Today Is November 29th 2007

Today is Thursday, Nov. 29, the 333rd day of 2007. There are 32 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Nov. 29, 1963, President Johnson named a commission headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren to investigate the assassination of President Kennedy.

On this date:

In 1530, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, one-time adviser to England's King Henry VIII, died.

In 1864, a Colorado militia killed at least 150 peaceful Cheyenne Indians in the Sand Creek Massacre.

In 1924, Italian composer Giacomo Puccini died in Brussels before he could complete his opera "Turandot." (It was finished by Franco Alfano.)

In 1947, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the partitioning of the British-mandated territory of Palestine between Arabs and Jews.

In 1961, Enos the chimp was launched from Cape Canaveral aboard the Mercury-Atlas V spacecraft, which orbited Earth twice before returning.

In 1967, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara announced he was leaving the Johnson administration to become president of the World Bank.

In 1981, actress Natalie Wood drowned in a boating accident off Santa Catalina Island, Calif., at age 43.

In 1986, actor Cary Grant died in Davenport, Iowa, at age 82.

In 1987, a Korean Air jetliner disappeared off Burma, with the loss of all 115 people aboard; South Korean authorities charged North Korean agents had planted a bomb aboard the aircraft.

In 2001, George Harrison, the "quiet Beatle," died in Los Angeles following a battle with cancer; he was 58.

Ten years ago: Former Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young, the city's first black mayor who held office for an unprecedented five terms, died at age 79.

Five years ago: The White House quietly announced that federal workers would get a smaller pay raise the following month because President Bush was freezing part of the increase, citing the fight against terrorism. Celebrity publicist Lizzie Grubman left the Suffolk County, N.Y., jail after serving 37 days of a 60-day sentence for backing her sport utility vehicle into a crowd outside a trendy Hamptons nightclub and fleeing.

One year ago: The first of two high-profile meetings in Jordan between Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was abruptly canceled amid conflicting explanations. (Bush met al-Maliki the next day.) Still losing money after job and factory cuts, Ford Motor Co. said 38,000 workers, almost half of its hourly production force, had accepted buyouts or early retirement offers.

Today's Birthdays: Hall-of-Fame sportscaster Vin Scully is 80. Blues singer-musician John Mayall is 74. Composer-musician Chuck Mangione is 67. Country singer Jody Miller is 66. Actress Diane Ladd is 64. Pop singer-musician Felix Cavaliere (The Rascals) is 63. Olympic skier Suzy Chaffee is 61. Comedian Garry Shandling is 58. Movie director Joel Coen is 53. Actor-comedian-game show host Howie Mandel is 52. Actress Cathy Moriarty is 47. Actress Kim Delaney is 46. Actor Tom Sizemore is 46. Actor Andrew McCarthy is 45. Actor Don Cheadle is 43. Actor-producer Neill Barry is 42. Musician Wallis Buchanan (Jamiroquai) is 42. Pop singer Jonathan Knight (New Kids on the Block) is 39. Rock musician Martin Carr (Boo Radleys) is 39. Actor Larry Joe Campbell is 37. Actress Gena Lee Nolin is 36. Actor Brian Baumgartner is 35. Actress Anna Faris is 31. Actor Julian Ovenden is 31. Rapper The Game is 28. Rock musician Ringo Garza is 26. Actor Lucas Black is 25.

Thought for Today: "A conference is a meeting to decide where the next meeting will take place." — Anonymous.

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Is Sean Taylor's Death A Curse Of The Canes?


This week's murder of pro football star Sean Taylor by still unknown assailants was tragic. But for residents of Miami, where Taylor was shot early Monday morning in his suburban home during an apparent break-in, it also felt tragically familiar. Taylor, 24, a standout safety for the Washington Redskins, was an equally stellar defensive back for the University of Miami Hurricanes. And his untimely death was just the latest in what has become an unsettling succession of violent ends for active and former UM players.

Some are even starting to consider it the Curse of the 'Canes — an ominous karma hanging over one of the nation's most brashly successful (five national championships since 1983) but controversial big-time college football programs, one that has long seemed a magnet for guns and trouble. "Miami's problems are hardly isolated among large college football programs, but unfortunately these incidents do seem a reflection of [the UM football] legacy," says noted sports sociologist Richard Lapchick of the University of Central Florida in Orlando and author of the just published The 100 Pioneers: African-Americans Who Broke Color Barriers in Sport. "It's a reminder that their goal now has to be to build a new legacy."

The roll call of the past couple of decades is mournfully striking. A year ago this month senior Hurricane defensive lineman Bryan Pata was shot in the head and killed outside his apartment near UM's Coral Gables campus shortly after a practice. Four months earlier safety Willie Cooper was shot in the buttocks outside his Miami home. A year before that, former defensive end Jerome McDougal was shot in the abdomen in Miami in his new Mercedes just weeks before reporting to training camp for the Philadelphia Eagles. (Cooper and McDougal survived.) In 1996, linebacker Marlin Barnes was bludgeoned to death in his campus apartment. Four years earlier Shane Curry, an Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman and former UM star, was shot in the head and killed during an argument in a Cincinnati lounge parking lot.

In 2003 Al Blades, 26, a former UM safety, was killed when the car he was riding in — and which witnesses say was racing another at high speeds — crashed into a Miami canal. A year before that 'Canes linebacker Chris Campbell, who had just finished his last UM season, was killed when his speeding car struck a tree in Coral Gables.

UM boosters are quick to point out that theirs is hardly the only football team to suffer such losses, which is true. But because this is the University of Miami — whose football team's outlaw reputation prompted Sports Illustrated 12 years ago to call for the program to be shut down amidst a corruption scandal totaling more than $600,000 — it's hard not to ask if the tragedies somehow stem from the reckless culture that coaches and administrators have too often indulged. The team rocketed to prominence in the 1980s by showcasing what fans and critics alike called thug-ball, a smash-mouth gridiron style that seemed to reflect the city the Hurricanes played for: Miami in the era of Vice, of violent cocaine cowboys and shamelessly venal politicians. Controversial rap music star Luther Campbell of the Miami group 2 Live Crew offered "bounties" to UM players who could knock opposing players out of a game with an injury. Whenever Notre Dame played UM, the game was billed as Catholics vs. Convicts.

That aura often followed Hurricanes players off the field and into the NFL. Pro Bowl wide receiver Michael Irvin (UM Class of 1988) almost had his brilliant career derailed with the Dallas Cowboys when he was arrested in 1996 for cocaine possession, busted in a motel suite while sharing the coke with women he called "self-employed models." (He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation.) Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis (who left UM in 1996) was arrested in 2000 for alleged involvement in the murder of two men outside an Atlanta nightclub. The murder charges against Lewis were eventually dropped. But such incidents highlight how Hurricanes alumni pioneered the kind of off-field legal trouble so many NFL players are known for today. Taylor, who in his short NFL career was fined at least seven times for infractions like late hits during games (once spitting in an opponent's face), was arrested in 2005 for threatening with a gun a group of people he accused of stealing his all-terrain vehicle. He later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault charges. Shortly after the altercation, Taylor's SUV was sprayed by bullets in a drive-by shooting, although no one was injured.

Miami Herald sports columnist Linda Robertson wrote this week that Taylor's shooting death "will reinforce negative opinions of football fans and recruits who were wary of UM and Miami." To their credit, the university and its president, Donna Shalala, are trying to clean things up. The recruiting standards of most major college football programs are a cynical joke when it comes to scholarship and character; UM football is known for being less scrutinizing than most 17th-century pirate vessels. But when former Hurricanes coach Larry Coker in 2004 recruited a Miami teen, linebacker Willie Williams, whose arrest record was longer than his high school transcript, Shalala intervened and demanded the high school All-American meet certain academic and behavioral standards before stepping on the field. Williams eventually transferred to another school. "All big-time football schools have to start creating better programs to make sure the student athletes they recruit can be competitive academically," says Lapchick. "And if it's clear they can't compete, they shouldn't be recruited at all."

Still, the troubles continue. In 2006, 13 Hurricanes players were suspended after a vicious on-field brawl and Coker actually had to set a team policy that players not own or carry firearms. Coker (who arrived at UM in 2001) has since been fired, replaced by former UM linebacker Randy Shannon. Under Shannon, whose hiring has been widely applauded by observers like Lapchick, there have so far been no embarrassing incidents. Unfortunately, there haven't been as many wins either: the 'Canes had a losing season this fall, look unlikely to receive a bowl invitation and haven't won a National Championship since 2001.

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Shrek the Halls, Another Christmas Special

Shrek, star of three animated blockbusters, now has his own Christmas special, Shrek the Halls, which debuts in the US this week.

Cameron Diaz, who reprises her voice role as Princess Fiona, hopes the story of the grumpy-yet-lovable green ogre's first Christmas with family and friends will become a holiday tradition.

"It's just wonderful to see how they celebrate their Christmas and what it means to them," the 35-year-old said. "And the humor is there and the beauty is there and the message is there."

"He's grown so much ... it's kinda great to see where he's at now that he has a family and he's experiencing life with other people for the first time - you know, investing in them," Diaz said.

Shrek the Halls follows Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) as he tries to achieve Yuletide perfection for Fiona and their children. Things fall apart when unwanted guests arrive at his doorstep on Christmas Eve. The party crashers include Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas), who disrupt Shrek's by-the-book plans, causing him to react in Scrooge-like fashion.

But in the vein of Scrooge and the Grinch, Shrek learns the true meaning of Christmas, which is clear to everyone but him, of course.

"The whole family's together - and that's something that you sort of count on," Diaz said of her own holiday celebration. "But there are people who don't have that and sort of have to ... make up their own version of Christmas."

Like Shrek and the gang.

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Today Is November 21st 2007

Today is Wednesday, Nov. 21, the 325th day of 2007. There are 40 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Nov. 21, 1927, picketing strikers at the Columbine Mine in northern Colorado were fired on by state police; six miners were killed.

On this date:

In 1789, North Carolina became the 12th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

In 1922, Rebecca L. Felton of Georgia was sworn in as the first woman to serve in the U.S. Senate.

In 1934, the Cole Porter musical "Anything Goes," starring Ethel Merman as Reno Sweeney, opened in New York.

In 1942, the Alaska Highway was formally opened.

In 1964, the upper level of New York's Verrazano Narrows Bridge, which connected Brooklyn and Staten Island, was opened.

In 1967, President Johnson signed the Air Quality Act.

In 1969, the Senate voted down the Supreme Court nomination of Clement F. Haynsworth, the first such rejection since 1930.

In 1973, President Nixon's attorney, J. Fred Buzhardt, revealed the existence of an 18 1/2-minute gap in one of the White House tape recordings related to Watergate.

In 1979, a mob attacked the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, killing two Americans.

In 1980, 87 people died in a fire at the MGM Grand Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.

Ten years ago: U.N. arms inspectors returned to Iraq after Saddam Hussein's three-week standoff with the United Nations over the presence of Americans on the team. President Clinton signed a law giving the FDA new powers to speed the approval of drugs to combat a host of killer diseases, including cancer and AIDS.

Five years ago: In a historic eastward shift, NATO expanded its membership into the borders of the former Soviet Union as it invited seven former communist countries under its security umbrella. In Nigeria, deadly rioting erupted after a newspaper suggested Islam's founding prophet would have approved of the Miss World beauty pageant, scheduled to be held in the Nigerian capital, Abuja (the event was moved to London). Eleven bus passengers were killed in a suicide bombing in Jerusalem.

One year ago: Kathryn Johnston, 92, was killed in a hail of bullets during a botched drug raid by Atlanta police. Lebanon's industry minister, Pierre Gemayel, scion of Lebanon's most prominent Christian family, was assassinated in a brazen daytime hit. A methane gas explosion at the Halemba coal mine in southern Poland killed 23 people. Justin Morneau won the American League's Most Valuable Player Award.

Today's Birthdays: Baseball Hall-of-Famer Stan Musial is 87. Actor Joseph Campanella is 80. Country singer Jean Shepard is 74. Actor Laurence Luckinbill is 73. Actress Marlo Thomas is 70. Actor Rick Lenz is 68. Singer Dr. John is 67. Actress Juliet Mills is 66. Comedian-director Harold Ramis is 63. Television producer Marcy Carsey is 63. Actress Goldie Hawn is 62. Movie director Andrew Davis is 61. Rock musician Lonnie Jordan (War) is 59. Singer Livingston Taylor is 57. Actress-singer Lorna Luft is 55. Journalist Tina Brown is 54. Actress Cherry Jones is 51. Rock musician Brian Ritchie (The Violent Femmes) is 47. Gospel singer Steven Curtis Chapman is 45. Actress Nicollette Sheridan is 44. Singer-actress Bjork is 42. Football player Troy Aikman is 41. Rhythm-and-blues singer Chauncey Hannibal (BLACKstreet) is 39. Rock musician Alex James (Blur) is 39. Baseball player Ken Griffey Jr. is 38. Rapper Pretty Lou (Lost Boyz) is 36. Country singer Kelsi Osborn (SHeDAISY) is 33. Actress Jena Malone is 23.

Thought for Today: "Modesty is the only sure bait when you angle for praise." — The 4th Earl of Chesterfield, English author (1694-1773).

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Laureate Award Recipients Shocked To Recieve The Award

Rebecca Quilliam
Five artists at the top of their chosen fields have received the prestigious Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate Award tonight.

Pianist Michael Houstoun, dancer Sarah-Jane Howard, entertainer Moana Maniapoto, theatre director Colin McColl, and ceramicist Merilyn Wiseman were all recognised for their artistic achievements at Wellington's Embassy Theatre.

They were each presented with $50,000.

McColl, Howard, Maniapoto and Wiseman all said they could not believe they had won the honour.

"I actually thought it was a hoax," Howard said.

When she was convinced it was otherwise, she said it was such an honour to be held in the same regard as previous winners.

McColl said he was "flabbergasted" with the news and had no idea what he was going to spend the money on.

Maniapoto said the prizemoney would go towards clearing the credit cards and helping with her band.

She said the news of her award was "left of centre and that's what makes it so outrageous".

Wiseman was the first ceramicist to be awarded a laureate and said the prize would help her to try out some exploratory ideas with her work.

The laureates have been in existence since 2000.

They were created by the New Zealand Arts Foundation and are funded by a $6 million endowment fund.

Previous winners include Bro Town creator Oscar Kightley, film maker Gaylene Preston, actor Michael Hurst, and musician Don McGlashan.

Since 2000 the arts foundation has awarded 34 New Zealand artists with laureates and distributed a total of $1.4 million.

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South Korean Authorities Clampdown On Some 24,000 Prostitutes, Pimps, Client...

South Korean authorities caught nearly 24,000 prostitutes, pimps or clients in a two-month crackdown on the sex trade, the National Police Agency said last week.

Most the 23,626 caught -- of which about 19,900 were clients -- were fined, an officer at the anti-prostitution bureau told AFP, while 32 people accused of more serious offences were formally arrested and detained pending trial, the agency said.

Clients faced a maximum fine of three million won (3,315 dollars) and brothel owners up to 10 years in jail or 100 million won in fines.

"It was our third special crackdown on prostitution this year. The next one will begin in late December," the officer said of the latest operation, which began in August.

It was one of a series of police crackdowns since a new anti-prostitution law with tougher penalties was passed in 2004. Last year alone 35,000 clients were prosecuted.

The anti-prostitution drive has resulted in a sharp increase in incidents of South Koreans involved in the foreign sex trade. The government plans to revise the law to punish citizens caught buying sex abroad.

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Former Deputy Senate Speaker Chalerm Promlert, Five Years Jail Term Upheld

The Supreme Court upheld a 36-year jail term given to former deputy Senate speaker Chalerm Promlert, five years after he was accused of having sex with underage girls.

The court found Chalerm, 71, guilty of sexually abusing four girls under the age of 15 between Nov 23, 2000 and Jan 3, 2001.

It upheld the Appeal Court's decision in January this year, which added 20 years to the 16-year sentence the lower court gave Chalerm.

The court said he should be punished more severely because he broke the law while he was a senator.

''The defendant was well aware that what he did was a serious crime,'' the court said.

The former deputy governor of Surat Thani, who had been free on bail of 2.5 million baht pending his final appeal to the Supreme Court, acknowledged the verdict with a pale face.

Police then escorted him to Pathum Thani jail.

Many of Chalerm's relatives, but not his wife, showed up to hear the verdict at the Thanyaburi provincial court.

The mother of one of the victims, whose names were withheld, said she was glad Chalerm did not walk free and thanked all the parties for their support.

Police had charged Chalerm with statutory rape in January 2001 after two girls separately identified him in a line-up as the man who paid them to have sex with him at a motel in Pathum Thani.

Chalerm spent two days in bed with the schoolgirls, one of them aged 16, at a motel in Pathum Thani's Lam Looka district. He paid each 4,000 baht for their services.

The students, aged 13 to 16, were taken to the motel by another girl, a 17-year-old school dropout.

Sex with a girl under 15 years of age brings a charge of statutory rape.

Chalerm resigned as senator in March 2001 amid mounting pressure from fellow senators and civic groups.

The Senate voted 87 to 54 to grant him immunity, splitting it into two camps and upsetting civic groups.

The court of first instance in October 2002 dismissed Chalerm's claim that he had a medical record of receiving treatment for a sexual dysfunction.

Chalerm also said that he had work commitments the days the offences occurred, but his Mercedes was spotted outside the Phaka Inn Hotel in Pathum Thani.

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Today Is November 15th 2007

Today is Thursday, Nov. 15, the 319th day of 2007. There are 46 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Nov. 15, 1806, explorer Zebulon Pike sighted the mountaintop now known as Pikes Peak in present-day Colorado.

On this date:

In 1777, the Second Continental Congress approved the Articles of Confederation, a precursor to the Constitution of the United States.

In 1889, Brazil was proclaimed a republic as its emperor, Dom Pedro II, was overthrown.

In 1926, the National Broadcasting Co. debuted as a radio network.

In 1939, President Roosevelt laid the cornerstone of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.

In 1948, William Lyon Mackenzie King retired as prime minister of Canada after 21 years; he was succeeded by Louis St. Laurent.

In 1966, the flight of Gemini 12 ended successfully as astronauts James A. Lovell and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin Junior splashed down safely in the Atlantic.

In 1969, a quarter of a million protesters staged a peaceful demonstration in Washington against the Vietnam War.

In 1979, the British government publicly identified Sir Anthony Blunt as the "Fourth Man" of a Soviet spy ring that included Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Kim Philby.

In 1982, funeral services were held in Moscow's Red Square for the late Soviet President Leonid I. Brezhnev.

In 1987, 28 of 82 people aboard a Continental Airlines DC-9, including the pilot and co-pilot, were killed when the jetliner crashed seconds after taking off from Denver's Stapleton International Airport.

Ten years ago: A day after moving to halt the import of modified assault weapons, President Clinton defended the action in his weekly radio address, saying such weapons did nothing but "inspire fear and wreck deadly havoc on our streets."

Five years ago: Palestinian militants raked Israeli troops and settlers with gunfire in an ambush, killing 12 Israelis in Hebron. Hu Jintao replaced Jiang Zemin as China's Communist Party leader.

One year ago: O.J. Simpson caused an uproar with plans for a TV interview and book titled "If I Did It," in which Simpson describes how he would have committed the 1994 slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. One of four U.S. soldiers accused of raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and killing her and her family pleaded guilty at Fort Campbell, Ky. (Spec. James P. Barker, who agreed to testify against the others, was later sentenced to 90 years in prison.) Emmitt Smith was named winner of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" with his professional dance partner, Cheryl Burke.

Today's Birthdays: Judge Joseph Wapner is 88. Statesman Howard H. Baker Junior is 82. Actor Ed Asner is 78. Actor John Kerr is 76. Singer Petula Clark is 75. Comedian Jack Burns is 74. Actress Joanna Barnes is 73. Actor Sam Waterston is 67. Pop singer Frida (ABBA) is 62. Actor Bob Gunton is 62. Director-actor James Widdoes is 54. Rock singer-producer Mitch Easter is 53. Actress Beverly D'Angelo is 53. CNN anchor-reporter John Roberts is 51. "Tonight Show" bandleader Kevin Eubanks is 50. Comedian Judy Gold is 45. Rapper E-40 is 40. Actress Rachel True is 38. Country singer Jack Ingram is 37. Actor Jonny Lee Miller is 35. Actress Sydney Tamiia Poitier is 34. Christian rock musician David Carr (Third Day) is 33. Rock singer-musician Chad Kroeger is 33. Rock musician Jesse Sandoval is 33. Actress Virginie Ledoyen is 31.

Thought for Today: "To oppose something is to maintain it." — Ursula K. LeGuin, American writer.

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Today Is November 14th 2007

Today is Wednesday, Nov. 14, the 318th day of 2007. There are 47 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Nov. 14, 1889, inspired by Jules Verne, New York World reporter Nellie Bly set out to travel around the world in less than 80 days. (She made the trip in 72 days.)

On this date:

In 1851, Herman Melville's novel "Moby-Dick" was first published in the United States.

In 1881, Charles J. Guiteau went on trial for assassinating President Garfield. (Guiteau was convicted and hanged the following year.)

In 1907, two renowned children's authors were born: William Steig ("Shrek") in New York, Astrid Lindgren ("Pippi Longstocking") near Vimmerby, Sweden.

In 1922, the British Broadcasting Corp. began its domestic radio service.

In 1935, King Hussein of Jordan was born in Amman.

In 1940, during World War II, German planes destroyed most of the English town of Coventry.

In 1969, Apollo 12 blasted off for the moon.

In 1970, a chartered Southern Airways DC9 crashed while trying to land in Huntington, W.Va, killing all 75 on board, including the Marshall University football team and its coaching staff.

In 1972, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above the 1,000 level for the first time, ending the day at 1,003.16.

In 1973, Britain's Princess Anne married Capt. Mark Phillips in Westminster Abbey. (They divorced in 1992, and Anne remarried.)

Ten years ago: A jury in Fairfax, Va., decided that Pakistani national Aimal Khan Kasi should get the death penalty for gunning down two CIA employees outside agency headquarters. (Kasi was sentenced to death in January 1998; he would be executed on this date in 2002.) Sara Lister, assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs, resigned in the wake of political pressure after she had called Marines "extremists" and mocked their uniforms as "checkerboard fancy."

Five years ago: Pope John Paul II made a historic speech to Italy's parliament, urging Italians to work for world peace, uphold their Christian values and have more babies. Actor-comedian Eddie Bracken died in Montclair, N.J., at age 87.

One year ago: Gunmen kidnapped up to 200 staff and visitors in a raid on a Higher Education Ministry office in Baghdad. (Some 70 people were released the following day, but the fate of dozens remains unknown.) President Bush left the White House on a state visit to Vietnam. Brandon Webb of the Arizona Diamondbacks won a wide-open race for the NL Cy Young Award.

Today's Birthdays: Former U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali is 85. Actress Kathleen Hughes is 79. Jazz musician Ellis Marsalis is 73. Writer P.J. O'Rourke is 60. Zydeco singer-musician Buckwheat Zydeco is 60. Britain's Prince Charles is 59. Actor Robert Ginty is 59. Rock singer-musician James Young (Styx) is 58. Singer Stephen Bishop is 56. Blues musician Anson Funderburgh is 53. Pianist Yanni is 53. Actress Laura San Giacomo is 46. Actor D.B. Sweeney is 46. Rapper Reverend Run (Run-DMC) is 43. Actor Patrick Warburton is 43. Rock musician Nic Dalton is 43. Country singer Rockie Lynne is 43. Pop singer Jeanette Jurado (Expose) is 42. Rock musician Brian Yale is 39. Rock singer Butch Walker is 38. Actor Josh Duhamel is 35. Rock musician Travis Barker is 32. Contemporary Christian musician Robby Shaffer is 32. Rapper Shyheim is 30.

Thought for Today: "Comfort, opportunity, number and size are not synonymous with civilization." — Abraham Flexner, American educator and author (1866-1959).

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Prince Harry's Girlfriend Chelsy Davy Dumped Him For Text-Flirting

Prince Harry's girlfriend Chelsy Davy dumped him after she discovered secret text messages from another woman on his mobile phone.

The Zimbabwean-born university student read the messages after overhearing Harry whispering on his phone last month.

Unnamed friends of the couple told The Sun newspaper Chelsy "hit the roof" when she found the text messages, which were apparently from a secret admirer.

"It started when Chelsy overheard Harry having a whispered conversation with a girl," one told the newspaper.

"Later she stole a look at his mobile while he wasn't looking and found the text messages that really upset her.

"Chelsy was furious. She then confronted Harry and they had a blazing row."

Ms Davy is believed to have discovered the secret text messages after Harry returned from watching England's Rugby World Cup semi-final match against France in Paris on October 13.

The latest rift between the couple comes amid reports Davy is preparing to pack her bags and leave Britain, despite starting a law degree just two months ago in Leeds.

Ms Davy, 22, is said to be sick of the cold weather there and unhappy with Harry's playboy lifestyle.

She was pictured today in the tabloid newspapers looking tired and drawn as she left her flat in Leeds to visit a nearby coffee shop with a friend.

Ms Davy is believed to have asked Harry for a "cooling off" period.

"Chelsy put her foot down," a friend told the newspaper.

"She said men who are truly in love with their girlfriends don't conduct close friendships with other women to that degree."

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Marvel Entertainment Inc To Feature Comics Of Spider-Man, X-Men,.. Online

Robert MacMillan
Spider-Man may spin a good yarn in comic books, but Marvel Entertainment Inc hopes that he finds the world wide web equally comfortable.

The publisher said that it will start a website that will feature access to thousands of its comic books and the famous heroes who populate them, from Spider-Man and the X-Men to the Fantastic Four and The Avengers.

Marvel will charge subscriptions - $US4.99 a month if people sign up for a year, or $9.99 a month if they don't.

"This is a major new piece of my overall publishing plan," Dan Buckley, president of Marvel Publishing, said in an interview.

"It's a different entertainment experience, online versus reading a book."

Marvel plans to offer access to 2,500 comics, Buckley said. It will make 250 available for free to entice people to pay up, but for a limited time, a company statement explained.

The Digital Comics Unlimited site then will add 20 additional books a week, including a mix of new and vintage comics.

Among the older titles will be the first 100 issues of "Amazing Spider-Man" and "The Fantastic Four," as well as the initial 66-issue run of "Uncanny X-Men" and the first 50 issues of "The Avengers." It will feature other super heroes like the Incredible Hulk, Wolverine and the Silver Surfer.

It will also include the first appearances of villains Dr. Octopus, Sandman, Lizard and Dr. Doom, not to mention the first appearance of Spider-Man's black costume.

New titles will include Joss Whedon's "Astonishing X-Men," "The House of M," "Young Avengers" and "Runaways."

To present the titles in a quality format, Marvel has recoloured and redigitised some of its offerings.

The move to the internet is unlikely to account for a major portion of Marvel Publishing's sales, Buckley said, but it will be an important addition.

It sells its magazines at newsstands, though he said the business has been contracting in the past 10 years. What has been performing well is the hobby business, he said, with some 2,500 shops across the companies that attract collectors and other fans.

Titles must be in print for at least six months before they will go online, Buckley said.

Marvel's move runs contrary to newspaper and magazine publishers, which have been moving toward not charging people and supporting themselves through advertising.

Buckley said the nature of the content is what makes Marvel's plan different.

"Our comic book distribution and our comic book properties aren't part of the mass medium where you can it for free easily," he said.

Dennis Webb, owner of the Comics and Cards Collectorama in Alexandria, Virginia, doubted that it would attract a mass audience used to reading and collecting their comics in print.

"I think most of them like to buy their own comics and read them where they want to go," he said.

"I don't think they want to have it just online because if they're really a collector, they're going to want the actual collection."

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Some 6,500 Birds Killed In Eastern England Due To Bird Flu (Avian Flu)

British Health officials began slaughtering thousands of birds Tuesday at Redgrave Park Farm in Suffolk in eastern England where a bird-flu outbreak was confirmed this week, and after tests on turkeys found to have avian flu have confirmed the H5N1 strain.

All 6,500 birds - 5,000 free-range turkeys, 1,000 ducks and 500 geese on the farm in Redgrave, Suffolk county, were being culled, while poultry restrictions were forcing free-range birds throughout the county to be moved inside.

The workers doing the culling were given preventative doses of the anti-viral Tamiflu medication, believed to be effective against bird flu, and wore protective gear of gowns, gloves, boots and masks.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said Monday that turkeys at the Redgrave farm had tested positive for an H5 subtype of the disease, and that further tests would determine if it was an H5N1 strain similar to that which has swept across Asia, Europe and Africa since 2003.

Bird flu's return to British shores is yet another blow to farmers, who are already struggling after herds were hit this year by foot-and-mouth and bluetongue. If the bird flu spreads, it could devastate the hugely profitable Christmas trade in poultry.

A two-mile protection zone and a six-mile surveillance zone were created around the infected Redgrave farm, and further restrictions were imposed over Suffolk and much of the neighboring county of Norfolk. The alarm was raised Sunday, after a rise in death rates among the birds, which are owned by poultry producer Gressingham Foods, based in Woodbridge, Suffolk.

Britain's first case of H5N1 was in a swan in Scotland in 2006. In February, an outbreak of the virus at a poultry plant in Holton, Suffolk, led to the slaughter of almost 160,000 turkeys. No definitive source was found for that outbreak, which matched a strain that had infected geese in southern Hungary.

"It's been like a bolt from the blue," said Nigel Joyce, a poultry farmer from Fakenham in Norfolk of the latest avian flu outbreak.

"It's heartbreaking," he said.

"There had been issues on the continent about a month ago and it all cleared up... then we get this lightning strike for no apparent reason."

David Barker who farms at Westhorpe, about five miles away from Redgrave said it was a huge blow.

"There is a lot of outdoor poultry these days because of consumer demands for outdoor, free-range and organic poultry... and the farmers in this particular area are meeting what the consumers are requiring.

"There's a lot of poultry being kept not just in the big units, but lots of people in the local villages have chickens in their back yards and they've got to keep them inside for the time being."

And Nigel Joyce believes that these small poultry keepers have to be just as vigilant as the large farmers.

"It is important that they remain vigilant that they do the job the professional poultry keepers do and keep these birds indoors fully protected from migratory birds until we find out the exact cause of this and then hopefully the restrictions will get lifted quickly," he said.

And it is the migratory birds that farmers think may be the cause of this latest outbreak.

Reserve open

Defra's inquiries into the source of the virus are focusing on wild bird transmission but the exact source is still being investigated.

Mr Joyce believes that Defra is assuming at this point the outbreak is due to a migratory bird and that is why there is such a huge control zone.

But at Redgrave and Lopham Fen, a nature reserve that includes a mixture of wet heathland, open water, scrub and woodland, there are no plans to close to the public.

"The reserve will definitely remain open," says Steve Aylward, property manager for the Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

"The more visitors we have on our sites, the more people there are out there being vigilant and looking out for dead birds."

David Barker said there was a great determination from the farmers in the local area to work with trading standards and Defra to overcome the avian flu outbreak.

"It is really important we roll up our sleeves and we pull together and we help all concerned and we put this behind us as quickly as we can," he said.

In April 2006, chickens on a farm near Dereham Common, Norfolk, tested positive for the H7 subtype of the virus.

Bird flu has killed or prompted the culling of millions of birds world-wide since late 2003, when it first began ravaging Asian poultry stocks. It has killed at least 206 people world-wide since 2003.

Experts believe most victims were probably infected through direct contact with sick birds. Bird flu remains difficult for humans to catch. However, experts fear it could mutate into a form that spreads easily among people, potentially sparking a flu pandemic.

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Korea Air Passengers Quarantined In New Zealand Over Fear Of Bird Flu

Some 223 persons onboard a Korean Air plane at the Auckland Airport were temporary quarantined by New Zealand health authorities when one of the passengers after a sick passenger sparked fears of a possible case of bird flu.

The passenger, woman was later deemed to be "no risk" and suffering from suspected gastroenteritis, airport police Inspector Richard Middleton said, congratulating the flight crew for notifying authorities about the potential problem.

The woman, whose name was not released, was briefly treated at a hospital in Auckland, Middleton said.

Crew on the flight, from South Korea via Australia, alerted airport authorities when the woman began vomiting and showing other possible bird flu symptoms, sparking a lockdown on the tarmac as the plane landed, said Norman Upjohn, an ambulance duty manager.

The 223 people aboard the Boeing 747 were held for about an hour under "full quarantine procedure" while a paramedic in protective clothing examined the woman, Upjohn said.

South Korea declared itself bird flu free in June, after reporting no new cases of the H5N1 strain of bird flu — in birds or humans — for three months. Australia and New Zealand have reported no infections of H5N1, which has killed at least 206 people worldwide since 2003, according to the World Health Organization.

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Today Is November 12th 2007

Today is Monday, Nov. 12, the 316th day of 2007. There are 49 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Nov. 12, 1942, the World War II naval Battle of Guadalcanal began. (The Allies ended up winning a major victory over the Japanese.)

On this date:

In 1815, American suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton was born in Johnstown, N.Y.

In 1927, Josef Stalin became the undisputed ruler of the Soviet Union as Leon Trotsky was expelled from the Communist Party.

In 1948, former Japanese Premier Hideki Tojo and several other World War II Japanese leaders were sentenced to death by a war crimes tribunal.

In 1977, the city of New Orleans elected its first black mayor, Ernest "Dutch" Morial, the winner of a runoff.

In 1982, Yuri V. Andropov was elected to succeed the late Leonid I. Brezhnev as general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party's Central Committee.

In 1987, the American Medical Association issued a policy statement saying it was unethical for a doctor to refuse to treat someone solely because that person had AIDS or was HIV-positive.

In 1990, Japanese Emperor Akihito formally assumed the Chrysanthemum Throne.

In 1996, a Saudi Boeing 747 jetliner collided shortly after takeoff from New Delhi, India, with a Kazak Ilyushin-76 cargo plane, killing 349 people.

In 2001, American Airlines Flight 587, en route from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport to the Dominican Republic, crashed after takeoff, killing 265 people.

In 2004, a jury in Redwood City, Calif., convicted Scott Peterson of murdering his pregnant wife, Laci, and dumping her body in San Francisco Bay. (Peterson, who maintains his innocence, was later sentenced to death.)

Ten years ago: Ramzi Yousef was convicted in New York of masterminding the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Four U.S. businessmen and a Pakistani were killed by gunmen in Karachi, Pakistan, apparently in retaliation for the murder conviction of Aimal Khan Kasi in the shooting deaths of two CIA employees. Jury selection began in Sacramento, Calif., in the trial of accused Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski.

Five years ago: In an audiotaped message, a voice purported to be that of Osama bin Laden praised terrorist strikes in Bali and Moscow and threatened Western nations over any attack on Iraq. Former FBI Director William Webster resigned under pressure as head of a special accounting oversight board created by Congress to rebuild public confidence shaken by a cascade of business scandals.

One year ago: Hundreds of relatives and friends of the victims in the crash of American Airlines Flight 587, which claimed 265 lives, dedicated a much-awaited memorial in New York. Gerald R. Ford surpassed Ronald Reagan as the longest-lived U.S. president at 93 years and 121 days.

Today's Birthdays: Rhythm-and-blues singer Ruby Nash Curtis (Ruby and the Romantics) is 68. Actor-playwright Wallace Shawn is 64. Singer Brian Hyland is 64. Rhythm-and-blues singer Jimmy Hayes (Persuasions) is 64. Rock musician Booker T. Jones (Booker T. & the MGs) is 63. Singer-songwriter Neil Young is 62. Rock musician Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser (Blue Oyster Cult) is 60. Country singer Barbara Fairchild is 57. Actress-talk show host Megan Mullally is 49. Olympic gold medal gymnast Nadia Comaneci is 46. Rock musician David Ellefson is 43. Actor Sam Lloyd is 40. Figure skater Tonya Harding is 37. Actress Radha Mitchell is 34. Actress Lourdes Benedicto is 33. Actress Tamala Jones is 33. Actress Angela Watson is 33. Singer Tevin Campbell is 31. Actress Ashley Williams is 29. Actor Ryan Gosling is 27. Contemporary Christian musician Chris Huffman is 27. Actress Anne Hathaway is 25. Pop singer Omarion is 23. Actress Macey Cruthird ("Hope and Faith") is 15.

Thought for Today: "Private opinion creates public opinion. ... That is why private opinion, and private behavior, and private conversation are so terrifyingly important." — Jan Struther, English poet (1901-1953).

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Lily Huchence Under Pressure From Bob Geldof To Change Her Name

Bob Geldof is trying to erase the memory of Michael Hutchence by forcing the late rock star's only daughter to change her surname, Hutchence's sister says.

Geldof has taken care of Heavenly Hirani Tiger Lily Hutchence since her mother, Paula Yates, died in 2000.

The former INXS frontman's sister Tina has told New Idea magazine in its latest issue that Geldof intends to change Tiger Lily's name to Geldof and formally adopt her.

It's not enough that he should have Tiger Lily, but he thinks he should adopt her and change her name," she told the magazine.

Tiger Lily was born in 1996, a year after Yates ended her 10-year marriage to Geldof to be with Hutchence.

November 22 marks the 10th anniversary of Hutchence's death.

The Hutchence family has received a letter from Geldof's lawyers informing them of his intention to change Tiger Lily's name, Ms Hutchence said.

"In seven years, he's given my mother just four days of supervised visits," she said.

"None of the rest of us have seen Tiger, only my mother, and that was with the nanny."

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Ang Lee film Dropped From Oscar For Insufficient Taiwanese Touch

Some of the most talked-about foreign films have been disqualified from a shot at the Oscars, infuriating film-makers and critics.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which awards the Oscars, has just disqualified Ang Lee's Golden Lion Award-winning controversial romance Lust, Caution, saying it was not made with enough Taiwanese talent to warrant being Taiwan's official entry.

The Taiwanese had to hurriedly pick another film or forfeit a shot at an Oscar altogether - they chose a movie called Island Etude.

Ang Lee's producing partner James Schamus, furious at the exclusion, told The Hollywood Reporter: "I dare you to tell me how Lust, Caution is not eligible while Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon [2001] not only was eligible but also won as best foreign film. We shot them in China, with almost the exact same crew. The whole thing is patently absurd."

Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - a biopic about a former editor of Elle magazine who suffered a stroke so debilitating he could move only his left eye - will also be missing, despite winning the best director prize in Cannes.

The movie version of The Kite Runner will not be contending, either, because its distributor, Paramount Pictures, knew it could never qualify as an Afghan movie, despite its setting and use of Dari dialogue.

The money and crew were American, and the director, Marc Forster, grew up in Germany and Switzerland.

The foreign-language Oscar category is notorious for overlooking foreign films that earn lavish critical and audience attention.

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Today Is November 11th 2007

Today is Sunday, Nov. 11, the 315th day of 2007. There are 50 days left in the year. This is Veterans Day in the United States, Remembrance Day in Canada.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Nov. 11, 1918, fighting in World War I came to an end with the signing of an armistice between the Allies and Germany.

On this date:

In 1620, 41 Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower, anchored off Massachusetts, signed a compact calling for a "body politick."

In 1778, British redcoats, Tory rangers and Seneca Indians in central New York state killed more than 40 people in the Cherry Valley Massacre.

In 1831, former slave Nat Turner, who had led a violent insurrection, was executed in Jerusalem, Va.

In 1889, Washington became the 42nd state.

In 1921, President Harding dedicated the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

In 1942, during World War II, Germany completed its occupation of France.

In 1966, Gemini 12 blasted off from Cape Kennedy, Fla., with astronauts James A. Lovell and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. aboard.

In 1987, following the failure of two Supreme Court nominations, President Ronald Reagan announced his choice of Judge Anthony M. Kennedy, who went on to win confirmation.

In 1987, Boris Yeltsin, who had criticized the slow pace of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms, was dismissed as Moscow Communist Party chief.

In 2004, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died at a military hospital in Paris at age 75.

Ten years ago: Retired Gen. Colin Powell announced he would not seek the Republican presidential nomination or any other office in 2000, saying he lacked "the passion" for political life. Photography giant Eastman Kodak announced it was cutting 10,000 jobs because of fierce competition from Japan's Fuji Photo Film Co.

Five years ago: Iraqi lawmakers denounced a tough, new U.N. resolution on weapons inspections as dishonest, provocative and worthy of rejection. But the Iraqi parliament said it ultimately would trust whatever President Saddam Hussein decided.

One year ago: President Bush marked Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery by praising U.S. troops who had fought oppression around the world, yet spoke only briefly about Iraq, where U.S. commanders were re-evaluating strategy. The United States vetoed a U.N. Security Council draft resolution seeking to condemn an Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Today's Birthdays: Dancer-choreographer Nicholas Royce is 82. Comedian Jonathan Winters is 82. Jazz singer-musician Mose Allison is 80. Author Carlos Fuentes is 79. Country singer Narvel Felts is 69. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., is 67. Rock singer-musician Vince Martell (Vanilla Fudge) is 62. Golfer Fuzzy Zoeller is 56. Pop singer-musician Paul Cowsill (The Cowsills) is 55. Rock singer-musician Andy Partridge (XTC) is 54. Singer Marshall Crenshaw is 54. Rock singer Dave Alvin is 52. Rock musician Ian Craig Marsh (Human League; Heaven 17) is 51. Actor Stanley Tucci is 47. Actress Demi Moore is 45. Actress Calista Flockhart is 43. Actor Philip McKeon is 43. Rock musician Scott Mercado is 43. TV personality Carson Kressley is 38. Actor David DeLuise is 36. Actor Adam Beach is 35. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio is 33.

Thought for Today: "Whom God would sorely vex, He endows with abundant good sense." — Yiddish proverb.

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Cruise film opens in third place, behind Jerry Seinfeld, Russell Crowe

Jerry Seinfeld's Bee Movie had plenty of sting left during its second weekend, replacing American Gangster as the No. 1 choice for North American moviegoers.

As ticket sales returned to their unusually lackluster routine, Bee Movie, the cartoon Seinfeld originated and stars in, rose to the top with a three-day haul of US$26 million during its second weekend of North American release, according to studio estimates issued on Sunday.

The DreamWorks Animation SKG production, traded places with Universal Pictures' Denzel Washington-Russell Crowe crime saga American Gangster, which slipped to No. 2 with US$24.3 million, also in its second round.

The last movie to rise through the rankings and hit No. 1 for the first time was Wedding Crashers in July 2005. (Former champ The Chronicles of Narnia gained the No. 1 slot in January 2006.)

The comedy Fred Claus, featuring Wedding Crashers star Vince Vaughn, opened at No. 3 with a respectable US$19.2 million. Tom Cruise's rare foray into low-budget drama, Lions for Lambs, opened at No. 4 with US$6.7 million, which was in line with modest industry expectations.

Lions for Lambs marks the first United Artists release since Cruise and production partner Paula Wagner took control of MGM's dormant art-house division a year ago.

After ending a six-week losing streak last weekend, overall year-on-year sales fell once again. The top-12 films earned US$99 million, down 11 per cent from the year-ago period, according to tracking firm Media By Numbers.

Some industry pundits had forecast Fred Claus could hit No. 1 if Bee and Gangster lost more than half of their opening-weekend audiences. In fact the duo held up remarkably well, off just 32 per cent and 44 per cent, respectively. The 10-day tally for Bee Movie stands at US$72.2 million, while American Gangster has earned US$80.7 million.

Vaughn headlines the Warner Bros. release as Santa's bitter older brother. It fell far short of his 2006 comedy The Break Up, which started with US$39 million, but the studio said Fred Claus was being positioned for the holiday crowd.

These Christmas-themed movies aren't about the opening weekend, said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros.' general sales manager of domestic distribution.

The opening for Lions for Lambs did not exactly come close to such Cruise blockbusters as War of the Worlds or the Mission: Impossible series. But distributor Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer said that was never the intention. In fact, the closely held studio is promoting it as a Robert Redford vehicle rather than a Cruise vehicle, since the Hollywood veteran directed and co-stars.

The critically maligned political commentary on contemporary US mores, drew an older audience, and feedback was a little disappointing, said Clark Woods, president of distribution at MGM.

The only other new release in the top 10 was the indie woman-in-distress thriller P2, which came in at No. 8 with US$2.2 million. Rachel Nichols stars as a young executive pursued in an underground garage by a sadistic security guard.

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Today Is November 10th 2007

Today is Saturday, Nov. 10, the 314th day of 2007. There are 51 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Nov. 10, 1775, the U.S. Marines were organized under authority of the Continental Congress.

On this date:

In 1871, journalist-explorer Henry M. Stanley found Scottish missionary David Livingstone, who had not been heard from for years, near Lake Tanganyika in central Africa.

In 1917, 41 suffragists were arrested for picketing in front of the White House.

In 1919, the American Legion opened its first national convention, in Minneapolis.

In 1928, Japanese Emperor Hirohito was formally enthroned, almost two years after his ascension.

In 1938, Kate Smith first sang Irving Berlin's "God Bless America" on her CBS radio program, which aired Thursdays.

In 1954, the Iwo Jima Memorial was dedicated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Arlington, Va.

In 1969, the children's educational program "Sesame Street" made its debut on National Educational Television (later PBS).

In 1975, the ore-hauling ship SS Edmund Fitzgerald and its crew of 29 vanished during a storm in Lake Superior.

In 1982, Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev died at age 75.

In 1982, the newly finished Vietnam Veterans Memorial was opened to its first visitors in Washington, D.C.

Ten years ago: A judge in Cambridge, Mass., reduced Louise Woodward's murder conviction to manslaughter and sentenced the English au pair to the 279 days she had already served in the death of 8-month-old Matthew Eappen. A jury in Fairfax, Va., convicted Mir Aimal Kasi of one count of capital murder, one count of first-degree murder and eight additional charges stemming from a shooting attack outside CIA headquarters in January 1993. WorldCom Inc. and MCI Communications Corp. agreed to a $37 billion merger.

Five years ago: Bush administration officials promised "zero tolerance" if Saddam Hussein refused to comply with international calls to disarm. About a dozen tornadoes killed 36 people in Tennessee, Ohio, Alabama, Mississippi and Pennsylvania.

One year ago: A new recording attributed to the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq (Abu Hamza al-Muhajir) mocked President Bush as a coward whose conduct of the war had been rejected at the polls, and challenged him to keep U.S. troops in Iraq to face more bloodshed. Actor Jack Palance died in Montecito, Calif., at age 87.

Today's Birthdays: Actor Russell Johnson is 83. Film composer Ennio Morricone is 79. Actor Roy Scheider is 75. Blues singer Bobby Rush is 73. Actor Albert Hall is 70. Lyricist Tim Rice is 63. Actress Alaina Reed Hall is 61. Rock singer-musician Greg Lake (Emerson, Lake and Palmer) is 60. Actress-dancer Ann Reinking is 58. Actor Jack Scalia is 56. Movie director Roland Emmerich is 52. Actor Matt Craven is 51. Actor-comedian Sinbad is 51. Actress Mackenzie Phillips is 48. Author Neil Gaiman is 47. Actor-comedian Tommy Davidson is 44. Actor Michael Jai White is 43. Country singer Chris Cagle is 39. Actor-comedian Tracy Morgan is 39. Actress Ellen Pompeo ("Grey's Anatomy") is 38. Rapper-producer Warren G is 37. Rock singer-musician Jim Adkins (Jimmy Eat World) is 32. Actress Brittany Murphy is 30. Rapper Eve is 29. Rock musician Chris Jannou (Silverchair) is 28. Actor Bryan Neal is 27. Actress Heather Matarazzo is 25. Country singer Miranda Lambert is 24. Actor Josh Peck is 21.

Thought for Today: "A nickname is the heaviest stone that the devil can throw at a man." — William Hazlitt, British essayist (1778-1830).

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Jens Lekman's Night Falls over Kortedala

Bernard Zuel

Three years ago Jens Lekman was voted the 15th sexiest man in Sweden by Elle magazine. OK, that's not exactly bachelor of the year status, but it's not bad. Not bad at all for a droll pop singer with what was, at the time, a small but devoted following for his achingly lovely songs that wore their wit and heart openly. Songs about philosophy and Rocky Dennis (the seriously disfigured teenage boy in the film Mask); about using your one phone call after being arrested to request a song on the radio; about pretending to be your lesbian friend's boyfriend to keep her father happy.

Three years on, Lekman's new album Night Falls over Kortedala - more classic pop in the mould of Burt Bacharach and Jonathan Richman with dance rhythms - made it to No.1 in his homeland. Has that seen his sexiest man ranking change?

"It should have, yeah," Lekman says, sounding a little hurt at Elle's evident failure. "I look better now than I did back then."

Where would he rate himself, then, on the sexiest man in Sweden table?

"I'm not the sexiest man but somewhere in the top 10," is his considered opinion. "The problem last time was the whole [Swedish] football team was in there. But most of those players now are quite old and are dropping out."

If you've not seen him perform or heard his songs you may be wondering what is it about Lekman that would make him one of the sexiest men in Sweden. He has the answer.

"I have a very nice voice," he says. "It's pretty sexy, I think. It's not always a sexy voice but it can be sexy. That's my opinion anyway. There are times when older people hear me sing [and] they say that I sing a little bit like Elvis. That may be their only reference point, of course, but still it's a pretty good and sexy reference."

Lekman is an amusing man, made more so by a deadpan face and a dry delivery. It can make it hard to know when to take him seriously (though he insists the much circulated story, started by him, that he is moving to Melbourne from Stockholm is true). It seems that uncertainty about what was serious and what wasn't, evident in his audience, had some effect on him, too, until "Hawkeye" Pierce and friends made it all clear to him. Seriously.

"When I started writing songs and performing them I had this feeling that maybe I was comically retarded," Lekman says. "Each time I sang a song that was very serious to me, people would laugh and when I tried to make people laugh with a funny song, people started to cry. At some point last year I stopped listening to music for a long time and I listened to a lot of comedy. I loved all the comedy records I got and I watched every single episode of M*A*S*H and that last episode - you remember, it's very serious and not a single joke, quite a dignified look at life - when I came to that episode I realised what I had been trying to do with my songs.

"I think a lot of my songs are very silly and very stupid, written to entertain people, but in the end I always come to that last line and I feel that I have to wrap this up with a bit of dignity and a little tear in the eye otherwise the joke would be on the characters in the song."

With Lekman songs, it is possible to laugh and cry a number of times across the album and sometimes within the one song. The thing is, he's not afraid to go there because as an undoubted fan of the pop song and its conventions, he understands that being passionate about something doesn't mean you can't see the silliness. After all, there is nothing sillier than being in love.

"Some very silly songs can have an almost melancholy feeling when you put it in a different perspective," he says. "Like [his new song about a job he had during his year off from playing music] Friday Night at the Drive-In Bingo for example. That was definitely just a silly song I wrote so that people could dance to it and sing along but in the end when I heard it, it was a very pretty song and almost made me cry."

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Jerry Seinfeld's Most Demanding Movie, 'Bee Movie'

Dave Itzkoff

In the dressing room of an Atlantic City nightclub, Jerry Seinfeld is explaining the stand-up comedy ritual of "getting in the bubble": a state of mind that a performer seeks before show time, a few final moments of calm before the tumult of an unpredictable live audience.

And make no mistake. When Seinfeld faces his crowd, he is usually thinking of the exchange in raw, physical terms: a competition to be won or lost. "I want to get 'em bad," he says.

Minutes later he emerges from the bubble and onto a stage to riff about the banalities of bachelorhood and marriage, burials and cremations, and to relentlessly mock an indiscreet heckler who has made the mistake of announcing that his nickname is Potato Head.

The hour-long routine is a crucial opportunity for Seinfeld to practice his act at a time when he feels, as he often does, that he's not performing enough. "No matter how many times you've done it in the past, it's got to be polished or it goes away," he says backstage. "The act just packs up and starts walking."

More important, the show is a warm-up for Seinfeld's biggest leap yet out of his bubble, onto an international platform he has not occupied in nearly a decade, and into a medium he has never attempted before.

It is Bee Movie, a DreamWorks Animation comedy that is by far the most substantial project the 53-year-old comedian has taken on since pulling the plug on his Seinfeld television sitcom in 1998.

In the ensuing years Seinfeld has starred in an HBO comedy special, I'm Telling You for the Last Time, and a low-budget documentary, Comedian, and written a children's book, Halloween. He got married and fathered three children. In whatever spare time remains, he continues to perform his stand-up act with a triathlete's zeal.


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Yet none of these endeavours - the professional ones at least - has demanded as much of Seinfeld as Bee Movie, a studio feature with a budget of about $US150 million ($162 million) for which he not only supplied the voice of the lead character, a wisecracking honeybee named Barry B. Benson, but also helped write the script and spent nearly four years overseeing every element of the production.

He is also a central component of the film's marketing campaign, showing up in television commercials and at live appearances (occasionally dressed in an oversized bee costume), suggesting that this cartoon movie about talking insects is just another part of his indomitable comedic continuum.

But to many fans, and to many people who worked on Bee Movie, the film represents the first real return of Seinfeld since the end of his television show, a welcoming back after what appeared to be a self-imposed absence. "When you watch this movie, it feels like you've found your best friend who you haven't seen in ages," says Jeffrey Katzenberg, the chief executive of DreamWorks Animation. "It's like, where have you been the last 10 years?"

Just don't mention this to the man whose name appears atop the movie poster.

Two days after his Atlantic City appearance, Seinfeld is walking through New York's Central Park, on his way to lunch at the Central Park Boathouse. He is dressed in blue jeans and a pair of John Lennonesque spectacles, offering pointed analysis about anyone who enters his field of vision, whether it is a pedestrian wearing too much makeup ("I think that was a mime"), or Dean Poll, the well-tanned owner of the restaurant, who pays a visit to Seinfeld's table. ("I think he just wants to show people his nice skin," Seinfeld says.)

Much of Seinfeld's success is predicated on the nonchalant persona he cultivated in his comedy act and on his television show, and the apparent accessibility that comes from his insightful observations of the quotidian and the ordinary.


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The rewards that he has reaped have been substantial: Forbes recently estimated that he makes US$60 million a year, primarily from his share of the syndication revenue Seinfeld still generates. (A representative for Seinfeld declined to confirm this figure.) His live touring and royalties from Seinfeld DVD sales also contribute to this sum.

Though Seinfeld may wear Nikes, he also lives in an exclusive residence on Central Park West, maintains a fabled collection of Porsches and travels to and from his stand-up dates by helicopter. In person he can be affable, but he doesn't hide a certain earned arrogance. When one stunned onlooker at the Boathouse asks for his autograph, Seinfeld says, "Sure," then keeps walking straight to his table.

On this afternoon Seinfeld is playful but also perturbed about a short article he had read over the weekend in The New York Times, 69 words about Bee Movie that described the film as his effort at "gingerly" re-entering mainstream entertainment. "Gingerly," he says with emphasis. "If they only knew. There was nothing 'gingerly' about this."

Seinfeld likes to tell a story of the film's spontaneous origins, about four years ago, at a dinner on Long Island with Steven Spielberg, at which Seinfeld joked that Bee Movie would be a fitting title for a movie about bees, and Spielberg concluded this would actually be a good idea for a film. "I wasn't pitching him," Seinfeld recalls, "but then he started pitching me: 'You gotta make this.' "

Bee Movie represents the culmination of a campaign more than 13 years long, waged by Katzenberg to recruit Seinfeld into animated movies. Going back to his time at the Walt Disney Co, Katzenberg had frequently tried to persuade Seinfeld to lend his voice to a cartoon project to no avail. "He was always amazingly open and accessible," Katzenberg says, "and incredibly polite and definitely not interested."

What persuaded Seinfeld to take on Bee Movie were the assurances by Spielberg and his DreamWorks partner Katzenberg that he would have free rein to make the film his way (as well as access to a video-conferencing system so he could work from New York when necessary), and his naive assumption that it would take three to four months to write a script, record his tracks and finish the job. "I could not have been more wrong," he says.

Seinfeld estimates that it took him and three hand-picked writers nearly 21/2 years just to complete the script for Bee Movie, the story of a talking bee who falls in love with a human florist and discovers, to his horror, that mankind has been stealing his community's honey.


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As Seinfeld became further entrenched in the film's pre-production process, he was in for a rude awakening about how he was really perceived in the entertainment industry.

Working with a casting director to recruit voice talent for the film, Seinfeld was given two lists that supposedly represented all the A-list male and female stars in Hollywood. When he looked at the lineup of male performers, he was surprised to find his own name missing from the roster.

"I said, 'How come?' " Seinfeld recalls. "She said, 'Because everybody knows you only do your own thing.' "

To the extent that Seinfeld engages with Hollywood any more, these interactions are often fraught with ambivalence. "I never get offered things that I think I could really bring something special to," he says, though it is hard to imagine what kind of project he would deem a good fit. Over the years he has turned down his share of offers - most recently a comedic caper written by David Mamet - often because he cannot find the time, and sometimes because he doesn't have an interest. "I could just take parts to act in movies," he says, "but they don't need me."

Nor can Seinfeld understand why the industry seems to believe he has spent his post-sitcom career in a cushy exile of his own design, when he continues to appear at clubs and theatres. "That's what I do," he says. "That's all I can do. That's what a comedian is. Our thing is not disappearing into other characters. It's being this character that you are."

Friends who have known Seinfeld for years say that he has always been sharply attuned to the fitness of his stand-up act, and eager to perform it no matter what else was occupying him in his personal or professional life.

"When he wasn't out there for a period of time, he would start to get antsy and feel like he was losing his edge," says Larry David, the co-creator of Seinfeld and star of Curb Your Enthusiasm. "The phrase he would use was 'out of shape.' I never looked at it like that."

That Seinfeld has, since 1999, been married to the former Jessica Sklar, the founder of the charitable organisation Baby Buggy, and has a six-year-old daughter, Sascha, and two sons, Julian, 4, and Shepherd, 2, does not seem to have diminished his fervour for hitting the road.

Still, the rarity with which Seinfeld applies his full creative energies to a project like Bee Movie would seem to add pressure on the film's critical and box-office results, if only to prove that its star remains a powerful draw.

But fellow comedian Chris Rock, who plays a mosquito named Mooseblood in Bee Movie, argues that the film should not be judged against Seinfeld's larger body of work. "If he was doing a movie that wasn't animated, where he was dating Scarlett Johansson, his version of Manhattan, then maybe yes," Rock says. "But this is a movie about cartoon bees."

Seinfeld's colleagues agree with his assessment that it was unfair to categorise Bee Movie as a comeback project. "It's not like he's been hurt or injured or anything," David says. "It's not like he tried something and failed, and now has to come back from it. He's just been doing what he wants to do."

When his promotional duties for Bee Movie, which include attending the film's November 19 Sydney premiere, are over, Seinfeld says, he has no concrete plans, except perhaps allowing his daughter to see his stand-up act for the first time and proving to his two sons that their father is more than just a guy who makes films about bees for a living.

He says he takes a certain pride in measuring his life against those of other stars - but declines to name names - who have achieved comparable success, but who haven't found the time or the will to settle down and raise a family. "There's certain celebrities," he says, "where I see where they're at, and I know how old they are, and I know what they're doing, and I'm like, 'Yeah, what are you going to do now, Potato Head?"'

Seinfeld understands that these same people might derive a similar schadenfreude from seeing him - formerly the quintessential single guy - made over as a happily married man, or in secretly wishing that his streak of good fortune comes to an end. "I can't imagine that they wouldn't," he says. "I sure would. 'Enough of this guy, it's about time he fell on his face.' "

Bee Movie opens December 6.
Masters of their domain

The post-Seinfeld careers of Jerry's collaborators

Michael Richards (Kramer)

A year after Seinfeld shut up shop, Richards created the short-lived sitcom The Michael Richards Show (2000), on which he was also a co-writer. He returned to stand-up comedy, keeping out of the spotlight until late 2006 when he made headlines for racially abusing hecklers at a comedy club. Voices Bud Ditchwater in Bee Movie.

Jason Alexander (George)

When Alexander's first post-Seinfeld sitcom, Bob Patterson (2001), failed to fire, he settled for guest appearances in a string of shows including Friends, Monk and Malcolm in the Middle, voice parts in cartoons such as Dilbert and a run in the LA stage production of The Producers. Another sitcom, Listen Up, made in 2004, lasted one season. He recently signed as a regular for Everybody Hates Chris and will appear in an episode of Julia Louis-Dreyfus's The New Adventures of Old Christine.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine)

Louis-Dreyfus's first attempt at a sitcom was a failure: Watching Ellie, made during 2002-03, lasted only 12 episodes. After a star turn the next year in four episodes of Arrested Development as the blind lawyer Maggie, Louis-Dreyfus found more lasting success with The New Adventures of Old Christine.

Larry David (co-creator, writer, cameo role as George Steinbrenner)

Despite his constant complaints about Seinfeld's success (he lamented the thought of having to write further episodes when Seinfeld got the green light), David was the first to jump into another project after the series ended. His improvisation comedy show Curb Your Enthusiasm is now in its sixth season.


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Dame Anne Salmond's "Trial of the Cannibal Dog"

Kristine Walsh

In Dame Anne Salmond's book Trial of the Cannibal Dog - about the voyages of Captain James Cook - a central narrative device is the event of the book's title, whereby members of Cook's crew stage a mock trial and execution of a native dog.

It was, according to scholar Dame Anne, an illustration of how the 18th-century collision between Polynesians and Europeans changed their world views.

Now imagine that all of the players in that particular drama were themselves dogs. They snap. They bark. They raise their faces to the sky and howl great tracts of opera.

That is how it will happen when the musical adaptation of Cannibal Dogs debuts in Wellington at the New Zealand International Festival of the Arts.

And the idea of converting all the singers into canines is not really that fanciful, says director Christian Penny.

"What we are trying to capture is some of the strangeness they must have felt during those meetings of Europeans, Maori and Polynesians," Penny says from his Wellington base.

"Plus it is a good metaphor for the hierarchy of the day. Whether we are humans or whether we are dogs, some of us are always going to be lower down in the pack."

As in the times of Cook, the audience could get a sense of "strangeness" from the canine cast, of meeting a completely different species, he added.

"In a piece of theatre like this the audience has to be slightly destabilised or they will look at it simply as an historic curiosity. That is key in theatre ... always looking for a way to make things real through the unreal."

Published in 2003, the award-winning Cannibal Dog was an enormous work that, through the sheer amount of research and information, gave an indication of the colossus of the sea, and the task before Cook and his crew as they tackled three voyages around the Pacific, Penny said.

"We were never going to be able to portray that on stage so, for us, the question was 'how do we make this story personal? ... how do we bring these people together?' What we decided we could do was to deal with the microdrama of Cook and the crises that were his downfall."

Harking back to that idea of of meeting peoples you never knew existed would also be central, Penny said.

"In this day and age we forget how difficult it is to meet someone who is very, very different from you. The real challenge was to capture the incomprehensibility of what happened for Maori and those in the Pacific."

Commissioned especially for the 2008 festival, it was the brainchild of US-based New Zealand composer Matthew Suttor, a lecturer at Yale University.

"We went through university together and are long-time collaborators," says Penny, who leads the directing degree at Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School. "But we haven't worked together for 15 years so it will be exciting to work on his first full opera."

Like Suttor, Penny (Tainui) was undaunted by the scholarly nature of the book that inspired the piece.

"Matthew thought it was wonderful material and I, certainly, have a genuine curiosity about how that early meeting of peoples was a defining moment for us all. We live every day trying to work out the consequences of that time."

Penny says he and Suttor met Dame Anne "very early in the piece" to ask permission to use her work, "which she gave openly and generously".

Though it is described as a chamber opera with four principals and a chorus of six, Penny says the stage version of Cannibal Dog is more like a musical with John Downie's libretto being sung in Maori, English, Tahitian and Hawaiian.

The music, he says, resembles a cross between that of contemporary composer Philip Glass and quirky jazz ensemble Six Volts - which is useful given Volts frontwoman Janet Roddick has been confirmed in the cast.

"It will be visually rich and quite magic in its staging," he says. "And we have taken a few liberties with the story. For example, in examining how Cook lost his European heart, we look back to the story of his wife, the psychodrama that stems from his loss of heart being the loss of his relationship with her."

Despite the subject matter, however, he says the overall feel will be more wild and shocking than maudlin.

"We think it is important to get access to these stories in a new way so with this work we can explore the imaginative side - how these people felt, the hopes and fears they may have harboured."

The Trial of The Cannibal Dog will be staged at Wellington's Opera House on March 2, 4 & 5. Bookings open on November 16.

The book

Trial of the Cannibal Dog: Captain Cook in the South Seas, by Dame Anne Salmond, won the History Category and the Montana Medal for Non-Fiction at the 2004 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. It is described as "a fresh and startling account of Cook's three voyages around the Pacific, in which Dame Anne explores the impact of contact on both Polynesian and European cultures"

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Today Is November 9th 2007

Today is Friday, Nov. 9, the 313th day of 2007. There are 52 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Nov. 9, 1965, the great Northeast blackout happened as a series of power failures lasting up to 13 1/2 hours left 30 million people in seven states and part of Canada without electricity.

On this date:

In 1872, fire destroyed nearly 800 buildings in Boston.

In 1918, it was announced that Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II would abdicate. He then fled to the Netherlands.

In 1935, United Mine Workers president John L. Lewis and other labor leaders formed the Committee for Industrial Organization (later Congress of Industrial Organizations).

In 1938, Nazis looted and burned synagogues as well as Jewish-owned stores and houses in Germany and Austria in what became known as "Kristallnacht."

In 1953, author-poet Dylan Thomas died in New York at age 39.

In 1963, twin disasters struck Japan as some 450 miners were killed in a coal-dust explosion, and about 160 people died in a train crash.

In 1967, a Saturn V rocket carrying an unmanned Apollo spacecraft blasted off from Cape Kennedy on a successful test flight.

In 1976, the U.N. General Assembly approved resolutions condemning apartheid in South Africa, including one characterizing the white-ruled government as "illegitimate."

In 1986, Israel revealed it was holding Mordechai Vanunu, a former nuclear technician who had vanished after providing information to a British newspaper about Israel's nuclear weapons program. (Vanunu was convicted of treason and served 18 years in prison.)

In 1989, communist East Germany threw open its borders, allowing citizens to travel freely to the West; joyous Germans danced atop the Berlin Wall.

Ten years ago: A Boeing 707 jetliner carrying first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was forced to return to Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington after a sensor indicated an engine fire, which turned out to be a false alarm. (Clinton left the following day for a tour of Central Asia.)

Five years ago: President Bush said in his Saturday radio address that Saddam Hussein faced a final test to surrender weapons of mass destruction.

One year ago: Republican Sen. George Allen conceded defeat in the Virginia Senate race to Democrat Jim Webb, sealing the Democrats' control of Congress. Champion figure skater Michelle Kwan was appointed America's first public diplomacy envoy by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. CBS newsman Ed Bradley died in New York at age 65.

Today's Birthdays: Sportscaster Charlie Jones is 77. Baseball executive Whitey Herzog is 76. Former Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., is 71. Singer Mary Travers is 71. Actor Charlie Robinson ("Night Court") is 62. Movie director Bille August is 59. Actor Robert David Hall ("CSI") is 59. Actor Lou Ferrigno is 55. Gospel singer Donnie McClurkin is 48. Rock musician Dee Plakas (L7) is 47. Rapper Pepa (Salt-N-Pepa) is 38. Rapper Scarface (Geto Boys) is 38. Blues singer Susan Tedeschi is 37. Actor Eric Dane is 35. Singer Nick Lachey (98 Degrees) is 34. Rhythm-and-blues singer Sisqo (Dru Hill) is 29. Actress Nikki Blonsky (Film: "Hairspray") is 19.

Thought for Today: "He who seeks rest finds boredom. He who seeks work finds rest." — Dylan Thomas, Welsh author-poet (1914-1953).

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Peter Snell: From Olympiad to Scientist.

Michele Hewitson

Peter Snell has a book out, his third, and after he sees me he is going to launch it at a lunch. Will he be giving a reading? I asked. He thought this was very silly and he laughed at me. "It's not poetry."

Still, I suggest page 227 might make for lively reading. This page shows a flowchart describing "the organisation for major clinical trials starting with screening candidates, baseline testing, randomisation and follow up". He looked at this as though he'd never seen it before in his life. He said, "I don't know why I put that in", and he laughed again, at himself.

His book (co-written with Garth Gilmour) is called Peter Snell: From Olympiad to Scientist. He says he wrote it because "it's a big message, I think. That it's not too late to turn your life around and start over, which is essentially what I did." When I ask, "Who's this book for?" he looks a bit startled, then he says, "Umm, well, it's probably for me".

He is really quite funny, although nothing I have read about him, and little in his book, suggests that he will be. I think the difficulty is that he is hard to get down on paper and he obviously found it a bit tricky, too. That's what happens when you write a book where the aim is not to give too much away.

I thought he'd be prickly and asked if he could be. He said, no, he wasn't, which is what anyone would say. But it wasn't an accusation. He makes it quite clear to me (and in the book) that being a legend wasn't all it was cracked up to be, so who wouldn't have got a bit huffy?

Anyway, I wondered what it was like being a legend, whatever that might actually mean. "I'm not sure either. It has a good ring to it. Ha. And if you are, then it's good to be living somewhere else."

He has lived in the States for 35 years now and, whenever he comes back, annoying people like me ask if he's ever going to come home to live.

He once said, in response to this: "Well, no one asked for my resume." He says he meant it flippantly but you can see how it looks on the page. So, he tried being flippant and came across as prickly instead? "No. No, I don't think so. Umm, prickly, as in I deserved more than I got? That sort of idea? Yeah, well I've got to admit, Michele, I did go through a period of feeling a little bit resentful and it bothers me that I felt that, but I did."

I thought being asked over and over whether he's ever coming back might make him resentful. If it did, it doesn't now. "Well, the answer is no. But it's nice that people would want to feel that I might be back. And it's probably a bad idea because I think the expectations of what I could do would be high."

Does he also mean that the weight of expectation would be overwhelming? "Well, I don't know. I mean, I could alter that expectation pretty easily."

He certainly loves coming home and feels a great warmth when he does, which might be a reflection of his state of mind.

He is very happy these days. He loves his job and his second wife, Miki, and their home in Dallas with the diabetic cat, the two chinchillas and the Southern flying squirrel which hides acorns and nuts all over the house. In 2000, he told a journalist that he had no friends in Dallas and no emotional connection to the place.

I read this back to him and it sounded rather bleak. He's too busy to make friends, he says, and he made his friends during his youth in New Zealand when he did have time. "I have lots of acquaintances and there may be a reason for that. It might be that it's because I'm not putting the effort out to make friends. And my wife is my friend and she likes doing things with me. So I don't go out with the boys or anything like that. She wants my time when I'm not at work."

On the cover of his book, he has a nice friendly big smile. He looks like a healthy, happy 68-year-old. It's a picture of Peter Snell, a scientist who lives in Dallas - not a picture of the young man who won three gold medals.

Snell had an idea about a substitute subtitle: After the Cheering Stops. Would he like that as a subtitle to his life? "Well, I could have had it if I'd wanted it. No, this - From Olympian to Scientist - is my suggestion because my first book, No Bugles, No Drums was a bit stupid actually."

I say I'm not sure what that title actually meant and he laughs and says: "Yeah, people have speculated about what it means. They think it's something to do with modesty."

And does it? "No. Hell no. That's my wife's angle. She says, 'You know, you've cultivated this image and I know it's not true.' She claims that people think I'm modest and I don't know that I am. I recognise you don't get anywhere by trumpeting your own stuff. And her view is that the reason I'm so esteemed in this country is that I'm not around to screw it up."

Of course when he's here, we want to talk about those brief, blazing years, from 1960 until his retirement five years later, and he is good about this. He didn't once show any irritation about the focus on this tiny part of his life and he might, given that half of his book is given over to his career as a university professor in the cardiology division at the University of Texas. His wife, he says, is the one who gets miffed. "She said, 'You know, it's about time New Zealanders realised you've been doing something else with your life' for whatever it is, 30 or 40 years."

I wanted to know what he thought his public image was here, and he related a recent description: the relentlessly sane Peter Snell. "I'm trying to figure it out. My original thought was: Am I boring?"

I don't know yet; I've just met him. Perhaps he could tell me? "Hope not."

I think he doesn't really mind being thought boring. God forbid he'd do anything as flamboyant as a book reading. But he won three gold medals; you'd think he might have been tempted to get a bit excited. I asked him whether being a sports star went to his head and he said, very sensibly: "How would you know?"

He had no choice but to go on being sensible. He still went to work at the quantity surveyor's office, on the bus, and paid his two pounds 10 shillings board, which was half his wage packet, and he waited for opportunities that never came, which is what he came to resent. "People said, 'Oh, you know, it'd be nice if you could have a sports shop'. That sort of thing - and it was sort of insulting." He could have opened a nice little sports shop and had a nice little life. "Yeah, that's right, and call it Olympics Sports Shop or something like that. Yeah, right."

You can see why he found this insulting. And you can see why he might have had that reputation for being a bit grumpy.

Now, I just think he was in what he calls "a somewhat crummy situation", wasn't very happy and not very good at hiding it.

I can't quite reconcile the man in the book with the man sitting in this room with me. He is candid and thoughtful and, as I've said, possesses a nice, dry sense of humour. The best thing seems to get him to have a go. How does he think he comes across in the book?

"Well, actually, in the first book when I stood back and looked, I said, 'This is pretty self-centred.' But then I thought, 'Well, that's okay, because this is what it took to achieve'. To get those achievements, you had to be thinking about yourself a lot. So then it became okay. This one? I don't know. I haven't read it yet."

Of course he has; he proofread it. I asked whether he thought it revealed much about him. "No. No, I don't really. Yeah, I'm holding back, quite a lot. Well, it's private, it's personal."

But it is a book about him and I read aloud this: "The fifth decade challenge to translate seven years of formal education into a satisfying career saw the end of my marriage and took me to meet my second wife, Miki."

"Ha, ha, ha. Okay. Well, I don't want to go into it. Don't I say a bit more about it? Well, I don't know how to handle it. I mean, it's apparent that it says very little on the emotional level, if you like."

Which might, actually, inadvertently, reveal quite a bit about him? "Yeah, it probably does." At which point the publicist knocks on the door and he says to her, "Well, this is perfect timing because she's getting me to squirm a little." Then, to me, "Did you have a further question?"

I do, as it happens. He wore a money belt during the interview, which seemed eccentric. Did he think I might rob him mid-interview? "No. It's not a money belt. It's because I leave stuff lying about and this is how I keep track of things. There's no money in here. It's my glasses and my Palm Pilot and some pens. It's keeping track of stuff."

Is this relentlessly sane? I can't make up my mind. But I do know the bloke wearing what is not a money belt is not a bit boring.

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