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Kurt Cobain topples Elvis as highest-paid dead celebrity
Tue Oct 24, 2006
Angst-ridden grunge rocker Kurt Cobain has pushed Elvis into second
place in a list of highest-earning dead celebrities, with the late
Nirvana frontman raking in 50 million dollars in the past year.
The Forbes.com website ranks 13 celebrities pushing up daisies on
their income and proves that death need not be an obstacle to making
money, with the group collectively earning 247 million dollars in
the last year.
"Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz, whose cartoons are syndicated in
thousands of newspapers worldwide, came third after earning 35
million dollars, ahead of John Lennon with 24 million and Albert
Einstein with 20 million.
The German-born physicist's earnings come from rights to use his
famously unkempt image and the Baby Einstein line of educational
toys from Walt Disney.
Another cartoonist, creator of the Dr Seuss series Theodor Geisel,
ranks seventh, one place behind Andy Warhol but ahead of Ray Charles
and Marilyn Monroe, whose likeness continues to pay more than 40
years after her death.
While Elvis, who has been dead for almost 30 years, slipped to
number two in the list for the first time since 2001, his estate
still managed to earn 42 million dollars in the past 12 months.
J.R.R. Tolkein, the creator of the Lord of the Rings epic, slid
three places since last year, but the success of the film trilogy,
DVD sales and offshoot merchandise have continued to make a killing
for the English writer.
Success of the Johnny Cash biopic "Walk the Line" helped the Man in
Black avoid going into the red, pulling in eight million dollars for
his heirs, while late Beatles guitarist George Harrison and reggae
legend Bob Marley both earned some seven million dollars, mostly
through CD sales and royalties.
KFC to use no-trans-fat oil in chicken
By DAVID B. CARUSO, Associated Press Writer
KFC Corp. said Monday it will start using zero trans fat soybean oil
for its Original Recipe and Extra Crispy fried chicken, Potato
Wedges and other menu items.
The news preceded the Board of Health's first public hearing Monday
on a plan to make New York the first U.S. city to ban restaurants
from serving food containing artificial trans fats.
KFC's systemwide rollout is to be completed by April 2007, but the
company said many of its approximately 5,500 restaurants already
have switched to low linolenic soybean oil, replacing partially
hydrogenated soybean oil.
KFC President Gregg Dedrick said there would be no change in the
taste of the chicken and other food items.
"There is no compromise," he said at a Manhattan news
conference. "Nothing is more important to us than the quality of our
food and preserving the terrific taste of our product."
Crispy Strips, Wings, Boneless Wings, Buffalo and Crispy Snacker
Sandwiches, Popcorn Chicken and Twisters also are part of the menu
"We've tested a wide variety of oils available and we're pleased we
have found a way to keep our chicken finger lickin' good but with
zero grams of trans fat," Dedrick said.
Some products including biscuits will still be made with trans fat
while KFC keeps looking for alternatives, he said.
The change applies only to U.S. restaurants for now, Dedrick said.
He said the company was trying to find replacement oils for its
overseas restaurants. He added that KFC outlets in some countries
already use trans fat-free oils, but he would not say which
Artificial trans fat is so common that the average American eats 4.7
pounds of it a year, according to the Food and Drug Administration,
yet so unhealthy, city health officials say it belongs in the same
category as food spoiled by poor refrigeration or rodent droppings.
The switch was applauded by the Center for Science in the Public
Interest, which sued the Louisville, Ky.-based KFC in June over the
trans fat content of its chicken.
KFC isn't the only business preparing for a trans-fat-free future.
Dow AgroScience, a maker of three types of zero-trans-fat canola and
sunflower seed oils, said it has ramped up production capacity to
1.5 billion pounds a year enough to replace about a third of the 5
billion pounds of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil sold annually
in the U.S.
Wendy's, the national burger chain, has already switched to a zero-
trans fat oil. McDonald's had announced that it intended to do so as
well in 2003, but has yet to follow through.
If New York City approves banning food with artificial trans fats,
it would only affect restaurants, not grocery stores, and wouldn't
extend beyond the city's limits. But experts said the city's
foodservice industry is so large, any change in its rules is likely
to ripple nationwide.
"It's huge. It's going to be the trendsetter for the entire
country," said Suzanne Vieira, director of the culinary nutrition
program at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., where
students are experimenting with substitute oils and shortenings.
New York's thousands of independently owned restaurants are
beginning to look for ways to make changes too not all happily.
Richard Lipsky, a spokesman for the Neighborhood Retail Alliance,
said many eatery owners rely on ingredients prepared elsewhere, and
aren't always aware whether the foods they sell contain trans fats.
Invented in the early 1900s, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil
was initially believed to be a healthy substitute for natural fats
like butter or lard. It was also cheaper, performed better under
high heat and had a longer shelf life.
Today, the oil is used as a shortening in baked goods like cookies,
crackers and doughnuts, as well as in deep frying.
Ironically, many big fast food companies only became dependent on
hydrogenated oil a decade and a half ago when they were pressured by
health groups to do something about saturated fat.
McDonald's emptied its french fryers of beef tallow in 1990 and
filled them with what was then thought to be "heart healthy"
partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.
"They did so in all innocence, trying to do the right thing," said
Jacobson, of the Center for Science in the Public
Interest. "Everybody thought it was safe. We thought it was safe."
Some restaurants were still completing the changeover when the first
major study appeared indicating that the hydrogenated oils were just
as bad for you, if not worse.
When eaten, trans fats significantly raise the level of so-
called "bad" cholesterol in the blood, clogging arteries and causing
heart disease. Researchers at Harvard's School of Public Health
estimated that trans fats contribute to 30,000 U.S. deaths a year.
"This is something we'd like to dismiss from our food supply," said
Dr. Robert H. Eckel, immediate past president of the American Heart
In Clean Politics, Flesh Is Pressed, Then Sanitized
By MARK LEIBOVICH
WASHINGTON, Oct. 27 Campaigns are filthy. Not only in terms of
last-minute smears and dirty tricks. But also as in germs, parasites
and all the bacterial unpleasantness that is spread around through
so much glad-handing and flesh-pressing.
"You can't always get to a sink to wash your hands," said Anne Ryun,
wife of Representative Jim Ryun, Republican of Kansas.
Hands would be the untidy appendages that transmit infectious
Like so many other people involved in politics these days, Mrs. Ryun
has become obsessive about using hand sanitizer and ensuring that
others do, too. She squirted Purell, the antiseptic goop of choice
on the stump and self-proclaimed killer of "99.99 percent of most
common germs that may cause illness," on people lined up to meet
Vice President Dick Cheney this month at a fund-raiser in Topeka.
When Mr. Cheney was done meeting and greeting, he, too, rubbed his
hands vigorously with the stuff, dispensed in dollops by an aide
when the vice president was out of public view.
That has become routine in this peak season of handshaking,
practiced by everyone from the most powerful leaders to the lowliest
hopefuls. Politics is personal at all levels, and germs do not
discriminate. Like chicken dinners and lobbyists, they afflict
Democrats and Republicans alike. It would be difficult to find an
entourage that does not have at least one aide packing Purell.
Some people find that unseemly in itself.
"It's condescending to the voters," said Gov. Bill Richardson of New
Mexico, a Democrat.
A fervent nonuser of hand sanitizer, Mr. Richardson holds the
Guinness Book of World Records mark for shaking the most hands over
an eight-hour period (13,392, at the New Mexico State Fair in 2002).
Indeed, what message does it send when politicians, the putative
leaders in a government by the people, for the people, feel
compelled to wipe off the residues of said people immediately after
"The great part about politics is that you're touching humanity,"
Mr. Richardson said. "You're going to collect bacteria just by
Still, politics can be an especially dirty place to exist.
"Every time you're with big groups of people, you're going to be
exposed to rhinoviruses, adenoviruses and the viruses that cause
gastroenteritis," said Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican
Mr. Coburn said he washed his hands whenever possible but did not
use any antigerm lotions. Being a doctor, he said, he has been
exposed to more bugs and, thus, enjoys greater immunity than most
For what it is worth, Howard Dean, also a doctor and the chairman of
the Democratic National Committee, said he did not bother with the
"If you've had children, you're immune to everything," said Mr.
Dean, a father of two.
As with most things, this places Mr. Dean at loggerheads with
"Good stuff, keeps you from getting colds," Mr. Bush raved about
hand sanitizer to Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, at a
White House encounter early last year.
Mr. Obama, who recounts the episode in his new book, says that after
rubbing a blob of it on his own hands, the president offered him
some, which he accepted ("not wanting to appear unhygienic.")
Mr. Obama has since started carrying Purell in his traveling bag, a
It is not clear when politicians became so awash in the gel. In one
semifamous cleanliness lapse in the 1992 presidential campaign, Bill
Clinton, who had just shaken dozens of hands at a tavern in Boston,
was handed a pie but no fork on his way to the car. The ravenous Mr.
Clinton promptly devoured it using his unwashed hand. He eventually
became a serious user of hand wipes and lotions at the urging of his
doctor, an aide said.
Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said he learned about
hand sanitizer from observing Senator Bob Dole's abundant use of it
in his 1996 presidential run. Mr. McCain remains vigilant today.
"I use it all the time," he said through a representative. "I carry
it with me in my briefcase."
Purell, which is made by GOJO Industries of Akron, Ohio, came on the
market as a consumer product in 1997 and became popular in campaign
vans, holding rooms and traveling bags in the 2000 campaign. Donald
Trump, the billionaire germophobe who contemplated running for
president, even distributed little bottles of it to reporters.
"One of the curses of American society is the simple act of shaking
hands," Mr. Trump wrote in his book "Comeback." "I happen to be a
Al Gore is, too. He turned his running mate, Senator Joseph I.
Lieberman, onto sanitizer in 2000, and Mr. Lieberman became an
"He said it was one thing he learned from Gore," said an aide to
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, Rebecca Kirszner, who became a popular
dispenser of Purell on a senatorial trip to New Orleans after
Mr. Richardson said that if he ran for president, as he is
considering, he had no intention of conforming to the norms of his
"I just won't use the sanitizer," he said. "I've been offered it,
but I've turned it down."
This positions Mr. Richardson as the early hygienic maverick of
"I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty," he said.
Book Paints Escape-Artist Houdini As Spy
Oct 28, 2006
By LARRY McSHANE
NEW YORK (AP) - Eighty years after his death, the name Harry Houdini
remains synonymous with escape under the most dire circumstances.
But Houdini, the immigrants' son whose death-defying career made him
one of the world's biggest stars, was more than a mere entertainer.
A new biography of the legendary performer suggests that Houdini
worked as a spy for Scotland Yard, monitored Russian anarchists and
chased counterfeiters for the U.S. Secret Service - all before he
was possibly murdered.
"The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First
Superhero" will be released on Halloween - the anniversary of
Houdini's untimely death at age 52. Chasing new information on the
elusive superstar eventually led authors William Kalush and Larry
Sloman to create a database of more than 700,000 pages.
"There's no way in the world we could have done this book without
it," said Sloman of the huge electronic index. "It would have taken
30 years - maybe."
The biography lays out a scenario where Houdini, using his career as
cover, managed to travel the United States and the world while
collecting information for law enforcement. The authors made the
link after reviewing a journal belonging to William Melville, a
British spy master who mentioned Houdini several times.
Melville, while at Scotland Yard in the early 20th century, helped
launch Houdini's European career by allowing the performer to
demonstrate his escape skills. Houdini, at a demonstration arranged
by Melville, slipped free from a pair of Scotland Yard handcuffs as
an audition for a London theater owner.
The book suggests that Melville's compliance was part of a quid pro
quo in which Houdini worked as a spy. A similar situation occurred
in Chicago, where Houdini's career took off after a publicity stunt
aided by a local police lieutenant, the book said.
"Finding the Melville diary - we knew there was a connection, we
knew there was something there," said Kalush. "But finding that
diary solidified a lot of other things."
No less a Houdini enthusiast than Teller - the mute half of Penn and
Teller, and one of the legendary performer's spiritual descendants -
felt the link between the escape artist and the authorities was no
"Law enforcement is about bureaucracy and cronyism," Teller
said. "So they're going to let some entertainer walk in and escape
from their jail cells? That suggests to me that (the authors) are on
the right track."
Houdini was a relentless self-promoter in the style of P.T. Barnum,
although he didn't play his audience for suckers. The biography
recounts one 1902 escape, in Blackburn, England, where Houdini
refused to surrender despite the use of plugged locks that made his
freedom almost impossible.
After two hours, Houdini escaped to a standing ovation. The next day
his arms were "hideously blue and swollen, with large chunks of
flesh torn out," the book recounts. Because of the way the chains
and rigged locks were fastened, Houdini "had no choice but to tear
out the chunks of his flesh to get free."
Houdini's renown was such that he was known around the world by a
single name long before Sting or Madonna.
"We know Houdini was a hero," said Sloman. "He could get out of
anything - which was a myth, of course."
Kalush said the myth eventually overshadowed the man. "It's part of
us: He's a human, I'm a human, he can beat anything, so maybe I can
beat some things," Kalush said.
The biography's other hook is the suggestion that Houdini's
relentless debunking of the Spiritualist movement, whose proponents
included "Sherlock Holmes" author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, led to his
death. The group believed they could contact the dead; Houdini
believed they were frauds.
Houdini, at the turn of the century, joined his wife Bess - "The
Celebrated Clairvoyant" - in presenting a trumped-up act in which he
worked as the barker and she as the medium. But Houdini eventually
crossed over to the other side, exposing phony mediums much as he'd
once exposed copycat escape artists.
"I like the way that Houdini comes off as a real tough guy, which is
no doubt true," said Teller. "He's not afraid to show up at somebody
else's performance and scream, 'This is my act you're doing. Why
don't you try this trick?'
"That's a rough and tumble thing you'll never see a modern magician
The authors recount a pair of October 1926 incidents in which
Houdini was viciously punched in the stomach, once by a college
student in his dressing room and later by a stranger in a hotel
Houdini - the book suggests the Spiritualists may have arranged the
attacks - died days later in Room 401 at Grace Hospital in Detroit.
His aura of invincibility seemed over. But as the authors
discovered, it still lives on today.
"He's compelling because of that myth, that he could not be
restrained by anything," said Sloman. "The more successful he was,
the more he became a symbol of the lone man resisting authority."
On the Net:
Brazil's president easily wins 2nd term
By STAN LEHMAN, Associated Press Writer
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva won a second term in a landslide
victory Sunday with Brazilians rewarding their first working class
leader after he helped ease grinding poverty while improving the
economy of Latin America's largest country.
With 94 percent of the votes counted, Silva had 61 percent support
compared to 39 percent for the center-right Geraldo Alckmin, Sao
Paulo state's former governor. Election officials said Alckmin would
be unable to pull ahead even if he won all of the remaining votes.
Silva's win came after Alckmin made a surprisingly strong showing in
a first round of voting on Oct. 1. The vote went to a second round
after Silva failed to get 50 percent plus one vote required for an
But the leftist president had the firm support from Brazil's tens of
millions of poor voters, who have benefited handsomely over the past
three years as Silva increased social spending without raising
taxes. Silva also overcame corruption scandals that tarnished the
image of his administration.
His Workers Party has been battered for two years by charges of vote-
buying and illegal campaign financing, scandals that have cost the
former labor leader and lathe operator his reputation as a bastion
of political ethics.
Alckmin hit the corruption allegations hard, but the scandals never
touched Silva personally and his tepid campaign style and robotic
image failed to win over working-class voters in this country with
one of the widest gaps between rich and poor.
Silva voted at a school in the industrial Sao Paulo suburb of Sao
Bernardo do Campo, just next to the small house where he lived when
he got his start as a union leader organizing strikes and opposing
Brazil's 1964-85 military dictatorship.
"If I win these elections, then the integration of South America
will have won," Silva said. He promised to ease the vast divide
between rich and poor and to improve education so that Brazil
can "take a leap in quality in the world of politics, economics and
Outside the polling station, Silva plunged into the adoring crowds
to hug supporters and kiss the Brazilian flag.
More than 125 million Brazilians were expected to vote in Sunday's
runoff elections for president and for governor in 10 of Brazil's 27
states where elections were not decided in the first round.
Alckmin voted in Sao Paulo's upscale Morumbi district accompanied by
former-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and the state's governor-
elect Jose Serra, who lost to Silva in the 2002 presidential
"What really matters is the voting and not the polls," Alckmin said.
Alckmin trailed Silva throughout the campaign but appeared to gain
momentum briefly early this month after he forced Silva into a
second round in the Oct. 1 elections, where Silva fell just short of
the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.
Polls had predicted Silva would win outright, but his campaign was
tripped up after the news media ran photos of $770,000 in cash that
members of his Workers Party allegedly planned to spend on
purchasing an incriminating file about Alckmin and his allies.
The charges followed a string of corruption allegations against
Silva's leftist Workers' Party. While Silva was never personally
implicated, the allegations reinforced suspicions of government
corruption suspicions stressed by Alckmin in his campaign speeches.
Cardoso, who was president for eight years prior to Silva, continued
to hammer at the allegations against Silva's party, known here at
"The PT can't cover up the crimes, Brazil has to investigate,"
Cardoso said. "Brazil is tired of impunity."
Still, Alckmin failed to make the corruption charges stick to Silva
during the second round.
Instead, Silva battered his opponent with accusations that the
former governor of Brazil's richest state would privatize cherished
state industries and end the popular Family Allowance program that
provides monthly payouts to 11 million poor families as long as they
keep their children in school and get them vaccinated.
While Alckmin has repeatedly said he would continue the program,
analysts say it has helped lift millions out of poverty and
translated into guaranteed votes for Silva. Also, Silva managed to
reduce Brazil's notoriously high inflation through high interest
rates, and prices of staples such as rice and beans even dropped.
Aloisio Pisco, a 36-year-old doorman, said Silva's handling of the
economy earned him the right to a second term.
"Lula, he's the best; he's created jobs and prices are cheaper,"
But some felt the corruption scandal showed Silva is no different
than other politicians in a nation long accustomed to corruption.
"I didn't vote for that bum," said Jose Gomes Araujo, who
reupholsters furniture. "He says the PT is the party of the workers,
but he's never worked a day in his life."