Watercooler Stories

By United Press International  |  Oct. 17, 2005 at 6:30 AM
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Tiny planetoid sparks big feud

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- The discovery of a new planetoid has touched off a bitter feud over scientific ethics in the Internet age.

Caltech astronomy professor Michael Brown had been following a tiny speck of light at the fringes of the solar system for months. He said he knew the object, in a distant region of the solar system known as the Kuiper Belt, was sure to cause a scientific sensation, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Just before he was to announce his discovery, an obscure group of Spanish astronomers claimed the new planetoid as their own.

Within days, American researchers said they discovered that the Spaniards, led by Jose Luis Ortiz, used the Internet to peek at computer files showing where Brown was aiming his telescope.

Ortiz argues he has done nothing wrong, and the data he found using the Google search engine should be considered public and thus free to use.

But Brown said the incident should be taken as a warning of the porous and slippery nature of Internet research.

Mass. gov. hires joke writer for breakfast

BOSTON, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney spent $2,200 from his campaign fund to hire a comic to write jokes for a St. Patrick's Day breakfast.

Romney has some $2 million leftover in his state campaign fund for governor and spending rules allow for a good deal of leeway.

In addition to the services of Doug Gamble, a California-based humorist who wrote jokes for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, the Republican governor spent about $16,000 on presents: $1,900 to treat some to a Rolling Stones concert at Fenway Park; $750 for Lands' End bags and even $166.97 for two bottles of top-shelf wine from Austin Liquors in Worcester, reported the Boston Globe.

Almost $6,000 was spent to buy supporters copies of "Turnaround: Crisis, Leadership, and the Olympic Games" --Romney's memoir about his stewardship of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Romney also spent $160,000 on political consulting and speechwriting help and $100,000 for travel.

French adults getting fatter

PARIS, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- "French women don't get fat" was the title of book, but a survey finds more than one in 10 of the country's adults are officially overweight.

Author Mireille Guiliano explained in her international best-seller earlier this year that French women stayed slim because of lots of fresh vegetables, small portions and long walks, reported the Sunday Telegraph.

However, France's National Institute for Health and Medical Research, says the number of clinically obese adults went from eight to 11 percent in five years -- or 1.2 million more overweight people. For those under the age of 15, the figure doubled from 2 percent to 4 percent in the same period.

The study showed the risk of obesity is concentrated among poorer families, and only 7 percent of executives' children are overweight compared with 25 percent of youngsters whose parents are unemployed.

Up on the rooftop -- a swimming pool

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Rooftop swimming pools are the hottest thing in downtown Los Angeles' coolest new residential buildings.

As existing buildings are renovated into residential units and new facilities are built downtown, rooftops are being transformed into urban oases, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Many developers credit the success of downtown's Standard Hotel -- whose rooftop pool and bar quickly became a hip gathering place after the hotel opened in 2002 -- with spurring the push for pools up high.

Rooftop pools are not cheap and some structural engineers have had to get creative about how to make them work.

Often, the pools are only 3 or 4 feet deep. And many of them are perched atop platforms to better distribute the weight of the water and prevent costly leaking if the pools ever overflow, the newspaper said.

But many builders say the expenditures are necessary to compete with other projects and create spots where residents can gather.

"Whether intended or not, a really wonderful aspect of these rooftop pools or parks is that they foster community in an urban context," said developer Paul Solomon.

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