Watercooler Stories

By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International  |  Dec. 27, 2002 at 4:00 AM
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The philanthropic foundation set up by computer maven Bill Gates and his wife Melinda is doubling its generosity. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation tells the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the amount of money it will make available to fight homelessness in the Northwest will be doubled in the coming year.

The money will be used to provide nearly 200 units of housing for an estimated 650 people.

The grants are given out through what is called the Sound Families Program, set up in the summer of last year.

Even though the foundation is best known for its international outreach work in education and global health, the Gates family says it is becoming increasingly concerned with local issues in the Seattle area.

One representative of Sound Families tells the publication that the group is tired of seeing kids sleeping in cars.


The death of a Cuban-American priest was not the Christmas gift many in south Florida had wanted. Even though the Rev. Jose Nickse was under fire, wrapped up on the church's ongoing scandals, he was still much loved in his area by his people.

Nickse came from Cuba as an exile. He soon became one of the best-known and most charismatic preachers of the gospel in the Spanish-speaking neighborhoods of Miami and Dade Counties.

On suspension while charges against him were being investigated, Nickse had gone to the Bahamas for Christmas, as a retreat. The Miami Herald says that workers at the hotel where he was staying him found him dead ... the apparent victim of a heart attack.

The news was brought to his home parish, St. Brendan's, before the sermon on Christmas Eve. Many gasped and sobbed.


The cost of most everything is rising ... and business travelers will learn that lesson anew in the coming year. Fresh reports from a variety of publications show that business travelers -- those who only find out at the last minute that they need to go from Point A to Point B in the next few hours -- are those who already pay the most. Now they will be paying more.

With that outlook in mind, including statistics from American Express in its new "Trends and Forecasts for the Business Travel Industry," more business people are giving up traditional perks.

The report says that an increasing number of companies are using discount airlines, such as JetBlue and Southwest, abandoning the traditional first-class accommodations of the older carriers.

Additionally, new surveys conducted by groups such as Merrill Lynch show that companies are also beginning to place their employees in fewer upscale hotels and motels.

It's expected the food and car rental costs will rise by 1 percent or 2 percent in the coming months, also. Rental cars, by the way, amount to about 10 percent of the travel budgets of most companies.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture might soon enlist the help of dogs in finding trees with citrus canker. For years the USDA has used sniffer dogs at ports of entry to try to find prohibited fruits and vegetables in incoming baggage. Now, according to the agency, it is trying to train dogs to sniff out citrus canker in trees.

The spread of the condition in trees in south Florida has forced a huge and expensive campaign to kill infected plants. Additionally, hundreds of trees found in proximity to identified trees are at risk.

Even though most people think of the problem as happening in groves of commercially grown citrus, the USDA has been going onto private property to try to exterminate the condition. This has caused an immediate groundswell of opposition from homeowners, many of whom have taken legal action to stop what they say is "overkill" by federal tree experts.

The program to train sniffer dogs, if successful, would allow the USDA do its job more gently and selectively, especially on private residential property.

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