Monday, March 3, 2008


High-school students here rarely get more than a half-hour of homework a night. They have no school uniforms, no honor societies, no valedictorians, no tardy bells and no classes for the gifted. There is little standardized testing, few parents agonize over college and kids don't start school until age 7.

Yet by one international measure, Finnish teenagers are among the smartest in the world. They earned some of the top scores by 15-year-old students who were tested in 57 countries. American teens finished among the world's C students even as U.S. educators piled on more homework, standards and rules. Finnish youth, like their U.S. counterparts, also waste hours online. They dye their hair, love sarcasm and listen to rap and heavy metal. But by ninth grade they're way ahead in math, science and reading -- on track to keeping Finns among the world's most productive workers.
Finland's students are the brightest in the world, according to an international test. Teachers say extra playtime is one reason for the students' success.

The Finns won attention with their performances in triennial tests sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group funded by 30 countries that monitors social and economic trends. In the most recent test, which focused on science, Finland's students placed first in science and near the top in math and reading, according to results released late last year. An unofficial tally of Finland's combined scores puts it in first place overall, says Andreas Schleicher, who directs the OECD's test, known as the Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA.
The U.S. placed in the middle of the pack in math and science; its reading scores were tossed because of a glitch. About 400,000 students around the world answered multiple-choice questions and essays on the test that measured critical thinking and the application of knowledge. A typical subject: Discuss the artistic value of graffiti.

The academic prowess of Finland's students has lured educators from more than 50 countries in recent years to learn the country's secret, including an official from the U.S. Department of Education. What they find is simple but not easy: well-trained teachers and responsible children. Early on, kids do a lot without adults hovering.

And teachers create lessons to fit their students. "We don't have oil or other riches. Knowledge is the thing Finnish people have," says Hannele Frantsi, a school principal.

Visitors and teacher trainees can peek at how it's done from a viewing balcony perched over a classroom at the Norssi School in Jyväskylä, a city in central Finland. What they see is a relaxed, back-to-basics approach.
The school, which is a model campus, has no sports teams, marching bands or prom.

Trailing 15-year-old Fanny Salo at Norssi gives a glimpse of the no-frills curriculum. Fanny is a bubbly ninth-grader who loves "Gossip Girl" books, the TV show "Desperate Housewives" and digging through the clothing racks at H&M stores with her friends.

Fanny earns straight A's, and with no gifted classes she sometimes doodles in her journal while waiting for others to catch up. She often helps lagging classmates. "It's fun to have time to relax a little in the middle of class," Fanny says. Finnish educators believe they get better overall results by concentrating on weaker students rather than by pushing gifted students ahead of everyone else. The idea is that bright students can help average ones without harming their own progress.

At lunch, Fanny and her friends leave campus to buy salmiakki, a salty licorice. They return for physics, where class starts when everyone quiets down. Teachers and students address each other by first names. About the only classroom rules are no cellphones, no iPods and no hats.

Every three years, 15-year-olds in 57 countries around the world take a test called the Pisa exam, which measures proficiency in math, science and reading.
• The test:2 Two sections from the Pisa science test
• Chart:3 Recent scores for participating countries

Fanny's more rebellious classmates dye their blond hair black or sport pink dreadlocks. Others wear tank tops and stilettos to look tough in the chilly climate. Tanning lotions are popular in one clique. Teens sift by style, including "fruittari," or preppies; "hoppari," or hip-hop, or the confounding "fruittari-hoppari," which fuses both. Ask an obvious question and you may hear "KVG," short for "Check it on Google, you idiot." Heavy-metal fans listen to Nightwish, a Finnish band, and teens socialize online at

The Norssi School is run like a teaching hospital, with about 800 teacher trainees each year. Graduate students work with kids while instructors evaluate from the sidelines.
Teachers must hold master's degrees, and the profession is highly competitive: More than 40 people may apply for a single job. Their salaries are similar to those of U.S. teachers, but they generally have more freedom.

Finnish teachers pick books and customize lessons as they shape students to national standards. "In most countries, education feels like a car factory. In Finland, the teachers are the entrepreneurs," says Mr. Schleicher, of the Paris-based OECD, which began the international student test in 2000.

One explanation for the Finns' success is their love of reading. Parents of newborns receive a government-paid gift pack that includes a picture book. Some libraries are attached to shopping malls, and a book bus travels to more remote neighborhoods like a Good Humor truck.

Ymmersta school principal Hannele Frantsi

Finland shares its language with no other country, and even the most popular English-language books are translated here long after they are first published. Many children struggled to read the last Harry Potter book in English because they feared they would hear about the ending before it arrived in Finnish. Movies and TV shows have Finnish subtitles instead of dubbing. One college student says she became a fast reader as a child because she was hooked on the 1990s show "Beverly Hills, 90210."

In November, a U.S. delegation visited, hoping to learn how Scandinavian educators used technology. Officials from the Education Department, the National Education Association and the American Association of School Librarians saw Finnish teachers with chalkboards instead of whiteboards, and lessons shown on overhead projectors instead of PowerPoint. Keith Krueger was less impressed by the technology than by the good teaching he saw. "You kind of wonder how could our country get to that?" says Mr. Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking, an association of school technology officers that organized the trip.

Finnish high-school senior Elina Lamponen saw the differences firsthand. She spent a year at Colon High School in Colon, Mich., where strict rules didn't translate into tougher lessons or dedicated students, Ms. Lamponen says. She would ask students whether they did their homework. They would reply: " 'Nah. So what'd you do last night?'" she recalls. History tests were often multiple choice. The rare essay question, she says, allowed very little space in which to write. In-class projects were largely "glue this to the poster for an hour," she says. Her Finnish high school forced Ms. Lamponen, a spiky-haired 19-year-old, to repeat the year when she returned.

At the Norssi School in Jyväskylä, school principal Helena Muilu

Lloyd Kirby, superintendent of Colon Community Schools in southern Michigan, says foreign students are told to ask for extra work if they find classes too easy.
He says he is trying to make his schools more rigorous by asking parents to demand more from their children.

Despite the apparent simplicity of Finnish education, it would be tough to replicate in the U.S. With a largely homogeneous population, teachers have few students who don't speak Finnish. In the U.S., about 8% of students are learning English, according to the Education Department. There are fewer disparities in education and income levels among Finns. Finland separates students for the last three years of high school based on grades; 53% go to high school and the rest enter vocational school. (All 15-year-old students took the PISA test.) Finland has a high-school dropout rate of about 4% -- or 10% at vocational schools -- compared with roughly 25% in the U.S., according to their respective education departments.

Another difference is financial. Each school year, the U.S. spends an average of $8,700 per student, while the Finns spend $7,500. Finland's high-tax government provides roughly equal per-pupil funding, unlike the disparities between Beverly Hills public schools, for example, and schools in poorer districts. The gap between Finland's best- and worst-performing schools was the smallest of any country in the PISA testing. The U.S. ranks about average.

Finnish students have little angstata -- or teen angst -- about getting into the best university, and no worries about paying for it. College is free. There is competition for college based on academic specialties -- medical school, for instance. But even the best universities don't have the elite status of a Harvard.

Taking away the competition of getting into the "right schools" allows Finnish children to enjoy a less-pressured childhood. While many U.S. parents worry about enrolling their toddlers in academically oriented preschools, the Finns don't begin school until age 7, a year later than most U.S. first-graders.

Once school starts, the Finns are more self-reliant. While some U.S. parents fuss over accompanying their children to and from school, and arrange every play date and outing, young Finns do much more on their own.
At the Ymmersta School in a nearby Helsinki suburb, some first-grade students trudge to school through a stand of evergreens in near darkness. At lunch, they pick out their own meals, which all schools give free, and carry the trays to lunch tables. There is no Internet filter in the school library. They can walk in their socks during class, but at home even the very young are expected to lace up their own skates or put on their own skis.

The Finns enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world, but they, too, worry about falling behind in the shifting global economy. They rely on electronics and telecommunications companies, such as Finnish cellphone giant Nokia, along with forest-products and mining industries for jobs. Some educators say Finland needs to fast-track its brightest students the way the U.S. does, with gifted programs aimed at producing more go-getters. Parents also are getting pushier about special attention for their children, says Tapio Erma, principal of the suburban Olari School. "We are more and more aware of American-style parents," he says.

Mr. Erma's school is a showcase campus. Last summer, at a conference in Peru, he spoke about adopting Finnish teaching methods. During a recent afternoon in one of his school's advanced math courses, a high-school boy fell asleep at his desk. The teacher didn't disturb him, instead calling on others. While napping in class isn't condoned, Mr. Erma says, "We just have to accept the fact that they're kids and they're learning how to live."

Tampa, Fla.

They're bullish on testosterone here at the 6th Annual World Congress on the Aging Male.

Physicians and researchers from around the world gathered to review the latest findings on what low levels of the male hormone means for men, how replacing it might help and why it hasn't caught on broadly.

"If we had a drug that could restore sexual function in men, make them stronger, build their bones, reduce fat and get rid of the blues, you'd say, 'Oh my God, why doesn't everybody know about it?' " says Abraham Morgentaler, a urologist at Harvard Medical School and director of the Men's Health Boston clinic.

"There is a drug like that -- but the public associates testosterone with cheating and illicit behavior and the fact that 40 years ago, it was thought to give people prostate cancer."

Whether it does or not is still an open question. But many studies have shown that low testosterone is associated with reduced muscle mass, bone density, sexual function and vitality, and increased fatigue, depression, Type II diabetes and obesity -- particularly belly fat. Evidence is accumulating that restoring testosterone to normal can alleviate many of those problems.
Some studies suggest that boosting testosterone can boost muscle strength, bone density, sexual function and general quality of life in older men. But the risks remain unknown. So, is it a risk worth taking? "Men with low testosterone are miserable to live with -- they fall asleep after dinner and snap at everyone," says David Greenberg, a general practitioner in Toronto. "You restore it and they say, 'Wow, I feel like myself again.' "

But there's debate over which of the three forms of testosterone to measure, what level constitutes "low" and, most importantly, at what age. Testosterone declines naturally after age 40. So is a 70-year-old man deficient or just aging?

"The moment you add the element of aging, you add the element of ageism. It's giving things for sex to old men," says John E. Morley, director of geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University, who, like other experts quoted here has worked with makers of testosterone products.

"Everybody agrees that testosterone deficiency should be treated in younger men.
Why not treat it in older age groups?" says Ronald S. Swerdloff, chief of the endocrinology at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

Women lose estrogen much more abruptly in menopause, and replacing it to alleviate symptoms and maintain bone health has been standard practice for decades, though questions remain about the risk of breast cancer.

There are even more unknowns about the risks and benefits of testosterone replacement. For one thing, many of the symptoms of low testosterone are very common in older men and could be related to other conditions. Some, like obesity, may lead to low testosterone rather than vice versa.

And there is lingering concern that testosterone could fuel prostate cancer -- largely because drugs that reduce testosterone seem to shrink enlarged prostates and lower the risk of developing prostate cancer by 25%, according to the National Cancer Institute's Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial.

On the other hand, an analysis of 18 studies in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute last month concluded that there is no correlation between testosterone levels and prostate-cancer risk. Another study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that men with low testosterone had higher mortality rates in general than those with higher levels, regardless of other risk factors.

Some drug makers are testing oral variations of testosterone that would deliver the benefits without the potential prostate hazards. For now, testosterone is available mainly in injections, topical gels and patches. Nearly three million prescriptions were written in the U.S. in 2007, according to IMS Health, a health-information company.

Everyone here agrees that large-scale clinical trials are needed to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of testosterone therapy. One such trial has been proposed to the National Institutes of Health; and the New England Research Institutes is starting a registry of 1,000 patients, half in the U.S. and half in Europe, to follow for two years.

In the meantime, some doctors are wary of treating older men until more is known. "If your patient is an old man who's grumpy and not the stud he used to be, you could give him testosterone for a few months and see what happens," says Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, chief of epidemiology at University of California, San Diego. "But no epidemiological results justify giving it to older men in general."

Starbucks' chairman and CEO, Howard Schultz, has embarked on an aggressive campaign to restore the company's luster after various missteps, such as selling glorified Egg McMuffins (bad) and hawking CDs by Kenny G (worse). Stores nationwide were shut down for a few hours Tuesday so that baristas could be retrained to work the espresso machines correctly. But if Mr. Schultz is eager to improve the Starbucks experience, there's a simple place he could start: Lose the tip jars.

During the second half of the 20th century, the practice of tipping largely retreated from American life. The earliest of tipped workers -- railroad porters -- gave way to flight attendants (the first of whom were registered nurses, whose station was deemed above gratuities). Gone are telegrams, the receipt of which required a tip. Men stopped getting shaved at barbershops -- where one stiffed the barber at one's peril. In June 1903, an unlucky New York streetcar conductor named John Shanno failed to tip his barber, Joseph Ferlanto. "I'll teach you not to forget to tip," Ferlanto screamed, and went all Sweeney Todd on him.

But after decades in which tipping was reserved almost exclusively for waiters, waitresses, hairdressers, cabdrivers and bellhops, the practice has begun to expand again. Typical is a sandwich shop in my neighborhood: Pay with a credit card and the signature slip urges the addition of a gratuity, all for a sack handed over a counter. This new expansion of everyday tipping has been driven by the near-ubiquitous tip jar, a phenomenon for which Starbucks bears no little responsibility, having brought the practice to every corner of the country.

For Starbucks' CEO, getting and giving tips are matters of significant self-regard. In his memoir, "Pour Your Heart Into It," Mr. Schultz recalls the degradations of his youthful days waiting tables in the Catskills. "I remember how terribly rude some of the guests were to me," Mr. Schultz writes.

"They would be brusque and demanding, and I'd run around and do my best to please them, and when they departed, they would leave only a meager tip." Mr. Schultz promised himself, were he to get rich: "I'm always going to be a big tipper."

One of Henry James's favorite ways to illustrate the naïveté and social insecurity of newly rich Americans in Europe was to show them lavishing excessive tips on everyone in sight. But such extravagance can also be a sign of an unpleasantly aristocratic impulse. The grand tip reached its modern zenith in Frank Sinatra, whose entourage had pockets full of neatly folded 50s and hundreds. At a signal from the Chairman, his hangers-on would "duke" -- Sinatra's lordly slang for his largess -- the lucky waiters, hat-check girls, doormen and anyone else nearby.

When tipping first caught on in the U.S., late in the 19th century, it was the old-world, aristocratic overtones of the practice that drew the most ire. An 1897 editorial in the New York Times declared tipping to be the "vilest of imported vices." The paper lamented not only that "we have men among us servile enough to accept their earnings in this form" but that others were willing "to reward the servility." Joining the chorus against "flunkyism," the Washington Post denounced tipping as "one of the most insidious and one of the most malignant evils" of modern life. Tipping was seen to foster a lord-and-vassal relationship that the prouder professions resisted. Well into the 1910s many bartenders refused gratuities as an insult to their status.

Opposed to vassalage and servility (except to the state, that is), communists have often targeted tipping. When George Orwell arrived in Barcelona in 1936 to fight in Spain's civil war, "almost my first experience was receiving a lecture from an hotel manager for trying to tip a lift-boy." In fact, one of the best arguments to be found in favor of tipping is that Fidel Castro tried to eradicate it in Cuba.

In America, receiving tips long ago lost any stigma; indeed, the "partners" at Starbucks regard their gratuities as an acknowledgment that they are more worthy than their counterparts at McDonalds. But making one's employees dependent on the kindness of strangers is not without cost.

Jim Romenesko, known for his media Web site, also runs the popular Starbucksgossip.com1, where baristas and customers post comments and questions about the chain. As Mr. Romenesko has noted, the most heated, vitriolic discussions are those on tipping. Most of the postings are by levelheaded employees who make it clear that they deliver good service tips or no. But there is no shortage of workers angry at the "cheap bastards" who risk getting secretly "decaffed" if they don't tip. One barista reminds customers: "I control your daily dose of crack!"

If the tip jar encourages staff animosity, it also makes many customers uncomfortable. On the Starbucksgossip site, plenty of coffee-drinkers echo Mark Twain's complaint about tipping: "We pay that tax knowing it to be unjust and an extortion; yet we go away with a pain at the heart if we think we have been stingy with the poor fellows."

We Americans see ourselves as generous -- we each want to tip a bit more than the average guy. Thus the actual average creeps ever higher. Not long ago, an 18% restaurant tip was a tad better than the 15% that was expected. Now I don't know anyone who tips less than 20%. Soon we'll feel the need to show our generosity by leaving 25% of the tab.

To resist the custom is to be radically antisocial, like "Mr. Pink," the crook played by Steve Buscemi in "Reservoir Dogs." He doesn't tip "because society says I gotta tip." When a fellow hoodlum avers that waitresses are underpaid, Mr. Pink answers: "She don't make enough money, she can quit."

Generous? No. But economically sound. It's not that we tip waiters because they are paid so little; they are paid so little because they can expect to make up the difference in tips. Starbucks is known for paying relatively well and providing respectable benefits. Yet, without the tip-jar take, the company would have to raise its wages commensurately to maintain the same caliber of employees.

Perhaps prices would rise too, but I suspect many would be happy to have the full, unambiguous cost of the transaction up on the board. As things stand, the tip jar subsidizes the company's payroll costs. So when you toss a dollar into the cup, you're really making a donation to Starbucks -- and I can think of needier beneficiaries.

The mob that set the American embassy in Belgrade ablaze had that intuitive sense crowds of this kind possess: a feeling of persecution and a "knowledge" of the enemy. Grant the Serbian nationalists, with their narrative of victimization and belligerent self-pity, their due: It was American power, deployed in the Balkans since the mid-1990s, which rescued the Muslims of Bosnia and Kosovo from the dark threat of Serbian nationalism.

In the early 1990s, it was said that Europe would put out the flames of the Balkans and shelter the Muslims of that region. But Europe averted its gaze from the pitiless campaigns of Serbian nationalism (the Croats, too, had been no friends of tolerance), and it was left for American power to come to the rescue of the beleaguered Muslims. The angry crowd in Serbia had it right: This new, impoverished state of Kosovo would have never seen the light of day without American patronage.

A rioter throws wood into the burning U.S. embassy in Belgrade, Serbia.

The Ottoman Turks brought Islam to the Balkans, but their power receded in the middle years of the 19th century. In his celebrated and disturbing work of fiction, "Bridge on the Drina," (1945), Bosnian-born Ivo Andric prophesied calamities for the Muslims. The power of the Turks had vanished "like an apparition," he wrote, yet the children of Islam "remained here, deceived and menaced like seaweed on dry land left to their own devices and their own evil fate." Andric was prescient: The dark nationalisms of the Balkans would eventually heap on the Muslims of these lands bottomless sorrow.

Communist leader Josip Tito gave the Muslims and other nationalities of the south Slavs a reprieve from the battles of faith and nationalism.

No sooner had the edifice he had maintained come apart, the Bosnians and the Kosovars would be hurled into a battle for their very survival.

On one cruel day in the summer of 1995, some 7,000 people, men and young boys, were herded out of the town of Srebrenica by General Ratko Mladic, of the Bosnian Serb army, and executed in cold blood. When it fell to the Serbs, the town was flying the flag of the United Nations, it was a "safe area," patrolled by Dutch troops. But the peacekeepers had simply handed it over to the Serbs and made their way to safety.

Srebrenica shamed Bill Clinton who had tried his best, over 30 long, bloody months, to stay out of the war for Yugoslavia. (Here he was true to the policy of his predecessor, George H.W. Bush, who along with his advisors, believed that America had no dog in that Balkan fight, as the inimitable James Baker so famously put it.)

After Srebrenica, appeasement of the Serbs came to a swift end, and America would give the Muslims of Bosnia a chance at some normalcy. America was now in the Balkans, the Muslim children of the Ottoman Empire had become wards of the Pax Americana.

And so a Balkan mantra would come to pass: "The Yugoslav crisis began in Kosovo, and it will end in Kosovo." It was on the outskirts of Pristina, Kosovo's principal city, on June 28, 1989, that Slobodan Milosevic, the arsonist who lit the fuse of Yugoslavia's wars, recast himself from a communist party hack into a great nationalist avenger.

It was a day fraught with symbolism: the anniversary of what the Serbs take to be the central drama and epic of their history, their defeat in 1389 at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, on the Field of Blackbirds.

In their self-pitying epic, fate had been cruel to the Serbs -- their capital, Belgrade was destroyed 40 times, their holy lands in Kosovo lost to the infidels, overwhelmed by the Albanians. Kosovo may indeed have been the cradle of the Serbian Church: But in the 1980s and 1990s, the Serbs were deserting Kosovo by the day, and by the time it descended into mayhem, they accounted for less than 10% percent of the province's population.

It would have been the better part of wisdom to let well enough alone, but Serbia's grief over setbacks in Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia, and Serbia's vanity, broke the fragile peace of Kosovo. There had been autonomy for the Kosovars, the regime in Belgrade annulled it. There had been a constitution that gave the Kosovars a measure of protection within Serbia, but the Milosevic regime shredded all that.

Then the Kosovars declared their own independence in 1990. That declaration was in vain, only Albania recognized the new entity.

It would take an American-led NATO campaign, an air war of 11 weeks, in 1999, to make Serbia abandon its project of conquest and tyranny in Kosovo. Milosevic had played cat-and-mouse with Washington and Brussels, and had bet on the Russians coming to his rescue. He was in for the surprise of his life: The air campaign was a substitute for a ground war that American and European leaders were eager to avoid.

The Serbs (and the Croats) had been warning of an "Islamic crescent" in the Balkans; they had depicted themselves as standing at the ramparts of Christendom, fighting the wars of the West. This was bigotry and delusion: Islam of the Balkan variety was tolerant and pluralistic, the religion of people who had an enlightened view of their faith, and who lived at the crossroads of civilizations.

Some jihadists, it is true, made their way to the Balkans from the Middle East and North Africa but their zeal was alien to these secularized children of Islam. In the most telling metaphor of this civilizational drama, some jihadists brought the seeds of the palm trees of their habitat. Those seedlings would not take and died. Only apple trees grew here, said a man of the Balkans.

The air war launched by NATO ended the Serbian reign of terror in Kosovo, and made that province a NATO protectorate.

The day of reckoning was put off -- but the declaration of independence by the Kosovars on Feb. 17 has now resolved the ambiguity of Kosovo's status.

There are no angels in the Balkans, and the Albanian inheritors of Kosovo who were forged by a bitter military struggle against the Serbs will have to tread carefully. They will have to show qualities of mercy and moderation that have not been in ample supply on the Balkan soil. Too much history, too little geography, it has been said of the Balkan Peninsula and its terrible wars.

And in Muslim lands? There has been silence about American deeds in the Balkans. The drums of anti-Americanism are steady, and no one has stepped forth to acknowledge American mercy and American protection. Precious few, even in "moderate" Muslim lands, own up to the fact that Islam survived in Sarajevo only because American power rescued it from the Serbo-Croat campaign of the 1990s.

And yet today, in this tale of Kosovo, the willfulness in Muslim lands is easy to see. Whether Muslims acknowledge it or not, whether Americans themselves admit it or not, the Pax Americana is the provider of order of last resort in the lands of Islam.

In less than two decades, there have been American campaigns of rescue in Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Two of these American wars, the ones in the Balkans, were on behalf of Muslims stranded in a hostile European landscape. In its refusal to acknowledge the debt owed American power, Muslim society tells us a good deal about its modern condition, and about that false, mindless anti-Americanism on the loose in Muslim lands.

U.S. Senator John McCain
"Reagan's Disciple is the ideal antidote for the superficial and imitative analysis that seems to dominate the coverage of George W. Bush. For those looking for a deeper and fairer understanding of the strengths and flaws of his presidency, and for penetrating observations about Ronald Reagan's enduring influence on this country, this is the book to read."

Kenneth M. Duberstein, former Reagan White House chief of staff
"Lou and Carl, as usual, get it right. Uncommon anecdotes, insights, and analysis that catalogue why one president soared--and one didn't. They tell it like it was, and like it is."

Discover the tender gritty, self-told survival story of a teenage addict. Here is a cant-tear-yourself-away look at what can happen to the one-in-five teenagers who have a drinking problem. At age six, author Jennifer Storm was already stealing sips of her mothers crème de menthe. By age 13, she was binge drinking and well on her way to regular use of cocaine and LSD. She anesthetized herself to many of the harsh realities of her young lifeincluding her own misunderstandings about her sexual orientation which made her even more vulnerable to victimization.
As a young teen, Jennifers life was awash in alcohol, drugs, and the trauma of rape. The upside is that Jennifer came through untold darkness to create for herself a life of accomplishment and joy. Her remarkably tender and telling story proves that forgiveness and redemption are more than possible through recovery and a commitment to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Jennifer Storm is the executive director of the Victim/Witness Assistance Program in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In 2002, Governor Edward G. Rendell appointed Storm as a commissioner to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. Her media appearances include frequent live and taped interviews on all major networks as a spokesperson for victims' rights.

She has been profiled and appeared in We, Women, Central Penn Business Journal, Rolling Stone, Time, and many local and statewide newspapers. This is her first book.

“The Changing of the Guard”
The Twilight Zone episode

Scene from "The Changing of the Guard"
Episode no. Season 3
Episode 102
Written by Rod Serling
Directed by Robert Ellis Miller
Guest stars Donald Pleasence : Professor Ellis Fowler
Liam Sullivan : Headmaster
Production no. 4835
Original airdate June 1, 1962
Episode chronology
← Previous Next →
"Cavender Is Coming" "In His Image"
List of Twilight Zone episodes

"The Changing of the Guard" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone.

* 1 Synopsis
* 2 Trivia
* 3 Critical Response
* 4 See also
* 5 References
* 6 External links

Please help improve this article or section by expanding it.
Further information might be found on the talk page or at requests for expansion. (January 2008)

Professor Ellis Fowler is an elderly teacher who is forced into retirement by his school. Looking through his old yearbooks and reminiscing about his former students, he becomes convinced that all of his lessons have been in vain and that he has accomplished nothing with his life.
Deeply depressed, he returns to his school one last time intending to kill himself. Before he can commit suicide, the ghosts of former students reappear to prove that his teachings were very much appreciated.

Trivia sections are discouraged under Wikipedia guidelines.
The article could be improved by integrating relevant items and removing inappropriate ones.

* Donald Pleasence was heavily made-up in order to appear much older than his actual age of 42.

* The quote Professor Fowler reads on the statue's plinth, “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity,” is the motto of Rod Serling’s alma mater Antioch College, and was said by its first president, Horace Mann. Serling accepted a teaching post there after completing this script.

Critical Response

Andrew Sarris, excerpt from Rod Serling: Viewed from Beyond the Twilight Zone:
“ It should be noted, however, that much of Serling’s fantasy and science fiction writing is somewhat genteel by today’s scary, paranoid standards. Although he has acknowledged Hemingway as an early stylistic influence, there are echoes in his recurringly pastoral nostalgia of such wistful authors as Thornton Wilder, Christopher Morley, Robert Nathan, and James Hilton. Indeed Hilton’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips could have served as the model for “The Changing of the Guard” with Donald Pleasence cast in the role of Professor Ellis Fowler, an old crock who is being retired after 51 years of service.
Convinced that his life’s work has been a waste, he is reassured only by the testimony of ghosts of students past that his teachings have been applied and absorbed. This fantasy is so gentle, uncomplicated and sentimental that one is brought up short by the seeming absence of a disquieting twist in the plot, which one could suppose is that self-same twist. ”

See also

* The Twilight Zone (1959 TV series)
* Episode List
* Season 3


* Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition)

External links

* The Changing of the Guard at the Internet Movie Database
* episode page

A little over a year ago, NASA announced it had found strong evidence of liquid water flowing, at least temporarily, on the surface of Mars. Pictures taken a few years apart showed flow-like gullies in the sides of craters, and there were a few different pieces of evidence that these were due to sudden flooding of liquid water downhill. Here are the original shots:

However, a new study just released says that these images fit better with being dry grains flowing downhill.
The researchers, led by Jon D. Pelletier of The University of Arizona, used HiRISE, the very high-resolution camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, to look at the same regions as observed before. By taking images at different angles, they could establish a digital elevation model, a topographical map of the same crater shown in the earlier announcement.
They then modeled the way liquid water would flow under Martian conditions compared to how dry grains would flow. To their surprise, they found that dry grains were a better match. From their press release:
“The dry granular case was the winner,” said Pelletier, … “I was surprised. I started off thinking we were going to prove it’s liquid water.”
Finding liquid water on the surface of Mars would indicate the best places to look for current life on Mars, said co-author Alfred S. McEwen, a UA professor of planetary sciences.
“What we’d hoped to do was rule out the dry flow model — but that didn’t happen,” said McEwen, the HiRISE principal investigator and director of UA’s Planetary Image Research Laboratory.
An avalanche of dry debris is a much better match for their calculations and also what their computer model predicts, said Pelletier and McEwen.
While this isn’t conclusive, it does seem compelling (they can’t rule out very thick mud, incidentally). The press release doesn’t have any statements from the scientists who made the previous announcement about water, and I’ll be very curious indeed to hear what they have to say.
If it holds up, it’s too bad. I’d love to see better evidence of ubiquitous water on (or immediately under) the surface of Mars. But facing reality is what we have to do. Of course, as our tools get better, we’ll get better at figuring this stuff out, too.
It helps that so many people involved are so very clever.
A final note: I reread my original blog post about the announcement of possible water. While I think the content of my post was suitably skeptical, I let my feelings get away from me a bit in the headline: "LIQUID WATER ON MARS!" Hmmmm. Looks like sometimes I need to remember my own advice.
American International Group Inc. swung to a fourth-quarter net loss on a $11.12 billion pre-tax write-down on the value of insurance contracts tied to mortgages.

Shares fell in after-hours trading as the company said it expected to report more unrealized market valuation losses and impairment charges in 2008.

The New York insurance giant reported a net loss of $5.29 billion, or $2.08 a share, compared with net income of $3.44 billion, or $1.31 a share, a year earlier.

Results in the latest quarter also included pretax net realized capital losses of $2.63 billion primarily from other-than-temporary impairment charges in AIG's investment portfolio, with an additional $643 million pretax other-than-temporary impairment charge related to available-for-sale investment securities.
These charges resulted primarily from rapid declines in market values of residential mortgage-backed securities.

The prior-year quarter's results included a pretax net realized capital gains of $238 million.

Excluding items, such as the $11.12 billion write-down related to a decline in value of credit default swaps, which are financial instruments used to insure against default of certain securities, the company lost $1.25 a share compared with earnings of $1.47 a year earlier.

Analysts' mean estimates were for earnings of 60 cents a share on revenue of $29.83 billion, according to a poll by Thomson Financial.

Chief Executive Martin Sullivan said, "During 2008, we expect the U.S. housing market to remain weak and credit market uncertainty will likely persist. Continuing market deterioration would cause AIG to report additional unrealized market valuation losses and impairment charges."

He called AIG's results in 2007 "clearly unsatisfactory."

Earlier this month, AIG disclosed in an Securities and Exchange Commission filing that its outside accountants had found "material weakness" in its accounting systems and were forcing it to boost its fourth-quarter write-down of the value of insurance contracts.

In a press release Thursday, AIG said it "continues to believe that the unrealized market valuation losses on this super senior credit default swap portfolio are not indicative of the losses it may realize over time. Based upon its most current analyses, AIG believes that any credit impairment losses realized over time will not be material to AIG's consolidated financial condition, although it is possible that realized losses could be material to AIG's consolidated results of operations for an individual reporting period."

AIG's shares fell 12% after that accounting announcement to $44.74, a five-year low. They were at $49.15, down $1, or 2%, in after-hours trading Thursday.

The company faces other challenges confronting the insurance industry, such as the inability to raise premiums because of competition. Problems in the housing market were among the reasons that AIG's mortgage insurance unit, United Guaranty Residential Insurance Co., recorded a $348 million operating loss compared with operating income of $27 million a year earlier.

Profit also fell 22% in general insurance operations.

Mount Lycaeon, in Arcadia, was a place of cult worship and sacrifice to Zeus Lycaeus. A temple and altar stood on the mountain's highest summit. The Arcadians believed Zeus Lycaeus was born in the district of Mount Lycaeon. They celebrated the Lycaea in Zeus' honor; however, ironically, the events of the originating myth of the Lycaea brought Zeus' wrath.
NASA’s Swift observatory is designed to detect high-energy radiation coming from the most powerful explosions in the Universe: gamma-ray bursts.

But it’s also equipped with a more normal telescope, one that has a 30 centimeter mirror — that’s smaller than the one I have in my garage! But, this telescope is in space, so the atmosphere doesn’t blur out the images.
More importantly, the air above our heads absorbs ultraviolet light, preventing ground-based telescopes from even seeing any UV light.
So Swift’s UVOT (Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope) may not be big, but it can easily see UV coming from astronomical objects. And it has a wide field of view, allowing it to get fantastic images of bigger things… like galaxies.

That’s M33 (click to embiggen), a very nearby galaxy; it’s part of our neighborhood of galaxies called the Local Group. It’s a hair under 3 million light years away, and it’s smaller than the Milky Way, about half our size and a tenth our mass. It’s actually visible with binoculars as a fuzzy patch not too far from its big brother, the Andromeda galaxy.
The funny thing is, we know that UV light is predominantly given off by star-forming regions in galaxies; gas clouds where stars are actively being born. The amount of UV from M33 indicates that it is ablaze with stars, cranking them out at a rate far higher than the Milky Way. So even though it’s a bit on the smallish side, it’s certainly pulling its weight when it comes to making stars.
This image is pretty cool. It’s a mosaic of 39 individual images totaling 11 hours of exposure time, using three different UV filters, and it’s the most detailed UV image of an entire galaxy ever taken. Not bad for a telescope built to do an entirely different kind of science!
I worked on the education and public outreach for Swift for several years, and I remember first reading about the UVOT and thinking, wow that’s a pretty small telescope.
I wonder what it will be able to do? Then after a moment or two of some mental math I began to realize that this was in fact a fairly powerful telescope; it’s no Hubble, but it can do some terrific science. And it can also make some very pretty pictures.

Ulysses’s odyssey comes to an end
You may have already heard that scientists have decided that is it time for the solar satellite Ulysses to shed this mortal coil.

Ulysses was launched from the Space Shuttle back in 1990, and was designed to operate for 5 years. Now, over 17 years later, its radioactive power source has finally decayed to the point where power is a serious issue.
They’ve decided that in a few months they’ll shut it off, after an extraordinary mission.
Ulysses didn’t take pictures, so you may never have heard of its breakthrough science. It was the first machine to directly detect interstellar dust particles and helium atoms in our solar system, literally, interlopers from another star. It took unprecedented data of the Sun and its magnetic field, and did so continuously for so long that we now have an excellent baseline for such measurements, including over an entire sunspot cycle*.
For me, the most interesting aspect of the mission was that it was in a solar polar orbit: instead of sticking to the orbital plane of the planets like most probes, it was actually sent into an orbit nearly perpendicular to the orbit of the planets, so that it could peer straight down over the solar poles, an aspect we had never witnessed before.

Getting a probe into an orbit like this is hard. Why? Because the Earth orbits the Sun pretty quickly, at 30 km/s (18 miles/second). You need to mostly negate that velocity for a probe to end up perpendicular to the plane of Earth’s orbit, and then you need to give it a huge velocity "down", south if you will, to get it in that orbit (or up, of course, but in this case Ulysses was sent down). No rocket we have now (or in 1990) could do that.
So we borrowed energy from one of the biggest sources we have: Jupiter. Ulysses was launched toward the giant planet, and using a slingshot maneuver launched itself down, down, and away, into the polar orbit around the Sun. While it was at Jupiter it took lots of scientific measurements, and has been sending back data ever since.
But now that’s over. With the power source dying, it cannot keep energy flowing to its instruments, communication devices, and also be able to heat the hydrazine fuel it uses for maneuvering (this is the same stuff the spysat that was recently destroyed — and many other satellites — use for fuel).
When Ulysses’s orbit takes it out to Jupiter’s distance once again, it’s so cold that the probe has a hard time keeping its fuel from freezing. All of these together mean it’s time for Ulysses to say its goodbyes.
My only regret for this mission? It didn’t swing by the asteroid 201 Penelope.
Panspermia is the idea that life on Earth originated in space and was seeded here by some event. This covers a lot of ground sky: comets, Mars, Venus, aliens, and so on.

The idea isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds. It’s more medium-fetched. Mars is smaller and farther from the Sun, so therefore it cooled faster than Earth did after the period of heavy asteroid and comet bombardment a billion or so years after the planets formed. It may have had oceans and better conditions for the start of basic life before the Earth had cooled enough.
But if life started up first on Mars, how did it get here?
Asteroid impacts. The idea is that a smallish asteroid could have hit Mars and launched quite a bit of Martian territory into space. Eventually this could hit Earth. We know this can happen; we have samples of meteorites that are clearly form Mars; the isotope ratios of the chemicals in the meteorites matches what we know of Mars’s atmosphere.
Heck, I used to own a small Mars meteorite myself, until it fell out of my bag and I lost it, arrrrggggg!
Anyway, if some of that Martian ground had bugs in it of the protozoan kind, then they could make it to Earth.

Of course, there are hazards. They’re in space a long time, so they have to survive that. They also have to survive the fall to Earth. It’s not clear they could live through either event. And before that, they have to survive the enormous pressure of being smacked by an asteroid impact.
But a new paper that just came out in the peer-reviewed journal Astrobiology says that some bacteria could, in fact, survive the initial launch event. Amazingly, the enormous pressure generated in an asteroid impact on the surface of Mars may be survivable, if you’re really really tiny.
The researcher made models of the Martian ground seeded with bacteria, then subjected these samples to the pressures expected in an impact event. Amazingly, many of the bacteria survived. Lichens and bacteriospores did the best, surviving pressures from 5 - 40 billion Pascals, which is about 50,000 to 400,000 atmospheric pressures. That’s a lot. Cyanobacteria were the wussies of the lot, only surviving up to 100,000 atmospheric pressures.
Mind you, a human would be less than a greasy smear at that kind of pressure.
Anyway, this is pretty interesting stuff. It doesn’t say that the buggers could survive the trip here (millions of years) and the entry into our atmosphere, but there are scenarios where those are possible.
On a personal note, I think panspermia is interesting and worth investigating, but some people think it’s the panacea to everything. Notably an astronomer named Chandra Wickramasinghe, who has made the fun claims that interstellar dust is actually made of clouds of E. coli, and that the flu is really a virus from space.
Still, when the study stays scientific, it’s worth a look.
I have seen no evidence at all that we actually did start on Mars or a comet or Somewhere Else, but it’s still possible such evidence will turn up. When we get to Mars, for example, what if we find DNA-based life? It’s much easier to get a rock from Mars to Earth than vice-versa (due to orbital and gravitational mechanics), so a find like that would be pretty conclusive. Until then, we have to do what we can to figure out what it was like for such interplanetary interlopers each step of the way. And the first step appears to be viable.
Oh– I cover some of this in my upcoming book, too. After all, if bugs might have made it here three billion years ago, they might make it today. Can we get wiped out by alien bacteria? Well, no, but read the book anyway.
More than a trillion tons of methane lie trapped in permafrost and under frozen lakes in the Arctic. As the region thaws, the gas—a huge potential source of alternative energy—is bubbling out, simultaneously attracting venture capitalists and worrying climatologists. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that methane locked in ice (known as hydrates) could contain more organic carbon than all the world’s coal, oil, and nonhydrate natural gas combined. But that isn’t the only reason to keep track of methane release. Because of the way methane absorbs warmth radiating from Earth, it is as much as 21 times more heat-trapping—and thus climate-warming—than carbon dioxide. Yet current models of climate change do not take into consideration the potential impact of methane.

Katey Walter, a researcher at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, has spent the past few years mapping and measuring hot spots of methane emission in the rapidly melting regions of Alaska and Siberia. In a recent study, Walter and her team predict that if these methane reservoirs melt over the next 100 years, the gas released could re-create climate conditions that prevailed during a 2,500-year warming spell that began 14,000 years ago.
advertisement | article continues below

Walter mapped likely methane deposits across the region; quantified how much methane, formed when permafrost melts, is bubbling out of current lakes; and compared that with the amount emitted from methane-laden sediments taken from ancient frozen lakes.

She determined that 11,000 years ago methane released from thawing lakes contributed 33 to 87 percent of atmospheric methane. After that, melting slowed for the next 9,000 years and the lakes refroze. But now due to global warming over the past 100 years, methane release in the Arctic seems to be accelerating, Walter says, and left unchecked, it will continue to rise well above the levels found 10,000 years ago.

A 386,000-square-mile tract of permafrost in Siberia contains as much as 55 billion tons of potential methane, Walter says —10 times the amount currently in the atmosphere. Several companies, including BMW, have expressed interest in methane-to-energy technologies for large-scale operations.

Walter sees the benefits of using methane as an energy source as twofold: “Not only does it prevent a potent greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere by converting it to weaker greenhouse gases—water vapor and carbon dioxide—but using it on-site would also reduce the demand for other fossil-fuel sources.”

Vitamin A is essential for the production of testosterone. Could our high fiber low fat diets have anything to do with low testerone levels?

High quality cod liver oil is an excellent source of both vitamins A&D, not to mention essential fatty acids EPA and DHA.

My boyhood baseball hero Rich "Goose" Gossage made it into the baseball Hall of Fame last week. His 98-mph fastball and 22-year career as a fearsome relief pitcher were achieved without the use of steroids. His best years were back in the '70s and early '80s when men were men and made their own testosterone naturally. But even the most macho among us face a decline in the quintessential male hormone as we age. Recent evidence points to a decline in testosterone levels in the general population of men, regardless of age.

A 20-year study of testosterone levels in men found that testosterone concentrations dropped about 1.2% per year, or about 17% overall, from 1987 to 2004. The downward trend was seen in both the population and in individuals over time.

What happened to our testosterone? Did the ballplayers siphon it off? Some theorize changes in the environment are responsible for the broad decline. A physician friend who works out regularly told me recently that he could really start to feel the effects of his age after he hit his 40s. The signs: Slower recovery from activity, less tolerance of long hours and less muscle flexibility.

Testosterone levels start to drop for most men in middle age. For those wanting to start their testosterone decline sooner than that, getting married may help.

Married men have lower testosterone levels than single guys. A recent study among the Ariaal people in Kenya showed that unmarried men had higher testosterone levels than men with a single wife. men with two or more wives had even lower testosterone than those with one.

It's estimated that two million to four million American men have a significant testosterone deficiency and that less than 5% of them are getting treatment. That mirrors what I see in my own practice. Most men who might need treatment don't come in with any regularity. Overall, I'm probably not helping as many men with the problem as I need to.

Low testosterone may lead to loss of body hair, sleep disturbance, sweats, depression, impaired thinking, lower bone mass and strength, fatigue and weak bones. Some signs are more subtle. Decreases in sex drive, energy, motivation, initiative, aggressiveness and self-confidence are other signals. Testosterone levels can be measured with a blood test. It's best to have it done before 10 a..m. because levels fluctuate during the day.

I discovered one of my patients was low on testosterone after he fell during a minor mishap and unexpectedly broke his forearm. He turned out to have osteoporosis due to low testosterone. He developed type 2 diabetes around the same time. Adult onset diabetes in men is also associated with low testosterone.

Carrying extra weight around the middle and a drop in muscle mass were warning signals that became clear after the fact. Low testosterone levels are increasingly prevalent and often under diagnosed by the medical community. It's one of those chronic things that can drag on for years without much beyond vague symptoms that a guy might wonder about but not come in over. Doctors often overlook it because other important and more pressing health problems.

How do you separate what's normal aging from a serious medical problem? And how bad would it have to be before you would bring it up with your doctor? Men, do you find it difficult to discuss "nonpressing" issues with your doctor? What about sex-related disorders like erectile dysfunction and lowered sex drive? Women, do you have a tough time convincing the men in your life to seek medical counsel? Share your views on the board.

Some two in 10 men over the age of 60 are testosterone deficient. Still, many men aren't aware that their testosterone levels are low or that there's a treatment available if they have symptoms from a deficiency.

Most commonly, gels, patches or injections are given to correct the deficiency.
There can be side effects such as acne and oily skin, increases in red blood cells that could be potentially harmful and, in a worse-case scenario, acceleration of prostate cancer growth if an undiagnosed tumor is present.

This is one situation where more of a medication isn't necessarily better and the levels of testosterone need to be monitored along with prostate exams, blood work for PSA testing, liver function testing and blood counts.

Men with erectile dysfunction should have their heart and their testosterone levels checked because there is much more at stake than just their sex life.

ED is associated with heart disease, and the smallest arteries responsible for erections are often the first to clog. If you have ED and haven't had your heart checked, you should. If you have ED and your Viagra isn't working, you should have your testosterone levels checked.

Compared with our knowledge of estrogen replacement for menopausal women relatively little is known about the long-term effects of testosterone supplementation in men. There were years when estrogen replacement was commonly prescribed for women with the expectation that it was beneficial for all sorts of ills. When large clinical trials were done we found out that risks for breast cancer and heart problems were higher for women taking hormones and that some benefits were overstated.

One thing is certain: Testosterone is not a magic medicine that will halt aging.

Steroids should stay banned from baseball, but in medicine they have their place. Despite all the testosterone in the world I'm never going to get a hit off the Goose. Even if he is 56.

Tampa, Fla.

They're bullish on testosterone here at the 6th Annual World Congress on the Aging Male.

Physicians and researchers from around the world gathered to review the latest findings on what low levels of the male hormone means for men, how replacing it might help and why it hasn't caught on broadly.

"If we had a drug that could restore sexual function in men, make them stronger, build their bones, reduce fat and get rid of the blues, you'd say, 'Oh my God, why doesn't everybody know about it?' " says Abraham Morgentaler, a urologist at Harvard Medical School and director of the Men's Health Boston clinic.
"There is a drug like that -- but the public associates testosterone with cheating and illicit behavior and the fact that 40 years ago, it was thought to give people prostate cancer."

Whether it does or not is still an open question. But many studies have shown that low testosterone is associated with reduced muscle mass, bone density, sexual function and vitality, and increased fatigue, depression, Type II diabetes and obesity -- particularly belly fat. Evidence is accumulating that restoring testosterone to normal can alleviate many of those problems.

"Men with low testosterone are miserable to live with -- they fall asleep after dinner and snap at everyone," says David Greenberg, a general practitioner in Toronto. "You restore it and they say, 'Wow, I feel like myself again.' "

But there's debate over which of the three forms of testosterone to measure, what level constitutes "low" and, most importantly, at what age.
Testosterone declines naturally after age 40. So is a 70-year-old man deficient or just aging?

"The moment you add the element of aging, you add the element of ageism. It's giving things for sex to old men," says John E. Morley, director of geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University, who, like other experts quoted here has worked with makers of testosterone products.

"Everybody agrees that testosterone deficiency should be treated in younger men.
Why not treat it in older age groups?" says Ronald S. Swerdloff, chief of the endocrinology at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

Women lose estrogen much more abruptly in menopause, and replacing it to alleviate symptoms and maintain bone health has been standard practice for decades, though questions remain about the risk of breast cancer.

There are even more unknowns about the risks and benefits of testosterone replacement.

For one thing, many of the symptoms of low testosterone are very common in older men and could be related to other conditions. Some, like obesity, may lead to low testosterone rather than vice versa.

And there is lingering concern that testosterone could fuel prostate cancer -- largely because drugs that reduce testosterone seem to shrink enlarged prostates and lower the risk of developing prostate cancer by 25%, according to the National Cancer Institute's Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial.

On the other hand, an analysis of 18 studies in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute last month concluded that there is no correlation between testosterone levels and prostate-cancer risk. Another study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that men with low testosterone had higher mortality rates in general than those with higher levels, regardless of other risk factors.

Some drug makers are testing oral variations of testosterone that would deliver the benefits without the potential prostate hazards. For now, testosterone is available mainly in injections, topical gels and patches.
Nearly three million prescriptions were written in the U.S. in 2007, according to IMS Health, a health-information company.

Everyone here agrees that large-scale clinical trials are needed to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of testosterone therapy. One such trial has been proposed to the National Institutes of Health; and the New England Research Institutes is starting a registry of 1,000 patients, half in the U.S. and half in Europe, to follow for two years.

In the meantime, some doctors are wary of treating older men until more is known.
"If your patient is an old man who's grumpy and not the stud he used to be, you could give him testosterone for a few months and see what happens," says Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, chief of epidemiology at University of California, San Diego. "But no epidemiological results justify giving it to older men in general."

The Jerusalem Post is an Israeli daily English language broadsheet newspaper, founded on December 1, 1932, by Gershon Agron as The Palestine Post. While the daily readership numbers (tens of thousands) do not approach those of the major Hebrew newspapers, the Jerusalem Post has a much broader reach than these other newspapers in that their readership is composed of Israeli politicians, foreign journalists, tourists, and also distributed worldwide. Whilst it was once regarded as left-wing, the paper underwent a noticeable shift to the right in the late 1980s. Under new ownership and editorial leadership of editor-in-chief David Horovitz since 2004, the paper's political identity has moved again to a more complex centrist position.
Examples of this shift include support for the August 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip and the paper's advocacy for privatization of Israeli religious institutions.

The Palestine Post was founded on December 1, 1932 by American journalist-turned-newspaper-editor, Gershon Agron in the British Mandate of Palestine. During its time as The Palestine Post, the publication supported the struggle for a Jewish homeland in Palestine and openly opposed British policy restricting Jewish immigration during the Mandate period.

On the evening of February 1, 1948, a car exploded outside the Jerusalem building housing the Palestine Post. The building also contained other newspaper offices, the British press censor, the Jewish settlement police, and a Hagana post with a cache of weapons.
The bomb destroyed the Hagana post, a large part of the Palestine Post offices, and badly damaged several nearby buildings. One typesetter died and about 20 people were injured. The morning edition of the Palestine Post appeared in reduced format.
The bombing was the work of Fawzi el-Kuttub, under the command of Arab leader Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni. Al-Husayni claimed responsibility for the bombing, but Hagana leaders did not believe that the Arab forces were capable of such operations and suspected various other parties, including Etzel, British forces, and "German saboteurs".

The newspaper's name was changed in 1950, two years after the state of Israel was declared and the Mandate of Palestine ended.

Until 1989 the Jerusalem Post supported the forerunners of the Labour Party and had a liberal or left of center political orientation. In 1989 it was purchased by Hollinger Inc. Under the control of Canadian conservative newspaper magnate Conrad Black the paper became supportive of the Likud.
A number of journalists resigned from the Post after Black's takeover and founded the left-wing weekly Jerusalem Report, which eventually was sold to the Post. On November 16, 2004, Hollinger sold the paper to Mirkaei Tikshoret Ltd., a Tel Aviv-based publisher of Israeli newspapers. CanWest Global Communications, Canada's biggest media concern, had announced an agreement to take a 50 percent stake in the Jerusalem Post after Mirkaei bought the property, but the Mirkaei pulled out of the deal. CanWest sued in court, but lost.

Currently the newspaper is viewed as having a moderate conservative slant on news coverage, although left-wing columns are often featured on the editorial pages.
It espouses economic positions close to those of neoliberalism: tight fiscal control on public spending, curbing of welfare, cutting taxes, and anti-union monopoly legislation, among others. The paper competes with the liberal Haaretz newspaper, which began publishing an English language edition in the 1990s as an insert to the International Herald Tribune.

As with other Israeli newspapers, the Jerusalem Post is published from Sunday to Friday, with no edition appearing on Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath) and Jewish religious holidays.

The current head editor is David Horovitz (formerly editor of the Jerusalem Report) who took over for current Wall Street Journal editorial board member Bret Stephens in 2004.

In print, the Jerusalem Post also publishes other editions geared for the local and foreign markets: a Christian Edition, French, 'International', as well as several kids and youth magazines. There is also a section titled "Iranian Threat". In 2007, it also started publishing a Hebrew-only business daily called The Business Post. The newspaper also maintains an online edition named

I wish I could draw. Instead of writing 1,000 words I would sketch a cartoon of Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas all dressed up for a wedding with nowhere to go. Not a pretty picture, I admit. But this was the image that sprang to mind as the two very odd friends argued about Jerusalem - not about its status, but about when to discuss it.

They reminded me of a couple so in love with the idea of getting married that they refuse to talk about any of the serious issues - like where to live or how to raise their children - for fear that their different ideas would trip them up on the way to the wedding canopy.

Such a marriage, if it takes place at all, is clearly doomed. Olmert and Abbas also know their chances of a happy union are slim.
They might march off to "Here comes the Bride," arguably Richard Wagner's best-known piece, but Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, with its convoluted plot full of fateful decisions and deceit, might be more suitable. In fact, Olmert and Abbas might not so much march off into the sunset ceremony as waddle, in the view of some. Speaking at last week's Jerusalem Conference, Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu warned: "The prime minister said that we are not talking about Jerusalem, and that we are leaving it until last. But I say, if it looks like a duck, and it walks like a duck, then they plan to divide Jerusalem." Perhaps I should alter my mental cartoon to include the image of lame ducks. Or sitting ducks. At least I should add some ruffled feathers.

Jerusalem is definitely what is now being called a "core issue." Obviously it must be resolved if a peace agreement is to be born of a union between Olmert and Abbas or any other unlikely couple. Like other core issues, such as the "right of return for refugees" and the eventual borders, it lies at the heart of the matter. Even the question of who has the right to decide Jerusalem's fate - the politicians, the voting public, or the Diaspora - has not been solved.

The press has obsessed over whether the question of Jerusalem is currently "on the table," "under the table," or tabled for a different round of discussions some time in the future when the smaller issues are out of the way.

Our bride, it seems, has a dress, a venue, a caterer and music in mind. She just doesn't have a date.

A groom under the huppa pledges: "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its cunning. If I do not raise thee over my own joy, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth." He then stamps on a glass in an act usually attributed to commemorating the destruction of the Temple.

Olmert might do well to put his foot down now and remember not just the destruction of the ancient sanctuary but also what his strange communion will mean for the future. Love might be blind but it is wise to go into marriage with your eyes wide open. Marriage requires compromise and sacrifice, it is true. In a happy marriage, however, they have to be made by both sides and be worth it.

The international community, including the US and the European states, are eager to attend this wedding. You can almost imagine George W. Bush and Tony Blair practicing their best-man speeches in the mirror. The presents will undoubtedly be lavish. Like wedding guests everywhere, the celebrants here, too, would be happy to eat, drink, dance and then go home to discuss the chances of the bride and groom living happily ever after.

Unfortunately, shlom bayit, domestic peace, is not likely to come out of these nuptials if the bride and groom can't even admit there is a problem to begin with. The guests want Israel and the PA to divide Jerusalem.
But Jerusalem is far more than a city. It cannot be cut up for convenience as if it were simply some triple-tiered wedding cake with a plastic bride and groom perched on top.

"If we withdraw from Jerusalem, Hamas will go in. It will turn into a haven for global terror. If you want peace in Jerusalem, leave it united," Netanyahu told the conference in the capital, addressing his voters.

Meanwhile, Olmert and Abbas each have their coalition and political situation to consider. As American humorist Will Rogers once noted: "Elections are a good deal like marriages. There's no accounting for anyone's taste. Every time we see a bridegroom we wonder why she ever picked him, and it's the same with public officials."

When the leader of the opposition is refreshing his slogans on the subject of a potentially divided Jerusalem (a winning tactic for Netanyahu in the 1996 elections) it is no surprise that the prime minister is promising Shas, his key coalition partner following the Israel Beiteinu walk-out, that the issue will be delayed until the final stage of the talks. The religious party is almost certain to follow in Israel Beiteinu's footsteps if Jerusalem is up for grabs and elections are in the air.

Thus, while Olmert pledges Jerusalem is not yet on the agenda, Palestinian Authority officials insist that Israel is "prepared to withdraw from almost all the Arab neighborhoods and villages in Jerusalem." And Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, while not forgetting Jerusalem, would rather not talk to the press about it altogether.

No wonder Shas MKs complain they are being accosted at weddings and other gatherings by those pushing for them to leave the government and bring Olmert down.

On the Palestinian side, negotiator and Abbas aide Yasser Abed Rabbo threatened that if Jerusalem and other issues are not resolved at this initial stage, the Palestinians will declare independence a la Kosovo. The warning was quickly downplayed by Abbas, however.

When he met Olmert at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on February 19 for their biweekly meeting, the status of the city apparently was not raised.

In a speech to the Presidents Conference of Major American Jewish Organizations on February 17, Olmert said he and Abbas had agreed to make Jerusalem the last item on the agenda because it was "the most sensitive and difficult" issue.

But Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat continues to insist: "Core issues are inseparable.
They are all one package, and there is no such agreement to exclude or delay any of them."

Clearly it's too early to send out the invitations. If the wedding goes ahead, we are likely to find that the confetti consists of shredded paper recording previous peace agreements. The guests might have a good time, but you can kiss the bride and groom goodbye. The world of realpolitik is not known for its fairy-tale endings.

Dog poop is nothing to sniff at -- a huge growth in the business has prompted the explosion of professional pooper scoopers around the country.
And many are competing to be Top Dog.

Last month, at the fifth annual convention of the Association of Professional Animal Waste Specialists, dog-poop picker-uppers faced off to see who had the best and quickest technique to pick up more than two dozen or so plastic poop. They were made to look like real ones and were scattered over a grassy area of an Atlanta hotel for the group's "Turd-Herding Contest: Rake, Shovel or Hand?" Some used special rakes and hoes, or forgo that method for gloved hands.
Dog poop is nothing to sniff at -- a huge growth in the business has prompted the explosion of professional pooper scoopers around the country. Many are competing to be Top Dog.

The boom in pet waste removal comes at a time when pet ownership is at an all-time high, yards are smaller than ever and home services are exploding as breadwinners are busier and don't have time to mess with the cleanup. Plus, stricter pooper-scooper laws and greater awareness of health hazards of doggie excrement have also helped prop the burgeoning industry. Some have even franchised their business, such as Pet Butler Franchise Services Inc. and DoodyCalls Franchising. aPAWS has grown from 12 businesses in 2002 to about 200 today.

It's a service that's becoming more popular, just like having someone clean the pool, wash the car, walk the dogs or clean the house. "They'd rather spend time with their kids, and play with their dog than picking up after them," says Timothy Stone, co-founder of the organization and owner of Scoop Masters USA Inc. of Santa Clarita, Calif.
Members typically charge about $8 to $10 per visit for one dog, once a week. Cheresee Rehart, owner of Yard Guards on Doody of Tampa, Fla., will be making $100,000 this year from her 110 customers -- a far cry from when she started the company in June 2003 with $40 to buy a book on professional pet waste scooping.

There are 74.8 million pet dogs in the U.S., according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association Inc. And a typical pooch produces 274 pounds of poo each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Last year, pet services accounted for $3 billion out of the total $41.2 billion spent on U.S. pets -- with annual expenses for dogs topping $1,425 per year.

In the first turd-herding contest held in St. Louis in January 2003, cut-up potatoes were used instead of fake poop, which is now used. This year, prunes were also added. Rules abound: Contestants must conduct their poop-scooping in the same manner as they would use normally around their clients, meaning "no shoving, jumping fences, urinating in public, dressing inappropriately." Also, running is prohibited and physical contact with the another contestant (like tackling, which has happened in past events) is a no-no.

In the industry, people have always debated what's the fastest method of picking up dog poop, Mr. Stone says. "So we just decided, why don't we just have the contest, and we'll see what's the fastest?"

This year, the title went to a teenager.

Christopher Trauco, a 19-year-old of Tyrone, Ga., owns Scoop D'Poo ( and was the youngest winner the contest has ever crowned as the aPaws "King of Crap." Mr. Trauco won by picking up 28 rubber poops in two minutes. He chose to not use a shovel or rake or any other doggy tool.

Rather, he used one latex glove and his right hand. He says he usually uses his hand in his business, because it saves more time and money on disinfectants.

"I was really worried about other people who decided to use tools," Mr. Trauco says. "It was a lot of pressure, and I wanted to win. It really helped that I was in athletics in high school."

Mr. Trauco started his own pooper-scooper business at 16. He runs about 20 miles a day and has also participated on a cheerleading squad.

He received an 11-inch high rectangular-shaped plaque with an embedded golden shovel. Second place ("The No. 2 Award") and third place winners scooped up 24 and 23 fake dog-turds, respectively. There were no tiebreakers, so no scoop-off.

That is because the world’s largest maker of generic drugs laid out some bold growth goals last Thursday at its investor day. Teva said it expects to double its revenue to $20 billion by 2012 and, aside from a couple of complimentary acquisitions, it expects to do so primarily through organic growth.

Swanson, though, believes that goal may be overly ambitious without significant M&A. “Teva has a history of sustained growth and shareholder value creation, lending credibility to its targets,” he writes. “Like its past history, however, we believe Teva will need to rely on significant M&A to achieve its goals.”

Citigroup projects that by 2012 Teva’s revenue will rise to $13.3 billion from $10 billion in 2007, meaning that to close the gap the Israeli company will need to add $6.7 billion in revenue through an acquisition or acquisitions.

Swanson points out that Teva should consider a purchase sooner rather than later.
Assuming that Teva could increase the acquired company’s operations 15% for five years, Teva would only need to find a company with $3.3 billion in revenue now. That means the longer Teva waits, the “financial parameters must be increasingly attractive to meet the earnings goals in a shorter time.” On top of that, the number of attractive candidates continues to shrink.

What companies would be on Teva’s wish list? Swanson expects Teva to consider a purchase that would bolster its international presence, especially in emerging markets. Such a deal, though, would face significant hurdles.
The most attractive targets, he says, such as Slovenia’s Krka or Hungary’s Gedeon Richter, each have obstacles ranging from their current valuation to significant government stakes, making a takeout difficult.

What does that leave? Swanson sees “one potential long-shot that runs counter to the ‘add-on’ philosophy expressed by the company: making a run at the combined Mylan/Merck organization and acquiring both U.S. scale and an enhanced international presence at a reasonable price.”

Back in May, Mylan beat out Teva for the generic-drug business of Germany’s Merck KGaA, acquiring it for $6.6 billion. As Swanson points out, that Merck business would have “essentially fit the bill for Teva’s growth needs.”

In his lab near the snow-covered Rocky Mountains, Steve Bytnar is plotting to topple a winter mainstay: rock salt.

Pointing to a line of glass jars containing a colorful array of liquids, Mr. Bytnar declares: "I have a vision that I can de-ice a road without any chemicals." While that is a distant goal, his attack on rock salt is well under way. "We get all our customers by teaching them how to use less" salt, he says.

Spreading rock salt has been the standard response to icy American highways since World War II. Salt is plentiful, and it's cheap. But dumping tons of rock salt has drawbacks. The salt speeds up the corrosion of bridges and cars, chokes vegetation and isn't very effective below 17 degrees Fahrenheit.

Last week, a truck spread liquid deicer in Aurora, Colo.

Now, a campaign to find substitutes is gaining traction.

Mr. Bytnar, a tireless tinkerer who says he is an "obsessive-compulsive" lab rat, is at the forefront of a growing movement to overthrow salt's long reign.
In its place, he and other researchers are producing liquid anti-icers containing molasses, corn syrup, beet juice -- and other, mystery ingredients -- to keep highways safe for winter driving.

Akron and many other Ohio towns are trying "GeoMelt," a gooey liquid derived from sugar beets that is often mixed with salt brine. New Jersey is now treating its busiest thoroughfares -- the turnpike and the Garden State Parkway -- with brines enhanced by "Magic Minus Zero," a liquid anti-icing agent containing residue from rum distillation. "We use half as much [salt] as we used to," says Joe Orlando, a spokesman for the state's turnpike authority.

Transportation departments in Colorado are dousing roads with "MeltDown Apex," a cloudy whitish liquid created by Mr. Bytnar. Highway officials don't know exactly what's in the concoction. Mr. Bytnar says it's a secret. "They're not going to tell you that unless you have a court order," says Steve Krause, a street division manager in Aurora, Colo., who swears by Apex at the first sign of snow.

Rock salt, basically a chunkier version of table salt, remains the entrenched incumbent in many parts of the country because it is abundant and cheaper than liquid de-icers. Areas that apply liquid anti-icing products early in a storm often turn to dry salt as snow piles up, too.

"Salt is still the name of the game," says Matt Smith, a spokesman for Chicago's streets and sanitation department. In Minnesota, where overuse of salt has poisoned waterways like Shingle Creek near Minneapolis, transportation departments still mainly rely on it.

Liquid anti-icers are more expensive up front. But Mr. Bytnar and many of his customers say cost savings accrue eventually as less salt and sand are applied.
This argument has been bolstered lately by an increase in salt prices spurred by a particularly snowy winter across the northern half of the country.

The shift away from sodium chloride began in the 1980s, when companies and towns started experimenting with magnesium chloride and other compounds that melt ice at lower temperatures than sodium chloride does, and had fewer environmental drawbacks. The use of renewable organic matter like corn syrup started in the 1990s. Industry lore has it that a worker taking a smoke break outside a Hungarian factory noticed that pond water mixed with a syrupy byproduct of alcohol distillation wasn't freezing in subzero temperatures.

Soon, American chemists began combining magnesium chloride with liquid residues from plant and vegetable processing to test their de-icing powers.

Mr. Bytnar, 37 years old, plunged into the field of de-icing in the mid-1990s after Minnesota Corn Processors, a cooperative where he worked as a researcher was acquired by Archer Daniels Midland Co., Decatur, Ill., gave him free rein to experiment.

"I saw it as a way to separate myself from everyone else," he recalls. "They said don't lose $2 million and blow the plant up, but otherwise do what you want to do."

One of his first projects: finding a way to turn the Hungarian discovery into a commercially viable product.
The result was "Ice Ban," a brown blend of magnesium chloride and residue from ethanol distillation. It attacked the ice-and-pavement bond more effectively and at lower temperatures than sodium chloride did, he says, allowing highway managers to cut their salt use.

However, as with many environmentally friendly alternatives to old technology, Mr. Bytnar's potions had some drawbacks. For one thing, they were expensive. For another, they smelled.

One of the first times Denver sprayed Ice Ban, he says, the expected snow never came, leaving the streets coated in a stinky goo. "The city people thought they'd moved out to the farm," Mr. Bytnar recalls.

But city officials also saw that it worked. "It's colored like maple syrup and smells like a nasty alcohol," says Mr. Krause, the street manager in Aurora, a Denver suburb, as he unscrews an old sample of Ice Ban.
When the snow fell, he says, "this stuff worked."

The next blockbuster anti-icing product to spring from Mr. Bytnar's lab was "Caliber," which incorporated corn syrup and didn't smell as bad. MeltDown Apex hit the market in 2005.

Today, liquid anti-icing is de rigueur in Colorado. Early one morning recently, as a snowstorm began and temperatures fell into the teens, crews at Denver International Airport splashed runways with potassium acetate, a nonchloride de-icer that can be prohibitively expensive for many localities. Mr. Krause's trucks sprayed Mr. Bytnar's MeltDown Apex all over Aurora. During the snowy morning rush, car tires kicked up rooster tails of water even though the outdoor temperature was 20 degrees.

Surveying the situation on Colfax Avenue at 7:30 a.m., Mr. Krause was satisfied. "The road doesn't look bad at all," he said.

Mr. Bytnar now works for EnviroTech Services Inc., a manufacturer and distributor of de-icing and dust-control products. The company is one of many competing in the freewheeling market for rock-salt alternatives, which ranges from small vendors like Road Solutions Inc. of Indianapolis to giants like Cargill Inc. in Minneapolis.

Besides vials of ice-busting liquids, Mr. Bytnar's office is decorated with archery targets commemorating his first perfect score as a competitive archer. He won a state archery title in 2002. But these days, a shoulder injury has him favoring golf, a skill he taught himself and honed by hitting 200 balls a day last summer.

During a recent storm on the frigid mountain passes west of Denver, trucks equipped with rows of metal nozzles sprayed Apex across the lanes, quickly turning the snow into a manageable slush and allowing the flow of traffic to pick up.

Still, some crews were opting to apply a sodium chloride-based product.
At a storage shed atop Vail Pass, where the temperature was 16 degrees, Mr. Bytnar encountered a red-bearded snowplow driver from eastern Colorado, which isn't mountainous. "Sand and salt?" he guessed.

Driving west down the pass, Mr. Bytnar noted slippery conditions where liquids had been shunned. He "doesn't know what he's doing," Mr. Bytnar said. "It's always a battle."

A ceremonial plaza built 5,500 years ago has been discovered in Peru, and archeologists involved in the dig said on Monday carbon dating shows it is one of the oldest structures ever found in the Americas.

A team of Peruvian and German archeologists uncovered the circular plaza, which was hidden beneath another piece of architecture at the ruins known as Sechin Bajo, in Casma, 229 miles north of Lima, the capital. Friezes depicting a warrior with a knife and trophies were found near the plaza.

"It's an impressive find; the scientific and archeology communities are very happy," said Cesar Perez, the scientist at Peru's National Institute of Culture who supervised the project. "This could redesign the history of the country."

Prior to the discovery at Sechin Bajo, archeologists considered the ancient Peruvian citadel of Caral to be one of the oldest in the Western Hemisphere, at about 5,000 years.

Scientists say Caral, located a few hours drive from Sechin Bajo, was one of six places in the world -- along with Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, India and Mesoamerica -- where humans started living in cities about 5,000 years ago.

"The dating done by the German archeologists puts it at about 5,500 years," Perez said of the plaza, which has a diameter of about 46 feet.

Earlier finds near Sechin Bajo had been dated at 3,600 years, and there may be other pieces of the citadel older than the plaza.

"We've found other pieces of architecture underneath the plaza that could be even older," German Yenque, an archeologist at the dig site, told Reuters. "There are four or five plazas deeper down, which means the structure was rebuilt several times, perhaps every 100 to 300 years."

Hundreds of archeological sites dot the country, and many of the ruined structures were built by cultures that preceded the powerful Incan empire, which reached its peak in the 16th century, just before Spanish conquerors arrived in what is now Peru.

There are so many archeological treasures that tomb robbing is a widespread problem in the Andean country.

Yenque said the scientists are filling in the site with dirt to preserve it and plan to resume excavation of the deeper floors when they get more grants to fund the project.

"We are lucky it was never destroyed by tomb robbers; that is why we are covering it up now," Yenque said.

Buoyant energy markets and restructuring efforts helped make Foster Wheeler Ltd. a turnaround story.

Just a few years ago, the engineering and construction company was reeling from losses caused by unprofitable projects and high operating costs in the 1990s. It also faced thousands of claims related to its construction of asbestos-encrusted boilers through the 1970s.

Foster Wheeler was the worst 10-year performer in last year's Shareholder Scoreboard, with a compound average annual return of minus 21.6% for the decade through 2006.

Now, Foster Wheeler is the best three-year performer, with a compound average annual return of 113.8% for the three years through Dec. 31. A $1,000 investment in Foster Wheeler stock at the end of 2004 would have been worth $9,768 at the end of last year, compared with $1,282 for a similar investment in the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index.

Glimpses of change were evident in 2005 and 2006, when the stock returned 132% and 50%, respectively.
In 2007, the return was 181.1%, making Foster Wheeler No. 8 among the best one-year performers in this year's Scoreboard.

"We are not done growing," says Raymond Milchovich, chairman and chief executive officer, who was brought in to turn around the company in late 2001.

Foster Wheeler has benefited from the increasing demand for oil, natural gas and petrochemicals, which are the industries the company serves. The firm also has a power unit, which develops boilers that use alternative fuels such as agricultural and animal waste as well as coal. Mr. Milchovich says he expects that unit to be a big driver of earnings this year.

The company's revenue and earnings jumped almost 60% in the first nine months of 2007. It expects to release fourth quarter and full-year 2007 results tomorrow.

The company, which is based in Hamilton, Bermuda, and has operational headquarters in Clinton, N.J., does business in some 30 countries and gets nearly 80% of its revenue from outside North America. Hoping to further expand, the company has been hiring aggressively, cutting back on its debt -- to less than a fifth of the peak in 2002 -- and building up its cash reserves. "Number one priority for the acquisition targets," says Mr. Milchovich.

Challenges remain. Amid a U.S. economic slowdown and a potential global slowdown, energy demand may decline and stall some projects -- though Mr. Milchovich believes developing economies like China and India will keep demand for oil and other fuels high for a long time. Foster Wheeler stock has fallen 1.6% so far this year, adjusted for a 2-for-1 stock split last month.

The company still has pending liabilities from asbestos-related claims, around $399 million at the end of September, down from $445 million a year earlier. Mr. Milchovich says insurance is expected to cover about $336 million of those claims.

Investors are encouraged by the company's leadership. Shawn Driscoll, a stock analyst at money-management firm T. Rowe Price Group Inc., says managers have done a good job of picking appropriate projects and structuring contracts in a way that allows price increases as needed, thus keeping operating margins high.
"This management team has really distinguished itself," says Mr. Driscoll. Several T. Rowe Price funds own the stock.

Five former insurance executives were convicted on charges stemming from a fraudulent transaction between American International Group Inc. and General Re Corp., and prosecutors said they plan to "work up the ladder" seeking more indictments.

Four of the five executives worked for General Re, a unit of billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., while the fifth was formerly with AIG.

A federal jury found them guilty on all 16 counts in their indictment, including conspiracy, securities fraud, mail fraud and making false statements.

Prosecutors had accused the executives of inflating AIG's reserves by $500 million in 2000 and 2001 through fraudulent reinsurance deals to artificially boost the insurer's stock price. Reinsurance allows insurance companies to completely or partly insure the risk they have assumed for their customers.

After winning what legal experts portrayed as a complicated trial involving arcane accounting rules and tens of thousands of pages of documents, prosecutors hinted they might be looking to gather evidence against others in the fraud.

During the trial, former AIG Chief Executive Maurice R. "Hank" Greenberg, who led the company for nearly four decades, presiding over much of its growth, and General Re's current chief executive, Joseph Brandon, were identified as unindicted co-conspirators. Neither Mr. Greenberg nor Mr. Brandon have been charged with any wrongdoing.

"We're not done. The investigation continues," said Paul Pelletier, one of three federal prosecutors who tried the case in U.S. District Court in Hartford, Conn. "We've got a lot of work to do to work up the ladder."

Convicted yesterday were General Re's former chief executive, Ronald Ferguson, 65 years old; former Senior Vice President Christopher Garand, 60; former Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Monrad, 53; and Robert Graham, a General Re assistant general counsel, 69, along with Christian Milton, AIG's former vice president of reinsurance.

Messrs. Ferguson, Graham, Milton and Ms. Monrad each face prison terms as long as 230 years and a fine of as much as $46 million. Mr. Garand faces as long as 160 years in prison and a fine of as much as $29.5 million.

While prosecutors might have lacked evidence to secure additional indictments last year, some legal experts said yesterday's convictions could bolster a possible case. Neither Mr. Greenberg nor Mr. Brandon appeared on taped phone conversations that were among the most compelling pieces of evidence presented in the trial.

"When you have a conviction of this sort, it certainly can shake information loose from defendants who are convicted in post-conviction cooperation," says Daniel Richman, a law professor at Columbia University.

"Hank Greenberg was not a defendant in this action, and he neither initiated nor participated in an improper transaction," a lawyer for Mr. Greenberg said in an email yesterday, adding that Mr. Greenberg had "acted responsibly, ethically and legally during his career at AIG, which he built into the largest and most successful insurance company in the world."

For AIG, the verdict comes at a time when the influence of its 82-year-old former leader has loomed large.
In a securities filing in November, Mr. Greenberg and a group of affiliated shareholders expressed "concern over the direction" of AIG, from which he resigned in 2005 amid an investigation into its accounting. Mr. Greenberg and the other shareholders in the group together owned almost 12% of the company's voting shares as of Oct. 31, according to the New York State Insurance Department.

Mr. Greenberg, who has also been actively pursuing other business ventures since he left the insurer, followed up with another filing in which he said he wouldn't launch a proxy fight or serve again as an officer or director of AIG.
Still, his role cast a spotlight on the insurer's performance under Mr. Greenberg's onetime deputy and successor, Martin Sullivan.

This month, AIG disclosed that its auditor had found a "material weakness" in its accounting, and the stock fell to a five-year low, though it has since rebounded somewhat.

Jerry Bernstein, a white-collar criminal defense lawyer at Blank Rome LLP in Manhattan, said that "manipulation of financial reserves and reinsurance are not concepts that typical jurors know about, so these convictions can only further embolden the Justice Department to bring to trial cases dealing with complex financial transactions." Such cases could include the current probes into Wall Street firms' role in the turmoil in subprime-mortgage markets.

Lawyers for the five defendants convicted yesterday said they intend to appeal. Fred Hafetz, a lawyer for Mr. Milton, the only defendant who worked for AIG, said he believes his client was denied a fair trial when he was prosecuted with the four former General Re executives.

The defendants, who remain free on $1 million bond, are scheduled to be sentenced May 15. They could try to reduce their sentences by cooperating with prosecutors in building cases against other, more senior conspirators, if any, legal experts say.

Prosecutors had said they would call Mr. Buffett to testify should the defense produce evidence showing his alleged involvement in the reinsurance deals at issue in the trial. Contrary to pretrial indications by defense attorneys, none of the defendants testified at the trial.
During the trial, defense attorneys invoked Mr. Buffett's name to support their arguments that their clients believed the widely respected investor was aware of the deals, and therefore they didn't have any criminal intent in putting them together.

Prosecutors, however, said Mr. Buffett, who hasn't been charged with any wrongdoing, wasn't involved in the deals. The Omaha businessman wasn't called to testify.

The federal case started coming together in late 2004 and early 2005, when federal investigators began probing various financial products and accounting practices that companies used to improperly burnish their earnings.

The government alleged that the defendants in the case engaged in a sham deal, in which General Re, for a $5 million fee, improperly helped AIG boost its loss reserves by about $500 million, misleading investors about the amount of losses AIG could absorb and supporting its stock price.

Reid Weingarten, a lawyer for Ms. Monrad, previously defended former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers. Before and during the insurance trial, he alleged that Mr. Buffett knew about the transaction, something Mr. Buffett and his attorneys have denied.

The defense lawyers maintained that their clients weren't responsible for the way AIG accounted for the transaction, nor did they know AIG would account for it improperly.

"These convictions continue the string of successes in our crackdown on corporate fraud and our effort to restore integrity to our financial markets," said Acting Deputy Attorney General Craig Morford, chairman of the President's Corporate Fraud Task Force.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have expressed interest in getting information on a probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission into whether Merrill Lynch & Co. booked inflated prices of mortgage bonds it held despite knowledge that the valuations had dropped, according to people familiar with the matter.
Prosecutors in Brooklyn, N.Y., have launched a preliminary criminal investigation into whether UBS AG also improperly valued its mortgage-securities holdings, as well as the circumstances surrounding two failed hedge funds at Bear Stearns Cos., which collapsed last summer because of losses tied to mortgage-backed securities, according to people familiar with the matter.

In 1999, I wanted to get business cards, and wanted a more colorful image for them.

My friend DeLee Smith, who is a graphic artist, put a great image together; it's now the one I use at the top of every page of this site.

Hubble image of NGC 3603 It has the same idea as the old image, with the letters reverse-masked over an astronomical image. This time, though the image is of NGC 3603, a gorgeous nebula (cloud of gas and dust) as seen through the eye of Hubble. It may be, in fact, my favorite image from Hubble. And, as it happens, I have a little history with this object.

In the image seen here (click on it to see a bigger version), there is a star in the upper left that has a broken bluish ring around it. Just to the upper right of it is a saucer-shaped blue cap, and the same to the lower left. The bright star in the ring is named Sher 25 (it's the star in the letter "A" in "Astronomy" in my new logo).

It's a pretty interesting star. Classified as a B1a, it's a hot supergiant, tipping the cosmic scale at something like 40 times the mass of the Sun. Stars like that don't live long; a few million years tops. When they die, they do it with a bang. Literally. In a few thousand years, and no more than 20,000, it will explode. When it does, it will send out a flood of high-energy ultraviolet photons that will slam into that ring of gas, making it fluoresce like a neon sign.

How do I know this? The star is a virtual twin of the star that blew up to form Supernova 1987A.

In fact, there are many similarities. Long before it exploded, the progenitor of SN87A formed a three-ring system around it (see the picture to the right). These rings are made of a very tenuous gas, and they have a complicated but interesting history. No one knew of the rings before SN87A exploded because the star wasn't quite hot enough to excite the gas; it took the fury of the star exploding to light up the ring system. From studying the rings, their age can be found, and it's pretty well determined that they formed about 20,000 years ago. Since the star blew up in 1987, and the rings formed when Sanduleak -69 202 was a star like Sher 25, it's reasonable to assume that Sher 25 has a maximum lifespan of 20,000 years.

In fact, Sher 25 may have considerably less time. We don't know how long it's been a blue supergiant; it may have turned a thousand years ago, or 18,000. may actually be right at the end of its life, and may explode like its twin did any day now. I am frequently asked what star I think will blow up next, and many astronomers assume it will be Betelgeuse, the red supergiant located in Orion. But I wonder... not too many people have heard of Sher 25, but I bet they will soon!

One last note: the other reason I am fond of this star is that it was the subject of the only paper I ever refereed as a professional astronomer. I was delighted to referee the article; it was excellent, and was the first time I had ever heard of the star. The authors even thanked me in their acknowledgements: "We thank an anonymous referee for valuable comments." Sniff! How touching!

(η Carinae or η Car) is a highly luminous hypergiant double star. Estimates of its mass range from 100–150 times the mass of the Sun, and its luminosity is about four million times that of the Sun.

This object is currently the most massive nearby star that can be studied in great detail. While it is possible that other known stars might be more luminous and more massive, Eta Carinae has the highest confirmed luminosity based on data across a broad range of wavelengths; former prospective rivals such as the Pistol Star have been demoted by improved data.

Stars in the mass class of Eta Carinae, with more than 100 times the mass of the Sun, produce more than a million times as much light as the Sun. They are quite rare — only a few dozen in a galaxy as big as the Milky Way.
They are assumed to approach (or potentially exceed) the Eddington limit, i.e., the outward pressure of their radiation is almost strong enough to counteract gravity. Stars that are more than 120 solar masses exceed the theoretical Eddington limit, and their gravity is barely strong enough to hold in its radiation and gas, resulting in a possible supernova or hypernova in the near future.

Eta Carinae's chief significance for astrophysics is based on its giant eruption or supernova impostor event seen around 1843. In a few years, Eta Carinae produced almost as much visible light as a supernova explosion, but it survived. Other supernova impostors have been seen in other galaxies, for example the false supernovas SN 1961v in NGC 1058 and SN 2006jc in NGC 4904, which produced a false supernova in October 2004. Significantly, SN 2006jc was destroyed in a supernova explosion two years later, on October 9, 2006. The supernova impostor phenomenon may represent a surface instabilityor a failed supernova. Eta Carinae's giant eruption was the prototype for this phenomenon, and after 160 years the star's internal structure has not fully recovered.

This object is located in the constellation Carina (right ascension 10 h 45.1 m, declination -59°41m), about 7,500 to 8,000 light-years from the Sun.
It is not typically visible north of latitude 27°N.

Related names have caused much confusion:

1. "Eta Carinae" means the star itself.
2. The "Homunculus Nebula" is the bipolar cloud of debris ejected in the great eruption, portrayed in images such as those from the Hubble Space Telescope.
3. "The Keyhole Nebula" is a much larger, nearby diffuse structure.
4. "The Carina Nebula," NGC 3372, is a large, bright star-formation region that produced a number of very massive stars including Eta Carinae.
5. "Trumpler 16" open cluster, to which Eta Carinae belongs, is itself located within the Carina Nebula. The nebula includes other open clusters, for example, Trumpler 14.

[One remarkable aspect of Eta Carinae is its changing brightness. It is currently classified as a luminous blue variable (LBV) double star.

When Eta Carinae was first catalogued in 1677 by Edmond Halley, it was of the 4th magnitude, but by 1730, observers noticed it had brightened considerably, and was at that point one of the brightest stars in Carina. Subsequently it dimmed again, and by 1782 was back to its former obscurity, but in 1820 it started growing in brightness again. By 1827 it had brightened more than tenfold, and reached its greatest brightness in April 1843: with a magnitude of -0.8 it was the second brightest star in the night-time sky (after Sirius at 8.6 light years away), despite its enormous distance of 7,000–8,000 light-years. (To put the relationship in perspective, the relative brightness would be like comparing a candle (Sirius) at 14.5 meters (48 feet) to another light (Eta Carinae) on the horizon of our planet 10 kilometers (6 mi) away, which would appear almost as bright as the candle.)

Eta Carinae sometimes has large outbursts, the last one just around its brightness maximum, in 1841. The reason for these outbursts is not yet known. The most likely possibility is believed to be that they are caused by built-up radiation pressure from the star's enormous luminosity.

After 1843 Eta Carinae faded away, and between about 1900 and 1940 it was only of the 8th magnitude: invisible to the naked eye
A "spectroscopic minimum" or "X-ray eclipse" occurred in the midsummer of 2003.
Astronomers organized a large observing campaign, which included every available ground-based (e.g. CCD optical photometry[6]) and space observatory, including major observations with the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the INTEGRAL Gamma-ray space observatory, and the Very Large Telescope. Primary goals of these observations were to determine if in fact Eta Carinae is a binary star; if so, to identify its companion star; to determine the physical mechanism behind the "spectroscopic minima"; and to understand their relation (if any) to the large scale eruptions of the 19th century.

Falceta-Gonçalves and co-workers have found good agreements between the X-rays' light curve and the evolution on a wind-wind collision zone of a binary system. Their results were complemented by new tests on radio wavelengths.

Spectrographic monitoring of Eta Carinae showed that some emission lines faded precisely every 5.52 years, and that this period was stable for decades.
The star's radio emission along with its X-ray brightness, also drop precipitously during these "events" as well. These variations, along with ultra-violet observations gives very high probability for the scenario that Eta Carinae is actually a binary star, in which a hot, lower mass star revolves around η Carinae in a 5.52-year, highly eccentric elliptical orbit.

Kashi and Soker studied the propagation of the ionizing radiation emitted by the secondary star in Eta Carinae. A large fraction of this radiation is absorbed by the primary stellar wind, mainly after it encounters the secondary wind and passes through a shock wave. The amount of absorption depends on the compression factor of the primary wind in the shock wave. The compression factor is limited by the magnetic pressure in the primary wind. The variation of the absorption by the post-shock primary wind with orbital phase changes the ionization structure of the circumbinary gas and can account for the radio light curve of Eta Car. Fast variations near periastron passage are attributed to the onset of the accretion phase.

Eta Carinae suddenly and unexpectedly doubled its brightness in 1998–1999. Currently (2007) it can be easily seen with the naked eye, because it is brighter than magnitude 5.

Very large stars like Eta Carinae use up their fuel very quickly because of their disproportionately high luminosities. Eta Carinae is expected to explode as a supernova or hypernova some time within the next million or so years. As its current age and evolutionary path are uncertain, it could explode within the next several millennia or even in the next few years.
LBVs such as Eta Carinae may be a stage in the evolution of the most massive stars; the prevailing theory now holds that they will exhibit extreme mass loss and become Wolf-Rayet Stars before they go supernova, if they are unable to hold their mass to explode as a hypernova.

More recently another possible Eta Carinae analogue was observed; namely SN 2006jc some 77 million light years away in UGC 4904, in the constellation of Lynx. It brightened on 20 October 2004 and was reported by amateur astronomer Koichi Itagaki as supernova. However, it survived and finally exploded two years later as a Mag 13.8 type Ib supernova on 9 October 2006. Its earlier brightening was a supernova impostor event; the initial explosion hurled 0.01 solar masses (~20 Jupiters) of material into space.

Due to the similarity of Eta Carinae and SN 2006jc, Stefan Immler of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center suggests that Eta Carinae could explode in our lifetime or even in the next few years. However, Stanford Woosley of the University of California in Santa Cruz disagrees with Immler’s suggestion, and he says it is likely that Eta Carinae is at an earlier stage of evolution and that it has several kinds of material left for nuclear fusion.

Another recent analog star explosion was supernova SN 2006gy, observed starting on September 18, 2006 in NGC 1260 (a spiral galaxy in the constellation Perseus) 238 million light years from earth. A number of astronomers modelling supernova events have suggested that the explosion mechanism for SN 2006gy may be very similar to the fate that awaits Eta Carinae.

It is possible that the Eta Carinae hypernova or supernova could affect Earth, about 7,500 light years away, but would not likely affect humans directly, who are protected from gamma rays by the atmosphere. The damage would likely be restricted to the upper atmosphere, the ozone layer, spacecraft, including satellites, and any astronauts in space. At least one scientist has claimed that if the star were to explode, "it would be so bright that you would see it during the day, and you could even read a book by its light at night".
A supernova or hypernova produced by Eta Carinae would probably shoot a gamma ray burst out on both sides in the direction of its rotation axis. This catastrophic burst would probably not hit Earth, though, because the rotation axis does not currently point at us. Since Eta Carinae is at least a double star, or even a triple star, examined due to its short brightness and X-ray variation period, this may either increase or decrease the intensity of the supernova or hypernova it produces depending on the circumstances.

Irony has a way of being so, well, ironic sometimes. I have been writing these Snacks for three years now, and my plan was-- and still is-- to talk about things I find interesting about astronomy, and hope that you find them interesting as well. So how ironic is it that in all this time, I've never written about the one object I find most interesting of all?

I have always loved supernovae, stars that explode. There's something very dramatic about such a titanic display of force. When a star explodes, in one second it emits as much energy as the Sun does in its entire lifetime! Luckily, these events aren't too common, and tend to happen pretty far from the Earth. They are so bright, they can be seen clear across the Universe, a fact which may have startling implications for our eventual fate.

This week marks the anniversary of perhaps the most important supernova we've ever seen. It was the most closely studied supernova of all time; for one thing, it was the brightest supernova since the invention of the telescope! It revolutionized our ideas about how stars explode, why they explode, and what happens after they explode.
For the next few weeks I'll take a look at different aspects of this star, and how it changed astronomy. It certainly changed me! Even the discovery of this object is amazing, and so we'll start off this mini-series with just how this star exploded into our lives.

Late in the evening of February 23rd/24th, 1987, an astronomer named Ian Shelton was taking images of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. He was using a small telescope to take images of the LMC to check for variable stars and novae (novae are stars that suffer minor explosions, and are far less energetic then their big brothers the supernovae).
Shelton was taking a photographic plate of the LMC at about 1:00 a.m. local time that night.

At roughly the same time, Oscar Duhalde, an operator for a telescope not far from where Shelton was at the same observatory, decided to go outside to take a break from using the 'scope. Using nothing but his own eyes and his intimate knowledge of that area of the sky, he noticed a star in the LMC that wasn't there the last time he looked. He was actually the first person to see the supernova! Unfortunately, he didn't report it to the other astronomers, perhaps because he had been working so hard, and he simply forgot. Shortly thereafter, Ian Shelton developed the plates he had been taking of the LMC and immediately saw the new star. He went over to the other telescope and told them what he had found; Duhalde then mentioned that he had seen it earlier. At this point, the four astronomers (Shelton, Duhalde, Barry Madore and Robert Jedrzejewski) promptly went outside to see for themselves this new supernova.

And a supernova it was. They knew this immediately; it was far too bright to be a simple nova in the LMC. They sent a telegram to Cambridge, Massachusetts, which is the clearing house for astronomical discoveries.
A confirmation was sent by another team in New Zealand just half an hour later. It was by this margin that Shelton became known as the discoverer of Supernova 1987A.

Perhaps even funnier is that the supernova had actually been photographed even earlier. Robert McNaught, in Australia, was also photographing that area of the sky. However, unlike Shelton, he didn't notice the new star until later. Other photographs by other observers were also made before Shelton's. However, he is the one who first reported it, and so he is the one credited with discovering what would later turn out to be the most studied and important object of its kind.

Next week we'll talk about just why a star like this explodes, and how SN87A surprised us all by not following the rules.

Australia's 17-year-old economic expansion has reached a boiling point, leading policy makers to intensify their war on inflation.

Since mid-2002,
the Reserve Bank of Australia has raised its benchmark interest rate 11 times to 7%, the highest since 1996. And it may raise rates by another percentage point by year end.

With the world economy slowing, some Australians worry that the rate increases could go too far, ending the longest sustained period of prosperity in 50 years. "They do need to be careful," says Bernie Fraser, who was governor of the RBA between 1989 and 1996.

So far, however, the problem seems to be the opposite: The tightening measures haven't had much effect on the inflation rate, which could hit 4%, on a year-to-year basis, in the first quarter, well above the central bank's 2% to 3% target.

Australia's economy, the fifth-largest in Asia and about 1/15th the size of the U.S. economy, has withstood past upheavals such as the Asian financial crisis in the 1990s and the U.S. technology bust in 2000. These days, it is insulated to some extent from the storms hitting financial markets because of the rapid emergence of China and India, with their hunger for Australian commodities.

But with core inflation at 16-year highs, the RBA is in an unusual position: It is raising interest rates when many other central banks, including the Federal Reserve, are cutting rates or holding them steady.

Much of the Australian economy is roaring along. Unlike American consumers, who are struggling under heavy debt loads and pulling back, Australians have kept on spending.

Export revenue, meanwhile, is surging as coal and iron-ore producers lock in price increases of as much as 70% from steel mills and energy suppliers in Japan, China and South Korea.

Nicole Hollows, chief executive of MacArthur Coal Ltd., based in Queensland, expects the good times to continue as Russia and Brazil emerge as major buyers of energy products.

In addition, farmers are benefiting from the arrival of La Niña weather patterns, which are ending years of drought. The summer grain crop is projected to rise 40%, while the winter wheat crop is expected to set a record, just as world grain prices surge. Farmers could add A$8 billion (US$7.4 billion) to the economy this year.

The central bank and the new center-left government are determined to bring inflation under control. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has labeled inflation the government's No. 1 challenge, pledging deep spending cuts when he unveils the government's budget in May.

The RBA said last week that it considered raising its target for the cash rate, its main monetary-policy tool, by 0.5 percentage point at its Feb. 5 policy meeting but decided instead on a 0.25-percentage-point increase because of global uncertainty.

That has some onlookers warning that, as the U.S. economy sinks into what many fear could be a severe recession, Australia's war on inflation should be tempered. Gregory, a member of the central-bank board between 1985 and 1995, says there is an increasing risk that the central bank's rate increases will "overshoot."

"You do get locked into the potential for overshooting, because you get frustrated at the lack of success," he says.

Mr. Gregory warns that Australia's growth is uneven, with mining states fueling growth. Using the blunt instrument of interest rates could harm other parts of the economy, he says.

The central bank said in its latest policy statement that it expects annual nonfarm growth to slow to 2.75% this year from a 4% pace in the third quarter of 2007. Fourth-quarter growth data are due in March.

There are signs that the rate increases may be starting to take a toll. Sentiment among some businesses and consumers is falling as their debt-servicing costs rise. Exporters -- particularly those outside the resources sector -- may have a tougher time as interest rates rise, pushing up the Australian dollar. That would make exports more expensive for foreign buyers.

In addition, banks are confronting rising funding costs.
The heads of two of the country's major banks have warned that their costs have risen and customers may end up carrying the burden. "Looking at the global environment more broadly, this is a financial-services bloodbath," says Mike Smith, chief executive of Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia's CEO, Ralph Norris, has said he couldn't rule out passing on higher costs to customers if there is a further deterioration in global credit markets.

The diverging trends -- with concern among bankers and some consumers and optimism among miners and other commodity-based companies -- mean policy makers have their work cut out for them. Too much tightening could be disastrous for the economy. But too little could fuel the kind of inflation that in the past required a severe recession to quash.

No comments: