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Brittney Elkins

World Financial Center evacuation caused by toy grenade

Security guards reported “suspicious package” to police immediately.

The World Financial Center in lower Manhattan was evacuated earlier today, and reports say that a toy grenade was to blame.

The police bomb squad was called to 2 World Financial Center, near ground zero. A security guard had reported a package that seemed suspicious, and the property managers, Brookfield Properties, ordered an evacuation as a precaution.

A criminal investigation will not take place, because police say there was no threat. Again, it was a toy.

The bomb squad determined the package was a fake explosive that looked like a WWII style pineapple grenade mounted on a plaque that said, “Complaint department: Pull pin.”

The World Financial Center is near the site of the former World Trade Center where the September 11 attacks killed nearly 3,000 people, and a 1993 bombing killed six and injured 1,000. Safety threats are taken very seriously in this neighborhood, and employees obliged the evacuation.

Tax day proves to be deadly

A new paper reveals increased traffic fatalities on tax day

Tax day is nearing, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 (you know, that “dun-dun-dun-duuuun” that plays every time something bad is about to happen) is going through people’s minds for reasons other than facing the daunting task of filing out that confusing tax information.

It turns out tax day is actually killing us. Well, maybe not tax day itself, but a new paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that traffic fatalities rise an average of 6 percent on tax day, compared to similar days.

That certainly brings a new meaning to the inevitability of death and taxes.
The researchers analyzed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Stress is thought to be the main culprit causing the abnormal number of traffic fatalities. Polls have found tax day to be the most stressful day of the year.

The researchers write that, “Additional reasons might include sleep deprivation, inadvertent inattention, and less tolerance of hassles.”
While the stress of filing taxes may cause people to want to drink more, increased alcohol consumption is not a likely suspect in the tax day traffic accidents. But alcohol is typically a huge contributor to increases in traffic deaths on other high risk days like Super Bowl Sunday, July 4, and Election Day.

Alcohol is not thought to be a factor on tax day because the number of nighttime traffic fatalities does not seem to increase. Apparently these researchers have never heard of day drinking.

As tax day approaches and you scramble to get all of your files in order before rushing to the post office, be aware of traffic. Allow yourself extra time to get where you are going, and plot your route beforehand if it takes you down unfamiliar roads.

If you haven’t filed your taxes yet, tax day falls on Tuesday April 17 this year.

The B-word in show titles

ABC hints at the B-word in two new show titles. Why not just come out and say it?

ABC is getting away with the B-word in show titles a lot this season.

Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 debuted Wednesday night. ABC’s prime time soap GCB, starring Kristin Chenoweth, also made a midseason debut last month. GCB technically stands for Good Christian Belles, but the show is based on a novel entitled Good Christian Bitches by Kim Gatlin.

The B-word in show titles seems to be a new trend for ABC.  A lot of people are questioning whether the B-word in show titles is appropriate, demeaning, or just a coincidence that happened to befall a network with two great story ideas and a seemingly small vocabulary.

Both B-word-titled shows are aimed at female audiences, and are about women. ABC abbreviated “bitch” to “B” in both titles (no one is fooled by the change to “belles” even if they are from the South) before introducing the shows to advertiser, even though broadcast standards allow the word on television.

Calling a woman a bitch is not a term of endearment, but the word is so widespread in our language, and the women in these two shows really are, well, bitches.

The B—- in Apartment 23 is named Chloe, and she is played by Krysten Ritter. Chloe is very obviously a sociopath who finds roommates, steals their money, and then does such terrible things that they end up moving out. Sure, later episodes will probably show Chloe’s heart thaw a little bit. Maybe she’ll even make a few real friends. Or maybe her heart will grow three sizes like the Grinch’s. But in the pilot, she’s a total B—-.

GCB is about a woman returning to the upscale Dallas neighborhood where she grew up. Amanda, played by Leslie Bibb, was the former high school “Queen Bitch,” and is a recently widowed mother of two. Amanda was rich, but lost her money in scandalous Bernie-Madoff-esque scandal her husband committed before dying in a crash along with his mistress.

Kristin Chenoweth plays Carlene Cockburn, a former classmate of Amanda’s and the girl Amanda used to mock. Of course, the roles reverse in this show, and Carlene is the new “Queen Bitch.” The other women Amanda encounters in Dallas don’t believe she has changed since high school and want her out of Dallas as fast as possible.

Are the B-word show titles demeaning to all women, or do they just refer to the particular characters who are really very mean and vindictive? Let’s see how these midseason shows fare before B—–ing about the titles.

UCLA admissions mistake tells 894 wait-listed students they're in

But they’re still on the waitlist.

A UCLA admissions mistake had 894 high school students believing they were in. Unfortunately, they were only on the wait-list.

The UCLA admissions mistake caused letters to be sent to the wait-listed students along with the thousands of students that were actually accepted for entry in fall 2012. The wait-listed students who received the letters in error even received a financial aid notice.

UCLA apologized for the confusion, which apparently stemmed from an email notice sent to both newly admitted and wait-listed students. The notice included a link to a revised financial aid letter informing the wait-listed students that they were, in fact, still waiting.

“We realize this is a particularly stressful time for students and parents as they try to make decisions about where they go to college,” UCLA spokesman Ricardo Vazquez told Reuters on Wednesday, “We were aware of that and we apologize.”

The UCLA admissions mistake is not the first for the University of California. In 2009, UC San Diego sent acceptance letters to 28,000 high school seniors who had been rejected. That mistake was caught within a few hours. UC Santa Barbara also accepted 60 students who were supposed to be on the waitlist in 2010.

2012 is the first year UCLA has had a waitlist option for students who are not immediately accepted. Approximately 2,900 students are currently on that list.

Those affected by the UCLA admissions mistake may still have another chance to get into the school—although will they still want to? Accepted students have to submit their intention to register by May 1. Any openings after that date will go to the waitlist.

Lollapalooza 2012 bridges the generation gap

Seasoned veterans Black Sabbath represent metal, while 22 year-old Avicii brings the dance

Lollapalooza drew 270,000 music fans to Chicago’s Grant Park last year to see performances by Eminem, Coldplay, Foster the People, Grace Potter, and more than 100 others.

Lollapalooza announced the 2012 lineup this week, and the group of 120 bands features yet another interesting mix of mainstream, indie, and electronic artists. This year’s Lollapalooza headliners are The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jack White, Black Sabbath, The Black Keys and Florence + The Machine.

Lollapalooza founder and Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell announced the lineup on Wednesday.

“Every year it’s kind of a nail biter putting a lineup together,” Farrell said, “There were moments when I looked at it and I was beside myself. I didn’t know what to do.”

“You are trying to balance a lot of things. Balance economics, there’s budget how much we can afford for talent. You’re trying to balance that with who’s available.”

This year’s Lollapalooza lineup will bring electronic dance music to the main stage. A genre that’s typically restricted to the side stages, electronic dance artist Deadmau5 headlined opposite Foo Fighters for the Sunday night finale in 2011. This year, dance artists Justice and Avicii will headline at Lollapalooza.

A lot of people have called the 2012 lineup a “letdown,” but Perry Farrell appears to be proud of the group of 120 bands and artists descending on Grant Park this August.

Perry Farrell told Rolling Stone, “What you have is three to four generations—maybe five generations of people, counting Kidsapalooza—that are all going to a place in peace, to experience music and learn to like and understand and love each other. And this is one place where I can say the generation gap doesn’t exist.

Axl Rose declines induction to 'Rock Hall'

This weekend’s ceremony is going to be very awkward

Axl Rose declined induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in an open letter to the Rock Hall and pretty much anyone who had time to read the rambling note.

In the letter, Axl Rose said he would not only skip the induction ceremony, “I strongly request that I not be inducted in absentia and please know that no one is authorized nor may anyone be permitted to accept nay induction for me or speak on my behalf.”

Axl Rose and the rest of the original members of Guns N’ Roses parted ways long ago, but he has continued to tour with a rotating cast under the band name that is legally his.

In the letter that was released via the L.A. Times Pop & Hiss music blog, Axl Rose said he would not begrudge anyone else from GNR their accomplishments or recognition for such.

“Neither I or anyone in my camp has made any requests or demands of the Hall of Fame. It’s their show not mine. That said, I won’t be attending the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction 2012 Ceremony and I respectfully decline my induction as a member of Guns N’ Roses to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”

The letter really is a long one, and rambles extensively with references to things only insiders, or really hardcore fans, would be privy to, so to read the note in its entirety check out the original here.

Axl Rose concluded the letter with thanks to the Rock Hall and GNR fans, but also said there is no possibility of a conversation, let alone a reunion, between the original GNR lineup.

Charles Manson to spend at least 15 more years behind bars

The infamous murderer was denied parole for the 12th time Wednesday

Charles Manson will spend at least 15 more years in prison.

Charles Manson, one of America’s most notorious convicts, was scheduled to go before the parole board Wednesday. He was denied parole for the 12th and possibly final time, as the 77 year-old convict won’t be up for parole again until 2027. He will be 92 by then.

John Peck, a member of the parole panel, said that the board did not see any signs of rehabilitation. Charles Manson has refused self-help programs and vocational training, and has accumulated 108 serious disciplinary violations during his time in prison.

Twice in the last few years Charles Manson has been found in possession of cell phones, which he used to call people in three states. He has also been found with homemade weapons.

John Peck read a quote aloud to the board that Charles Manson had said to a prison psychologist.

“I’m special. I’m not like the average inmate. I have spent my life in prison. I have put five people in the grave. I’m a very dangerous man.”
While this statement contrasts with his past argument that he did not personally murder nine people in 1969, the parole board said they did not believe he had shown any remorse for the crimes.

Charles Manson was originally sentenced to death for the murder spree his “family” carried out on August 9, 1969. During the spree, they killed 26  year-old actress Sharon Tate, who was 8 ½ months pregnant.

Sharon Tate was hosting friends at the Hollywood home where she lived with her husband, director Roman Polanski. Polanski was out of town, but Jay Sebring, Voytek Frykowski, Abigail Folger (of the coffee dynasty), and Steven Parent were all present when Charles Manson’s family entered the home and brutally slaughtered the party goers.

Another couple, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, were murdered the next evening by the “family.”

When the California Supreme Court found the state’s death penalty law unconstitutional, Charles Manson was instead faced with life in prison, with the possibility of parole.

Charles Manson was already an ex-convict when he took in several runaways known as the Manson Family. He used his charismatic ways to convince his mostly young, female followers to carry out the murders. The tragedy at the Tate home was thought to be a plot to incite a race war against whites and blacks, but no clear motive was ever found.

Amanda Bynes doesn't drink according to her dad; Amanda Bynes does drink according to videos

Her dad may believe she’s a “good girl” but TMZ has footage of the actress stumbling out of nightclubs recently.

Amanda Bynes was arrested last week for drunk driving, and now her father is telling reporters that his daughter definitely “doesn’t drink.”

And now, TMZ is reporting that she definitely does.

Amanda Bynes was arrested early in the morning Friday April 6 after she sideswiped a cop car that was stopped at an intersection. She had reportedly been partying all night at a West Hollywood nightclub before the 3 a.m. incident.

Amanda Bynes’ dad, Rick Bynes, told People on Monday, “She was not drunk. I was told that she blew a zero on the Breathalyzer. She didn’t have a single drink that night. My daughter doesn’t drink.”

TMZ has released two videos of Amanda Bynes stumbling out of nightclubs recently, and it is very likely that the 26-year-old former actress was out drinking again the week of her birthday, which was April 3.

“She was upset and very emotional,” Rick Bynes said when pressed for a reason why his daughter hit a cop car.

Amanda Bynes spent several hours in a jail cell before being released, which is standard protocol for suspects who are arrested or drug or alcohol-related offenses until they can take care of themselves.

Later Friday night, Amanda Bynes and several of her friends were turned away from the bar at The Standard Hotel, allegedly because the hotel staff had heard about her arrest and didn’t want to be the scene of another Amanda Bynes crime.

Hot dog stuffed crust is as American as it gets

So why is it available in the UK first?

Hot dog stuffed crust. It sounds like one of those “only in America” things, but for once it’s the United Kingdom that’s getting attention for a new less-than-healthy menu item.

Pizza hut, who brought us the cheese stuffed crust pizza, is introducing hot dog stuffed crust in the UK. For an added bonus they throw in a free mustard drizzle. Pizza Hut must be trying to teach the UK the Chicago rules of hot dog eating (absolutely no ketchup, ever, don’t even ask), although the Second City doesn’t typically stuff hot dogs into their deep dish.

The hot dog stuffed crust sounds about as American as it gets, but not only has Pizza Hut bypassed the Junk Food Republic by introducing this pizza abroad, they have quietly been serving it up in Japan and Thailand for years.

With the hot dog stuffed crust making its way westward, it’s only a matter of time before it hits the menu boards in Small Town, U.S.A. In fact, now that it has been introduced to Western culture Americans will likely begin to demand a taste of this new strange food mash-up. After all, if there are two things Americans love, they are mash-ups and hot dogs.

How long do you think it will take for the hot dog stuffed crust pizza to make it across the pond?

Dogs of the Titanic remembered 100 years later

The previously untold stories of the Titanic’s four-legged passengers are exhibited at Widener University.

The dogs of the Titanic haven’t had nearly the amount of attention as the rest of the passengers who were aboard the ocean liner on her maiden voyage 100 years ago. As the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic nears, people are remembering the dogs of the Titanic.

Widener University will host an exhibit in memory of the fateful voyage of the ill-named “unsinkable ship.” Part of the exhibit will feature the dogs of the Titanic.

Dr. Edgette, the producer and curator of the exhibit, told Yahoo news that ship records and eyewitness accounts confirm that 12 dogs were on board the Titanic when it sank, but there may have been more. Unfortunately, only three dogs of the Titanic survived.

Many people consider their pets to be members of the family, and apparently it was just as true 100 years ago as it is today. But how did these three lucky dogs make it out alive?

“The dogs that survived were so small that it’s doubtful anyone even realized they were being carried to the lifeboats,” Dr. Edgette said, “Two were Pomeranians and the third was a Pekingese, all tiny dogs.”

The surviving dogs belonged to a Miss Margaret hays, the Rothschilds, and the Harpers of Harper & Row Publishing.

Only first class passengers had dogs on board, so the fact that these three tiny dogs had well-to-do owners didn’t help their chances, although they were more likely to reach a lifeboat. Even John Jacob Astor’s Airedale, Kitty, perished when the Titanic sank.

William Carter of Philadelphia insured his daughter’s King Charles Spaniel for $100 and his son’s Airedale for $200. The children were unable to save their pets from the ship’s kennel before evacuating, and the insurance company paid the settlement for the dogs, Mrs. Carter’s jewelry, and their 1912 Renault. The Renault, which they purchased in Paris, was brought back to life by James Cameron in the movie Titanic, and is the setting for the movie’s steamiest scene.

Perhaps the dogs of the Titanic should have taken followed suit with the ship’s cat. Most ships had cats aboard to chase off rats, including on the Titanic. However, according to Dr. Edgette, the legend is that the ship’s cat did not make the voyage across the Atlantic.

“It’s said that there was a cat with young kittens aboard the sea trials of the Titanic, but when the ship arrived in Southampton from Belfast, she was seen disembarking. Up and down the gangplank she went, retrieving one kitten at a time that she deposited on the dock. She and the kittens quickly disappeared and it was later said that she had some sort of premonition that the voyage wasn’t going to be a good one.”

Whether the cat had a crystal ball, or the commotion made in preparations for the maiden journey made her fear for the safety of her kittens is unclear. However, the cat was another lucky survivor who narrowly escaped a tragic end aboard the Titanic.

The Titanic exhibit will opens at Widener University April 10 and will run until May 12. In addition to the dogs of the Titanic section, visitors will learn how the Titanic has impacted pop culture, details about the ship, and the Widener family for whom the University is named, and who had three members on board.