вторник, 10 июня 2008 г.

State Welfare Reforms Earn Few High Marks

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan - already feeling pretty good about the arms-inspection agreement he'd just negotiated with Iraq - must have been brimming over with pleasure as he acknowledged a rousing ovation by a throng of young people outside his hotel in Paris. Annan beamed and waved before being chauffeured away to a dinner with French President Jacques Chirac. It was far from clear that the crowd had gathered for him, however. Moments later, the pop star, Madonna, arrived with her entourage.

Rod Waddell of New Zealand defeated more than 1,600 other contestants from 19 countries - some of them participants in the 1996 Summer Olympics - in winning the 17th annual men's 2,000-meter open rowing championship last weekend. Waddell's winning time was 5 minutes, 39 seconds, yet his oars stayed completely dry. The event was held at a sports center in Boston, using machines that simulate outdoor competition. State Welfare Reforms Earn Few High Marks

Only 14 states have interpreted the 1996 federal welfare overhaul law in ways that are likely to help recipients rise above poverty, a new report says. Tufts University in Medford, Mass., graded states in 34 areas, such as providing child care, job-training, improving eligibility for benefits, and requiring recipients to work. The highest possible score was plus-22; the lowest, minus-38. The top 14 and their scores:

Vermont +12.0 Oregon +7.5 Rhode Island +6.5 Pennsylvania +4.5 (tie) Maine +4.5 (tie) New Hampshire +4.5 (tie) California +4.5 Washington +4.0 (tie) Connecticut +4.0 Utah +2.5 (tie) Illinois +2.5
Minnesota +2.0 (tie) Massachusetts +2.0 Tennessee +1.5

San Francisco Is Now the Priciest Housing Market

Elders of the Church of England just couldn't resist the temptation to tinker with the Lord's Prayer. Despite a warning from Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey not to pursue modernity for its own sake, they voted last week to delete the words "lead us not into temptation" from services beginning in 2000. Assuming a review committee and the church's general synod approve, that portion of the prayer will say instead: "save us from the time of trial." Local parishes will be - well -forgiven for continuing to recite the prayer in its traditional form.

The rail system in Germany's Schleswig-Holstein state is about to kiss half its receipts goodbye, at least for the next few weeks. As a new promotion, it's offering a "lovers' discount" beginning Friday that paying passengers may have on request. To qualify, couples must wear special stickers obtained at the ticket window and be willing to engage in a lip-lock when required by the conductors once the trip is under way.

The Day's List San Francisco Is Now the Priciest Housing Market

With a median single-family home resale value of $304,600, the city by the Golden Gate has pushed Honolulu out of first place as the most expensive of 134 metropolitan areas surveyed by the National Association of Realtors. Honolulu had held that distinction since 1989. The least expensive: Waterloo, Iowa., at $64,200. The priciest region is the West, where the median is $163,100. Nationally, it is $124,800, the realtors group says.

The 10 most expensive markets and their respective median prices: 1. San Francisco $304,600 2. Honolulu 300,000 3. Orange County, Calif. 237,400 4. Bergen, N.J. 202,100 5. Boston 195,900 6. Newark, N.J. 192,300 7. San Diego, Calif. 189,000 8. Los Angeles 177,800 9. New York 177,700 10. Middlesex, N.J. 177,400

Author-Finalists Named For US Book Awards

A live tribute on Italian TV to Pope John Paul II's 20 years in office wasn't supposed to be a call-in show. But that's how it ended up. As host Bruno Vespa was recounting some of the pontiff's initiatives, the control room alerted him that a special guest was on the phone, hoping to put in a few words. The caller? Right, John Paul II, who was watching and wanted to say "thank you."

If you're a serious bicycle rider or know someone who is, the German manufacturer Hercules is offering what it says is a first - and just in time for Christmas. The innovation: an automatic transmission for two-wheelers. A small circuit board adjusts the gears to the bike's speed. The rider can check it all on a display panel. Trekking bikes will be the first to feature the new system, listing at about $750. Author-Finalists Named For US Book Awards

Literary lion Tom Wolfe and scholar Harold Bloom are perhaps the best known among those whose works were named this week as finalists for this year's National Book Awards. Winners, chosen by the National Book Foundation, will be announced Nov. 18 in New York. The candidates for the prestigious fiction and nonfiction prizes:

Fiction "Charming Billy" Alice McDermott

"Damascus Gate" Robert Stone

"The Healing" Gayl Jones

"Kaaterskill Falls" Allegra Goodman

"A Man in Full" Tom Wolfe

Nonfiction "All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of American Slavery" Henry Mayer

"Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human" Harold Bloom

"A Slant of Sun: One Child's Courage" Beth Kephart

"Slaves in the Family" Edward Ball

"There Once Was a World: A 900-Year Chronicle of the Shtetl of Eishyshok" Yaffa Eliach

Awards, presented Sunday night

Remember "Candle in the Wind 1997," Elton John's tribute to the late Diana, Princess of Wales? According to Billboard magazine, it has slid from No. 1 to No. 3 in US sales after 14 weeks. Three more weeks atop the charts and it would have set a record. Winners of Movie, TV Golden Globe Awards Winners of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Golden Globe Awards, presented Sunday night:

Motion Pictures Drama: "Titanic"

Actress, drama: Judi Dench, "Mrs. Brown"

Actor, drama: Peter Fonda, "Ulee's Gold" Musical or comedy: "As Good As It Gets"

Actress, musical or comedy: Helen Hunt, "As Good As It Gets"

Actor, musical or comedy: Jack Nicholson, "As Good As It Gets"

Foreign language: "My Life in Pink" ("Ma Vie en Rose"), Belgium

Supporting actress, drama, musical, or comedy: Kim Basinger, "L.A. Confidential"

Supporting actor, drama, musical, or comedy: Burt Reynolds, "Boogie Nights"

Director: James Cameron,"Titanic"

Screenplay: Matt Damon/Ben Affleck, "Good Will Hunting"

Original score: James Horner, "Titanic"

Original song: "My Heart Will Go On" from "Titanic"

Television Drama series: "The X-Files"

Actress, drama: Christine Lahti, "Chicago Hope"

Actor, drama: Anthony Edwards, "ER"

Musical or comedy series: "Ally McBeal"

Actress, musical or comedy: Calista Flockhart, "Ally McBeal"

Actor, musical or comedy: Michael J. Fox, "Spin City"

Miniseries or movie for TV: "George Wallace"

Actress, miniseries or TV movie: Alfre Woodard, "Miss Evers' Boys"

Actor, miniseries or movie for TV: Ving Rhames, "Don King: Only in America"

Supporting actress, series, miniseries, or movie for TV: Angelina Jolie, "George Wallace"

Supporting actor, series, miniseries, or movie for TV: George C. Scott, "12 Angry Men"

Baseball Records That Will Be Tough to Break

Dan Dent loves sled rides and thinks inner-city children should, too. So the investment banker is inviting a youth - to be chosen from one of Baltimore's Police Athletic League centers - to join him this winter and experience the thrill of whizzing along on a blanket of snow. But what if the city doesn't get enough of the white stuff? No problem; that's not the venue Dent has in mind anyway. He wants to take his guest, all expenses paid, to Alaska for the 1,150-mile Iditarod race, which he's entering for the first time.

No sexist jokes, please, but the lower house of Congress in Colombia is imposing a strict new dress code, effective immediately: no more miniskirts or jeans on the job. Just to be fair, the jeans ban also applies to men. No word yet on whether the Senate will adopt the code too. Baseball Records That Will Be Tough to Break

Lost in the excitement over eclipsing Roger Maris's 1961 home-run record is the possibility that Mark McGwire also could set another single-season record: most walks. McGwire needed 21 more (prior to Thursday night's game) before Babe Ruth's 1923 mark of 170 would be his as well. Here are other long-standing seasonal marks (for hitters and pitchers) that will survive 1998 and perhaps many more years to come:

Batting Average:
Rogers Hornsby (1924) .424 Hits:
George Sisler (1920) 257 Consecutive-game hits:
Joe DiMaggio (1941) 56 Runs:
Billy Hamilton (1894) 196 Runs batted in:
Hack Wilson (1930) 190 Victories:
Jack Chesbro (1904) 41 Shutouts:
Grover Cleveland Alexander (1916) 16 Strikeouts:
Nolan Ryan (1973) 383 Complete games:
Amos Rusie (1893) 50 Appearances:
Mike Marshall (1974) 106

Alanta Gobbles Way to Top of Urban-Sprawl List

Way up in Arctic Norway, where winter isn't far off and there hasn't been much excitement since back in March when 23,000 troops took part in a NATO exercise called Strong Resolve, a local civilian decided it was time to stir things up. According to reports, he dressed in a sergeant's uniform, sneaked onto the Setermoen Army base in the wee hours of the morning, helped himself to an idle vehicle, and went for a joy ride. But not just any idle vehicle. He chose a 40-foot-long, armor-plated rocket launcher capable of firing 12 rounds 25 miles each. Fortunately, at least it wasn't loaded. Showing - well - strong resolve, police blocked the highway to southern Norway, ordered local residents to stay indoors, and arrested the fellow a few hours later.

Meanwhile, police in Orlando, Fla., are working on a series of burglaries so big that you could call them "Titanic." In fact, that's exactly what was stolen: 240 just-released cassette copies of the hit film from a warehouse and dozens more from video stores. Since many of them turned up for sale at a flea market, distributors have a sinking feeling that someone is trying to cut into their profits. Alanta Gobbles Way to Top of Urban-Sprawl List

In a recent Sierra Club survey of major US cities, Atlanta emerged as No. 1 in its consumption of green space - destroying 500 acres weekly. The environmental group says uncontrolled suburban growth translates into lost farmland, traffic jams, and rising costs of public services. Among sprawling urban areas of at least 1 million residents, the Sierra Club top 10 includes:

1. Atlanta
2. St. Louis
3. Washington
4. Cincinnati
5. Kansas City
6. Denver
7. Seattle
8. Minneapolis-St.Paul
9. Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
10. Chicago

Do Homers Seem More Routine? Well, They Are

When Ross Jackson won more than $100,000 on a popular TV quiz show in England earlier this month, he could hardly contain his glee. Neither could his creditors. It seems Jackson owes almost a quarter of that amount to them. Hardly had he scooped up his prize as the cameras rolled than he was summoned to a court hearing so payment in full could be arranged.

Many Americans may have reservations about President Clinton, but a certain Israeli resort doesn't. Despite international coverage of his political difficulties, a four-star hotel in the Mediterranean seaside town of Netanya has added his name to its outdoor sign. Said an official of the newly redesignated 200-room Carmel Clinton: "He's the people's president. We don't look at the item of Monica."

Do Homers Seem More Routine? Well, They Are

With Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa going head to head for baseball's home-run record, you may wonder whether the traditional four-bagger is less of a rarity than it once was. Of course, there are variables to consider, including the addition of two new teams to the major leagues in 1993 and again this year, and a strike-shortened 1994 season. Still, statistics indicate players are breaking into a home-run trot more often as seasons roll by. Total major-league homers for the past decade and each year's average per game (unofficially 2.07 so far this season):

Avg. Year Total HRs HRs/game 1988 3,180 1.51 1989 3,083 1.46 1990 3,317 1.58 1991 3,383 1.61 1992 3,038 1.44 1993 4,030 1.78 1994 3,306 2.07 1995 4,081 2.02 1996 4,962 2.19 1997 4,640 2.05

- 'Total Baseball IV: The Official Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball'

- 'Sports Illustrated 1997 Sports Almanac'

- 'Sports Illustrated 1998 Sports Almanac'