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The Ghost Of John McCain At CPAC

The Ghost Of John McCain At CPACHad Senator John McCain been walking the halls of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington this week, he might have winced to hear his name taken in vain — over and over again.

But Mr. McCain wasn’t anywhere to be found. In fact, he wasn’t even invited.

Never a darling of the conservative movement, Mr. McCain appeared at last year’s conference as the candidate on the verge of capturing his party’s presidential nomination. The audience hurled boos his way when he mentioned his past positions on immigration policy.

Conservatives had disliked him, in part because of his stance on campaign finance laws. When he spoke last year, he said: “We have had a few disagreements, and none of us will pretend that we won’t continue to have a few. But even in disagreement, especially in disagreement, I will seek the counsel of my fellow conservatives.”

This year, the Arizona senator, was also roundly criticized — in absentia.

“I am a recovering McCain surrogate,” Representative Michael C. Burgess, Republican of Texas, acknowledged during a panel on Friday. He spoke, in an almost confessional way, of how he traveled from city to city to campaign for the party’s standard-bearer.

On Thursday Mike Huckabee scolded Mr. McCain for voting for the Bush administration’s bailout bill last fall, saying that the Republican nominee “meekly” lined up behind Barack Obama to support it.

“That,” Mr. Huckabee said, “was not our best moment.”

A spokesman for the Conservative Political Action Conference, Ian Walters, said that the group decided not to send Mr. McCain an invitation to appear at the three-day event, which wraps up on Saturday.

In fact, Mr. Walters said that he could not recall the senator’s name coming up in any of the planning meetings for the conference. Notably, those meetings started in September, after Mr. McCain tapped Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to join the Republican ticket, a choice that energized the conservative base.

Still, the shadow of the 2008 presidential race loomed over the conference on Friday as the audience greeted former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with a standing ovation. (It was at last year’s event that Mr. Romney ended his bid for the Republican nomination.)

“Some critics speak as if we need to redefine conservatism. I think that misses the mark,” Mr. Romney said. “America’s challenges are different from year to year, but our defining principles remain the same. Conservatives don’t enter each new political era trying to figure out what we believe.”

And, Mr. Romney left no doubts on Friday about his desire to remain a player in the Republican Party, and one more palatable to conservatives than Mr. McCain. He urged those in the room not to “dwell on the battles we’ve lost.”

Rather, Mr. Romney said, “we are here to get ready for the battles we’re going to win.”

Tomorrow, the conference features Rush Limbaugh in the late afternoon as its keynote speaker.

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Matt Cassel

Matt CasselPatriots trade Matt Cassel to the Chiefs

Patriots reserve quarterback Matt Cassel stepped in for Tom Brady last season and completed 63.4% of his passes for 3,693 yards with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
The reserve quarterback, who guided New England to an 11-5 record in Tom Brady's absence, was sent to Kansas City along with linebacker Mike Vrabel for a second-round draft selection. Broncos sign safety Brian Dawkins.

n a move that gives every indication Tom Brady will be recuperated and ready for next season, New England traded quarterback Matt Cassel to Kansas City on Saturday as part of a package deal for the Chiefs' second-round pick in April's NFL draft.

Also as part of the deal, the Patriots sent Pro Bowl linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs, whose new general manager is longtime New England personnel man Scott Pioli.

The Patriots get the 34th pick in the draft.

Cassel, a former backup to Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at USC, was one of the more remarkable stories of the 2008 NFL season. Even though he hadn't started a game since high school, he stepped in for Brady in the first quarter of the opener -- against Kansas City -- when the Patriots' star quarterback went down with a season-ending knee injury.

Over the next 16 weeks, Cassel rounded into a reliable starter who would complete 63.4% of his passes for 3,693 yards with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Because Cassel was to become a free agent, the Patriots recently applied the one-year franchise designation to him, guaranteeing him a salary of at least $14.65 million for 2009.

"It's very easy to root for guys like Matt Cassel, who do everything the right way and flourish as a result," Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said in a news release. "As much as we would have loved to continue working with Matt, we wish him nothing but the best as he takes this next step forward in his career."

Vrabel, 33, was a cornerstone of a New England defense that helped the Patriots to three Super Bowl victories this decade. He was a team captain the last four seasons, and reached the Pro Bowl in 2007, when his team became the first in NFL history to finish the regular season 16-0.

"When Mike arrived in 2001, we knew we were adding a solid outside linebacker," Belichick said of Vrabel, who signed as a free agent after beginning his NFL career in Pittsburgh. "But where Mike took it from there exceeded our highest hopes."

Broncos sign Dawkins

The Denver Broncos have signed seven-time Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins, who spent his entire 13-year career with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Although Dawkins turns 36 next season and is clearly on the downside of his career, he brings a hard-hitting style and leadership qualities coveted by new Broncos coach Josh McDaniels.

McDaniels, the New England Patriots offensive coordinator before he was hired to replace Mike Shanahan in Denver, envisions his new veteran safety playing a role similar to what Rodney Harrison had in New England in recent seasons.

The Broncos also signed free agent safety Renaldo Hill, who helped lead the Miami Dolphins' turnaround last season

Dawkins figures he has at least a couple more good seasons in him. He started all 16 games last season for the third time in four years and recorded 75 tackles, three sacks, six forced fumbles and an interception.

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Plenty Of Fish

Plenty Of Fish
Plenty of Fish suffers major outage

Popular free dating site Plenty of Fish has suffered a major outage this afternoon.

Visitors to the site saw only a “Bad Request (Invalid Hostname)” message on the screen, and we’re unable to get any further into the service.

Notably this type of error would normally indicate a domain issue with the site, that may mean that it may take some time to fix. A fix to an IP address for example has to propagate across the web, and at worst case this can take up to 48 hours.

There’s no official word yet from Plenty of Fish on the outage.

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Rihanna Pregnant

Rihanna Pregnant?
The gossip sites wrote that Rihanna consulted a doctor at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after suspecting she was pregnant. Rihanna had confided to her close friends that she suspected she was pregnant with Chris Brown’s baby.

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PatcoFree Rides on PATCO

PATCO is celebrating 40 Years of service this year and to mark the anniversary, the high-speed line is running a Free Ride contest.

PATCO service beween New Jersey and Philadelphia began on February 15, 1969.

PATCO kicks off its “40 Days of Thanks,” one day for each year, on February 26th.

Customers can enter their names on to win 10 free trips on PATCO.

A new winner will be selected during each of the 40 days. Winners will be notified by PATCO.

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See Through Fish

See Through FishCrazy See-Through Fish Wows Scientists

This fish is bananas!

The "barreleye" fish gives a new meaning to "clear-headed" -- members of the central California species Macropinna microstoma have fully transparent skulls filled with a jelly-like fluid that scientists discovered this week allows the fish 360-degree vision.

You read that right, transparent skulls.

Scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute announced Monday that they had solved a nearly 50-year mystery behind the fish, explaining that the neon green, bulbous eyes inside their see-through heads can fully rotate - dispelling previous claims that their eyes were stuck in "tunnel vision."

The eyes of the barreleye fish are extremely light-sensitive, so the fish tend to swim close to the depths of the ocean - making it hard to study the species, researchers said.

Newly developed vehicles designed for deep-sea research allowed the scientists access to the bottom-dwellers. They carefully brought one fish ashore and determined they had been wrong for nearly half a century about the fish's sight capabilities.

The barreleyes also have flat fins that let them remain motionless in the water - any sudden or intense movement can upset their fragile "headgear."

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Portuguese Water Dog

Portuguese Water DogFirst Dog will be a rescued Portuguese water dog, says Michelle Obama

It's (almost) official: The Obamas are getting a rescued Portuguese water dog. Or, rather, Michelle Obama told People magazine that the family was on the lookout for a dog who fit that description, was "old enough" and was a "match" for the family dynamic.

The primary rationale behind the choice of a Portuguese water dog is, of course, its allergy-friendly coat (a trait also found in poodles, soft-coated wheaten terriers and other breeds). The breed's temperament and "middle of the road" size were also factors, according to Mrs. Obama, who added: "And the folks that we know who own them have raved about them. So that's where we're leaning."

Our colleague Johanna Neuman at the Top of the Ticket blog explains that one of those "folks we know" Mrs. Obama references is another Washington mover-and-shaker:

The choice is also likely to delight Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, an early Obama supporter who has two Portuguese water dogs himself and has never been shy about lobbying for his causes.

(One of Kennedy's dogs, Splash, is the narrator of his children's book, "My Senator and Me: A Dog's Eye View of Washington, D.C.")

The timeline for the new addition? Look for its arrival after spring break, says the first lady. From People:

Here's a sample of a typical family conversation on the matter: "So Sasha says, 'April 1st.' I said, 'April.' She says, 'April 1st.' It's, like, April!" Mrs. Obama recalls. "Got to do it after spring break. You can't get a new dog and then go away for a week."

The Obamas' one dog-related sticking point, now that the breed is decided, is the new pet's name, People reports:

"Oh, the names are really bad. I don't even want to mention it, because there are names floating around and they're bad," Mrs. Obama says with a laugh. "You listen and you go -– like, I think, Frank was one of them. Frank! Moose was another one of them. Moose. I said, well, what if the dog isn't a moose? Moose. I'm like, no, come on, let's work with the names a little bit."

The level of interest nationwide in the first family's dog search has been surprising, Mrs. Obama told People. But it's "all great and gracious attention. People are just being as helpful as you can imagine." The interview will appear in the issue of People due on newsstands this Friday.

"The Portuguese water dog is a fun-loving dog with a lot of energy," Michelle Barlak of the AKC told the Baltimore Sun. "It's a great family dog, but they have to understand the dog will require quite a bit of exercise.... Two young girls who are very active are good companions for the dog."

What do you think of the Obamas' choice? Will an energetic water retriever be a good match for the first family?

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Uptick Rule

Bernanke Says There May Be Benefit to Uptick Rule

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said there may be a benefit in resurrecting a rule that restricts short-selling stocks when share prices are falling amid the current bear market.

“In the kind of environment we have seen more recently” the so-called uptick rule “might have had some benefit,” Bernanke said in testimony before the House Financial Services Committee today. The rule, scrapped by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 2007, barred investors from betting against a stock until it sells at a higher price than the preceding trade.

Bernanke’s comments may give credence to lawmakers such as U.S. Representative Gary Ackerman, a New York Democrat, who blamed the rule’s elimination for triggering attacks on financial stocks. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has tumbled 50 percent since the SEC dropped the uptick rule 16 months ago. New SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro said in January she may resurrect the provision.

The SEC approved the rule in 1938 to prevent bear raids on companies. The agency eliminated the regulation after studying its effect on share prices and determining it was no longer relevant in markets dominated by fast-paced electronic trading.

Executives at UBS AG, Deutsche Bank AG and Knight Capital Group Inc. said in December that bringing back the rule wouldn’t reduce volatility in stock prices.

Studies by the SEC’s division of Trading and Markets also concluded that operational issues at brokerages would make it “impossible” to reinstate the rule, according to a Jan. 20 letter that former SEC Chairman Christopher Cox sent to Ackerman.

Cox’s Effort

Cox, in the letter, said he tried to introduce a modified provision that would allow traders to short a company only at a price that was a few cents higher than the best bid for the stock. Cox said he lacked a majority of votes among his fellow SEC commissioners in “proposing some modernized variant” of the uptick rule.

Regulators from Washington to London last year cracked down on short selling, in which traders borrow shares and then sell them in the hope of profiting by buying the stock back later for a lower price.

The SEC temporarily banned all bets that financial stocks would fall and is forcing hedge funds to reveal to the agency stocks they’ve sold short. In London, a Financial Services Authority prohibition on shorting 34 U.K. financial companies lapsed last month.

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Lake Jocassee

Lake Jocassee Treasure Calls to Mind Other Abandoned TownsThe Attakulla Lodge stands on the bank of what was the White Water River -- and is now 300 feet under the waters of Lake Jocassee. The lodge was built in 1904 and was open for many years, until 1971, when a power company began flooding the valley there to create Lake Jocassee.

The lake was later named Lake Jocassee, and it is now a popular destination for scuba divers. The novelty of an underwater hotel is the draw for most of the divers; the building still stands to this day. Nearby, divers can also explore an old cemetery and a girls' camp.

A site like Lake Jocassee calls to mind another -- much larger -- dam project: Three Gorges Dam, in China. When Three Gorges Dam was completed in October, 2008, it forced the relocation of 1.24 million people due to the flooding. An additional 4 million people are expected to be relocated by 2020. With displacing a combined total of 5.24 million people, one can only imagine the scuba diving paradise that has been created by the Three Gorges Dam. Entire cities now lie under the vast expanse of water created by the dam; entire neighborhoods, playgrounds, offices, schools, and anything else one can imagine.

Another abandoned -- or ghost -- town that comes to mind is Chernobyl, in the Ukraine. Since the disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Complex in 1986, the entire area has been abandoned and is now called the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Chernobyl attracts tourists much as Lake Jocassee attracts scuba divers, and there are tours available for people willing to pay and make the risk of radiation exposure. Led by a tour guide, one can now see how people in this area of the Ukraine once lived, circa 1986. For the rest of time, future students of history will be able to visit Chernobyl to see exactly how this area was at that moment in time; a kind of Pompeii for the 1980s.

In visiting Lake Jocassee, scuba divers can rest assured they are simply looking at a relic of a past, simpler time in Attakulla Lodge. No nuclear disaster or massive population relocation was involved; it is like an underwater museum.

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Ash Wednesday 2009

Ash Wednesday 2009

Christians throughout the Southland will observe Ash Wednesday today, the first day of Lent, when the faithful prepare for Easter by doing penance for sins and seek spiritual renewal through prayer, self- denial and good works.

Ash Wednesday gets its name from the practice of placing ashes of the foreheads of the faithful as a sign of repentance.

A minister or priest marks the forehead of each participant with black ashes in the shape of a cross, which the worshipper traditionally retains until washing it off after sundown.

In the Roman Catholic church, Ash Wednesday is observed by fasting, abstinence from meat and repentance. Other Christian denominations make fasting optional, with the main focus being on repentance.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, will celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass at noon in English and 7 p.m. in Spanish at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, where Mass will be also celebrated in English at 6:15 a.m., 7 a.m., 8 a.m., 3 p.m. and 5:15 p.m.

In his Lenten message, Mahony made frequent references to the recession, declaring that with so many in the region facing economic hardships, Lent in 2009 is "unique and gives us the opportunity to enter this year's Lenten journey from a fresh and life-giving spirit."

Mahony pledged that "for Lent 2009, each day I intend to offer my prayers and sacrifices of that day for a special group of co-disciples with Jesus -- those who are out of work, families who have lost homes, parents who fear that they won't have the money needed for their children, the many who have lost health insurance, the retired people whose retirement funds have been severely diminished and all who fear each tomorrow."

The 72-year-old prelate adopted a tone of melancholy resignation in apparently alluding to the continuing aftermath of the clergy abuse scandal, which prompted the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to reach an unprecedented $660 million settlement with 508 alleged victims.

"For me personally, this Lent means embracing the new wearisome burdens, difficulties, and unexpected hardships that have confronted me on my journey of life and faith," the cardinal wrote in his Lenten message.

"I can't pretend that these difficult burdens aren't there, nor can I try to somehow sneak around them and move on..."

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Oscar Fashions 2009

Oscar Fashions 2009For years, as soon as the Academy Awards show started, millions turned off the TV.

After the excitement of the red carpet fashions, the actual show was a blatant bore. Enduring three hours of "I-want-to-thank-fill-in-the-blank" speeches in the hopes of catching a single moment of authentic emotion simply wasn't worth it. Life is short. The Academy Awards show was loooooooong.

One way to bump up those TV audience numbers is to keep the fashions of some stars under wraps, or at least out of the cameras' view finder, until they hit the stage to present. It worked. I, for one, tuned in for the first time in more than a decade and well, I would just like to thank the Academy. The speeches of the presenters to the actors and actresses were intimate and genuinely moving.

Or else a lot more people deserve those little gold statues.

Now, about those fashions . . .

A lot of women like that dirty bad boy look but, come on Mickey Rourke. Even real wrestlers take showers. Wash the hair. Button your shirt. Ditch the pinky ring and reserve the shades for actual sunshine. Other than that, he looked practical attractive.

A paper fan, an accordion and kilt walk into a bar -- and walk out looking a lot like Marisa Tomei's dress by Versace. That gown was completely drunk with pleats.

Two shoulders, like heads, are usually better than one. But not at this year's Oscars. Like First Lady Obama, several actresses, including Kate Winslet, went for single shoulder dresses.

Sarah Jessica Parker lives a Cinderella life and has the froufrou wardrobe to match. Her Oscar dress was too big in some places, not big enough in others. Let's just say her Fairy Godmother apparently granted her two rather obvious wishes.

Start with simple material. Give it a few new twists and turns. Add a beautiful actress and -- voila! -- you have an Oscar worthy script, er, I mean gown. Alicia Keyes, Natalie Portman, Nicole Kidman and several other actresses wore this latest trend from the fashion runways, bolts of fabric manipulated into dresses. Outdoors, Portman's dress looked an icky shade of pink but in the theater, the color appeared more subdued. On the other hand, Freida Pinto's electric blue dress lost its vibrant oomph indoors. Lighting is everything, darling.

Those in the fashion industry are fond of declaratives such as "The trend for statement necklace cannot be ignored." Several actresses favored these "statement necklaces." Some necklaces stated, "I am hideously large, garishly colored and, yet, insanely expensive." Amy Adams is a doll but her necklace looked like a technicolor cartoon from the animated parts of "Enchanted."

Nehru collars are the new neckties.

Neckties are the new bow ties.

Hugh Jackman is the new George Clooney.

Eddie Murphy, Jack Black and Bill Maher need to know that bitterly pointing out that one wasn't nominated for an Oscar is never becoming of a gentleman or a panda. And, if this article isn't nominated for a Pulitzer, I'm going to stomp my Prada-shod foot!

Was that really the same woman who once wore a vial of blood on a chain around her neck, smooched her brother on the red carpet, and gave millions of television viewers the heebie-jeebies sitting next to Brad Pitt? Was Angelina Joile only acting crazy back then? Or is she only acting normal now? Either way, that girl deserves an Oscar. She is "The Changeling." And those green drop earrings to match her cat-green eyes were elegant.

Animal prints always look better on animals.

Penelope Cruz wore a 60-year-old vintage Balmain gown that has more past lives than Shirley McClain.

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Central Maine Power

Central Maine Power

Bangor, Maine, Also Affected as Storm Plays Havoc with Central Maine Power

Central Maine Power has been greatly affected by a major Northeast storm which has left nearly thousands of homes without power.

Jim Brogan has written an article, "Northeast Storm Cuts Central Maine Power: Nearly 100,000 Without Power," in The Post Chronicle that reports at least 83,000 homes and businesses are without power.

The article goes on to say that in addition to the power outages that Central Maine Power has experienced, Bangor Hydro Electric has 12,200 customers without power.

In checking in with the Central Power Website, it is reported that the company is working hard to get service back to people. Unfortunately homes without power now numbering 129,150.

John Carroll, a Central Maine Power spokesperson, indicated that the company is addressing the problem in three steps.

They are making sure that there is no danger at the damaged sites. The next thing that they do is to assess the damage to their equipment so it can be repaired and will remain running.

The last thing that they do is get the service back to the consumer.

Something that I did not know was that people who have their own generators must make sure that they are properly installed or they could actually feed back into the major company system and break it down.

One other reminder is not to go near downed wires.

For a look at how power is restored step-by-step, visit the Central Maine Power website and connect with "Restoration." I have linked to that page.

The storm has continued to move north and has left snow and cold in its wake.

Most areas that are anywhere close to north have experienced power outages at one time or another. In fact in my city they can even occur during summer storms.

I have found it is always wise to have plenty of blankets available as well as at least a few canned goods as well as a flashlight and radio that use batteries.

Today there is a little extra help in that cell phones are so popular it aids most people from being stranded.

For those of you that may be in the Central Maine Power area, you may call 1-800-696-1000.

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Free Fat Tuesday Pancakes

Free Fat Tuesday Pancakes
Paczki a little heavy for your taste? How about pancakes? And IHOP’s giving them away Tuesday in anticipation of Lent.

From 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., IHOP, also known as the International House of Pancakes, will serve short stacks in exchange for a donation to the Children’s Miracle Network. Like the paczki fried dough enjoyed by the Polish on Fat Tuesday, the English herald the beginning of fasting during Lent by eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, according to the chain.

Since the IHOP fund-raiser began in 2006, the company has raised almost $2 million for children’s charities. In 2008, IHOP served 1.5 million free pancakes, equal to a stack 12 miles high.

For more information or to locate an IHOP, visit

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Brian Mandeville Told To Retire

Brian Mandeville Told To Retire
Northeastern University football player Brian Mandeville received devastating news on Friday at the NFL combine in Indianapolis during routine physical examinations. The star tight end, who missed a third of his senior season with knee injuries and even survived a brain tumor while in college, was told by combine doctors that he has a heart ailment, effectively ending his football career.

Mandewille was diagnosed with an abnormal heart valve, which is not considered life-threatening, but the problem could become dangerous under the strenuous training regimens of the NFL.

“I told him his health and well-being is what’s important,” Northeastern coach Rocky Hager told the Boston Herald. “I don’t know if that means he’ll continue in a career in sports, but then everybody’s career in sports eventually comes to an end. But I think he’s so well grounded and his parents have done a great job raising him and he always has the right attitude.”

Mandeville caught 63 passes for 863 yards and seven touchdowns in 33 games, worthy of earning first-team All-New England honors. Northeastern’s I-AA football program went 2-10 last year and hasn’t had a winning season since 2003.

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Groundhog Day 2009

Groundhog Day 2009

Did Punxsutawney Phil See His Shadow?

Today is Groundhog Day 2009 and the results are in: Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow. According to legend, this means that winter will last for six more weeks.

Despite freezing temperatures, thousands gathered at Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (a borough of over 6,000 people located about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh) today to witness Phil emerge from his burrow and issue his famous forecast (which, considering how long and harsh this winter has been, comes as very bad news indeed to many).

The origin of Groundhog Day is rooted in a German tradition that advances the belief that on the Christian holiday of Candlemas (which falls on February 2) hibernating animals can predict weather conditions. More specifically, if the animal casts a shadow, then winter will last for six more weeks. If no shadow is seen, spring will arrive early.

Groundhog Day 2009: Where Else is it Observed?

Though arguably the most famous and high-profile modern-day observance of Groundhog Day occurs in Punxsutawney (pronounced Punks-uh-TAW-nee), the ritual is observed in other places as well. For example, did you know that Groundhog Day is observed in Canada? In fact, Canada has it's own version of Puxsutawney Phil. His name is Wiarton Willie, and not surprisingly, he hails from the town of Wiarton in Bruce County Ontario, where a Groundhog Day festival is held each year. The Wiarton festival draws throngs of revelers and members of the media who eagerly await Wiarton Willie's prediction. In addition, various contests and dances are held in honor of the event.

Punxsutawney is not the only town in Pennsylvania where Groundhog Day is celebrated. It also takes place in Schuylkill County, Quarryville, and Bucks County. Outside of Pennsylvania, Groundhog Day in the United States is observed in locations in Maryland and the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. And according to Wikipedia, it is celebrated "among the Amish populations of over twenty states and Canada."

For those of you who are experiencing a harsh winter, let's hope that next year Puxsutawney Phil predicts an early spring.

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How The Octuplets Story Turned Sour

How The Octuplets Story Turned Sour
It was a heart-warming tale of a young Californian mother who gave birth to eight babies. But now, as more details emerge, public reaction has turned from from joy to shock to anger. It was a midwinter miracle; eight babies born to a single mother and every one of them delivered alive. For a nation enduring its deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression, the tale was a welcome relief from bail-outs and bankruptcies. But this weekend, as the journalistic pack chases an altogether darker dimension to the story of Nadya Suleman, the feel-good factor has suddenly vanished.

The birth of Suleman's eight babies - six boys and two girls - was clearly an extraordinary event. Only one previous case of eight surviving babies had ever been recorded in the US. Yet as the eccentricity of Suleman's background and biography emerges, America is suddenly recoiling in shock. Far from being a heart-warming tale of wonder, the more that becomes known about the Suleman family, the more it seems something very disturbing has occurred. Public reaction has quickly turned from joy to shock and anger.

By last night, it was clear that Suleman is not an infertile woman who sought medical help to have children. The 33-year-old Californian already has six children. She is single and has no visible means of support for her current family, let alone the additional eight babies that now give her enough offspring to field a football team with three substitutes.

In fact, Suleman still lives with her parents. Her family has revealed that she may have serious mental-health problems and be addicted to having children. Her own mother, Angela Suleman, told one Associated Press reporter: "[She] is not evil, but she is obsessed with children. She loves children, she is very good with children, but obviously she overdid herself."

Angela Suleman also revealed that her daughter's obsession with children caused her considerable stress, and led her to seek help from a psychologist, who had told her to order her daughter out of the house.

"Maybe she wouldn't have had so many kids then, but she is a grown woman," Angela said. "I feel responsible and I didn't want to throw her out."

The case of the Suleman octuplets is now sending shockwaves through the medical fertility community. Few reputable doctors can understand how a healthy mother-of-six could have been allowed to have fertility treatment that resulted in octuplets without serious questions arising about the mother's mental health, her capacity to raise such a large family or the huge medical dangers involved in giving birth to so many babies at once.

The family has now taken refuge behind the curtains of its modest three-bedroom suburban home in Whittier, a town near Los Angeles. Usually in these situations, the proud parents parade before the cameras, appear on talk shows and land lucrative sponsorship deals with baby-products firms.

But when Nadya Suleman's father, Edward, briefly emerged, he did not appear full of the joys of enlarging his family with more grandchildren. "I wish it happens to you people, so you go through hell," he snapped at the media throng as he unloaded bags of shopping from his car. It was later revealed that Edward was considering going back to his native Iraq - where he has worked as a contractor - in order to raise some cash for the family. As the bidding war begins for Suleman's story, the quickest and most likely route to financial security is likely to be a publishing contract.

The money seems to be desperately needed. Details of the family's finances suggest that the Sulemans are already struggling with the load of looking after six children and are ill-prepared for the arrival of eight more.

Court records in nearby San Bernardino show that Suleman's mother filed for bankruptcy last year, claiming $1m in liabilities as a result of a bad housing investment. At the same time, the records hint at an unusual personal history for the family. They show that Suleman - who changed her name from Nadya Doud in 2001 - divorced her husband, Marcos GutiƩrrez, a year ago. GutiƩrrez, however, may not be the father of her first six children, because the divorce filing indicates no children were produced from the marriage.

In fact, birth certificates name one "David Solomon" as the father of her eldest four children. It also seems that Suleman had been living with her parents, not her husband, for the past eight years, at a variety of addresses. However, her own parents, who still live together, are also divorced, having legally separated in Las Vegas in 1999.

Suleman herself seems to have little employment history. Neighbours have reported that she worked as a psychiatric technician before she began having children. After that, she attended college, studying child development. She graduated with a bachelor of science degree and returned to do a masters. She last went to a classroom in the spring of 2008.

But even more mysterious than the family's history are the details of how Suleman became impregnated. Officials at Kaiser Permanente, where a 46-strong medical team delivered her eight children, have said she first appeared there when she was already three months pregnant. Yet it seems that the fertility clinic that implanted Suleman with so many embryos was going against current medical practice. Leaving aside the wisdom of treating a single mother with six children, it is dangerous to implant so many embryos in a woman so young. The likelihood of all those embryos taking hold is much higher in younger mothers and so most doctors would only implant one or two embryos.

Then there is the question of why doctors allowed Suleman to keep all eight embryos once they took hold in her womb, despite the enormous risks to her: even having triplets puts a woman and her babies at huge risk of death or serious injury.

Medical experts across America have queued up to express their rage. "If this resulted from an IVF treatment, we can say that transferring eight embryos in an IVF cycle is well beyond our guidelines," said Dale McClure, president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Meanwhile, Arthur Wisot, a fertility doctor in Los Angeles, raised a further prospect. "I cannot imagine that any of the mainstream practices in the Los Angeles area were involved in this. I would guess... she either went out of the country or went to a practice that flies below the radar," he told a TV reporter.

All the drama has left many questions still unanswered as the eight babies at the centre of the controversy recover in hospital.

They are all doing well. But if the American public was looking for hope and inspiration in the face of tough times, the Suleman octuplets will have provided little in the way of light relief.

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