January 22, 2006 | 7:30 p.m. ET

What do you Google? (Josh Mankiewicz, Dateline correspondent)

Video: ‘Mank blog’

Apparently, the government wants to know what you’re doing on the Internet. One of the biggest blog topics this week is the fight going on— with the Justice Department on one side, and Google on the other— over releasing data about Web searches involving porn .

I have two opinions here: The government cracking down on kiddie porn... good idea. The government learning everything you search for on the ‘Net? Bad idea.

Now, I also want to know what you’re doing out there on the Web. So I checked Technorati and Blogpulse, and found a lot of traffic headed to a sort of video blog called You Tube. It’s a place where you can post your own videos about nearly anything—from you dialoging with your dog to this urban ninja.

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January 21, 2006 | 4:30 p.m. ET

Supermarket Sweep: Is your grocery store clean? (Lea Thompson, Dateline Chief Consumer Correspondent)

What an assignment: slogging around grocery stores looking for grime, vermin, and other things that could make you sick. Our "Supermarket Sweep" story continues our look at safe food. You may remember our Dirty Dining series on fast food and family restaurants . We also took a hard look at school cafeterias . A natural extension, and an important one — supermarkets.

These stories are an incredible undertaking and we believe this is the largest survey of grocery store cleanliness and safety ever done. Producers Lynn Keller and Liz Brown collected health inspection reports for a thousand stores — 100 stores in each of the top ten grocery chains. Then we pored over about 4,500 inspection reports looking for "critical violations" — those things the federal food code or the local jurisdiction designates as problems serious enough to cause disease. Andy Lehren, our awesome computer guru, then crunched the numbers to come up with a top ten list — a list where no chain wants to be number one.

Liz Brown headed out with a laser digital thermometer and a hidden camera. She, and other Dateline producers, hit 18 stores all over the country.

Frankly, I was surprised the inspection reports showed so many temperature citations: perhaps it is something I didn't think much about before. But, if hot food is not kept hot enough, in the deli for instance, it can form dangerous bacteria after only a few hours. And the same thing goes for cold food — say deli meat or cheese. If it gets too warm, it starts to decay. Yuck.

Another surprise for me? We found an awful lot of expired products on the shelf. How many of us ever look for expiration dates? The one that bothered us the most was infant formula. Infant formula is often the sole source of nutrition for babies... and we know that after a period of time the vitamins start to drop out.

We also found a lot of nasty, disgusting things— mouse and rat traps, egg goo all over everything, meat sitting on bloody trays...

Please know that there are a lot of really clean stores in this country... but it is hard to know sometimes what is clean and what isn't.

Video: How safe is the store where you shop?

One way I learned to judge a store? Take a deep smell when you walk in, especially around the meat counter. If you get a whiff of something putrid — head out the door. And check out the bathrooms. Federal food codes say there must be soap and hot water. Can you imagine the germs being spread if there is no hot water to wash hands in after going to the bathroom?

We've got a lot of other good ideas here on our Web site . After our show on Sunday, you can read the full script.

MSNBC's Health Editor Jane Weaver put together some other tips for you . And be sure to read what the stores have to say about what we found.

Jim Sinegal, the CEO of the Costco warehouse stores told us "This is kinda of a wake up call for us and I think probably for everybody in our industry." Bottom line: Don't just assume what you buy is safe.

And, after you get all those groceries home remember to wash the produce well (studies show 40 people before you have pawed through it) and don't ever forget to cook your meat thoroughly.

Until next time, thanks for reading this— and watching Dateline Sunday night.

Dateline airs Sunday, 7 p.m. on NBC. Write us at Dateline@MSNBC.com for thoughts on this issue, or if you have smart shopping tips of your own to share.

January 19, 2006 | 10:57 a.m. ET

Hollywood dreams take a tragic turn

Roughcutmovie.com
A movie poster on a documentary about a real-life murder. According to producer Todd Shill, the story is also a statement on "the incredible magnetic draw that people have to the film industry— that they'll do anything to get in."
Thinking he would make the next "The Blair Witch Project," first-time filmmaker Blaine Norris thought his horror movie could put him on the map. Unfortunately, his shot at stardom would cost one innocent woman her life. Dennis Murphy reported on this twisty tale of life imitating art , Friday, Jan. 20, 9 p.m. on "Dateline NBC."

In the hour-long report , Murphy travels to Harrisburg, Penn., where this slasher movie spawned a real-life horror all of its own. He speaks with the mother of the victim, investigators, friends of the wannabe director and the filmmakers of a new documentary about the terrible cost of one man's Hollywood dream.

January 16, 2006 | 1:45 p.m. ET

Carrick Forbes and her struggle to get stay away from drugs was the subject of a Dateline documentary in July 2005. Since then, viewers have been asking for an update on how Carrick and her family are doing. Carrick checks in with Inside Dateline, and tells us in her own words, below:

How I'm doing (Carrick Forbes)

I truly could never have anticipated the outpouring of concern and encouragement my family and I received after “Saving Carrick” first aired, July 29, 2005 on Dateline NBC. Since then, the show has aired several times on MSNBC and has been downloaded by people all across the world, from as far away as Australia. It has been used as a teaching tool in universities and clinics, I’m told, and will soon be updated for airing as part of the “Cover to Cover” series on CNBC.

'Saving Carrick'Strangers on the streets on Manhattan have congratulated me, or asked me how I was doing. I have also received hundreds of emails, mostly through The Elephant on Main Street Web site, an “interactive memoir” headed up by my father Thom Forbes, engaging people in open and frank dialogue concerning addiction, and involving all who are affected by the disease.  Statistically, most of us who have not been consumed by this disease ourselves know of someone close to us who has been.

It took a great deal of thought and meditation, both singularly and as a family, before deciding to go ahead and share our stories on a national platform as widely viewed as Dateline.  Although we all had our separate concerns and hopes for the project, ultimately our goal in participating was to encourage open dialogue regarding addiction, to address the pervasive impact that addiction has on the addict, the family the community, and in the bigger picture, the world. For some it may be hard to believe that in the year 2006, the majority of people would rather not address the issue, or flat out deny it is there in their community. The fact is that addiction in all its forms is the number one cause of premature death in America, and as a disease it does not discriminate.  And yes, it even hits the “nice, wealthy, well-educated” suburban communities like ours.

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January 16, 2006 | 1:00 p.m. ET

Thom Forbes, who Dateline viewers were introduced to in the Dateline hour “Saving Carrick” which aired July 2005, is the father Carrick.

Forbes, a freelance writer, was an alcoholic himself, and is now actively helping and speaking out in the recovery community. Read their family’s story, as featured on Dateline. 

Below, is an excerpt of Thom’s take on the latest controversy surrounding “A Million Little Pieces,” James Frey’s million-copy seller memoir on addiction.  Less discussed in the controversy surrounding the book and Frey’s truthfulness about his criminal past is that the memoir is about addiction and recovery.

An excerpt is adapted from his interactive memoir, below. You can read more on Forbes’ interactive memoir and discussion boards on elephantonmain.com.

Words on addiction (Thom Forbes)

I am an avid reader of addiction memoirs. When “A Million Little Pieces” came out a few years ago, however, I decided to skip it after reading a few reviews that suggested that some of the scenes, starting with an airplane trip where the author seemed like he should be in an emergency room instead of an airline seat, were implausible. When the book got Oprah’s imprimatur, and suddenly everyone else was reading it, and book agents and the like began touting it as a model to be emulated, I broke down and ordered it.

It was slower slogging for me than I anticipated. I found the protagonist to be pretty dull, despite some memorable scenes — such as his having root canal without anesthesia — in the first 200 pages. (But I did wonder why he wasn’t allowed to use anesthesia, and so did my dental hygienist. There may be some Novocaine addicts out there, but we’ve yet to meet one.)

There were some other details that bothered me later, such as an improbable list of juvenile transgressions that went far beyond anything I’d ever heard anyone do with such persistency and vigor (and I’d done a few myself), and the pummeling of a priest in Paris who too conveniently attempts to seduce a young Frey contemplating suicide.

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January 16, 2006 | 12:00 p.m. ET

Exclusive interview with Liberia's new president (Ann Curry, NBC News)

First Lady Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice traveled to one of the world's most dangerous places to witness a remarkable event — the inauguration of the first woman ever elected president in Africa. As we mentioned on Dateline, Ann Curry traveled to Liberia for an exclusive interview with the new president and she weighed in for the first time on whether al Qaeda has operated in Liberia and says publicly for the first time what she is going to do about her predecessor, Charles Taylor, who is wanted for crimes against humanity. Read Ann's interview with Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf .

Read a Dateline report last July about former president Charles Taylor .

January 16, 2006 | 10:29 a.m. ET

Was foul play behind a boating accident?

NBC News' Chris Hansen traveled to Michigan to investigate the mysterious disappearance of two young attorneys on Lake Huron while on a boat trip this past August. The body of Lana Stempien, a former model, was recovered, but her boyfriend, Chuck Rutherford, is still missing. The case was officially ruled an accident, but with questions and suspicious clues mounting, many people are wondering if it could have been something else.

In a multi-part investigative report , which aired Friday, Jan 13, 9 p.m. ET, Hansen uncovers new clues as he explores the many unanswered questions that suggest foul play may be involved. He interviews the last known people to see the couple alive, investigators, and the anguished family of Lana Stempien, who is convinced she did not enter the water voluntarily.

What did you think of the report? E-mail Dateline@MSNBC.com.

Viewer theories

A lot of people wrote in their own theories on what happened on that lake. Below is a selection:

I have no information about your daughter. I just wanted to write because I just watched Dateline and I really feel you are so right to keep looking for answers.  My heart goes out to you as I have lost my only brother. Not foul play, but it is still a loss. I can't imagine how I would be handle it if I did not know how he died. I pray that both families find the answer. One other thing. --Beth Erickson, Pinellas Park, Fla.

I was just wondering if anyone had looked into the satellite images of that day, in that area? could help if maybe another boat was in the area. --Lory, Calif.

This is so sad. Has anyone done fingerprints on the vodka bottle? What I'm really writing about is that the Great Lakes have multiple mysteries and one of them is that bodies of people that perish in one lake end up in another. Some people who have drowned in Lk Superior never have been found or have turned up in Houghton Lake via the underground water system. --Jackie,
Walker, Mich.

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January 15, 2006 | 7:30 p.m. ET

Second edition of the 'Mank blog' (Josh Mankiewicz, Dateline correspondent)

Video: ‘The Mank blog’

Here’s the thing: I read e-mail just like anyone else. And apparently a lot of you found last week’s Mank Blog kind of, well, irritating.

So let me start off by saying, you’ll be even more irritated now.

A lot of you wrote in attacking my opinions, my sense of humor, my shirt and tie, and my reference to my mother.

And now you’ve crossed a line: Youleave my shirts and ties out of this.

So what’s on the blogs this week? According to Technorati and Blogpulse, everything from A to Z: A being Alito and Z being Ziyi Zhang.

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January 13, 2006 | 11:54 a.m. ET

To Catch a Predator III: This time in South California (Chris Hansen)

It was almost two years ago when the first in a series of breakthrough investigations exposed a national epidemic: grown men trolling the Internet, many looking for sex with minors.

In two different investigations, in two different states, dozens of men showed up at our undercover houses after chatting about sex online and then making a date with a minor.  Both of our investigations were watched by millions of people. It was the talk of radio and cable television shows for weeks.

So have sexual predators learned any lesson at all? 

Apparently not. Just this week, Dateline was back in action for a third investigation, this time in Southern California.  As you’ll see, some men are simply not getting the message.

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