Watercooler Stories

By United Press International  |  March 22, 2006 at 6:30 AM
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Israel PR: Forget the terror -- eat

JERUSALEM, March 21 (UPI) -- To shake off its international war-torn image, Israel's Foreign Ministry is dispatching chefs around the world to put a positive light on the country.

Under the initiative, the ministry holds an "Israeli food festival" in other countries and invites leading locals to a gourmet meal at the Israeli ambassador's house or at a leading restaurant.

There, Israeli chefs prepare the food, and often end up with good coverage in the local media, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported Tuesday.

Chef Nir Tzuk, who cooked meals in Kazakhstan for a week, is an enthusiastic particpant.

"The moment people taste Israeli wines and eat delicious, fun food in a cool atmosphere, they don't even think about asking about terror attacks," he said.

Another chef, Haim Cohen, will be traveling to Turkey during Passover for the Israeli Food Week in Istanbul.

"While performing these food missions, my colleagues and I feel as if we're ambassadors on behalf of the country," Cohen said.

Ban on laptops worries law students

MEMPHIS, March 21 (UPI) -- A law professor at the University of Memphis has banned laptop computers from her lectures because they fence her off from her students.

Professor June Entman's decision has some students in her Civil Procedures class so upset they are considering transferring to another law school, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported. They say they can't keep up without their electronics.

"If we continue without laptops, I'm out of here. I'm gone; I won't be able to keep up," said Cory Winsett said.

Entman does not think that students need to take verbatim notes.

"My main concern was they were focusing on trying to transcribe every word that was I saying, rather than thinking and analyzing," Entman said. "The computers interfere with making eye contact. You've got this picket fence between you and the students." James Smoot, the law school dean, said he would not interfere with Entman's decision, although he would not ban laptops from his own class.

Poker cruise pays off for college senior

ST. PAUL. Minn., March 21 (UPI) -- A University of Minnesota student returned from spring break tired but happy after winning $1 million in a poker tournament.

Mike Schneider, 22, was the big winner in the PokerParty.com Million tournament on a Caribbean cruise ship.

Schneider told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he was not planning to play when he signed up for the cruise, that he was there to support friends who had qualified with online play. But he decided to buy in and got friends to put up cash as well in return for some of his action.

His mother, back in Eagan, Minn., was pleased and surprised by his triumph.

"He's kind of a quiet kid. I think he's a smart boy," Kathy Schneider said. "I knew he was going but, no, I did not expect this. I'm still kind of shocked."

Schneider, who hopes to graduate this year with a degree in journalism, plans to take a year or two off to play poker. He expects to get $600,000 after taxes from his spring break winnings, but some of that will go to the friends who helped him put together a stake.

Bush invites question from Helen Thomas

WASHINGTON, March 21 (UPI) -- President Bush called on Helen Thomas, the grande dame of the White House press corps, for the first time in three years Tuesday at a news conference.

The president began by complimenting her performance at the recent Gridiron Dinner, where she appeared as Hillary Clinton playing Scarlett O'Hara or vice versa. When Thomas realized he was actually inviting a question, she warned Bush "You're going to be sorry" and he answered "Well, then I take it back."

Thomas began covering the White House for United Press International during the Kennedy administration and, as senior wire service reporter for many years, had the privilege of asking the first question. More recently, she has been a columnist for Hearst Newspapers.

Thomas's question was basically why Bush wanted to go to war, although it was wrapped in suggestions that most reasons for the invasion of Iraq have turned out to be invalid.

The president got the better of the exchange or at least had the last word, although Thomas -- a consistent administration critic -- tried to interrupt him several times to clarify her question.

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