Saturday, 26 January 2008

Friend charged in snowmobiling death of Channel 2 anchor Randy Salerno

A vehicular homicide charge has been filed against a friend of WBBM-Ch. 2 morning news anchor Randy Salerno in a snowmobiling accident near Eagle River, Wis., Thursday night that killed Salerno, police said.

Scott D. Hirschey, 44, was arrested Friday afternoon on one count of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle, according to a statement from the Vilas County Sheriff's Department. Hirschey was injured in the crash and would not appear in court on the charge until he is released from the hospital, authorities said.

The sheriff's office said Salerno, 45, was a snowmobile passenger who died after the vehicle's driver lost control and hit several trees. "Alcohol and speed are believed to be a factor in the crash," the department said in a news release.

According to the Channel 2 Web site, Salerno was on a long-planned winter weekend trip with several old friends. The group flew from Chicago on Thursday in a private plane piloted by one of Salerno's friends. They landed in far northern Wisconsin and checked into a resort in the Eagle River area.

The group was returning from dinner late Thursday night on snowmobiles. After one of them broke down, Salerno and Hirschey, a childhood friend, doubled up on a snowmobile designed for one person, the station reported. They apparently lost the trail and headed across Plum Lake. On the other side of the lake, their snowmobile slid off the trail and struck a tree. Hirschey was thrown from the snowmobile, while Salerno took the full force of the impact, the station said.

Despite attempts to revive him, Salerno was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

Hirschey was flown to Marshfield, Wis., where he was in serious but stable condition at St. Joseph's Hospital.

Police said they received a call about the accident shortly after 11:30 p.m.

There have been 10 snowmobiling fatalities—at least eight of which were alcohol-related—since the 2007-08 winter season started, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. In the previous three seasons, there have been an average of 33 snowmobile fatalities each year, more than half of which were alcohol-related.

Wisconsin laws prohibit operating a snowmobile with a blood-alcohol level greater than 0.08 percent. In November, the state enacted a 55 m.p.h. limit for nighttime snowmobiling. More than half of the state's fatalities happen at night. Salerno, a Chicago-area native, served alongside Roseanne Tellez on Channel 2's morning news from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. and the 11 a.m. news, according to the Web site. He began work at the station in September 2004.

"Randy was a talented news anchor and a major reason for our recent morning show success," station President and General Manager Joe Ahern said in a statement. "But it was Randy's sense of humor and quick wit that separated him from the rest. He was a skilled journalist, trusted colleague and dear friend to many in our newsroom—especially to our morning team."

Prior to working at Channel 2, Salerno worked at WGN-Ch. 9 from 1993 to 2004 as anchor of the midday newscast.

On the air Friday morning, former WGN colleagues recalled Salerno as witty, calm in a crisis and always ready to help a colleague despite the competitiveness of the industry.

"He was so laid back," said news anchor Robin Baumgarten. ". . .He was like, 'dude whatever, it will get done.' "

Before anchoring midday at WGN, Salerno was a general assignment reporter and the weekend morning news anchor from 1994 to 1999.

Before working at WGN, he was a reporter and weekend anchor at WNYT-TV in Albany, N.Y. Prior to that, he worked at WMBD-TV and WHOI-TV in Peoria. He began his broadcasting career at WIFR-TV in Rockford as a general assignment reporter.

He won a local Emmy Award for his work on Channel 2's 2004 broadcast of the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon.

Salerno received his bachelor's degree in communications from Illinois State University. He lived in Crystal Lake, where he grew up, with his wife, Irene, and their 3 children.

source:By Jason Meisner and David Elsner | Tribune reporters

Monte Carlo Fire in Las Vegas Forces Guests to Flee (Update5)

-- A three-alarm fire billowing black smoke charred the top of MGM Mirage's 32-story Monte Carlo Resort & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip earlier today, forcing the evacuation of its 3,002 rooms and gaming hall. More than a dozen people suffered minor injuries.

``Our firefighters had to hang out of the windows'' to put out the blaze, Steven Smith, Clark County fire chief, said in a televised interview. The cause of the fire, which was mostly confined to the exterior of the building, is under investigation. There was no immediate indication of arson, he said.

Five guests and eight engineers suffered from minor smoke inhalation, said Gordon Absher, a spokesman for MGM, in an interview. The blaze started around 11 a.m. local time, drew 120 firefighters, and was contained by 12:15 p.m., he said.

``The fire was restricted to the exterior of the building,'' Absher said, relaying information from the fire department. ``The sprinklers didn't even go off in some of those (top floor) rooms, because there was no smoke.''

The fire raised memories of the 1980 blaze at the MGM Grand Hotel, which killed 87 people and led to new safety measures for hotels in the U.S.

Today's fire affected the roof of the Monte Carlo and at least two floors below, Absher said. The Monte Carlo has 3,015 employees, and the casino has more than 102,100 square feet of gaming space, according to its Web site.

Built by Mandalay

MGM, the world's second-largest casino company, fell $2.25, or 3.1 percent, to $70.80 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading today. The shares were down prior to the first reports of the fire. The company's shares climbed 47 percent last year.

The Monte Carlo, which sits on the Las Vegas Strip adjacent to MGM's $7.8 billion CityCenter project, opened in 1996 and was renovated in 2004. It was built by Mandalay Resort Group, which MGM bought in 2005.

It's one of more than two dozen casinos on the strip, and is the 13th largest by casino floor space and 11th by rooms. The casino won $160 million from gamblers in 2006, according to Jefferies & Co. estimates, the seventh-highest amount among Las Vegas Strip casinos.

The top floor features personalized concierge service for guests who stay in one of 45 deluxe rooms, seven suites or eight one- or two-bedroom penthouses, according to the hotel's Web site.

Backed-Up Traffic

The Nevada Public Safety Department shut down some exit ramps from Interstate 15 in Las Vegas and some nearby roads as traffic began to back up while motorists slowed to look at the fire, department spokesman Kevin Honea said in a telephone interview.

``I can't tell you exactly how far it's backed up,'' Honea said. ``I-15 traffic is still flowing. It looks like it normally does at 4 p.m., and it's noon.''

The MGM Grand blaze on Nov. 21, 1980, flashed through the casino at a rate of 19 feet per second, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. An investigation determined that a sprinkler system could have averted the disaster; legal settlements totaled more than $223 million, the newspaper said. The hotel is now Bally's.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ryan Flinn in San Francisco at

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

S&P 500 futures extend fall, down 5.3 percent

FRANKFURT, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Futures SPc1 on the U.S. S&P 500 .SPX stock market index extended their fall on Tuesday, trading 5.3 percent lower at 1,255.30 points at 0830 GMT.

Dow Jones futures DJc1 were down 5.4 percent and Nasdaq futures NDc1 traded 5.7 percent lower.

Wall Street's cash equities markets were closed on Monday for Martin Luther King Day. (Reporting by Peter Starck; Editing by Quentin Bryar)

Investors lose 160 bln dollars within minutes in India share market

NEW DELHI, Jan. 22 (Xinhua)-- Investors lost 6.55 trillion rupees (some 160 billion U.S dollars) on Tuesday within minutes of opening of the Bombay Stock Exchange, which was immediately suspended for an hour after the 30-share barometer index Sensex hit the circuit limit of 10 percent.

This loss comes on top of over 11 trillion rupees (some 300 billion dollars) loss suffered by investors in the last six days.

The Sensex lost 5,251.15 points in last seven trading sessions including Tuesday's early morning trade till suspension, while investors' wealth -- measured in terms of cumulative market capitalization of all the listed companies -- has declined by a whopping 18.4 trillion rupees (some 501.8 billion dollars).

As per information available on the Bombay Stock Exchange website, the total market capitalization stood nearly at 60 trillion rupees (1.63 trillion dollars) at the end of Monday's trading against 71 trillion rupees (1.93 trillion dollars) before bourses began business last week on January 14.

The 30-share barometer Sensex tumbled 2,029.05 points to 15,576.30 within minutes of start of trading Tuesday. Monday it lost 1,408 to 17,605.35 points on concerns regarding the US economy going into recession.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday said he was confident the local stock market would grow in an orderly manner despite a vicious sell off on Monday.

"Let me say orderly growth of the capital market is a priority concern for our government," said Singh.

A sharp fall in the Indian stock market on Monday was triggered by uncertainties in the global economy and was in no way related to any change in India's economic fundamentals, a statement of the government said.

"The fundamentals in the domestic economy are quite strong. Today's market fall reflects the continuing uncertainties in the global economy and not any change in the fundamentals of the Indian economy," the government said in the statement.

Editor: Feng Tao

Oscar nominations to be announced

The films and stars shortlisted for this year's Oscars will be announced in Los Angeles later.

The nominees are expected to include Daniel Day-Lewis, Johnny Depp and Cate Blanchett for movies There Will Be Blood, Sweeney Todd and I'm Not There.

There is still some doubt about the impact the ongoing US writers' strike will have on the format of the 80th Academy Awards ceremony on 24 February.

Jon Stewart, the face of TV's satirical Daily Show, is to host the event.

The nominations will be announced at 0530 Los Angeles time (1330 GMT) at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

They were selected during a two-week ballot of more than 5,800 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

A total of 24 categories will be announced, including the best acting performances of the year, technical awards in areas such as editing, design and music, and the prestigious prize for best picture.

Picket threatened

Among the other likely nominees are Atonement, the World War II romantic drama starring James McAvoy and Keira Knightley, which was named best film at the Golden Globe Awards earlier this month.

The other main winners at the Golden Globes were the Coen brothers' production No Country for Old Men and French film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

However, the results were announced during a low-key press conference rather than at the traditional glittering ceremony.

This was because members of the Writers Guild of America - on strike over royalties since 5 November - had threatened to picket the awards if they went ahead.

In a show of support, actors' union The Screen Actors Guild stated its members would not cross any picket lines, meaning any ceremony would have gone ahead with few celebrities.

It is rumoured that the Academy has a back-up plan so the Oscars can be held without the endorsement of writers or actors, the Associated Press reported, but no details have been released.

"We are planning to have our show on 24 February at the Kodak Theatre with an audience of 3,300 people and a television audience significantly larger than that," academy spokeswoman Leslie Unger has said.

The nominations will be screened live on BBC News 24 and BBC World from 1330 GMT on Tuesday.


Founding fathers not quite so noble...

We the people are constantly reminded, especially during an election year, of he great, moral, highly religious men who founded this great God-fearing nation. Under closer scrutiny, however, things may not look quite so noble.

Here are some interesting facts about and quotes from our illustrious founding fathers:

Benjamin Franklin, a Deist, lived abroad much of his time. While in London he was a member of a fraternity known as The Hell Boys, whose goals were to enjoy the virtues of drink and debauchery of the flesh. He is quoted as saying, “Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.”

James Madison wrote, in 1785: “What have been Christianity’s fruits? Superstition, bigotry, and persecution.” And added: “Religious bondage shakles and debilitates the mind, and unfits it for any noble purpose.”

Alexander Hamilton’s profession was that of smuggler and rum-runner, while John Hancock’s only ties to any organization was the Masonic Lodge, whose rites, supposedly heavily bent toward Deism, is still debated today.

In 1802 Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Adams: “I long for the time when the Den of the Priesthood is finally broken up.”

In another letter in 1823, he wrote, “hopefully the day will come when the Trinity will be classed with the Fables of Minerva and Jupiter,” and of his hope that “no young man living in the U.S. today will not die but as a Unitarian.”

George Washington was, at best, an indifferent member of Martha’s Episcopal Congregation, refusing to kneel at appropriate times in the service, and always walking out before taking the Eucharist. At his death his minister declared, sadly, Washington was a Deist.

In a sermon delivered in Albany, N.Y., one of the chief ministers, reported on by the Daily Observer Oct. 29, 1831, is quoted as saying “Among our Presidents from Washington downward, not one was a Professor of Religion.”

Finally, John Adams, in signing a treaty between U.S. and Tripoli, in 1797 wrote, “Let there be no doubt, the U.S. is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion.”

It would seem, at least in this instance, hindsight could use a good pair of Mr. Franklin’s bi-focals.

Jim Johnson
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

Bluefield, W.Va.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Actress Suzanne Pleshette dies

Actress Suzanne Pleshette - best known as the feisty, but level-headed wife of Bob Newhart on television's 1970s hit The Bob Newhart Show - has died.

She was 70.

Pleshette died of respiratory failure at her Los Angeles home on Saturday, friends and associates told local media. She had received chemotherapy for lung cancer in 2006 and appeared at a Bob Newhart reunion in September in a wheelchair.

Newhart has issued a statement calling his co-star "an indomitable spirit" and "one of those people you thought would go on forever.

"She was a pro's pro and I know she was looking forward to getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on her birthday, January 31," said Newhart.

Raven-haired Pleshette trained for the stage in New York, became a regular on television shows in the 1970s and 1980s and most recently appeared in a recurring role on Will and Grace. But she was best loved as the no-nonsense Emily Hartley on The Bob Newhart Show, from 1972 to 1978.

With her saucy wit, throaty voice and flair for comedy, Pleshette was the antithesis of the traditional staid American television wife and the on-screen dynamic between the two leads guaranteed the show legions of fans.

The actress garnered two Emmy Award nominations for her work on The Bob Newhart Show, as well as a nod for her leading performance in the 1991 television movie Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean.

Pleshette was married three times, most recently to comic actor Tom Poston.

Poston appeared in the original Newhart series and returned to play handyman George Utley on the 1980s revival sitcom Newhart. He died in April 2007.

Pleshette's first marriage was to actor Troy Donahue. Her second was to businessman Tom Gallagher, who died in 2000 from lung cancer.