered victims of a 2005 plane crash off Quadra Island.

In June, a prankster spooked local authorities by planting a gruesome surprise for one unwitting beachgoer — a rotting animal paw stuffed inside an Adidas shoe. The most recent discovery was made in November, when another foot turned up in Washington, less than 50 miles south of the U.S.-Canadian border. As to why there have been so few leads, police spokesperson Sharlene Brooks told CNN, "We suffer from the 'CSI' effect: People think we can do things faster than we can.'' But a Vancouver panhandler told Bloomberg News he's already cracked the case: "I'll bet you it was murder. You just don't find feet lying around.''

8)JonBenet Ramsey
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Almost twelve years have passed since Dec. 26, 1996, when John Ramsey, a wealthy software executive, found his 6-year-old daughter JonBenet dead in the basement of their Boulder, Colo. home. Eight hours prior, his wife Patsy had found a ransom note demanding $118,000 for their daughter's safe return. No call ever came from a kidnapper. So unraveled the saga of the young beauty queen whose murder has put a cloud over her entire family, the Boulder Police Department and the District Attorney in charge of solving the case. Investigators in Boulder — who were dealing with the city's first murder that year — failed to conduct a proper search of the house and even allowed friends of the family to walk in and out of the crime scene as the family and police waited for a ransom call.

While John's two adult children from a previous marriage were cleared of the murder early on, suspicion remained on the three people who were the only ones known to be home when JonBenet was killed — her 9-year-old brother Burke and her parents. Almost three years after the murder, Burke, now 12, was questioned by a grand jury, but never charged. John and Patsy published The Death of Innocence in 2000 detailing their story even as they remained suspects in the case. In June of 2006, Patsy died of ovarian cancer, just two months before the arrest of John Mark Karr, an American man who had admitted to killing JonBenet, only to have the case dropped against him two weeks later when DNA tests showed he could not have been at the crime scene.

This past summer, prosecutors were finally able to conclude that John and Patsy were not responsible for their daughter's murder, but that DNA points to an "unexplained third party." John Ramsey still retains hope that evidence will track down his daughter's killer and finally rid his family of the stain that continues to make its mark.

9)The Black Dahlia
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Hollywood's most famous murder case unfolded on January 15, 1947 when the raven-haired, 22-year-old actress Elizabeth Short was found dead on Norton Avenue between 39th and Coliseum streets in Los Angeles. Her body had been cut in half and appeared to have been drained of blood with precision. The murderer had also cut 3-inch gashes into each corner of her mouth, creating a spooky clown-esque smile.
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Short's murder quickly became a sensation, not only because of its location in the show biz capital, but also because the police worked in tandem with the press to disseminate clues in hopes of locating a suspect. Several people confessed, only to be later released for lack of evidence. Much speculation surrounded the details of Short's life. Grieving after the death of a man she fell in love with, she reportedly befriended many men while frequenting jazz clubs, making it nearly impossible to pin down who she could have been with before she died. Her unsolved murder has spawned several movies, television specials, and books. One such account was written by Steve Hodel who implicated his own father, a Los Angeles doctor, as the Black Dahlia murderer. No charges were ever filed.

10)The Women of Ciudad Juaréz (Raped and Killed)
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Sometimes called the City of the Lost Girls, Juarez is a poor, Mexican border town where hundreds (some say thousands) of women have been raped, tortured and then killed over the past decade. Many of these women work in the town's numerous factories or live there because it is close to the U.S. border, which they can cross for jobs. Amnesty International has urged Mexican authorities to make finding perpetrators a priority. But with an ever-intensifying drug war taking place in the country's poor neighborhoods and a government rife with corruption, little has been done to stop the assault on the women of Ciudad Juaréz. Marisela Ortiz, the coordinator of the non-governmental organization Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa (roughly translating to: "May Our Daughters Return Home"), told the Latin American Herald Tribune on Dec. 14 that the murders are largely a result of the "toll of an internal war between the drug trafficking mafias who are fighting to conquer the territory." The date ticker on the group's website reads: "Today is Dec. 18, 2008 and that doesn't solve anything."

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Screen Icon-Elizabeth Taylor IN PICTURES

By Neil Midgley and Alex Spillius

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photo by Courtesy Everett Collection/

A glittering Hollywood era - which spanned seven decades, five Oscar nominations and eight marriages - ended yesterday with the death of Dame Elizabeth Taylor at the age of 79.

Catapulted to fame at the age of just 12 when she starred in the film National Velvet, Taylor went on to make as many headlines for her personal life as for her acting.

Her tempestuous on-and-off relationship with the actor Richard Burton saw the couple married twice, and Taylor also battled alcoholism, scoliosis and a brain tumour.

Stars including Michael Caine, Joan Collins and Angela Lansbury paid tribute yesterday to her career, which saw her win the Best Actress Oscar twice, and to her charity work.

Taylor’s friend Sir Elton John, with whom she raised millions for Aids research, said: “We have just lost a Hollywood giant. More importantly, we have lost an incredible human being.”

She died at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, surrounded by her four children, after being hospitalised six weeks ago with congestive heart failure, according to a statement from her publicist.

Her son Michael Wilding said: “My mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humor, and love. Though her loss is devastating to those of us who held her so close and so dear, we will always be inspired by her enduring contribution to our world.”

Taylor had been plagued by health problems for many years, and had for some time arrived at her public appearances in a wheelchair.

Her frailty in later years stood in stark contrast to her earlier beauty, which sparked a personal life that set a Hollywood standard for glamour and tumult.

After the death of her third husband, film producer Mike Todd, in 1958, she found herself in a well-chronicled love triangle with singer Eddie Fisher and his wife actress Debbie Reynolds, before marrying Fisher.

At the time she famously said: “I’m not taking anything away from Debbie, because she never really had it.”

While filming the lavishly produced Cleopatra in 1961, she started a torrid, tabloid-chronicled affair with Richard Burton, who played Mark Antony and who was also married at the time.

He wrote of the first time he saw her: “She was so extraordinarily beautiful that I nearly laughed out loud. She... [was] famine, fire, destruction and plague... the only true begetter. Her breasts were apocalyptic, they would topple empires before they withered... her body was a miracle of construction... She was unquestionably gorgeous. She was lavish. She was a dark, unyielding largesse. She was, in short, too bloody much...”

They wed in 1964 after she divorced Fisher, and Burton bestowed furs and diamonds, including a $1 million pear-shaped diamond, on Taylor.

But they also hurled invective at one another and were brilliantly cast in the movie of dramatist Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? about a bitter, verbally abusive couple.

Taylor’s role as a foul-mouthed alcoholic in that film won her the Best Actress Oscar in 1967, though reports of her confrontational marriage to Burton led many to believe that her performance was painfully true-to-life.

“We enjoy fighting,” Taylor once said. “Having an out-and-out, outrageous, ridiculous fight is one of the greatest exercises in marital togetherness.”

She later said of Burton: “‘Richard enriched my life in different ways, internal journeys into feelings and thoughts. He taught me poetry and literature, and introduced me to worlds of beauty. He made me laugh. He made me cry. He explored areas in me that I knew existed but which had never been touched. There was never a dull moment. I loved Richard through two marriages and until the day he died.”

The pair divorced in 1974 but remarried in 1975 - though their second marriage lasted just a year.

Taylor’s other marriages were to hotel heir Conrad “Nicky” Hilton in 1950, actor Michael Wilding in 1952, Republican politician John Warner in 1976 and construction worker Larry Fortensky - 20 years her junior - in 1991.

Taylor acted in her first film at the age of 10, three years after her American parents had returned to the United States from London, where she was born in Hampstead in 1932.

After just one film, she was hired by MGM, and became a child star with National Velvet, starring opposite Mickey Rooney.

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One of the longest-surviving stars of the old studio system, she was widely acclaimed for her roles Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Raintree Country and Cleopatra - as well as BUtterfield 8, for which she won her first Oscar in 1960.

She gained notoriety in later years for her friendship with the singer Michael Jackson, who asked her to be godmother to his two children.

In 2005, when Jackson was tried for (and found not guilty of) child abuse, Taylor staunchly stood by him. Jackson, who died in 2009, said of Taylor that “Elizabeth’s friendship is like the perfect jewels she owns — indestructible and eternal.”

Taylor was also famed for her self-deprecatory humour. In 1999, when asked what she would like to see engraved on her tombstone, she replied: “Here lies Elizabeth. She hated being called Liz. But she lived.”

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She also mocked her own excesses, once saying: “My mother says I didn’t open my eyes for eight days after I was born, but when I did, the first thing I saw was an engagement ring. I was hooked.”

In a flood of tributes yesterday, Sir Michael Caine said: "So sad to hear about my beautiful friend Elizabeth Taylor. She was a great human being."

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Mike Nichols, who directed Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, said: "The shock of Elizabeth was not only her beauty. It was her generosity. Her giant laugh. Her vitality, whether tackling a complex scene on film or where we would all have dinner until dawn. She is singular and indelible on film and in our hearts."

On Twitter, the broadcaster Stephen Fry wrote: "RIP Dame Elizabeth Taylor, surely the last of a breed..."

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Veteran actress Angela Lansbury said: "I am deeply saddened that Elizabeth has passed away and send my love and sympathy to her family. Elizabeth and I began our careers about the same time at MGM. Throughout her tumultuous life, she will be remembered for some unique and memorable work. And she will be ever remembered and appreciated for her forthright support of amfAR (the American Foundation for Aids Research)."

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A Surprising Moment in American Idol

Ryan Seacrest started off the evening by announcing that the results would be surprising. You never quite know what that will entail, but surprising is quite an understatement to describe tonight’s show.

The top 11 started their night off by singing Aint no mountain high enough in coordinating black and white outfits and each looking spectacular for the result show festivities. Stevie Wonder joined the group midway through and then led the audience into a surprise rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ for judge, Steven Tyler; followed by a birthday cake and a painted portrait for the aging rocker.

We were then subjected to the usual cheesy Ford commercial infused with the overacted and silliness of the contestants, or as America calls it, bathroom break time.

Ryan Seacrest then began the results by calling Lauren, Pia and Scotty down onto the stage and then quickly let them know that they were all safe.

With performances from Sugarland and former American Idol contestant, Jennifer Hudson, the show had great entertainment value while they kept everybody on the edge of their seats for the results. We were also treated to a behind the scenes peek at what the contestants do in their free time, which consisted mostly of James and Paul wrestling in true Hulk Hogan fashion.

Another surprise came when Ryan Seacrest announced that his next victims where indeed the wrestling duo of James and Paul. Bringing them both front and center on the stage he told them both that they “aren’t safe……reallllllly not safe.” Suddenly Hulk Hogan appears behind the guys and announced to the crowd that both James and Paul are indeed safe but that Ryan Seacrest was not…. This led to Ryan being thrown into the crowd, something many have dreamed of doing a time or two.

The show moved along quickly after that as Jacob, Thia and Stefano were brought down, with only Jacob returning to safety. With only one opening left in the bottom three, Naima, Casey and Haley were brought down for their results. Ryan sent Naima and Haley back to safety, and shocked the judges and crowd by revealing that Casey was in the bottom three.

With Thia, Stefano and Casey as the chosen bottom three according to America’s votes, the judges and crowd are further shocked to the core, when it is announced that Casey had the lowest scores and would be singing for his life in hopes that the judges would use their ‘one save’ of the season. Casey immediately begins to belt out his bluesy, unique voice only to be stopped midway through by Randy Jackson. It was clearly obvious to us that the judges were not happy with America’s choice and would be using their ‘save’ on the talented Casey Abrams. Abrams was beyond stunned and thanked and hugged everyone in sweet relief.

Ryan Seacrest closed out the show by announcing that sadly the bottom two would go home next week but that the good news of the situation was that all Top 11 performers would be a part of the American Idol Tour this summer.

Reports from
Deanna Crossman
Reno Primetime TV Examiner
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Extreme Billing Glitches-Man Received a $16.4 Cable Bill

You may have heard the story about the man living in a 14x60 trailer who got a $12,864 electric bill, or the Corpus Christie man who was billed $7.7 million by his water company, or the Canadian whose cell phone provider hit him up for $85,000--the list truly goes on and on and on. Now the outrageous bill receivers club has a new member in Daniel DeVirgilio.

Yes, based on the cable bill that DeVirgilio received this week, he's either the king of pay-per-view, or the victim of one of the most extreme computerized billing glitches in the history of computerized billing glitches. Fortunately for him, it looks like it's the latter.

When the Ohio man's attempt to make a payment on his cable bill to Time Warner was rejected, he learned that the company had calculated his past-due amount at more than $16 million.

"All I want to do is watch March Madness," DeVirgilio, whose bill usually runs around $80 a month, told the Dayton Daily News. The paper says DeVirgilio did the math and concluded that he'd have to order 1.6 million on-demand movies or a pay-per-view fight 400,000 times to accumulate $16.4 million in charges. But at least he's maintaining a sense of humor about the whole thing.

"Had I known this I would have bought Showtime," DeVirgilio, an engineer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, told the Daily News. For its part, Time Warner issued a statement apologizing for the error and said that they're "going to work with the customer to get this resolved."

While the dollar amount of DeVirgilio's billing ordeal makes it among the more egregious in recent memory, the kings of all billing mishaps have to be a Texas man and a New Hampshire man in who received quadrillion-dollar credit card bills in 2009. The former, Jon Seale, received notice that he owed a 17-figure sum that totaled almost 2,000 times the national debt: 23 quadrillion, 148 trillion, 855 billion, 308 million, 184 thousand and 500 dollars. The other, Josh Muszynski, was charged 23 quadrillion after buying a pack of cigarettes at a gas station.

From Yahoo News
By Brett Michael Dykes
(Photo: Getty Images/Buccina Studios)

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