Galileo now a 'man of faith'
Galileo Galilei is going from heretic to hero. The Vatican is recasting the most famous victim of its Inquisition as a man of faith, just in time for the 400th anniversary of Galileo's telescope and the U.N.-designated International Year of Astronomy next year. Pope Benedict XVI paid tribute to the Italian astronomer and physicist Sunday, saying he and other scientists had helped the faithful better understand and "contemplate with gratitude the Lord's works." At a Vatican conference last month, the Vatican No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said Galileo "lovingly cultivated his faith and his profound religious conviction." In May, Vatican officials will participate in an international conference to re-examine the Galileo affair. It's quite a reversal of fortune for Galileo (1564-1642), who made the first complete astronomical telescope and used it to gather evidence that the Earth revolved around the sun. Church teaching at the time put Earth at the center of the universe. His theory was denounced as dangerous to the faith, but Galileo defied its warnings. Tried as a heretic in 1633 and forced to recant, he was sentenced to life imprisonment, later changed to house arrest.
Water main floods street
A massive, aging water main ruptured Tuesday and sent a wave of water down a Bethesda, Md. road, transforming the street into a raging river and trapping nine motorists who had to be rescued from the frigid deluge by emergency workers in helicopters and boats. The water gushed down River Road and rocked cars. Two people in a minivan were plucked by helicopter out of the roaring rapids, water crashing and spraying around them as they were lifted to safety in a basket. Other motorists escaped 4-feet deep water by boat. Montgomery County fire officials said five people were checked for hypothermia; temperatures outside were in the 20s. It was not immediately clear what caused the 5 ½-foot wide pipe to burst.
Woman survives cold, snow
A Canadian woman who disappeared during a blizzard has been found alive, buried in 23 inches of snow four days after her sport utility vehicle got stuck in a snowy field. A police search dog and its handler were trudging through almost knee-high snow on Monday when the dog took off across a field, signaling he had found Donna Molnar, 55, who disappeared Friday near Ancaster, Ontario. Overnight temperatures dipped as low as 2 degrees. Handler Ray Lau found Molnar just a few hundred yards from her SUV, conscious and wearing little more than a winter jacket. Police credited the snow's insulating effect with keeping her alive. Staff Sgt. Mark Cox said Molnar is in danger of losing some extremities to frostbite, but is expected to survive.
Forget Barack Obama's staff making contact with a governor charged with corruption. What's got everyone talking is the president-elect's fine first form. "FIT FOR OFFICE: Buff Bam is Hawaii hunk," the New York Post gushed on its cover Tuesday above a photo of Obama strolling without a shirt in Hawaii. The Drudge Report called him "President Beefcake," while TMZ said Obama is "still humble enough to do laundry — ON HIS ABS!" The photos were distributed by Bauer-Griffin, a photo agency more typically found on the corners of Hollywood. Photographer Chris Behnke had gone to the beach to get general views of the estate where Obama is vacationing, but instead found the first family hitting the beach, agency co-owner Frank Griffin said. A spokesman traveling with Obama in Hawaii did not have immediate comment. "I have a feeling that the president-elect kind of accepts this, that it goes with the territory," Griffin said. "I think the pictures humanize him and show that he's just like the rest of us." But with tighter abs.
At the hectic Toys 'R' Us in New York's Times Square, displays of Incredible Hulk and Star Wars toys dwarf a shelf displaying Spin Master Ltd.'s Bakugan Battle Brawlers. But the Bakugan products are sparse, while other shelves remain fully stocked.
Indecipherable to adults and irresistible to kids — boys at least — Bakugan Battle Brawlers and related products have become an out-of-nowhere hit this shopping season. "Bakugan qualifies as the hardest-to-find toy of the holiday season," said Toys 'R' Us spokeswoman Kathleen Waugh. "The minute it is restocked on store shelves it vaporizes."
Toymakers often rely on holiday hits like Bakugan because up to half their annual sales come during the last three months of the year. Even though adults are focusing their spending on children, analysts predict toy sales will be flat or even fall 3 percent from the $10.4-billion that market research firm NPD Group said toy shoppers spent during last year's final three months.
Retailers and industry experts say the most expensive items are selling slowest. An exception is Spike the Ultra Dinosaur, a remote-control dinosaur from Mattel Inc.'s Fisher Price unit, according to Jim Silver, a toy analyst with Timeto playmag.com. It retails for $140 at Toys 'R' Us and $130 at Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Among other classic brands, Hasbro's Nerf "is on fire," BMO Capital Markets analyst Gerrick Johnson said; most popular are Nerf guns, which range in price from about $20 to $85, he said.