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Local Buzz:
"State Anti-Gang Law Largely Ignored"

*COLUMBIA, Tenn. (AP) - A state law enacted 13 years ago to give gang members harsher prison sentences has likely never been successfully used by prosecutors in Tennessee.
The General Assembly approved legislation in 1997 authorizing district attorneys to seek stronger sentences for defendants convicted of gang offenses.
At the time, supporters touted the law as evidence Tennessee was tackling a growing crime problem by lengthening prison sentences for gang members. But 13 years later, there are numerous signs that prosecutors use the law sparingly if at all to combat gang activity.
According to the Daily Herald, Democratic State Rep. Ty Cobb of Columbia said researchers on Capitol Hill have discovered the law has not lengthened a single sentence.

"West Tennessee Highway Closed For 2 Years"

*NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A state route in West Tennessee has been closed to all but local traffic for more than two years while seven bridges are replaced.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation closed Rt. 436 in Carroll County on Tuesday so work could begin. Officials said closing the highway will allow the work to be done faster and more safely.
The 9.8-mile stretch is between McKenzie and U.S. 70-A. Dement Construction was awarded a $6,679,000 contract to replace the bridges. The project is scheduled to be completed by June 2012.
TDOT said people who live along Rt. 436 or have land there will have access to their property during construction.
Detours have been marked.

"Tennessee State, HUD Working On Discrimination"

*NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee State University became the first of 30 colleges that will work with the federal government to interest students in resolving housing discrimination issues.
A local newspaper reported the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the agency is working to inspire and train the next generation of discrimination investigators and anti-discrimination activists.
Experts in housing discrimination will speak in classes on the Nashville campus and present opportunities for possible internships in Washington, D.C., with HUD.
John Trasvina, the agency's assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said there were more than 10,000 fair housing complaints filed last year - 169 of them in Tennessee.
TSU has posted notice of 30 paid internships at HUD's Washington and regional offices.

Top Stories:
"Midterm Season Opens With Primary in Illinois"

*CHICAGO ” In the nation's first primary of the midterm election season, voters went to the polls on Tuesday across Illinois, President Obama's home state, where Republicans are eager to make inroads come November.
Voters will select a Democrat and a Republican to compete for the United States Senate seat once held by President Obama” a seat Democrats are desperate to retain not just to shore up their majority in the Senate but also for its symbolic importance.
Also to be chosen are party nominees for governor. That office will be up for election for the first time since Rod R. Blagojevich, who prosecutors say tried to sell to the highest bidder an appointment to Mr. Obama's old Senate seat, was impeached and removed last year.
Though Illinois has leaned overwhelmingly Democratic in recent years the party holds every statewide elected post and a majority in each house of the state legislature” Republicans hope to seize on the dismal state economy, the anti-establishment mood that they saw in action last month in Massachusetts, and the lingering, unavoidable shadow of Mr. Blagojevich, a Democrat whose federal trial on corruption charges is expected to start here in June, the middle of the campaign season.
On the Democratic side, Patrick J. Quinn, who was elevated from lieutenant governor to governor a year ago to replace Mr. Blagojevich, has faced a strong challenge from Dan Hynes, the state comptroller. Though sometimes soft-spoken in previous elections, Mr. Hynes this time has pounded Mr. Quinn with criticism for all that has not occurred in the year that Mr. Quinn has served. Polls have shown the two men running nearly even.
If the memories of Mr. Blagojevich were not enough, the state is in miserable financial shape” one step shy of California, according to some experts. By some estimates, it is facing a $13 billion budget deficit. Both Democratic contenders say they want to raise the state income tax to help plug the hole, though they disagree about how to do it.
In some past years, the Republicans have struggled to field strong candidates for even the highest positions in this state. In the 2004 election, when Mr. Obama first ran for and won the Senate seat, the party ultimately put up Alan Keyes, a conservative from Maryland, against him.
But the party seemed to have no trouble this time around: a long list of viable candidates are seeking the governor's job. Among them are Andy McKenna, former chairman of the state Republican Party; Jim Ryan, a former state attorney general; and two state senators, Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady.
For Mr. Obama's former United States Senate seat now held by Roland W. Burris, who was appointed by Mr. Blagojevich and is not seeking election to a full term the front runner on the Republican side is Mark Steven Kirk, a member of Congress from the northern suburbs of Chicago.

"Punxsutawney Phil: 6 more weeks of winter"

*PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. - The world's most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, emerged before chilly revelers in western Pennsylvania Tuesday to see his shadow, meaning winter will last another six weeks.
Thousands of people gathered before dawn to await this weather forecast.
German tradition holds that if a hibernating animal casts a shadow on Feb. 2 the Christian holiday of Candlemas” winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow is seen, legend says spring will come early.
The Inner Circle of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club annually announces Phil's forecast at dawn on Gobbler's Knob, about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
The National Weather Service forecast 15-degree temperatures and overcast skies for the announcement.
The Groundhog Club says since 1887 Phil has predicted more winter weather by seeing his shadow nearly 100 times.

"China Warns Obama Against Meeting with Dalai Lama"

*China has warned U.S. President Barack Obama not to meet with Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, saying such a meeting would harm bilateral relations.
Zhu Weiqun, the head of the department in charge of talks with the Dalai Lama, told a news conference Tuesday that if Mr. Obama meets with the Dalai Lama, it would threaten trust and cooperation between China and the United States.
The warning follows a meeting between China and envoys of the Dalai Lama last week. The meeting ended with no compromise from Beijing on Tibet's status.
Two envoys of the Dalai Lama are expected to brief him on their talks, from which they returned largely empty-handed.
The two envoys are to meet with reporters after speaking with the Dalai Lama Tuesday. On Monday, they were to brief the Tibetan prime minister-in-exile, Kalon Tripa Samdhong Rinpoche.
A spokesman for the Tibetan government-in-exile Monday said it is encouraged that contacts with the Chinese have resumed.
However, Chinese state media said Beijing officials told the envoys during talks last week there will be no compromise on China's sovereignty over Tibet. The official Xinhua news agency quoted Du Qinglin, head of a department in charge of the talks, that there is no room for discussion, and no concessions will be made on autonomy for Tibet.
Talks between the two sides 15 months ago also achieved virtually nothing.

Celeb News:
"WYCLEF JEAN: A Warning to Human Traffickers"

*Wyclef Jean has some harsh words for human traffickers following reports that 10 Americans were charged with kidnapping 33 Haitian children and attempting to bring them to an orphanage across the border in the Dominican Republic. 'Clef writes on Twitter, "My message to the child traffickers in Haiti: I give you my word -- we will hunt you down one by one, and you will be judged with no mercy."
According to Haitian prime minister Jean-Max Bellerive, 10 missionaries from an Idaho church group were involved. They are being held in a police station near the airport at Port-Au-Prince and deny the accusations.


*Don't miss the final season of Lo­st -- which kicks off tonight -- because it might be the last time you see stars Matthew Fox and Evangeline Lily on the small screen, or any screen for that matter.
Fox, who plays "Jack Shephard" on the A-B-C hit, tells E! News he's ditching T-V when the sixth season ends. "I think this will be the last time you see me on T-V. I'm either going to do the kind of things I want to do in the film world, or maybe I'll just do something else entirely."
Lily, who plays "Kate Austen," says she's not only ditching T-V -- she's ditching acting altogether. "I want to have some quiet space. [I want to] drop off the radar a little bit and enjoy a little bit of normalcy again."


*Kristen Bell and Dax Shepherd, who co-star in the romantic comedy When in Rome, have found romance in real-life -- the couple is getting married. Kristen showed off her new engagement on the red carpet of the Grammys Sunday, but the two actually got engaged over the holidays.


*Here's your chance to reek like a guido -- Jersey Shore's Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino is launching his own fragrance, called Sitch. He tells Access Hollywood, "The name is just, it's pretty cool. Who wouldn't buy cologne called Sitch by Situation?" Can a spray tan from Snooki be far behind?

Good News:
" $30B in TARP funds to go to small-business lending"

*Today, President Obama will announce the latest initiative in his series of plans to spur growth, bolster hiring and free up credit for small businesses: a new $30 billion "small-business lending fund" created from TARP money.
The fund would be available to community banks with assets of $10 billion or less for small-business lending, say senior administration officials, who didn't want to be identified because the president had not yet formally announced the program.
"These are the small, local banks that work most closely with our small businesses — that provide them their first loan, and watch them grow through good times and bad," Obama said in excerpts released in advance of his speech today.
Over the last week, the president also outlined a spate of other initiatives to aid small businesses. Many were detailed in the $3.8 trillion budget plan he sent to Congress on Monday and during his State of the Union address last week.
Yet, some small-business trade groups and business owners say the proposals may not be extensive enough to offer smaller firms the immediate assistance they need.
"I think the administration is really trying to work with small business," says Molly Brogan, a spokeswoman for the National Small Business Association. "But it is tough to do, because there are so many different priorities."


*When it comes to love, forget the idea that opposites attract. University of Iowa psychologists studied 291 newly married couples and discovered the opposite to be true. People select romantic partners who are like them in interests, values, and background, say the authors of the study.
-question??? Are you and your mate true opposites? What makes it work? Are you more attracted to people like you -- or completely different from you?

A health note:

*Cold-weather mishaps to avoid:
1. Lingering in a hot shower. When it's freezing outside, it's tempting take a long steam-bath. But after about 15 minutes, your skin begins losing precious moisture!
2. Using soap-based facial cleanser. In winter, when there's not as much moisture in the air, you're better off with a non-foaming cleanser.
3. Applying foundation to flaky skin. No foundation looks good on super-dry skin. Exfoliate regularly and use night cream. And use moisturizing foundation, not powder.
4. Skipping SPF. The sun's rays are still dangerous in winter. Even you're only outside briefly, use a daytime moisturizer with at least SPF 30.
5. Neglecting your hands. Don't forget your gloves! Also, anti-bacterial soaps can be drying, so use a mild, creamy one instead, plus a rich cream especially for hands.
6. Rough feet. Once a week, soak your feet in warm, soapy water for 15 minutes, then buff the soles with a foot file. To seal cracks, put on ointment or rich foot cream.
7. Too much bronzer. Try a body lotion with a low dose of the self-tanner DHA.
8. Hat head. To prevent messing up your hair, make sure it's totally dry before putting on your hat -- even if it's slightly damp, it will dry flattened-out under the hat.~ Allure

Today in Black History:
"Truman Sends a Message"

*On February 2nd, 1948, President Harry Truman sent Congress a special message urging adoption of a civil rights program, including a fair employment practices commission and anti-lynching and anti-poll tax measures.

Mess of the Day:
"Beware The Gush"

*Anybody remember the fruit snack "Gushers? Now I'm not saying anything else, I'm just saying….Gushers. They're delicious. Good luck enjoying them ever again.~Indiana

Thought for the day:

"Be not the slave of your own past.~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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