If you come to a Web site for McWhortle.com, a company offering investors tremendous financial gains, think twice before clicking.
On Thursday, the Securities and Exchange Commission officially kicked off the first of a series of "scam" Web sites designed to warn investors who rush into investment opportunities sold through the Internet -- particularly investors who do so without fully investigating what is being offered.
As the nation's chief regulatory agency for the financial markets, the SEC has borrowed a page from the tactics of stock market con artists by creating a series of Web sites that appear to be investment opportunities offering tremendous financial gains.
The kickoff scam site created by the SEC is that of McWhortle Enterprises Inc. (www.mcwhortle.com), a "well-known manufacturer of biological defense mechanisms," according to a news release for the fictitious company. But click on a link at the "invest now" page, and you are instead lead to a SEC site warning: "If you responded to an investment idea like this ... you could get scammed!" The page also tells investors how to research investment offers and where to call for help.
"What we're trying to do is warn investors while their guard is down," said SEC Chairman Harvey L. Pitt. "The next time, when they encounter a real scam, these investors won't let excitement cloud their better judgment."
(Thanks to UPI Deputy Business Editor T. K. Maloy)
THINGS WE DON'T UNDERSTAND
The Paris tourist industry is getting an un-seasonal boost from Japan, as planeloads of young Japanese women fly in on "Amelie" package tours (6 days for $1,510) to cash in their vouchers for coffee and crème brulee at the Montmartre Café des Deux Moulins. They're on a pilgrimage inspired by the French movie that has taken Tokyo's female twentysomethings by storm, and looks set to win the Oscar for best foreign film.
The film about a delightfully wacky French waitress, portrayed by actress Audrey Tautou, has broken all Tokyo records for a French movie, colonized the covers of woman's magazines with Amelie-mania, her taste in food and clothes and furnishings -- thanks to smart tie-in deals with the Tomorrowland clothing chain, with 135 outlets around Japan, restaurants serving "Amelie" menus based on the movie and "Amelie" designs.
(From UPI Hears)
NEWS OF OTHER LIFE FORMS
After smothering the rest of the planet with group hugs and baby babble, Britain's Teletubbies are set to waddle across television's last great frontier and embrace the world's largest audience.
In March, Laa Laa and Co. will debut before the 600 million viewers of China Central Television's Channel One.
From India to Iceland, from Serbia to Somalia, more than 120 countries have fallen for the chubby quartet's infantile charms. Russian children know them as "Telepuzikis;" in Estonia they are the "Teletupsuds." China's audiences will know them as the "Tianxian Baobao" or "Antenna Babies."
In the Chinese version, Dipsy will be known as "Dixi" or "Enlighten the West." Dipsy's friend, Tinky Winky -- the purple, handbag-toting character that's become a gay icon in the West -- translates as "Ding Ding" or "Man Man."
(Thanks to UPI's Calum MacLeod in Beijing)
TODAY'S SIGN THE WORLD IS ENDING
According to a report in Daily Variety, "Pearl Harbor" director Michael Bay's new low-budget production company is making plans to update Tobe Hooper's 1974 horror cult-classic, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" -- with Hooper and his original co-writer, Kim Henkel, working on the screenplay.
Before Freddie Kruger caused nightmares on Elm St., before Michael Myers tried to kill his sister on Halloween, and before Jason made Friday the 13th really unlucky for the counselors at Camp Crystal Lake -- Leatherface was terrorizing five hippie kids en route to visit grandpa's grave.
It doesn't matter that relatively few people have ever seen the movie -- most American movie fans instantly recognize the image of Leatherface with his grotesque mask and butcher's apron, gunning the chainsaw motor as he and his family of cannibals prepare to sit down to a hearty meal.
Variety reported the Bay has shot a three-minute reel to use as a sales tool, as his representatives try to generate interest in the project as the upcoming American Film Market in Santa Monica, Calif.
(Thanks to UPI Hollywood Reporter Pat Nason)
AND FINALLY, TODAY'S UPLIFTING STORY
You would think if your city staged a Mardi Gras celebration that a "British" motif would be the last thing someone would suggest.
Well, in Galveston, Texas, planners of a local Mardi Gras have adopted "The British Isles" as the official theme for this year's revelry. The Houston Chronicle reports the festivities start this weekend and will continue through Fat Tuesday, Feb. 12, the last day before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent.
Galvestonians are not expecting the total "blow out" that is seen each year in New Orleans, but promoters have managed to snag some top-name talent. Among those performing at various venues will be B.B. King, Jonny Lang, Ian Moore, Cory Monroe, Delbert McClinton and Marcia Ball.
Many point out that the British-inspired theme is a good choice considering the instant support given by London just minutes after the Sept. 11 attacks. One official theme of the Galveston event is: "Laissez les bons temps rouler." (Let the good times roll!)
(Thanks to UPI's Dennis Daily)