Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

Reckoning with the past in Spain: A Spanish judge has launched a criminal investigation into the fate of tens of thousands of people who vanished during the civil war and Franco dictatorship. Judge Baltasar Garzon - Spain's top investigating judge - has also ordered several mass graves to be opened. One is believed to contain the remains of the poet Federico Garcia Lorca, who was murdered by fascist forces at the start of the war in the 1930s.

Are you going to see the bump? Benefits for Social Security recipients and many federal government retirees will increase by 5.8 percent next year, the largest cost-of-living adjustment in a quarter-century, following a year of rising food and energy prices.

Must be an election day coming up: Oil prices slumped further on Thursday, with Brent crude briefly sliding close to 67 dollars a barrel and the lowest level for more than 15 months, as slowing energy demand took its toll, traders said. Crude oil futures were down more than 50 percent from record highs of above 147 dollars reached in July, when prices had rocketed on fears of supply disruptions. Traders were awaiting the latest weekly snapshot of US energy inventories due Thursday for a lead on the state of oil demand in the United States, the world's biggest consumer of crude.

Can they crack down on binge stupidity? College campuses around the country are challenged as studies and experience show students above and below the legal age guzzling unprecedented amounts of alcohol. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that 1,700 college students between ages 18 and 24 die of alcohol-related causes each year, while about 600,000 suffer from alcohol-related injuries. Nearly 25 percent of all college students report academic consequences of drinking, including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers and receiving lower grades overall, the study found.

I can't understand it: The family of a dead elderly woman cremated her remains on a makeshift barbecue and continued collecting her retirement checks amounting to more than $25,000, authorities in Northern California said. Ramona Allmond's daughter and grandson were arrested Sunday on suspicion of embezzlement, elder abuse and disposing of a body without a permit. Allmond, 84, likely died of natural causes, though investigators were still trying to determine the exact cause of death, said Tehama County sheriff's Capt. Paul Hosler.

And the thing only has two USB ports--what's up with that? Apple Inc. customers unhappy that the company dropped FireWire from its newest notebooks are venting their frustrations on the company's support forum in several hundred messages. Within minutes of Apple CEO Steve Jobs wrapping up a launch event in Cupertino, users started several threads on the company's support forum blasting the omission of a FireWire port on the new MacBook laptop. "Apple really screwed up with no FireWire port," said Russ Tolman, who inaugurated a thread that by Thursday had collected more than 200 messages and been viewed over 5,000 times. I'm sorry, but if you really want to piss off Apple customers,

Really? What a surprise: Two new IRS computer systems that will eventually cost taxpayers almost $2 billion are being put into service with known security and privacy vulnerabilities, a Treasury watchdog said in a report coming out Thursday. The office of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said Internal Revenue Service officials failed to ensure that identified weaknesses had been addressed before putting the new systems into use. Inspector General J. Russell George said it was "very troublesome" that the IRS "was aware of, and even self-identified, these weaknesses."

More economic indicators: Stock markets in Europe and Wall Street slumped Thursday after more grim economic news from the U.S. stoked fears that the world's largest economy is plunging into a deep and protracted recession. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares closed down 218.20 points, or 5.4 percent, at 3,861.39, while Germany's DAX was 238.82 points, or 4.9 percent, lower at 4,622.81. The CAC-40 in France was 200.07 points lower, or 5.9 percent, at 3,181.00. Having rebounded some 150 points after the open, the Dow Jones index of leading U.S. shares was down 239.18 points, or 2.8 percent, at 8,338.73. Japan's Nikkei earlier had its worst day since 1987. After a bright opening, selling resumed on Wall Street after the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia reported that manufacturing conditions in its region deteriorated significantly in October. Its current activity index of current manufacturing activity collapsed from 3.8 in September to an 18-year low of -37.5.

Get some biscuits and gravy: ...when you're in Nashville, there's only one place to go for the best biscuits and gravy -- The Loveless Café, where Carol Fay whips up the most famous and delicious offerings of both. Fay started working at the café 29 years ago, when she was in high school, as a dishwasher. She's now head chef, and the keeper of the secret and famous biscuit recipe.

Stay classy, GOP The October newsletter by the Chaffey Community Republican Women, Federated depicts Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama surrounded by a watermelon, ribs and a bucket of fried chicken. That is just the image. In the text, the group of racist hos allege that if Obama is elected his image will appear on food stamps -- instead of dollar bills like other presidents.

What's up with California republicans, anyway? On Tueadsy Sacramento County Republican leaders took down a horrifyingly offensive material from the official party Web site that sought to link Sen. Barack Obama to Osama bin Laden, and encouraged people to "Waterboard Barack Obama" - it was so over the top that even GOP state officials were offended.

You don't say! Florida's governor Charlie Crist says his fellow republicans are trying to spin gold out of straw with claims of voter fraud in the state. Mickey Mouse and Jock Strap might fill out registration forms, but the odds of them showing up at the polls and attempting to vote are virtually nil.

A wild day on Wall Street After suffering initial losses and dropping 400 points, the Dow today swung back and finished up 401.

Stevens takes the stand Alaska Senator Ted Stevens took the stand late this afternoon, testifying in his own defense in a corruption trial. Stevens is trying desperately to salvage his political hide and keep his sorry ass out of jail. Stevens is the longest-serving republican Senator in the history of the party. After the defense is done letting him 'splain what a great guy he is, the prosecution gets to grill him.

6.5 magnitude quake hits southern Mexico The quake hit the state of Chiapas this afternoon, shaking homes and causing people to spill out into the streets, fearing the buildings they were in would come down, but so far only minor damage has been reported. The quake was felt as far away as Guatemala City.

There is no Dale Lindsborg who works for the Washington Post In fact, there is not only no such person, there is no such surname. Lindsborg is a made-up spelling for the name of a town in Kansas. So tell your crazy Uncle Ernie and Aunt Virginia that the email they have forwarded to you sixteen times so far is a fake, and that they have been punk'd.

Surrounded by idiots Only 18% of Americans are able to answer the following three questions correctly: Which party controls the House, who is the Secretary of State and who is Prime Minister of Great Britain?

A match made in heaven Glenn Beck has joined the stable of "talent" at faux noise.