Archive for May, 2009
What is Proposition 8? What did the California Supreme Court recently decide about Prop 8?
Major news outlets yesterday were all too quick to show footage of protestors blocking a busy intersection in San Francisco – 175 protestors were eventually arrested. The protestors were reacting to the latest decision in the Proposition 8 fiasco. Proposition 8 was an amendment to the California state constitution that read, in part: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.“ Prop 8, as it is popularly known, passed in the November 4, 2008 general election, making gay marriage illegal in the state of California.
There was nearly immediate legal action, challenging the validity of the proposition, arguing that same sex couples who were legally married during the brief period that gay marriage was legal would now find their unions in jeopardy.
California Supreme Court made a major ruling on Tuesday, May 27, upholding Proposition 8′s ban on same sex marriage while leaving legally intact the 18,000 or more unions the state already has sanctioned.
Regardless of legal precedent — the six justices who make up the majority in this case used legal precedent from as far back as the state Constitution of 1849 — Tuesday’s decision was questionable. Essentially, the California Supreme Court’s decision tells Californians that a right as fundamental as the ability to choose the partner of your choice like a “lottery ticket”, in the words of one popular blogger. Gays in California now feel that had they “gotten in early”, they would have been allowed to marry, and that those who arrived “a few days late” lose out on the chance to express their love for their partner.
No matter how you feel about gay marriage, you must admit that a court ruling that both acknowledges past marriages between same sex couples and cuts off the future chance of gay partners to marry is confusing and unjust.
To be fair, the legal clarity of the court’s ruling last year that the state Constitution guaranteed gays and lesbians the right to marry their same sex partners was also questionable. This whole confused state of affairs has been a constitutional mess from the beginning, so why should we be surprised that confusion is still king on the west coast?
The ruling in 2008 that opened the door for thousands of legal gay unions, sponsored by California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald M. George, drew inspiration from the philosopher Michael Walzer, whose outlook can be summed up fairly simply. Walzer believed that “the American concept of moral progress consists not in the creation of new and unique rights but in the extension of those rights recognized as fundamental to those people to whom they’ve been denied.” Its all about fairness. The earlier court decision stood among some famous peers, decisions that had a major impact on the nation as a whole. Think of the decision to allow gay marriage as similar to the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case – these are cases in which judges sought to equalize outdated law with the social morality of their age
By stark contrast, Tuesday’s confusing and controversial ruling is nothing more than moral retreat and social “retrenchment”. Justice George’s latest majority opinion, asserts that Proposition 8 did not entirely repeal same-sex couples’ right to due process or the “constitutional right of same-sex couples to ‘choose one’s life partner — ” Instead, George wrote, “the measure carves out a narrow and limited exception to these state ‘constitutional rights.’ ”
In fact, the chief Justice insisted that Proposition 8 did not halt “all of the other extremely significant substantive aspects of a same-sex couple’s state constitutional right to establish an officially recognized and protected family”. This statement cements the status of gay and lesbian Californians as second class citizens.
Let’s face it, America – to deny an entire group of people the right to marry is not, as George would have us believe, a “narrow exception” to the equal protection clause. George wants us to believe that it is morally permissible to make exceptions to constitutional rights for specific groups, as long as it’s done by majority vote. Does this sound like the America you know?
Let’s play make believe. Pretend a majority of Californians voted to make a narrow exception to California’s right to privacy which applied only to Jews, — would this be constitutionally acceptable? If African Americans were granted all the protections of the law except the right to marry outside of their race, would that be legal as long as the majority voted for it?
The California Supreme Court tried to make their ruling decent with a caveat to Prop 8 which allows the 18,000 existing same-sex marriages to stand. This is another logically curious decision that will again find California in the middle of more bitter ballot initiative politics. Probably worst of all, the Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday will add credence to the accusation that all three branches of California’s government are acting outside of the public’s interest.
Proposition 8 passed after an enormous fund raising campaign by certain interest groups that may or may not be aligned with the general opinion of the people of California. We don’t really know how Californians feel about the issues of gay marriage, only that certain political groups were able to raise more money to support a single ballot proposition than any other political interest in the country outside of the Presidential campaigns. Since gay unions were first allowed in California, then banned, and now exist in a state of suspended animation, it is difficult to know exactly how the average Californian feels about the issue. The question that must be asked – is the government of California representing the people, or is it the other way around?
- How do I Figure Out My Purpose in Life?
- Love Questions and Answers
- Bisexual Cheating
- Social Networking Sites
- Good Dating Ideas
Is there cocaine in Red Bull Cola?
Red Bull Cola has recently been released here in the United States — it is not considered purely an “energy drink” like the more familiar Red Bull product, but is sold as a “Cola”. About a year ago, the makers of Red Bull, the famous caffeine and sugar loaded “energy drink” decided to develop a soda. The “Red Bull” brand would hopefully imply the same big kick to drinkers of the cola beverage. But could the cola’s boost, which is advertised on the can and by the makers as “100% natural”, come from something more sinister than sugar and B vitamins?
Officials in Germany worry that the inclusion of an ingredient linked to cocaine in Red Bull Cola could cause health problems. Germany has since prohibited the soda’s sale in six states across the country and wil soon recommend a nation wide ban of Red Bull Cola.
The head of the food safety department at Germany’s federal ministry for consumer protection told the German press on Sunday that the inclusion of de-cocainized extract of coca leaf is just as illegal as including actual cocaine in the beverage. According to the German government’s analysis, the cola includes 0.13 micrograms of cocaine per can of the drink but does not pose a serious health threat. The German government readily admits you’d have to drink 12,000 liters of Red Bull Cola to feel any negative effects, but government officials still feel the presence of coca leaf extract is enough to cause concern. The final verdict on the health impact of Red Bull Cola will be given on Wednesday, May 27th by the German government.
Red Bull has been nothing but open about the recipe for its new cola. On the Red Bull Cola website, visitors can see clear pictures of coca, cardamom, Kola nuts, and other key “natural” ingredients. The company insists that coca leaves are used as a “flavoring agent” — they have proven that the illegal cocaine alkaloid has been removed from the extract. “De-cocainized extract of coca leaf is used worldwide in foods as a natural flavoring,” said a Red Bull spokesman. In fact, some sources say that Coca-Cola still includes extract from the trujillo leaves of the coca plant as part of its secret flavoring formula.
In Germany, the Red Bull spokesperson insisted that his company’s product, along with other products known to contain the coca leaf extract, are considered safe in Europe and the U.S. Nutrition and food experts have come to Red Bull’s defense — “There is no scientific basis for this ban on Red Bull Cola because the levels of cocaine found are so small,” Fritz Soergel, the head of the Institute for Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Research, tells Time magazine. “According to the tests we carried out, it’s a nonactive degradation product with no effect on the body. If you start examining lots of other drinks and food [this] carefully, you’d find a lot of surprising things,” he says.
Coca leaves, of course, have a notorious presence in modern soda pop history. Most notorious is the “original” Coca-Cola whose 19th century formula used unprocessed coca leaves. By the early 1900s, the company said it would only use decocainized coca leaves, though the company refuses to release any information about the “secret” formula, though one must assume that the FDA has tested the popular soda product and declared it safe.
No one knows where Red Bull Cola’s coca leaves come from or where they are processed. Red Bull has not yet responded to any media outlet’s requests for comment, but the Austrian food company that manufactures Red Bull Cola was quick to make a statement on the subject, namely that the company is not allowed to speak about the product.
- Buy Green Mountain Coffee
- Get Coffee Beans Direct
- 100 Good Cheap Wines
- Wine of the Month Clubs
- Wine Spectator
What is the record for the longest craps roll?
At the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa on the night of May 23rd, 2009, Patricia Demauro of Denville, New Jersey set a new record for the longest craps roll. Demauro rolled the dice for 4 hours and 18 minutes before her ridiculous string of consecutive rolls finally ended. Borgata Casino officials said that her roll beat the previous mark of 3 hours, 6 minutes set nearly 20 years ago at a Las Vegas casino.
Demauro bought into a craps game with $100 at about 8 pm and quickly drew a large crowd of cheering supporters. When Demauro eventually “sevened out” about 12:30 am, she was given a champgne toast. Demauro had made it through 154 rolls of the dice without hitting a seven after the point.
“This was only my second time playing craps, so this was very exciting for me to be a part of history,” Demauro said in a television interview. The Borgata Casino would not disclose how much she won during her record setting stretch at the craps table, and it seems likely that they asked Demauro not to disclose this information either — when asked how much money she’d earned at the table that night, Demauro would only laugh and say “It was a very good night.”
Ms. Demauro’s roll lasted over four hours and beat not just the number of dice rolls, but eclipsed time length records. The previous time record belonged to Mr. Stanley Fujitake, whose record length of three hours and six minutes at the California Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas only involved about 118 “table decisions”. Ms. Demauro is now the new craps champ in terms of time and in terms of the total number of rolls before sevening out.
The previous record holder for number of rolls came in at 147, but lasted only two hours and 18 minutes. The great differences between time and number of rolls can be explained rather simply — both Fujitake and Demauro were rolling on 14 foot craps tables packed with players, most of them making Hardways bets and other less traditional bets that took a lot of time to pay out. The prior record holder in terms of number of rolls was playing with only 12 players at a 12 foot table, most of them ignoring the more dangerous bets, thus that record holder was able to get in many more rolls in a lot less time.
We don’t know much about the incredibly lucky Ms. Demauro, other than the fact that she was a true amateur, having only rolled the dice at a craps table once before.
The odds of a player hitting seven on any given single roll are naturally higher because there are more dice combinations that add up to seven than any other number. The dice combinations 1-6, 2-5, 3-4, 4-3, 5-2, or 6-1 will lead to a change of the dice. For Demauro to last over four hours and 154 rolls of the dice without hitting any of these six combinations after establishing the point is an almost unbelievable feat.
- Free Online Games Information
- RPG Games
- How to Become an Early Riser
- How to Simplify Your Life
- Is the Federal Income Tax Legal?
What is Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s record?
President Obama nominated Federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court on Tuesday, making her the first Hispanic in history to be elevated to the nation’s highest court.
Sonia Sotomayor, 54, has been a federal judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit since 1998. Judge Sotomayor has a formidable resume: from 1992 to 1998, Sotomayor was a federal judge for the U. S. District Court of New York. Before this, she served as an assistant district attorney for New York County from 1979 to 1984. Sotomayor also worked in private practice for the New York-based law firm Pavia & Harcourt from 1984 to 1992.
Looking at the history of her biggest decisions gives us an idea of what her politics will be like.
As a district judge, Sotomayor defended the First Amendment rights of prisoners when she tossed out a New York state prison rule that banned members of certain religious groups from wearing colored beads, meant to ward off “evil spirits”. Sotomayor also rejected a suburban New York law that would have prevented a congregation from displaying a large menorah in a public park.
In 1995, Sonia Sotomayor made a famous ruling that brought Major League Baseball back from a strike that nearly levelled the sport. According to Sotomayor, this ruling was one of the most important moments of her career. Sotomayor was perfectly positioned to resurrect baseball because of her position on the bench in New York. Sotomayor is known to be a big fan of baseball.
Beyond these landmark cases, Sotomayor has distinguished herself by being a fiery and opinionated presence in any court she worked with. A few of her landmark decisions:
Expanding Constitutional Rights
A memo circulating among Republicans about Judge Sotomayor claims that she is “willing to expand constitutional rights beyond the text of the Constitution.” The memo gives many examples, including her ruling in a case about lawsuits made against federal contractors. The case in question, Makesko v. Correctional Services Corporation, 2000, concerns an inmate who was incarcerated in a fifth floor room at a halfway house while serving time for Federal securities fraud. He was allowed to use the elevator because of a history of congestive heart failure, but when a guard forced him to climb the five flights of stairs instead of using the elevator, the inmate had a heart attack and fell down the stairs. The inmate sued the company that ran the halfway house for the federal Bureau of Prisons due to injuries received during the fall. As part of the appeals court, Judge Sotomayor emphasized legal precedents that seemed to permit suits against companies hired to perform state government functions. The case was then taken to the Supreme Court, where the conservative court reversed Judge Sotomayor’s findings, ruling 5 to 4 that only individual agents, and not entire corporations, may be sued for such violations. Supreme Court Justice Stevens – joined by Justices Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer – dissented in the finding.
Sotomayor had this to say about the case — “Extending [a prior Supreme Court case] to include liability to reach private corporations furthers [its] overriding purpose: providing redress for violations of constitutional rights.”
Abortion will likely be one of the biggest issues during Obama’s presidency. As a member of the Circuit Court, Judge Sotomayor was involved in very few of these controversial issues, and even fewer related to abortion. In one case, she did deny a claim brought by an abortion rights group who were challenging a Bush policy on abortion, one that did not permit foreign organizations who were receive foreign aid from performing or supporting abortions in the United States. Another case involving reproductive rights concerned the definition of the term “refugee,” which includes “victims of coercive family planning practices”. The Second Circuit court ruled that this definition does not include unmarried partners of women forced to abort their pregnancies — men whose girlfriends or lovers were forced into abortions could not be considered refugees. Judge Sotomayor joined on the concurring side, saying it is unnecessary to consider if the definition of this word extended to person’s “legal spouses”, because this particular case dealt with Chinese men and their girlfriends, not their wives.
Judge Sotomayor’s most high-profile case, Ricci v. DeStefano, came within the last year. The case concerned racial discrimination at the workplace — white firefighters in New Haven were allegedly denied promotions after research into the racial makeup of high ranking firefighters found that no black firefighters would be eligible for the same promotion. A three judge panel of the appeals court decided to reject the lawsuit — one of the three judges was Sotomayor. The panel decided that the appeals court wouldn’t hear the case. The Supreme Court is currently considering the discrimination case. Many questions exist in the legal world about Ricci v. DeStefano — one major question in the case is if the law should treat diversity in the work force any different from diversity in the classroom. This issue could have a huge impact in the outcome of the case. In a related decision, Judge Sotomayor dissented from the opinion of her peers in an earlier case involving classroom discrimination. In the case of Gant v. Wallingford Board of Education, Sotomayor found that race discrimination had occurred when a school “unfairly” demoted a black student from first grade to kindergarten. In part, her dissention said that “The school did not give the black student an equal chance to succeed (or fail).”
Workplace Disability Discrimination
Some of Judge Sotomayor’s best known legal opinions concern discrimination against people with disabilities. In the case of Bartlett v. New York State Board of Law Examiners, Judge Sotomayor ruled that a law school graduate who had a diagnosable learning disability and a similar disability related to reeading was legally entitled to extra time to take the bar exams. Sotomayor’s opinion read, in part ““By its very nature, diagnosing a learning disability requires clinical judgment.” After the Supreme Court decided that people who can function “normally by wearing glasses, taking medication, or otherwise compensating for their disability” are not protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Supreme Court told Sotomayor’s appeals court to reconsider their decision in this case. Judge Sotomayor again found that the woman was disabled, and must be given “certain accommodations” — Sotomayor wrote that test scores alone were not enough to diagnose a disability. A similar case involved a trucking company that rejected applicants who were taking certain medications. Judge Sotomayor dissented from the majority opinion of her court, writing that the trucking company (Hunt) had determined the applicants were “substantially limited in the major life activity of working,” and not simply “unsuited for long-distance driving of Hunt’s trucks on irregular stressful schedules.” Sotomayor’s best known opinions are generally dissentions.
Judge Sotomayor has also made important statements related to international law. One famous case involved not just international considerations but child custody law. One case concerned a child of divorced parents who lived in Hong Kong. According to court documents, the mother had sole custody of the child while the father had “reasonable access.” The mother brought the child to New York, and the father filed a petition for the return of the child to Hong Kong. A custody order found that the child could not be removed from Hong Kong without the consent of the father or the Hong Kong court, and the case centered on complex international laws — the main question in the case was whether this custody clause grants “rights of custody” under the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. If the answer was yes, the mother would be required to return the child to Hong Kong. On appeal, the court ruled the removal was not wrong because the father did not possess these “rights of custody”. Again, Sotomayor dissented. In her opinion, Judge Sotomayor argued that a broader legal interpretation of “custody” showed that “rights of custody” were granted under the Hague Convention, showing legal precedent that this was how foreign courts had considered the issue in the past. The same question in this case, Croll v. Croll, is currently before the Supreme Court in the case known as Abbott v. Abbott.
Another case involving international law was concerned with jurisdiction. Federal courts often hear cases between “citizens of a State and citizens or subjects of a foreign state.” According to British law, citizens of Bermuda are “nationals,” but not “subjects.” A panel found, therefore, that federal jurisdiction did not apply in Bermuda. Judge Sotomayor dissented, writing that the Constitution used “citizen” and “subject” to refer to a range of relationships. In the case The Center for Reproductive Law v. Bush, Sotomayor wrote that “The people of Bermuda would be undoubtedly surprised to learn that they are stateless.”
In a major defeat for environmental groups in the most recent Supreme Court term, the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency may use cost certain economic calculations to decide whether they will require power plants to make changes to preserve aquatic environments and organisms. The case centered around the meaning of a phrase in the Clean Water Act that requires power plant’s cooling structures to “reflect the best technology available for minimizing adverse environmental impact.” This wording exists in a legal grey area — and Judge Sotomayor had previously ruled that weighing the costs of the changes against the value of aquatic life in terms of dollars was not permitted by the law. Instead, the EPA could consider only what costs were reasonable for the power plants. her ruling in the case, Riverkeeper v. Environmental Protection Agency, was eventually overturned by the Supreme Court. Sotomayor’s opinion included this statement: “Congress has already specified the relationship between cost and benefits in requiring that the technology designated by the EPA be the best available.”
- California Supreme Court Decision on Proposition 8
- Is the Federal Income Tax Legal?
- What is Getting Things Done?
- How to Become a Better Public Speaker
- How to Make Your Blog More Interesting
What happened at Riverdale Temple?
Riverdale Jewish Center and Temple in the Bronx New York was the target of a recent terror plot which was successfully thwarted by law enforcement authorities on Wednesday, May 20.
Four men were arrested after planting what they thought were explosives near two synagogues. The men were also allegedly plotting to shoot down a US military plane, and were bent on carrying out a holy war or jihad against America, authorities said Thursday.
The suspects were arrested late Wednesday night, shortly after planting a 37-pound mock explosive device in the trunk of a car outside the Riverdale Temple, as well as two mock bombs in the backseat of a car outside the Riverdale Jewish Center, another synagogue a few blocks away.
According to reports, local police and federal authorities worked together to take down the suspected terrorists. Police blocked the criminal’s escape by parking an 18-wheel truck in front of the parking lot exits, then smashing the windows of their SUV and eventually apprehending the unarmed suspects. At a news conference held outside the Riverdale Temple , Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly suggested the attack was in fact anti Semitic in nature, quoting one of the suspects as saying, “If Jews were killed in this attack … that would be all right.”
The suspects are James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, all of Newburgh, New York. They were charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction within the United States and conspiracy to acquire and use anti aircraft missiles. These charges were handed down from the office of the U.S. attorney.
The suspects were further quoted by police officials as stating that they wanted to commit jihad. The suspects were apparently attacking Jews in retaliation for attacks made on Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Further questioning of police officials revealed that the suspects knew one another from time spent together in prison.
The suspects are due in federal court on Thursday in the suburban city of White Plains, New York.
According to Acting U.S. Attorney Lev L. Dassin, the defendants planned to detonate a car with plastic explosives to destroy the synagogues and cause massive casualties, even though few people were inside the buildings. Allegedly, the suspects also planned to shoot Stinger surface to air guided missiles at military planes leaving the Air National Guard base in Newburgh, New York, which is about 70 miles north of New York City.
FBI agents posing as weapons suppliers monitored the men planning the attack, and were able to provided the suspects with an inactive Stinger missile and a large quantity of inert C-4 through an informant. An official with the FBI told The Associated Press that three of the men are ‘converts to Islam”. The FBI official was forced to speak on condition of anonymity because no one with the FBI is authorized to discuss details of the investigation or the suspects. Three of the alleged terrorists are U.S. citizens and one is of Haitian descent.
Suspect Laguerre Payen was an occasional attendee to a Newburgh, New York mosque. According to assistant Imam Hamim Rashada, Payen’s beliefs about Islam often had to be corrected, suggesting that his understand of Islam was quite flawed. The Assistant Imam met Payen through a rehabilitation program that helps prisoners to re enter society after incarceration.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg met privately with the temple’s congregants on Thursday inside the Riverdale Temple to allay their fears and reassure them that the city of New York and the American people would do all they could to protect them from further assaults.
Bloomberg warned against retaliating against Muslims, emphasizing that the temple itself is open to people of all faiths, including a young Muslim girl who sometimes prays with the temple congregation. Officials suggest that the temple may have been chosen out of “convenience” — the temple is near a highway and pretty close to the suspect’s hometown. Officials say the suspects had scouted the location twice in the past.
Uniformed police officers and FBI agents continue to flooded the neighborhood surrounding the temple, and are there to improve residents’ comfort level according to police spokespersons. The police suggest that there is no further risk.
Officials told The Associated Press the arrests came after a year long undercover operation between te FBI and local police that started in the suspect’s hometown of Newburgh.
Mayor Bloomberg released a statement Thursday saying, in part: “This latest attempt to attack our freedoms shows that the homeland security threats against New York City are sadly all too real and underscores why we must remain vigilant in our efforts to prevent terrorism.” The defendants, in their efforts to acquire weapons, met with an FBI informant who was acting under full law enforcement supervision. This case appears to be a total success for the American anti terrorist forces.
The defendants were jailed Wednesday night. On their way into jail, they were met by reporters from various news agencies who attempted to yell questions at three of the four men as they were taken in handcuffs into the Metropolitan Correctional Center. The suspects didn’t respond to any questions.
In June 2008, the FBI informant met suspect Cromitie in Newburgh and Cromitie complained that his parents had lived in Afghanistan and he was upset about the war there, and that many Muslims were being persecuted and killed in Afghanistan and Pakistan by U.S. military forces. Cromitie also expressed an interest in doing “something to America,” according to unnamed FBI officials. In October 2008, the informant started a series of meetings with the defendants at a Newburgh, New York house equipped with bugs — concealed video and audio equipment meant for surveillance. Beginning in April 2009, the four terror suspects selected the synagogue and the community center they intended to ‘hit”. They also conducted surveillance of military planes exiting the Air National Guard Base in Newburgh.
- How to Figure Out Your Purpose in Life
- What is Higher Education?
- What is Continuing Education?
- What is Adult Education?
What is Freecycle.org?
The Freecycle Network is made up of nearly 5,000 member groups with over six and a half million members around the world. It is a grassroots nonprofit ecological movement made up of people who are giving and receiving free stuff right in their own communities. The purpose of freecycle.org is to encourage people to reuse things they may throw away — or as the website puts it, to “keep good stuff out of landfills”.
Each local group is moderated by a local volunteer. Membership is free.
To sign up, find your community on freecycle.org or browse through their various groups with their easy to use “Browse Groups” options on the mainpage.
Their mission statement breaks down the group’s goal better than I ever could: “”Our mission is to build a worldwide gifting movement that reduces waste, saves precious resources & eases the burden on our landfills while enabling our members to benefit from the strength of a larger community.”
By calling the recycling of used goods “gifting”, the owners of freecycle.org have effectively rebranded the re-use movement. When some people think of recycling, they think of dumpster diving hippies with dreadlocks and hummus breath — but if you call it “gifting”, you’re taking the stigma out of saving the Earth.
I’ve just recently freecycled for the first time. After a move, I found myself with an extra metal bed frame — you know the type, the cheap metal frame with wheels that simply won’t fit anywhere in your apartment. I wanted rid of the thing, but I didn’t want to toss all that metal into the trash or attempt to “recycle” it at one of the scrap metal centers in town. So through freecycle I found a college student who just recently moved out of the dorm and needed a bed frame. In exchange, I took his old bicycle off his hands. While it isn’t a brand new bike, it gets me where I need to go, and at zero cost. This kind of exchange is perfect for such a massive consumerist culture
Freecycle.org started out as a project of an organization called RISE Incorporated, a nonprofit corporation, to promote waste reduction in Tucson, Arizona. In fact, Freecycle.org is still registered as an Arizona non profit. RISE subsequently handed it over to the project leader, Deron Beal, who happens to be a distant relative of mine. Beal set up the first Freecycle e-mail group for the citizens of Tucson. The concept has since spread to over 85 countries, with thousands of local groups and millions of members.
Each local group currently exists on Yahoo Groups as a mailing list. Volunteer moderators keep things kosher, reflecting the volunteer spirit of freecycle.otg. The Freecycle Network, known as TFN, encourages the formation of new groups, which are of course subject to approval by people known as “regional New Group Approvers” or NGAs.
Groups approved by TFN are then listed at the official website. They have the benefit of using the TFN name and logo, and are subject to rules enforced by a structure of global and regional Group Outreach Assistance volunteers. As you can tell, TFN is well organized.
TFN originally planned to move a custom designed, centralized site in 2004, but the project moved very slowly, mostly because of a shortage of skilled volunteer labor. By the year 2008, Freecycle went live with a beta version of a centralized, custom site at freecycle.org. As of May 2009, all new groups must be started on www.Freecycle.org’s new group system. This system gives TFN a massive amount of control over the individual groups. TFN is run much like a commune or a government organization. Moderators of existing Yahoo groups have the choice of remaining on Yahoo groups or moving their groups to the freecycle.org site. There doesn’t seem to be much benefit to staying at Yahoo groups, considering the centralized location at freecycle and the huge amount of traffic there.
TFN has since grown rapidly into a global organization of over four thousand local chapters, and first passed the 2 million member mark in February 2006. The original idea of TFN has been copied and altered by hundreds of similar groups around the world, much to the delight of the founders of TFN.
If you’re looking to get rid of a piece of furniture, electrical equipment, or even a large number of cardboard boxes, consider “gifting” these items through Freecycle.org. You’ll be doing your community and your plant a huge favor.
- How to Simplify Your Life
- How to Compost
- Healthy Breakfast Ideas
- What is the Zone Diet?
- Green Tea and Weight Loss
Why did actress Lucy Gordon commit suicide?
British actress Lucy Gordon, famous for playing reporter Jennifer Dugan in Spiderman 3, has reportedly committed suicide in her Paris apartment, according to France-Info radio. The report was released Thursday, May 21. Lucy Gordon took her own life by hanging on Wednesday, just two days before she would have turned 29 years old.
Police in the French capital said the body of the 28 year old Gordon, who was picked recently to become the new Jane Birkin in a film about the life of French pop singer Serge Gainsbourg, was found hanging from the ceiling of her mansion block apartment near the River Seine.
Said one officer who was in her apartment: “It was a horrific scene. The young woman had taken her own life in terrible circumstances. We are not seeking anyone else. It was a clear case of suicide.”
As far as why Lucy Gordon took her own life, we may never know. Police report there was no suicide note, and so far no one as stepped forward to fill in the blanks missing from this terrible story.
The actress, born in Oxford, had also worked as a model, but was perhaps best known to American audiences as the woman who played the character Jennifer Dugan in the third instalment of Spiderman.
She appeared in around a dozen other films, after making her big screen debut in 2001. Gordon has two films that are still in post production — “Cineman”, a French thriller, and the aforementioned biopic about the French star songwriter Serge Gainsbourg. Trailers for the movie were broadcast at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this week. The film’s Director Joann Sfar and producers Marc du Pontavice and Didier Lupfer said in a statement: “(The movie) owes a lot to the generosity, gentleness and immense talent of Lucy Gordon.”
Gordon was set to appear as Swinging 60s actress and singer Jane Birkin, a coveted role that many insiders were surprised went to so little known of an actress. Miss Gordon’s good looks and passion for France and all things French probably won her comparisons to Birkin in real life, leading to her casting in that role.
The Gainsbourg biopic, Vie Heroique, is currently being previewed at the Cannes Film Festival. A Cannes festival organiser said: “We are devastated by this news. All those attending the festival had been hugely impressed by Lucy’s work. She was a star in the making.”
Lucy Gordon’s agents confirmed Gordon’s suicide.
Gordon had only recently moved to Paris from New York, and was set to celebrate her birthday. She has been working more and more lately, including a role in the cult film Brief Interviews with Hideous Men — a film based on a book written by David Foster Wallace, who also took his life in the past year.
Since her debut in the 2001 movie Perfume, Lucy Gordon has appeared in a variety of films, including French director Cedric Klapisch’s The Russian Dolls, American filmmaker John Krasinski’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and Spiderman 3. She had just finished making the bio-pic about Serge Gainsbourg when news of her suicide reached the film world.
Her last two films will be premiering over the next two years. Cineman will have its French premiere in the summer of 2009, while Vie Heroique is set for a potential Fall 2010 release in America.
What is Fleet Week?
Today, Wednesday May 20th, 2009, New York City will kick off its 22nd annual Fleet Week celebration. The celebration will begin with a parade of ships along the Hudson River. Thirteen vessels, including five Canadian ships, will sail up the Hudson River starting at 11 a.m. Eastern time. The biggest and best known ship in this year’s parade will be the USS Iwo Jima, a 40,500-ton assault helicopter carrier.
Fleet Week events will include a military aircraft flyover, multiple free tours of the ships docked in Manhattan and on Staten Island, numerous military band performances, and an excitin display of tactical operations by troops.
The annual Fleet Week celebration isn’t all about letting loose. It’s also a chance for the Navy to show off some of its finest war ships and for America to honor our seamen, and thank them for their contributions to our military service.
This year’s main attraction is the amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima. The vessel has been deployed in support of both the wars currently being waged — in Iraw and Afghanistan. The Iwo Jima also responded during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This year marks the vessel’s third appearance at Fleet Week.
The week is filled with unusual and exciting events for the public, including search-and-rescue demonstrations that civilians wouldn’t normally have the chance to see.
Fleet Week is a salute to the sea services of North America, and is an opportunity for the citizens of New York City and of America to show their appreciation to those soldiers who serve and protect America. In honor of Fleet Week, active-duty military personnel and war veterans can ride for free on NY Waterway commuter ferries this week, and many restaurants and private businesses are offering other discounts and benefits to those who have served our nation in the armed forces.
About 100,000 people are expected to visit the warships this week, and bring with them enough money to make a significant impact on the New York economy.
As Fleet Week rolls into town Tuesday, one Manhattan strip club will be waiting with a special drink called the Drunken Captain — this may sound a bit bawdy, but the bar’s owners say that all proceeds from the drink will go back to the troops to support them during war time.
The strip club, called HeadQuarters, is located just blocks from the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum on the West Side of the city. The special Fleet Week drink is selling for $16 during Fleet Week, which may sound like a hefty price tag until you remember that the proceeds are going to support our Navy. Military personnel can buy the Fleet Week special for $10.
The bar’s general manager Serafina Fiori had this to say about the drink special and Fleet Week: “All of us here at HeadQuarters appreciate all the men and women who put themselves at risk every day to allow us to have the freedom to express ourselves. We welcome them always so they can see firsthand what they’re fighting for!”
While the drink special is a bit tongue in cheek, the bar owner’s hearts seem to be in the right place — offering money as support for the troops, and offering “entertainers” to keep the soldier’s morale high.
The Drunken Captain is a mixture of coconut, mango and pineapple rums with a little pineapple juice and a splash of cranberry. Fiori said proceeds from the sales of the drink will go to benefit the Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’, Airmen’s & Coast Guard Clubs. The club has been housing soldiers and veterans while they visit New York City for the past 90 years.
Thousands of Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen from U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard ships will be in Manhattan for this year’s Fleet Week in New York, May 20 – 27.
Hosted every year since 1984, Fleet Week New York is the City’s celebration of the sea services. This annual event also provides an opportunity for the citizens of New York City and the surrounding Tri-State area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as to witness live in person the latest capabilities of today’s Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard Team.
Have scientists found The Missing Link?
For years, science has been in search of “The Missing Link” between early primates and early humans — a being that bridged the gap between the two very different species. On Tuesday, the announcement came that scientists have been waiting for.
Scientists are revealing a fossil this week that they say was found almost 30 years ago — and may help untangle the mystery of our connection with other mammals and our earliest human ancestors.
An international team of scientists announced in New York on Tuesday the discovery of a 47 million year old human ancestor. For the past two years, the team, led by world renowned Norwegian fossil scientist Dr Jørn Hurum of the University of Oslo Natural History Museum, have secretly run a series of detailed forensic tests of the extraordinary fossil. The team has been studying the data in an attempt to decode humanity’s ancient beginnings. As of the announcement on Tuesday, the research is 95% complete. The fossil, named Ida, and the information we’re learning from it is set to have a major impact on our understanding of human evolution.
Ida was originally discovered in Messel Pit, Germany — a crater near Frankfurt. The fossil is at least twenty times older than most other fossils involved in the chain of human evolution. Ida represents a member of a “transitional species”, which means Ida shows characteristics from the extremely primitive non human evolutionary line such as lemurs and other simians, but Ida is in fact more closely related to our human evolutionary line — animals such as monkeys, apes and humans. This transitional status places Ida at the very beginning of human evolution — a time when primates were first developing the traits that would evolve into our familiar human features. The international team’s findings have been published by PLoS ONE, the peer reviewed open access journal from the Public Library of Science.
Ida lived around 47 million years ago during a critical period in the history of the Earth. Ida’s lifetime fell within the Eocene Epoch, a time when scientists believe the “blueprints” for modern mammals were being established. After the mass extinction of dinosaurs, early horses, whales, and many other and and sea based creatures (including the first primates) were able to thrive on Earth’s subtropical climate. The Earth was then just beginning to take the shape that we are familiar with today — modern animals and plant life were evolving, and famous geological features like the Himalayas were being formed. Land mammals, including primates, lived in enormous jungle landscapes. This is where Ida most likely lived — a massive jungle like region buzzing with plant and animal life.
So how do we know Ida wasn’t just another lemur? The researchers have found that Ida lacks two of the key anatomical features normally found in lemurs: a grooming claw found on the second digit of the foot, and a feature known as a “toothcomb”, which is a row of fused teeth in the middle of her lower jaw. Also, rather than having claws (which are typical of primates on the level of lemurs) Ida has nails, and her teeth are almos identical to teeth found in monkeys. Most enchanting of all, her eyes are very similar to human eyes. They face forward, allowing her two fields of vision to overlap. This is important, as overlapping vision allows 3D processing and a heightened ability to judge distances.
Ida’s hands show opposable thumbs — found in humans, but not lower primates. Like all primates, Ida has five fingers on each hand. The presence of an opposable thumb would have provided an advantage in terms of a strong grip. In the case of our relative Ida, this grip is useful for climbing and gathering fruit, while for humans, the opposable thumb grip allows functions such as making tools, communicating, and writing. According to the researchers of the fossil, Ida also had incredibly flexible arms, which would allow her to use both hands at once. Many tasks can’t be accomplished with just one hand (imagine trying to grab a piece of fruit off a tree with just one hand) so the ability to use both hands no doubt propelled Ida and her kind to the top of the food chain. Like humans, Ida has quite short arms and legs when compared with other lower order primates.
There are a few famous primate fossils who have been given names — “Lucy”, a primate fossil found in the Cradle of Mankind in Africa, was so named because the song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was playing during the party after her discovery. But unlike Lucy and the other famous primate fossils found in Africa, Ida is a European fossil who was preserved in Germany’s Messel Pit. The Messel Pit is a mile-wide crater, a significant site for fossils from the Eocene Epoch. The scientist’s fossil analysis has revealed that the prehistoric primate was a young female. Her opposable big toes and the presence of nails in place of claws helped confirm that the fossil “Ida” is a primate, while a foot bone found in Ida’s fossil (called the “talus bone”) provides a direft link from Ida to modern humans.
X-rays reveal that a broken wrist may have been involved in Ida’s death — scientists are not sure why or how, but there is evidence that her left wrist was in the process of healing from a particularly nasty fracture. One possible explanation that the research scientists have come up with — perhaps Ida was overcome by carbon dioxide gas while stopping for a drink from Messel lake. We know that the lake’s waters were often covered by a low lying fog of CO2, due to volcanic forces that formed the lake and were still active at the time of Ida’s life. Though this is pure speculation, it provides a nice window into life 47 million years ago. Overcome by the CO2 gas, Ida fell and broke her wrist, was unable to find food or simply slipped into unconsciousness, at which point she was washed into the lake where particularly unique preservation conditions allowed her fossil to stay well intact for almost 50 million years, until she was discovered in 1983.
The fossil of Ida also features a complete ‘soft body outline”, showing what her original body may have looked like. We also know a ton about Ida’s diet, as her “gut contents” were well preserved: Ida was a vegetarian, eating lots of fruit, seeds and leaves. X-rays of the fossil show that Ida still had a few “baby teeth” as well as a few adult teeth, placing her age somewhere in young adolescence. The X-rays also confirmed the lack of a ‘toothcomb’ or a ‘toilet claw’ , the two attributes of lemurs discussed above. Scientists estimate Ida’s age when she died to be approximately nine months, and she measured approximately three feet in length.
Further evidence linking Ida to us lies in that all important talus bone. The bone in Ida has the exact same shape as it does in humans today. The one difference is size — obviously, the human talus bone is larger, as Ida is only three feet in length. Using X-rays, CT scanning, and other computer based tests, scientists were able to pick apart the well preserved fossil without destroying it. More information about Ida will continue to surface as tests of her fossil continue. For now — we have a new ancestor. Let’s all welcome Ida to the pack.
The Cosby Show Cast — where are they now?
The Cosby Show did not have a particularly long run on television. The popular show centered around an upper middle class African American family and ran for eight seasons, from 1984 to 1992.
Critics consider The Cosby Show one of the greatest television shows of all time. The Cosby Show literally changed the way African Americans were portrayed on television, and paved the way for African American television stars of today.
America fell in love with the Huxtable family — from husband and wife Cliff and Claire (a doctor and a lawyer respectively) to Rudy, Vanessa, Theodore, Sondra, Denise, and all the rest. What has become of the actors who blessed us with their presence faithfully every Thursday night?
Bill Cosby attempted to revamp the on screen magic he shared with Phylicia Rashad in a spinoff, called “Cosby”. The show was popular, but never had anywhere near the ratings that “The Cosby Show” had, and coupled with the tragic death of his son Ennis, forced the show to cancel. These days, Bill Cosby is best known for his controversial statements about the black community, often attacking African Americans in the media for their negative behavior. Cosby has stayed in the spotlight, guest hosting for David Letterman when the talk show host was out of work dealing with a heart attack.
Phylicia Rashad became the first black actress to win a Leading Actress Tony award for her amazing and critically praised role in the Broadway revival of ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ co-starring rap mogul Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs. A television movie version of the play earned her an Emmy as well as an award from the NAACP. She’s appeared in guest roles on shows as varied as ‘Everybody Hates Chris’ and ‘Psych.’ Recently, Rashad has appeared as a spokesperson for Jenny Craig.
Sabrina LeBeauf, who played eldest child Sondra Huxtable Tibideaux, attempted to continue her television career once “The Cosby Show” went off the air, but after a few guest appearances on ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation,’ ‘Cosby,’ and ‘Fatherhood,’ Lebeauf decided to enroll in UCLA’s Professional Interior Design Program. Today, LeBeauf owns her own successful interior design business. She continues to perform as an actress on stage, including a critically acclaimed role in the Classical Theatre of Harlem production Chekhov’s Three Sisters”.
Geoffrey Owens, who played Sondra Huxtable’s slightly chauvinistic husband Elvin Tibideaux, has continued his career in television, appearing in multiple minor roles. His screen credits include work with “Cosby Show” castmate Raven Symoné on her show ‘That’s So Raven.’ He’s also had minor stints on ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,’ ‘Medium,’ ‘Boston Legal’ and ‘Without a Trace.’
Lisa Bonet, who portrayed troubled second child Denise Huxtable, was a controversial character in real life as well. After she became pregnant with then up and coming musician Lenny Kravtiz’ child, she was quickly written off the show. The season after she left the show, Bonet came back after a surprise marriage to a Naval officer, and with a daughter in tow. In 1991, the “creative differences” between Bonet and the show’s executives led to her final exit from the “Cosby” world. She did not appear in the series finale. Allegations of Bonet’s drug use have never been confirmed. Bonet has had bit parts in films like ‘Enemy of the State’ and even had a major film role in the John Cusack vehicle ‘High Fidelity.’ Bonet worked with ‘Different World’ co-star Kadeem Hardison on the film ‘Biker Boyz,’ and most recently had a supporting role on the ABC series ‘Life on Mars’, in which she played Sam Tyler’s modern day girlfriend. Bonet has three children – a son with the unlikely name of Nakoa-Wolf Manakauapo Namakaeha Momoa (the child of her and actor Jason Momoa), and two daughters — Zoe Kravitz and Lola Iolani Momoa.
Joseph C. Phillips played Martin Kendall, the surprise husband of Denise Huxtable. Though Kendall had a very stiff and military personality, the Cosby family came to love and accept him, and his daughter from a previous marriage, Olivia. Phillips continues a succesfull career both in Hollywood and in his private life. For four years he played Justus Ward on the soap opera ‘General Hospital’, and had additional roles in ‘Vanished,’ ‘Without a Trace,’ ‘The Parkers,’ ‘King of Queens,’ ‘Popular’ and ‘Las Vegas.’ Phillips has returned to regular series TV work as the mayor in the upcoming show ‘Castle.’ Phillips has taken a sort of political turn to his career, as a conservative speaker with regular appearances on National Public Radio. Phillips has published a semi autobiographical book called ‘He Talk Like a White Boy.’
Malcolm-Jamal Warner has had some success in television, with more than a few failures along the way. His starred in his own show “Malcolm and Eddie” for four full seasons before the plug was pulled. Warner also released an album in 2003 that went mostly unnoticed. He is married to fellow “Cosby Show” alum Karen Malina White.
Tempestt Bledsoe, who played the young Vanessa Huxtable, enjoyed a very brief run as a talk show host in ‘The Tempestt Bledsoe Show,’ which was critically ignored and only lasted a year. Bledsoe then had a recurring role on ‘The Practice’ and guest spots on ‘The Parkers,’ ‘Strong Medicine,’ and ‘Raising the Bar.’ She lends her voice to the role of Abbey on the Disney show ‘The Replacements’. Bledsoe participated in the third season of ‘Celebrity Fit Club.’ In late summer 2009 she will be seen in the Fox Reality series ‘Househusbands’ with her hubby, ‘A Different World’ star Darryl M. Bell.
Keshia Knight Pulliam, who played the feisty and hilarious Rudith “Rudy” Huxtable, graduated from Spelman College in 2001 with a degree in sociology and won both ‘Celebrity Fear Factor’ and a celebrity version of ‘The Weakest Link.’ She has starred in two Tyler Perry projects — the TV series ‘Tyler Perry’s House of Payne’ and a major role in the film ‘Madea Goes to Jail,’ where she shook her wholesome image by playing a prostitute. We will never forget Rudy lip syncing “Night and Day” with her family.
Raven-Symoné, who played the step child Olivia Kendall, is no doubt the most successful Cosby kid. Symoné has been in showbiz since the show went off the air. She’s had roles in ‘Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper,’ ‘Dr. Dolittle,’ ‘The Cheetah Girls,’ ‘Fat Albert,’ ‘The Princess Diaries 2,’ ‘Kim Possible’ and of course her own series ‘That’s So Raven,’ for which she also worked as a producer. She recently held the starring role and was the executive producer of the film ‘College Road Trip’. According to Hollywood rumors, Symone is rumored to star alongside Miley Cyrus in an ‘Adventures in Babysitting’ sequel that is due out in 2010. Symoné has also had something of a successful singing career, releasing several albums since 1993.
Who is Elizabeth Munro?
Elizabeth Munro is a British woman who recently announced she is pregnant. She received successful in vitro fertilization treatments in the Ukraine and plans on raising the child by herself. None of this would be newsworthy if it weren’t for Ms. Munro’s age. She will turn 67 just after delivering her first child.
Needless to say, there is plenty of public outrage. Doctors and clinical professionals worry about the health of the child — it is well known that children born to older mothers are more likely to have health problems. Others worry about the child growing up “without a mother”. After all, at the age of 67, it is very likely that she will die well before her child hits its teen years. The death of a mother at such a young age can have a seriously negative impact on a child, and while most mother’s can’t be blamed for dying while a child is young, the same can’t be said for a woman who chooses to give birth just this side of 70 years old.
Elizabeth Munro, a wealthy divorcee currently aged 66, is set to become the world’s oldest first time mother on record. On Monday, May 18, Munro spoke of her joy at finding she was pregnant, saying: “I feel 39 years old.” Interestingly enough, at around age 39, doctors have suggested that women’s chance of delivering a healthy baby begin to drop.
The childless Elizabeth Munro insists her age doesn’t matter, and has claimed in many television interviews that she is more fit and “certainly healthier” than “the girls in their 20s” who work at her factory. In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Mirror, Munro defended her decision to travel to the Ukraine to receive the extremely expensive IVF treatment, saying she is “not daunted by the thought of bringing up the child alone.” Elizabeth went on to say: “It doesn’t interest me that I’m going to be the oldest mum in the country. It’s not my physical age that is important – it’s how I feel inside. Some days, I feel 39. Other days, I feel 56.”
The British businesswoman – born in July of 1942 – is eight months pregnant as of this week, and already knows the sex of her baby, due next month, just before her 67th birthday. She mentions having tried IVF once before, several years ago, but was so distraught when the treatment failed that she abandoned all hopes of having a baby. Munro runs a successful manufacturing business by herself, and lives alone in a beautiful mansion near Newmarket, Suffolk. Reportedly, Munro spends every January at a vacation home she owns in Cape Town, South Africa. No doubt, Munro has the means to raise a child. But, experts wonder, is it ethical for a person of her age to bring a child into the world?
Munro’s statements reveal her “devil may care” attitude.
“I have young girls working for me in my factory and I’m fitter than half of them. I don’t have to defend what I’ve done. It’s between me and my baby and no one else. It’s a very private thing and I don’t expect anyone else to understand it. I’m not even asking them to. I’m amazed that the fact I’m having a baby is at all interesting to anyone.”
Elizabeth split from her wealthy husband Robert Adeney, now 70, more than 15 years ago and has never married again. She has no partner and no brothers or sisters, and would be 80 when the child becomes a teenager. But Munro insists that her single status doesn’t matter any more than her age. She says she’s “perfectly capable of looking after myself. I’ve done it for years. It will be just me and my baby. I know some people won’t understand, but I don’t care.”
This week has been a typical work week for Munro — she has worked seven hour days at her plastic fastenings factory, located near her home, wearing form fitting clothings intended to clearly show off her pregnancy. Elizabeth Munro, who has undergone multiple cycles of IVF travelling back and forth to the Ukraine each time, became pregnant using a younger woman’s donor egg. She is prepared to give birth via an elective caesarean section in less than a month at a private hospital in Cambridge.
Because of the massive amount of media attention, Elizabeth Munro has reportedly fled her home to a private location to wait out the rest of her pregnancy. In a poignant photo released by the Daily Mirror, a stroller can be seen parked in the hallway of her home.
What is a heel stick test?
Before you leave the hospital with a newborn baby, your baby will be given what is commonly known as a “heel stick test”. This newborn screening is a blood test for certain inherited metabolic and endocrine disorders. What your baby is specifically tested for will certainly vary from state to state, but all babies nationwide are screened for at least three disorders — phenylketonuria (PKU), hypothyroidism and galactosemia. To find out what your state screens for visit the Natioanl Newborn Screening and Genetics Resource Center at http://genes-r-us.uthscsa.edu/
Even if you or your family members do not know of the existence of any genetic disorders in your family, your baby can still be at risk for having a genetic disorders. Because the disorders that are being screened for are usually extremely rare, your baby could be the first person in your family to be affected by a given disorder. It is important to give a baby the heel stick test, because these disorders could result in permanent disability, retardation, or death if left untreated.
The heel stick test is done within a few days of your baby’s birth. In a best case scenario, the test should be done during the first 48-96 hours of life. Breast milk and formula contain phenylalanine, the amino acid associated with the disorder PKU, and other amino acids associated with various metabolic disorders being screened for.
With these disorders, enzymes essential for your baby to break down certain amino acids are missing or defective.
Although some of the disorders being screened are not amino acid disorders, it is best for baby to be receiving breast milk or formula for 48 hours to ensure all screenings are the most accurate. The test is generally done right before baby is discharged. Your baby’s heel will be pricked with a small point, and a few drops of blood will be taken for testing. The nurse will collect nine or ten drops of blood and place it on a piece of filter paper. This kind of sample is called a “blood spot” sample. The heel is used because it is the least sensitive part of your baby’s body.
The dried blood on the filter paper is sent to a laboratory and tested. Though some parents choose an early discharge from the hospital, it is best to have the heel stick test done after the first 48 hours of life. Testing earlier than 48 hours is not ideal, but if you’re going to leave the hospital early, you should have the screening done early. Early is much better than to not screen your new baby at all. Don’t be surprised if your baby has to undergo the testing more than one time — many hospitals and doctors will recommend having a second screening performed to ensure that baby’s screening results are accurate.
There are about twenty-nine disorders that doctors recommend screening for. Some states screen for that many and others only screen for three or four disorders. The disorders are grouped into five different categories. This information is taken from WebMD.com:
Amino Acid Metabolism Disorders
Babies with amino acid metabolism disorders, as the name suggests, have problems metabolizing certain amino acids. Babies born with amino acid metabolism disorders have missing or defective enzymes that metabolize proteins. The amino acids either are not broken down or the body cannot transport the amino acids into the cells. As a result, amino acids or nitrogen (a component of amino acids) build up in the body to toxic levels. Amino acid metabolism disorders include Phenylketonuria(PKU), Maple syrup urine disease (MSUD), Homocystinuria (HCY), Citrullinemia (CIT), Argininosuccinic academia (ASA), and Tyrosinemia type I (TYR I).
Organic Acid Metabolism Disorders
Babies with organic acid metabolism disorders cannot process certain branched amino acids. Babies born with this disorder do not produce the enzymes or have malfunctioning enzymes that do not break down these amino acids properly. As a result, organic acids build up to toxic level in the body. Some organic acid metabolism disorders that your baby might be screened for are Isovaleric academia (IVA), Glutaric acidemia type I (GA I), and Hydroxymethylglutaric aciduria or HMG-CoA lyase (HMG).
Fatty Acid Oxidation Disorders
Fatty acid oxidation refers to the way your body breaks down fat. Fat is broken down in several steps and requires a number of enzymes. If one of the enzymes in this process is not working properly the body cannot turn fat into energy for the body. The body’s main source of energy is glucose, but if there is no glucose available, your body turns to fat for energy. Babies with fatty acid oxidation disorders have malfunctioning enzymes so their bodies cannot turn fat into energy. Some examples of fatty acid oxidation disorders that your baby might be screened for are Long Chain 3-Hydroxyacyl-CoA Dehydrogenase Deficiency (LCHAD), Medium Chain Acyl-CoA Dehydrogenase Deficiency (MCAD), Short Chain Acyl-CoA Dehydrogenase Deficiency (SCAD), Trifunctional Protein Deficiency (TFP Deficiency), or Very Long Chain Acyl-CoA Dehydrogenase Deficiency (VLCAD).
Hemoglobinopathies and Sickle Cell Disease
Hemoglobinopathies and sickle cell disease are disorders caused by abnormal hemoglogin, a protein in red blood cells that is responsible for transporting oxygen to the body. Babies with these hemoglobinopathies may have problems with red blood cell production resulting in anemia (shortage of red blood cells) or produce abnormally shaped red blood cells that cause problems in blood circulation and damage easily. These disorders include sickle cell anemia, Thalassemia, and Hb S/C disease.
Other disorders your baby might be screened for include Congenital hypothyroidism (a hormone deficiency that causes problems with growth and brain development), Biotinidase deficiency, Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (an endocrine disorder that affects hormone production from the adrenal gland), or Cystic Fibrosis (a life threatening disease that causes mucous secretions in the lungs to become thick causing severe respiratory problems).
The screening results for your baby usually come back within a few days. You may not hear anything about the screening if your baby does not test positive for any disorders — do not worry, this is good news. If your baby has tested positive for any of the disorders, your baby will need additional testing and treatment. The tests are designed to be extremely sensitive, so follow up tests even after a “positive” result commonly show that baby is completely healthy. Follow up testing may include a referral to a genetic specialist or a pediatrician that specializes in endocrine or metabolic disorders.
Who is Mark Herzlich?
Mark Herzlich is a popular and powerful linebacker for the Boston College football team. He is well known for his hard hits, and was named the Defensive Player of the Year for the Atlantic Coast Conference. If you saw any college football coverage in the last year, you’re likely to recognize him. He’s the intimidating linebacker in the scarlet jersey known for his wacky face paint and bone crushing plays.
Boston College announced yesterday that their star linebacker has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, known as Ewing’s sarcoma. Ewing’s sarcoma is a malignant tumor often found in bone or soft tissue. The cancer is common among male teenagers, usually found in the pelvic area.
According to Mark Herzlich’s father, who was interviewed by ESPN and other sports news outlets after the news broke, herzlich’s cancer has not metastasized.
In an email to a Boston College fan website, Sandy Herzlich (Mark’s father) had this to say. “As you can imagine, the whole family is in a state of shock. We received very positive news that the cancer has not spread beyond its initial source. The recovery and success rate when the cancer hasn’t spread is much higher.” In fact, patients with Ewing’s sarcoma who catch it before it has metastasized have an 80% survival rate after five years, a relatively good diagnosis for a dangeorus cancer like Ewing’s.
Herzlich, who is 21, has returned to Pennsylvania from Boston to be with his family and to consult with oncologists and other doctors to determine his treatment options.
In his statement to the media, Mark Herzlich said “This past week, I got some news nobody wants to hear. After undergoing some tests to determine the cause of some pain I had been experiencing in my leg, I learned that I have Ewing’s sarcoma. Obviously, I was shocked. I had been extremely focused on preparing for my senior year at Boston College and for life beyond that. Now, I must channel all that energy into facing my toughest opponent yet and that is exactly what I will do.”
Ewing’s sarcoma is a form of bone cancer that strikes an estimated 250 people annually in the United States. It shows up first with an ache or a steady pain, occasionally with a lump or swelling in the pelvic area. Patients with the disease typically undergo chemotherapy and may also require surgery or radiation treatment. The effects of Chemotherapy would significantly slow down an athlete for a matter of months or even a year.
Herzlich’s statement went on to say “At this point, I do not know what this means for my football future, but I am determined to rid my body of this disease so that I can put that uniform back on. Thank you in advance for your prayers and concerns. Together, we will fight this and win.”
According to sports medicine experts, an athlete’s ability to return to competition after cancer is mostly determined by the size of the tumor, which is the factor that determines the extent of surgery and treatment. If the cancerous lesion is not too big and it’s not threatening to put a fracture in the leg, doctors might not have to take any radical steps that would limit an athelete’s career. But patients with larger malignancies face the prospect of having more bone and muscle removed as well as large amounts of radiation treatment that typically cause stiffness. Though we don’t know the size of Herzlich’s tumor, it is common for Ewing’s tumors to be the size of a fist. They can grow as large as a football or basketball.
The 6-foot-4-inch, 238-pound Herzlich, who has been in the starting lineup since his arrival on the BC campus three years ago, was coming off his best season yet. He was a first-team All-America selection and led the Boston College Eagles with 110 tackles and 8 pass deflections. Mark Herzlich was tied for the team lead with 6 interceptions, and also racked up 2 forced fumbles, recovering both of them. Herzlich was injured during the early part of spring drills last month, though some are speculating that he was sidelined because of the pain in his pelvic area, which would later be diagnosed as the consequence of Ewing’s sarcoma.
When the pain in his legs and back wouldn’t subside, Herzlich and his family became concerned and visited doctors. Herzlich told new Boston College coach Frank Spaziani of the diagnosis Wednesday night.
Why did Google crash on Thursday, May 14th?
Those of us who depend heavily on Google and their related programs for our internet activity hit a brick wall on Thursday, as Google services (including search, Docs, Labs, and even Gmail) were slowed to a near standstill — and in some places stopped altogether.
Starting around 9:45 Central Standard Time on the morning of May 14, Google and all of its related services were the talk of the web. Blog posts appeared,wondering “What’s happened to Google?” In the United States, users from NYC, Chicago, Miami, and San Francisco (representing a nice cross section of the entire country) were complaining of the Google outage. Almost all users reported that Google searches were running at hilariously slow speeds, and that Gmail was all but dead. Similar reports have been rolling in from Europe and as far away as Australia.
Business website Forbes.com has suggested that one of the major Internet Service Providers could have altered its settings a bit, and inadvertently blocked many user’s traffic to the popular Google services. A spokesperson for Google, based in the US, was quick to insist that hackers were not to blame for the slowdown, but remained rather secretive about what was responsible. The US-based firm said the fault lasted around an hour and affected a “small percentage of Google users” — something we now know wasn’t entirely true.
“The issue affecting some Google services has been resolved,” said the spokesperson. “We’re sorry for the inconvenience, and we’ll share more details soon.”
Google’s search engine fields more than nine billion search requests every month in the United States alone. Because Google is so popular (it is estimated that hundreds of millions of people regularly use Google services) even a breakdown affecting a small percentage of its audience can appear to have a major impact.
To ensure it retains its current domination of the market, which in turn attracts massive ad revenue, Google has spent literally billions of dollars to create a major network of computers to decrease the chances of breakdowns like these. Consider their widespread network a sort of “safety net”.
The Internet Storm Center, a global security threat / internet status watchdog, is reporting that it received “multiple reports of a total fail of Google Applications. Gmail, Reader, Docs, News, Apps. etc.” There is still no official cause of this massive outage, leading many people into a hysterical state of conjecture.
The Storm Center went on to say that it “has reports of Google working in some areas” such as many parts of the American west coast, the UK, and a handful of others European nations. In America, and for much of the Western hemisphere, the outage does appear to have been pretty widespread. Whether or not you were personally affected likely depends on which Google Data Center you are connected to. While this Internet Storm Center report made it appear that Europe was mostly unaffected, we would learn later that many Google users in Europe were just as frustrated with the speed and availability of their Google functions.
There are a few ways to attempt a “diagnosis” of the problem. What the Internet Storm Center suggested, that the problem lie in Google’s Date Centers, may not be factual. After checking the website Just Ping, which “pings” remote hosts around the world to test their connection, web analysts determined that websites from all over the world were seeing as much as 50% web packet losses. This was notated at around 10:45 AM Central Standard Time. Web sites from Melbourne, Australia to Madrid, Spain were seeing their connections weakened and failing. It wasn’t just Google.
At this point, people were using words like “virus” and “Conficker worm”. As the hysteria mounted, some users found their Google services speeding up and coming back online. By noon on Thursday, many American users reported normal operation, but by then, the European Google crash was just starting to kick into high gear.
Before the blogger nerds came right out and suggested that this was the work of a hacker network, or of the infamous Conficker worm, there was one last diagnosis attempted. It was possible that Google’s problems were the result of trouble at the so called NOCs, or Network Operating Centers. The slowdowns and crashes could have been masking a bigger problem at Google — major network trouble on a global scale. Thankfully, the Internet Health Report didn’t show any significant network trouble, and as of this writing on Friday morning, there are still no serious network issues to be dealt with.
Another theory? The problem was due to AT&T’s NOC routing problems, probably suggested because AT&T is such a massive presence in the world of NOCs. This theory just doesn’t pass the smell test. Google outages were reported by a variety of users working with many different NOCs, many of whom reported network “trace routes” proving their internet connections never traveled on any AT&T networks.
After all of the initial frustration, panic began to set it. Bloggers and internet experts suggested that Google was undergoing a massive Distributed Denial of Service or DDoS attack.. Based on the size of the attack that would be needed to interfere with a network as massive as Google, many believed the slowdown was a direct result of an attack from the controllers of the Windows worm Conficker. This has not been verified.
While Google appears to be better in most of North America this morning, Google is still suffering serious network problems in the European Union and in South Africa.
Why did the Miss California Pageant director resign?
Shanna Moakler, one time Miss USA and current Miss California Pageant director, resigned Wednesday May 13, amid a whirlwind of controversy related to current Miss California Carrie Prejean. Miss Prejean made some controversial statements about gay marriage during the recent Miss USA pageant, followed by new that her statements probably led to her losing the Pageant, calls from the Religious Right that the Pageant misfired, and the apperance of several racy photos of Carrie Prejean topless and in her underwear. Controversy about the Miss USA pageant is nothing new — it seems that every year this Pageant spits up a new hot issue for the news media to bandy about.
At a news conference on Monday, Shanna Moakler came out publicly to accuse Prejean of violating the contract she signed with pageant organizers. Moakler first claimed that Prejean broke the rules by speaking out against gay marriage “on behalf of organizations opposed to gay marriage”. Moakler then claimed that by failing to disclose she had posed nearly nude for racy photographs before entering the state pageant, she further breeched the Pageant’s standard contract. The Miss California Pageant feeds in to the Miss USA and Miss Universe competitions.
Then on Tuesday, Donald Trump, organizer and sponsor of the Miss USA tournament, defended Prejean’s statements that marriage should be exclusive to men and women, saying her position was similar to President Barack Obama’s. While Trump is correct in comparing Prejean’s opinion to the President’s similar opposition to gay marriage, Trump did not address the “contract” issue, and chose to allow Miss Prejean to retain her crown. Although Trump did acknowledge that the photos of Carrie Prejean were “risque”, he said he didn’t think they were bad enough to remove her crown. Trump then ceremoniously replaced the Miss California banner around Carrie Prejean, to the flashbulbs of what appeared to be a herd of cameras.
Shanna Moakler, Miss USA of 1995, said she decided after the Trump news conference that she had to step down as Miss California Pageant Director. In a statement released on Wednesday, Moakler said:
“I cannot with a clear conscience move forward supporting and promoting the Miss Universe Organization when I no longer believe in it or the contracts I signed committing myself as a youth. I want to be a role model for young women with high hopes of pageantry, but now feel it more important to be a role model for my children.”
Prejean, who was the first runner-up at last month’s Miss USA pageant, created a significant amount of buzz when she responded to a question by celebrity judge (and homosexual) Perez Hilton by saying, “I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised.” This further politicized an already controversial Pageant — something that Americans can’t seem to go a minute without doing. What was supposed to be a beauty and talent contest quickly became a nasty bit of political infighting.
After gay rights advocates very publicly questioned Carrie Prejean’s ethic, California pageant officials said Prejean, who is 21, asked for permission “to elaborate on her answer” and the Pageant officials agreed. Unfortunately for Miss Prejean, Pageant officials did not expect her to begin speaking in front of many crowds of people opposed to gay marriage, including her San Diego church and the National Organization for Marriage. Pageant officials claim Miss Prejean knew she was making these statements “without their permission”.
While all this was going on, Carrie Prejean began missing Miss California events she was contractually obligated to attend in order to extend her anti gay marriage position to other groups. Donald Trump was quick to blame many of these contractual breaks on what he said was ‘miscommunication between Prejean, pageant organizers” and some outside groups.
This has become the story that won’t die. It seems every day there’s a new Carrie Prejean photo surfacing, and they appear to be racier as time goes on. Carrie Prejean has complained that whoever is releasing these photos is attacking her politics, while many mainstream Americans simply want the truth — did Prejean honestly “forget” to mention her topless photos to Pageant officials, or did she intentionally mislead the, therefore breaking her contract.
There’s another segment of Americans — those who wish the story would go away.
What was Michelangelo’s first painting?
A painting with a suspicious provenance has been purchased by the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas for an undisclosed amount.
Purportedly, the painting called “The Torment of Saint Anthony”, was the first painting of Michelangelo Buonarroti, completed when he was a young teenager, or perhaps even a preteen. If the painting is that of a young Michelangelo, it would be one of just four “easel paintings” made by the master.
Though the provenance of the painting, a historical document that verifies the painting’s past ownership and history, has long been disputed in the notoriously difficult to please world of classic art, expert opinion has shifted in recent months. Many art historians now believe that the painting is in fact the earliest known painting of the famous Michelangelo.
The work, composed of oil and tempera on a poplar wood panel, measures 47cm x 34cm, and is dated either 1487 or 1488. At that time, Michelangelo was the friend of an assistant in the workshop of Domenico Ghirlandaio in the city of Florence. At that time, it is well established that Michelangelo copied an engraving of St Anthony by a German master named Martin Schongauer. This seems to lend some credence to the painting.
The disagreement over “The Torment of Saint Anthony” (a classic scene depicted by many artists over the years) has focused on whether this painting was indeed created by Michelangelo’s own hand or whether it may have been produced by other artists working in the same workshop. If confirmed as the “first” Michelangelo painting, the acquisition of The Torment of St. Anthony by the Kimbell would be an major coup in the world of classic art, and a huge piece of publicity for the museum.
The only other easel paintings made by Michelangelo are hanging in the National Gallery in London, with a potential fourth being shown in the Florence Uffizi. The new painting could provide new clues as to how Michelangelo selected the colour palette he used in the famous Sistine Chapel at the Vatican.
The Kimbell Art Museum’s director, Eric Lee, released a simple statement on the painting, saying “This is a painting that will be studied for years and years to come.”
The painting in question depicts a grumpy and white haired Saint Anthony being attacked and tugged on by vicious looking demonic monsters. The depiction of Saint Anthony does appear to be based on the Schongauer engraving, but differs from the original in a few ways that could prove to experts that it was made by the hand of Michelangelo. For example, among the demons attacking Saint Anthony are fish like creatures. According to an early biographer of Michelangeo, the artist apparently visited a fish monger while painting “the Torment” in an attempt to more accurately portray the scales of a fish. This could be the kind of clue required of a painting’s provenance that seals the deal.
More evidence of the painting’s provenance as a work of Michelangelo has been uncovered in the past year and a half, while the painting was being restored at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. During the restoration, several layers of dirt and other impurities were removed by art restorers to get to the original oils used in the painting. Even more restoration work, achieved with infrared scans and X-ray imagery, revealed the underlying “pentimenti” – a word that refers to changes an artist makes as a work of art is in progress. The evidence of the “pentimenti” convinced the Kimbell’s board and art director that the painting could not have been a copy or ripoff produced by the other members of the workshop Michelangelo was studying at. The board of the Kimbell Art Museum believe there is no other conclusion other than that “The Torment of Saint Anthony” is in fact the real deal.
Between 1905 and 2008, “The Torment of Saint Anthony” was owned by a British private collector. It was sold at auction by Sotheby’s for just $2 million – a true bargain if it is the work of Michelangelo. A New York based art dealer was convinced enough that the painting was made by Michelangelo, and made the purchase to have the painting researched further.
After completing the restoration, The Met in New York was eually convinced of the painting’s provenance, but was unable to find a willing buyer, probably due to the current financial crisis.
Should the painting turn out to be a verifiable work of Michelangelo, it could be worth somewhere in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Though we don’t know yet what the Kimbell Art Museum paid for the small easel painting, it is unlikely that they paid anywhere near the true value of the work. Could this be the greatest bargain in the history of the art market? Until we know if “The Torment of Saint Anthony” is a legitimate work of Michelangelo, and until the Kimbell reveals what they paid for the work, we can only guess.
What is the Montauk Monster?
The Montauk Monster is the nickname given to an unidentified corpse that washed up near Montauk, New York in July, 2008. Recently, the Montauk Monster has been in the news again, as another suspected “Montauk Monster” has washed ashore and been “captured” by a couple interested in the phenomenon. The couple allegedly have the new corpse in a garbage bag in a freezer at their New York home.
The Montauk Monster defies description. The corpse appears to have characteristics from several different animals, including a short and skinny tail, long legs in proportion to the creature’s body, strange teeth and a curved “beak”, and a prominent eye/skull ridge. The creature has defied description by zoologists and crypto-zoologists alike. The best guesses made to date include that the animal is a diseased or decayed dog, a deformed pony, a large rodent such as a capybara, or the damaged body of a sea turtle missing its shell. Unfortunately for the scientists who made these guesses, the odd features of the Montauk Monster simply don’t match any of these animals.
What is the Montauk Monster? Most likely it is a complex fake — William Wise, director of Stony Brook University’s Living Marine Resources Institute has suggested it is the work of a hoax artist who “got clever with latex”. Still other experts, such as Jeff Corwin, best known for his work with animals on television, have shown evidence that the Montauk Monster could very well be a raccoon. Darren Naish, a British paleontologist, supplies the outline of an image of a raccoon corpse superimposed over the Montauk Monster’s photo on his website.
While we will not likely know for sure what the Montauk Monster really is, what we do know is that people are crazy for this story. Something about “cryptids” (animals who may or may not exist) fascinates people, and this new cryptid discovery is no different. The recent discovery of a “second Montauk Monster” in Southold, New York has propelled this story back into popularity, and the internet is again falling in love with “Monty” as the animal is affectionately known.
Photos of the newest Montauk Monster discovery are quite different from the original “Monty” photos, and I have to say that this new carcass resembles a slightly decomposed young bear. Perhaps the new discovery is a copycat hoax, or could lead experts to a conclusion on what the original “Monty” is. So far, there is no hard evidence to support either that the Montauk Monster is a genetic accident, a new creature, or the badly damaged corpse of a known animal.
If you’d like to have a look at the photos of the two Montauk Monster corpses and attempt to decide what kind of animal it is for yourself, here are the links. The pictures are a bit graphic, but as we have no idea what these animals are, they aren’t exactly “hard to look at”.
The first Montauk Monster can be viewed at http://www.montauk-monster.com/images/montauk_creature_underbelly.jpg, while the newer corpse discovery is available at http://www.montauk-monster.com/images/montaukmonstercopytn.jpg.
Who is on Obama’s Supreme Court short list?
With the resignation of Justice David Souter, President Obama is looking to nominate his first pick for the Supreme Court — I say first not just because the Supreme Court nomination process can be lengthy and difficult, but because it is likely that President Obama will have at least two more empty seats to fill at the nation’s highest court.
The White House has formalized its short list of Supreme Court nominees and asked the top six prospects to provide personal information, with the usual vetting process already underway. The White House is likely to pay close attention to the background checks and vetting procedures after some embarassing moments in the past year concerning cabinet nominees who failed to pay their taxes, or who came under fire during the nomination process for other crimes.
Though there are six names on the short list, only three are considered “serious prospects”. Before we get to the top three, let’s take a brief look at the list of six.
California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno
The major point against the nomination of Carlos Moreno is that he’s, well, a man. It is unlikely that Obama will nominate a male this time around, as there is currently only one female on the Court, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg is likely to retire during Obama’s administration as well, potentially leaving us with an all male Court. Still, don’t forget the name Carlos Moreno just yet — Obama will almost certainly have a few other Supreme Court nominations to settle before his time is up. Along with Sonia Sotomayor, Carlos Moreno could become the first Hispanic judge on the Supreme Court.
Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm
Governor Granholm, while not in possesion of a lengthy legal legacy, is a major force in Democratic politics, and would be a liberal voice on the Supreme Court. Also, her term as governor tops out next year, and President Obama may be looking for a more permanent home for his friend and political ally.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano
Napolitano is an advisor to President Obama, and it has been reported that he trusts and respects her counsel. While this may sound like a good reason for Obama to award her a Supreme Court position, political analysts suggest that Obama might rather keep her around, where she can continue to aid him and his young administration.
Solicitor General Elena Kagan
Kagan has just recently gone through the vetting process, meaning she’s ripe for another nomination. Unfortunately for Kagan, she is relatively new to her post as Solicitor General, making her slightly weaker than other names on the list who have held their jobs for years.
U.S. Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor
Sotomayor has a great story. She grew up without a lot of money, was raised by her mother, and worked her way through Yale Law school, where she was an editor of the Yale Law Review. Sotomayor would be the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice if appointed, along with fellow short list name Carlos Moreno. Sotomayor has been on the Supreme Court short list for both Democrat and Republican presidents, and having been on the Court of Appeals for almost 18 years now, she is probably leading all other names on the short list.
U.S. Appeals Court Judge Diane Pamela Wood
Diane Wood was a professor of law at the University of Chicago at the same time as President Obama — the two have a big of history together. An excellent musician, Diane Wood was a gradute of the University of Texas Law School and has worked for the Court of Appeals for almost 15 years.
So who are the big names, the top three on President Obama’s short list? Federal appeals court Judges Sonia Sotomayor, Appeals Court Judge Diane Wood, and Solicitor General Elena Kagan are reportedly on the “true short list”, and are simply the most qualified candidates for the job. This information also comes from several unnamed sources who are “close to the process”, as released by major news outlets and National Public Radio.
The White House hopes to move quickly to pick a nominee, with some in the administration signaling an announcement was possible within the next week or two. But a source involved in the process cautioned that the vetting for all of the candidates except Kagan (who was recently vetted as part of her nomination to become Solicitor General) could take longer.
What does a vetting process for a Supreme Court Justice look like? The top six contenders have already received several lengthy and totally exhaustive questionnaires, similar to those for Obama’s Cabinet-level positions but featuring a few additional focus questions on topics like legal ethics. While the nominees finish these questionnaires, Obama administration lawyers are picking apart the nominees tax returns, past speeches, and publicized legal opinions.
While no “clear favorite” has emerged, Sotomayor is probably at the head of the pack, due to her lengthy term on the Court of Appeals, and the fact that she would be an historic pick for the Obama administration as the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is said to favor the nomination of Sotomayor — this gives us a good idea of the overwhelming feelings “behind closed doors” at the White House.
Political analysts suggest that Obama would score “huge points” with Hispanics, an increasingly powerful and important segment of the voting population. If Obama were to nominate Sotomayor or another Latino, like Carlos Moreno, he could win the favor of a large number of Hispanic votes. Not to mention that Sotomayor has a compelling life story, moving from the projects to the nation’s most elite educational institutions and then on to the federal bench. Unfortunately, Sotomayor has not exactly dazzled the legal world during her time on the Court of Appeals, failing to distinguish herself on that Federal court as a major proponent of legal theory or as an excellent writer. Considering President Obama is a former constitutional law scholar, he is likely to want his Supreme Court nominee to be just such a force in the world of law. Moreover, Sotomayor has also been criticized for her “abrasive” attitude, and if there’s ever a time to avoid being abrasive, it is in close quarters with 8 other heavily opinionated Justices. Sources suggest that the Obama administration is concerned about her attitude.
What is Bagpipes from Baghdad?
Bagpipes from Baghdad is a song from Eminem’s new CD. The controversial rapper took the opportunity on this new track to personally attack actor Nick Cannon and Cannon’s new wife Mariah Carey. The reason? Eminem once briefly “dated’ Mariah Carey, though Carey, a star in her own right, has denied that there was any physical connection at all, and they went out together a few times as friends.
The track “Bagpipes from Baghdad” contains the standard material we’ve come to expect from Eminem. Foul mouthed rants about Nick Cannon and Mariah Carey are supported by a very unique and engaging beat. Most of the lyrics related to Cannon and Carey are too dirty to print in their entirety in this forum, but I’m happy to share a censored sample, so our readers can understand the new “beef” between Eminem and Nick Cannon.
Nick Cannon better back the f*** up.
I’m not playing, I want her back, you punk.
Nick Cannon, you pr**k, I wish you luck with that f***in’ whore
Cannon has fallen into Eminem’s trap, releasing statements through many media sources about how Eminem’s attacks on his wife will lead to “repercussions”. Eminem is known for creating publicity through these ridiculous musical conflicts, having already gone through almost a half dozen similar feuds in the past, with everyone from Whitey Ford to Ja Rule. Eminem has fallen out of popularity in the past — it has been a while since his last record, and even longer since his last smash hit. A stint in rehab for an addiction to Ambien, a non narcotic sleep aid, didn’t help matters. Clearly, Eminem manufactured this disagreement with Cannon to get his name in the papers, and its working.
But the attacks on Mariah Carey aren’t limited to the album alone. On Eminem’s satellite television channel, Shade 45, the young rapper insinuated that he had engaged in a particularly foul sex act with Carey. What Eminem may be hoping for is some kind of public confrontation with Nick Cannon. There’s nothing quite like free publicity for a musician who has fallen out of favor with the public.
Eminem, real name Marshall Bruce Mathers III, made a name for himself in 1998 with the release of his Grammy winning album “The Slim Shady LP”. His followup album, “The Marshall Mathers LP” is still the fastest selling rap album in history, and won another Grammy, as did his third album, “The Eminem Show”. Mathers owns his own record label, Shady Records, and even won an Oscar for a song that appeared in the film about his life, “8 Mile”. Eminem took a major hiatus from the music business, and hasn’t released an album since 2004. His new album, “Relapse”, will have its full release onFriday May 15, 2009.
The lyrics to “Bagpipes from Baghdad” continue to comment on his relationship with Mariah Carey, with Eminem rapping about being “locked in Mariah Carey’s wine cellar”. Eminem even makes reference to his addictions, rapping about the residue from a bottle of pharmaceuticals, and getting his “one year sobriety chip”.
For some reason, this story is hugely popular. Maybe people are interested in Cannon’s reaction to Eminem’s foolishness, or maybe Eminem still has a big enough fan base to create buzz. Either way, there are news stories about the supposed “feud” between Cannon and Eminem as far away as Asia, and all major news outlets in the US and Western Europe have chimed in on this publicity stunt. Just what Eminem wanted.
What is Visible Vote?
Visible Vote is a program that allows constituents to track their legislator’s voting record via their cell phones, Facebook pages, and other electronic interfaces. Visible Vote allows uers to access information that is normally rather difficult to find, enhancing the ‘transparency of government’ that many people feel is important in getting their government to work for them. An interesting aspect of Visible Vote is that it gives user’s the capability of “voting” on the same issues they are tracking, and even sends fax reports of constituent’s votes directly to legislators. The point of this is to show the people we charge with making laws how we really feel on high impact issues.
When you use the Visible Vote program on your blackberry or other device, you can compare your opinion on a legislator’s votes with the rest of the population of Visible Vote — ever wondered how your neighbors feel about your congressman’s position on gay marriage, or the legalization of marijuana? Visible Vote is the easiest source of such information, normally accessible only by digging through complicated reports from your state or national government, or by gluing yourself to C-SPAN or other government access channels.
Using Visible Vote, you can easily compare the overall opinion of your voting district with the way that district’s representative votes. New applications are being added to Visible Vote all the time, including a new feature that would allow voters to email their representatives directly through the Visible Vote interface.
Never have legislator’s voting records been so easily accessible to so many people. With Visible Vote becoming more popular all the time, law makers in Washington and in our state governments will ideally be forced to listen to popular opinion or run the risk of becoming, frankly, unpopular.
Visible Vote is intended to empower Facebook users to vote according to their own belief systems, to communicate this vote to the proper elected officials and to their neighbors, to assess whether their elected officials are voting appropriately, and eventually to communicate more directly with these elected officials. According to the creator of Visible Vote, Paul Everton, “The idea is to put the power back in the voters’ hands.”
Visible Vote has just launched a beta version of its new Blackberry friendly software. Known as “Visible Vote Mobile”, the program will allow users without a Facebook account or who would rather interact with Visible Vote through their mobile phone to have the same functionality of voting and updating their legislators as those who currently run the program on the internet. Users can even write their legislators personal messages from the Blackberry. The Blackberry software can also be “synced” to Facebook, to provide a sort of “seamless” experience for the program’s user. Visible Vote has already logged over 4,000 Facebook users and is currently running the Blackberry beta with just over 100 users.
If you’re interested in running the Visible Vote program on Facebook, check out the Visible Vote Facebook app at http://www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=46623352206. Follow the simple instructions, and you’ll be voting on the issues that are important to you in no time.
Who won The Biggest Loser Season 7?
The controversial winner of this past season of The Biggest Loser is Helen Phillips. I saw controversial because fans of the show are lining up to complain about the outcome — most fans, it seems, wanted Tara Costa to win, and don’t mind sharing their feelings about Helen Phillips. One message board is full of terrible insults, from claims that Helen Phillips is “an uncaring mother”, while another fans calls her “selfish” and warns that “what goes around comes around”. Obviously the victory of Helen Phillips was upsetting to many fans.
The Biggest Loser is an NBC program in which show participants come in with “at least one hundred pounds” to lose in order to be at a healthy weight. The contestants compete for months, engaging in various types of exercise and following fitness programs that are guided by strict weight trainers and exercise coaches. Every week, the person who loses the least amount of weight leaves the show for good, eventually leading to a showdown between the top two contestants. The “biggest loser” becomes the winner of that particular season during the finale, taking home $250,000 and enjoying a brief moment of nationwide celebrity and popularity.
However, The Biggest Loser is not just about the winner. In a sense, every contestant is a “winner” — and not in the way that everyone in your junior high science fair was a “winner”. Even the first person to be eliminated from the show usually sheds about 10 pounds during that first week of training and healthier eating. And the contestants eliminated along the way have been given an amazing opportunity to transform their bodies, even if they don’t take home the top prize. Ideally, everyone who is cut from the program goes home having subscribed to a healthier lifestyle, through better food choices and a workout routine.
NBC’s The Biggest Loser is one of the few shows on television that can be watched by the whole family. The show carries a rating of “TV-PG”, not often seen outside of Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel. It isn’t just the participants that benefit from the show — viewers of The Biggest Loser are likely to come away from the viewing experience with a renewed hope for their own lives. The show lays out a solid plan for losing weight and gaining confidence in your body, not to mention very visual proof of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle The message of the show is simple — when you exercise and eat right, you become healthier.
Helen Phillips won this season’s challenge because she lost 55 percent of her weight — an incredible feat, and one of the largest losses in the show’s history, and it means that Helen Phillips lost a total of 140 pounds. There should be little controversy, considering the show chooses its winner based on numbers alone; you lose the most weight, you win the money. However, during the course of the show, fans fall in love with some contestants while others become “villains”. This is the natural effect of television, and it creates intrigue and keeps people interested in the show. What is it about Helen Phillips that makes people so angry? And why did viewers fall in love with Tara Costa?
Entering the show at 47 years old, many people thought that it would be impossible for Helen Phillips to demonstrate the kind of weight loss necessary to win The Biggest Loser. She came into the show at 257 pounds, and left at 117, an incredible amount of weight loss. Working alongside her daughter (and team partner) Shanon, Helen Phillips managed to go from a so called “Real Age” of 60 (even though her biological age was 47) to a “Real Age” of 50 — effectively adding ten years to her life. However, many viewers looked past her incredible weight loss to some supposedly “selfish actions” made by Helen Phillips during the course of the show. This includes a moment when Phillips ate a cookie to spite another contestant, and ended up costing that contestant a $10,000 prize. Also, at one point during the show, Helen Phillips had the choice of staying and continuing on with the show, or letting her daughter/partner stay — obviously, Helen Phillips chose to stay and sent her daughter home.
In stark contrast to Helen Phillips, Tara Costa often offered a helping hand to her fellow contestants, including a touching moment in episode 2 when she got a small group of contestants together to help fellow contestant Dan up a small mountain. Fans of Tara Costa speak of her “heart” and her “joy” during the course of the show — not to mention that she lost a ton of weight.
Fans of the show will just have to be happy with the result. After all, The Biggest Loser is not a personality contest. Helen Phillips won because of the amazing change in her body, and anyone who loses over 50% of their body weight is obviously committed to the program.
Will Cheerios really help lower your cholesterol?
According to General Mills, the breakfast cereal product known as Cheerios has a significant impact on the cholesterol levels of regular consumers of the popular breakfast cereal. The benefit supposedly comes from the whole grains found in Cheerios. Unfortunately for General Mills, the FDA has some harsh words for any product marketing itself as a drug without proper approval. Does this mean that Cheerios doesn’t lower cholesterol, or is this simply a dispute over language? Is the science behind Cheerios supposed ability to lower your cholesterol still valid?
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it seems the “science” behind Cheerios ability to lower cholesterol is a bit suspect. On the box of Cheerios, references are made to a study published in the journal Nutrition in Clinical Care in 1998. Don’t try to look for this journal — it no longer exists, and can’t be found in archives either online or in libraries. Believe me, I tried to look for this article for quite a while. However, thanks to our friends at the Nutrition Action Healthletter (which occasionally acts as a kind of watchdog group for food and drug claims) we know who funded this particular study. That’s right — you guessed it — General Mills. I find it difficult to trust a scientific study of a particular product that is funded by the parent company of that product.
While Cheerios is a healthy alternative to other more sugary breakfast cereals, I don’t think we can safely say that it “helps lower cholesterol”. I’d like to see an unbiased study before I make that decision for myself. If you’re wondering how this could possibly be legal — the high courts of this country have ruled that advertising is a form of free speech, and therefore is protected by the First amendment. Congress has ruled on the issue of the use of a single study to back up health claims, and has decided that one study is sufficient, no matter who funds it, or how old that study is.
Back to the FDA and their issue with Cheerios. According to several media outlets, the FDA has issued a warning letter to the makers of Cheerios, accusing the cereal’s maker of “serious violations” of FDA rules that regulate the marketing of drugs. At issue is advertising made by General Mills, parent company of Cheerios, which makes a claim that Cheerios can help with cholesterol problems.
The ads claim that in just six weeks “eating Cheerios could help lower your cholesterol up to 4%,” but that is a dangerous claim for a food item to make. In fact, by making that claim about the Cheerios product, the FDA says General Mills becomes a drug retailer. Any product that makes a specific claim of a health benefit is considered a “drug”. No drug can be marketed for sale in the United States without FDA approval. While it may put a smile on your face to think of Cheerios as a drug, General Mills has been walking a thin line with this claim for a while now.
According to General Mills, the FDA gave the “OK” to the Cheerios marketing program years ago. Specifically, General Mills claims they got permission to tout the health benefits of whole grains in 1997. The FDA, however, says it never approved the specific claim.
The FDA letter warned General Mills, in part, that it was their “responsibility to ensure that all of your products are in compliance with the Act and its implementing regulations.” And if the company failed to “promptly correct the violations” then the government may have to take “enforcement action without further notice.” Strong words for a breakfast cereal. Still, the FDA has a point. If we were to allow products to be marketed as drugs without proper approval of the FDA, we’d be in real trouble. Imagine drinking Pepsi Bismol or sitting down to a dinner of Roast Beef and Viagra-infused potatoes. Okay, so maybe I’m going a little overboard. No matter, General Mills will have to fix the problem or face serious government intervention.
This warning letter is a huge move for the FDA, and marks the first action of that agency against a “mainstream food product” in almost a decade. This move also proves that the FDA is ready to exert its authority under President Barack Obama.
Apparently, General Mills’ cereal sales rose 13 percent in the third quarter, aided in large part by the marketing of Cheerios’ health benefits. Industry analysts are seriously concerned about this type of advertising. Looking at the boost in sales, it is obvious that consumers are influenced pretty heavily by what is written on food labels. Especially when it comes to a buzz word like “cholesterol” — who wouldn’t want a relatively cheap product to help lower their cholesterol? When a product misleads consumers, even if unintentionally, it is doing harm. In many ways, a box of Cheerios making a flase claim about its ability to lower cholesterol is akin to a doctor giving out bad medical advice. Let’s hope that General Mills can correct the problem before their “license” is revoked.
Will Shirley Jones pose nude for Playboy magazine?
The short answer to this question is a resounding “No”. Shirley Jones never contacted Playboy magazine, and the magazine says they never contacted her about shooting a pictorial.
Rumors began to pop up all over the web last week — Shirley Jones, the 75 year old actress best known for her role as the matron of TV’s “The Partridge Family”, was planning on dropping the laundry for a Playboy photo shoot.
If Shirley Jones did appear in Playboy, she would be the oldest model in the magazine’s history by far. Runner up would be then 55 year old Terry Moore. And it isn’t as though Playboy hasn’t set a precedent for itself in terms of featuring older models. Joan Collins, Nancy Sinatra, Farrah Fawcett, and other celebs and models have posed well into their 40s and 50s.
Shirley Jones, whose character on “The Partridge Family” was the very definition of wholesome, was considering posing nude for Playboy at the age of 75. If her husband and manager Marty Ingels had his way, she would have done it. Ingels told Page Six magazine “She’s still drop-dead gorgeous, and at the age of 75, a natural beauty.”
Shirley Jones’ other famous characters were equally as wholesome as Shirley Partridge. Jones can be seen in the classic film versions of musicals like “Oklahoma!”, “Carousel”, and “The Music Man”. However, Jones took home an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as a prostitute in the film “Elmer Gantry”.
Shirley Jones’ “natural beauty” would be difficult to debate. She was named “Miss Pittsburgh 1952″ fresh out of high school. Part of her prize was a scholarship to an acting and singing workshop, known as the Pittsburgh Playhouse. Still unsure of her future, Jones planned on attending college to become a veterinarian. It was on a trip to New York City in 1953 that Shirley Jones found her future. Having auditioned on a whim for a Broadway agent, Jones found herself with her first professional role, as a chorus girl in a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. The two composers were so impressed with her, they placed her under personal contract — Shirley Jones was the first and only performer to be placed under contract to the famous Broadway duo.
The rest, as they say, is history. Jones went on to star in plenty of films, including the aforementioned “Elmer Gantry”, and starring with Ron Howard in “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father”. Her television credits include hits like “McMillan and Wife”, “The Love Boat”, “Hotel”, “Murder, She Wrote”, “Melrose Place”, and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” to name just a few.
Unfortunately for those of you eager to get a look at Shirley Jones in the buff, she will not be appearing in the famous men’s magazine Playboy. In fact, the magazine made statements to several news outlets stating that they “never offered Shirley Jones” a pictorial, and that the actress never contacted them about posing either. Was this a publicity stunt? It is unlikely that someone with the start power of Shirley Jones would need a minor splash like this one across the internet, but as Playboy has said they nor Shirley Jones ever considered shooting Jones in the nude, one has to wonder.
Shirley Jones is a vegetarian, no doubt influenced by her childhood love for animals. She is something of a conservative, having infamously stated that she didn’t understand why so many “Hollywood big-wigs” were trying to “undermine President Bush”. Jones is currently starring in the long running soap opera “Days of Our Lives” and has several film projects in the works.
What is the Skinny Bastard diet?
The Skinny Bastard diet can be found in the book “Skinny Bastard”, a foul mouthed companion diet to the popular “Skinny Bitch” series of weight loss books which suggest a vegan diet as a route to weight loss. One difference between “Skinny Bitch” and “Skinny Bastard” — the book aimed at men suggests ways that men can “get ripped”, or add muscle mass.
In an effort to capture the attention of males, the “Skinny” series authors Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin have reclothed their vegan manifesto with terms and concepts aimed at men. Their best-selling diet book franchise includes titles like “Skinny Bitch: Bun in the Oven” and is known for being a bit over the top. The new book, “Skinny Bastard” is published by Running Press and went on sale Monday May 11th 2009.
The authors and publisher seem to think that a “tough-love” message (one similar to the message found in the original book aimed at women) will translate wel for men who are under the same pressures to lose weight and build muscle. Running Press, which is a division of Perseus Books, has an initial print run of 100,000 copies planned.
The original book “Skinny Bitch,” containing weight loss gems like “soda is liquid Satan” and “sugar is the Devil”, has appeared on the New York Times Advice, How To , and Miscellaneous Paperback Best-Seller list for a total of 92 weeks, selling over a million copies thus far. The book’s authors have also come up with a recipe book, called “Skinny Bitch in the Kitch,” which sold a solid but not stellar 217,000 copies. Their book for pregnant mothers, “Skinny Bitch: Bun in the Oven,” has no doubt been a disappointment to the publisher, moving only about 26,000 copies.
An executive at Perseus Books had this to say about the latest addition to the “Skinny” series — “Skinny Bastard is a testosterone repackaging of basically the same book, prepared in a way that will get the message out to men.” Critics wonder if men will respond to massive social pressure the same way as women.
Ms. Freedman said she and Ms. Barnouin claim they always planned to write a book for men, but decided to establish their target audience among women — who are indeed more likely to buy diet books.
What does the book look like? “Skinny Bastard” does in fact follow the same outline as “Skinny Bitch,” with some big changes in language meant to raise the book’s appeal to the male psyche. When you compare the male version of the book with the female, you get a good idea of the tactics the authors are using to attract the different genders. In the original book, “Skinny Bitch”, we get this from the introduction to women — “If you can’t take one more day of self-loathing, you’re ready to get skinny.” Note the assumption of low self esteem and the appeal to women’s eagerness to “fit in”. In the men’s version, the message is gentler. The introduction to “Skinny Bastard” reads, in part: “Chances are, you haven’t done so badly . . . don’t kid yourself, pal: A hot-bodied man is a head-turner.” This message appeals to men’s apparently higher self esteem (” . . . you haven’t done so badly . . .”) while trying to convince them that a man with a certain type of body is more appealing to women. I tend to agree with this philosophy — as a man, I’ve seen this behavior work on other men. If you tell a man that he’ll attract more women by eating crushed glass, he’s likely to do it.
In another attempt to appeal to males, the authors have included a section on professional athletes who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet — just the kind of diet that the authors of “Skinny Bastard” support. Athletes featured in the book include Ricky Williams, infamous running back for the Miami Dolphins. I’m not sure that men will want to follow the diet of such a controversial character, but their appeal to the sports loving side of men is not misguided. The authors have also added a new chapter not found in the “Skinny Bitch” diet. Called “No Girls Allowed”, this chapter outlines the male exclusive benefits of eating a vegan diet, such as the prevention of prostate cancer and certain heart diseases more often found in men.
In general, diet books that men have purchased in the past tend to focus on the fitness aspect of weight loss and muscle mass building rather than telling men what to eat. When “Skinny Bastard” suggests that men should abandon the typically masculine “meat and potatoes” diet they may be barking up the wrong tree. Though I know a handful of men who are vegetarians, and at least one who claims to be a vegan, I know hundreds, maybe thousands of men who would be very cautious about abandoning their standard diet habits. In fact, it is doubtful that men will buy a diet book at all. According to the survey experts at Nielson, as many as 8 out of 10 people who buy diet books are women. “Skinny Bastard” may be a huge gamble for the women whose success with “Skinny Bitch” was both surprising and a bit upsetting to most women. There is a chance that women will buy “Skinny Bastard” for their friends, boyfriends, or husbands, but can this “gift” market be as popular as the self help market was?
Only time will tell.
Who is Katy Tur?
Katy Tur is the girlfriend of polarizing news figure Keith Olbermann, one time reporter for the popular ESPN program “Sportscenter” and current host of the MSNBC hit “Countdown with Keith Olbermann”. Katy Tur has been in the news recently for landing a number of high profile jobs supposedly secured with the assistance of her much older live-in boyfriend Keith Olbermann. However, there is probably another factor in Katy Tur’s early success — she may be only 24, but the fact that her father, Bob Tur, is a major force in the world of television news means there’s more to her success than her connection to Olbermann.
Bob Tur created the legendary Los Angeles News Service, which was the first major news service to use a helicopter in its coverage of live breaking news. The infamous O.J. Simpson slow speed chase through the streets of Los Angeles was instigated by Bob Tur; he was the first to locate the even more infamous white Ford Bronco Simpson was travelling in back in 1994. Bob Tur’s new service was also the first to begin televising O.J’s odd pursuit.
Katy Tur’s first breakthrough job was as a news anchor on New York City’s massive CW11 channel. Before taking this position, Katy Tur was a student at UC Santa Barbara, and worked for Los Angeles’ KTLA. There have been “investigations” into Tur’s seemingly “out of the blue” success in television journalism, and Olbermann has been “acquitted” in the public eye of assisting his girlfriend in landing jobs.
Recent news about Katy Tur includes the fact that she’s now scheduled to join the Weather Channel as a “Digital Journalist”. Katy Tur will join host Mike Bettes on the program Vortex2 in a five week experiment to discover the origin, structure, and evolution of tornados. In other words, Tur is set to become a tornado chaser. When asked to make a direct statement on Katy Tur’s uncanny success in the news media, Olbermann denied that Katy Tur was hired on the basis of any grounds besides talent, saying:
“Anybody who suggests so is misinformed, or sadly unaware that in this time when the industry is collapsing around us, nobody gets a job based on ‘influence,’ only talent.”
What got people whispering about the “influence” question is the fact that NBC, parent company of Olbermann’s bosses at the MSNBC network, recently acquired the Weather Channel, adding it to their already large sphere of media outlets. If Olbermann assisted in Katy Tur’s hire in anyway, the news giant’s opponents will be crying “Nepotism!” until the’yre blue in the face. It would be a blotch on the careers of Tur, Olbermann, and on the face of NBC as a whole. Still, no proof exists that Katy Tur was hired for any other reason than her abilities as a journalist.
Olbermann has plenty of “enemies” in the media and in the “blogosphere”, including the website Olbermann Watch, which attempts to correct “mistakes” in Olbermann’s broadcast, and to just generally attack Keith Olbermann. Famously, Olbermann and Fox News big wig Bill O’Reilly are in a state of constant feud — meaning that fans of Olbermann of O’Reilly tend to dislike the fans of their “opposite”. This has created a bit of an embarassing situation for Katy Tur and Keith Olbermann, as more and more photos of Katy Tur surface, most of them from college parties. I think this is way out of bounds, considering Katy Tur and Keith Olbermann were not romantically involved at the time the pictures were taken, and Katy Tur was not working in her current jobs, the ones that were supposedly “set up” by Olbermann.
To be honest, the pictures of Katy Tur aren’t the most flattering. In many of the photos (easily found on the web through a Google search on her name) Katy Tur appears to be intoxicated. In more than one of the leaked photos, Katy Tur is behaving like a Miss America contestant, touching another woman’s breast, or hanging all over her male counterparts. While many of us had this kind of “fun” in college, it probably isn’t great for anyone’s career to have pictures of said fun floating about the internet.
We have also been treated to a slice of Katy Tur’s jouranlistic abilities — a section of an article written by Katy Tur for a student newspaper appears at Olbermann Watch and other media watchdog websites. In part, it reads:
“When are the people in charge going to realize that we, the youth, the ones who are in high school and college or who, like me, have just graduated, do not want to be read the news by another cheesy blonde anchor who looks like the girl who does keg stands and dances on coffee tables at frat parties? Respectable journalists don’t wear hot pink and they don’t die their hair blonde if they are Korean like Mia Lee, one of the anchors at KCAL. The women shouldn’t have fake tits that are pushed up to their neck and the men shouldn’t be orange. Do you respect the guy in your psych class that has frosted tips and highlights? No. Then why would you feel differently toward the guy reading the news?”
Needless to say, Olbermann’s web enemies have taken this article and run with it, especially the bit about men “being orange” — a regular attack point of the anti-Olbermann set.
I’m excited to see how Katy Tur performs on the Weather Channel’s always fascinating tornado coverage. This young woman deserves the same chance we would give a young journalist who is not attached to a famous name. I hope we can sit back and let her work speak for itself, rather than lobbing attacks at Katy Tur — a person just starting out in her career.
What is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Pacific Trash Vortex or the Eastern Garbage Patch, is a massive amount of floating trash in the north central Pacific Ocean that is rumored to be twice the size of the state of Texas. Specifically, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is composed of mostly plastic waste that is held suspended near or on the surface of the Pacific Ocean by currents.
The Patch gained notoriety when it was “discovered” by Charles Moore, an ocean researcher and sea captain who may have been the first to sail through it and document his findings. Charles Moore was returning to his home in California from a sailing race when he found himself mired in a massive patch of floating garbage. Since Moore’s discovery, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been a major piece of the marine pollution puzzle, often cited in reports about ocean pollution. The Patch was recently featured on Oprah, and though scientists and environmentalists have known about its existence since the late 1980s, it is likely that most Americans had no idea that sitting just to the west of their country was a giant pile of trash floating in the Pacific. Since Oprah’s discussion about the Pacific Trash Vortex, it has become a popular web search term and has appeared more often in the news.
Charles Moore determined that much of the waste is in the form of “tiny plastic chips”, and postulated that the forces of currents, waves and sun wear down larger pieces of plastic and convert them into tiny fragments which are even more dangerous to wildlife because of their easy to swallow size. Moore also discovered that these tiny chips of plastic outnumber naturally occuring plankton by a ratio as high as six to one.
The existence of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was predicted by oceanographers and environmentalists as early as 1985. Researchers looking into concentrations of trash found in places like Alaska and the Sea of Japan proposed that somewhere in the north Pacific there must be an even larger concentration of plastic and trash that was “feeding” the pollution found in other places. Once Charles Moore discovered material evidence of the Trash Vortex, he immediately reported to marine biologists and oceanographers (like Curtis Ebbesmeyer) who began to document the Eastern Garbage Patch, taking pictures and trying to determine its source.
While it is not the only area of concentrated marine debris in the world’s oceans, the Eastern Garbage Patch is the most notorious and probably the largest. And much like those other ocean based garbage piles, the Pacific Trash Vortex is believed to have formed over time as a result of marine pollution gathered into a mass by the action of oceanic currents.
The garbage patch occupies a mostly stationary region of the North Pacific Ocean bound by the “horse latitudes”. The rotational pattern created by wind and current conditions in the North Pacific Gyre sucks up waste material from across the entirety of the North Pacific, including the coastal waters off North America and Japan, and push this debris towards the center of the current zone. As material is captured in the currents, wind-driven surface currents gradually trap floating debris in the region.
The actual size of the Patch is unknown, but estimates of its size range from 700,000 square kilometers to more than 15 million square kilometers — to put this in perspective, that would mean that the Patch takes up between 0.4% and 8% of the size of the entire Pacific Ocean. Oceanographers suggest that the area probably consists of well over 100 million tons of plastic and other waste products.
Adding to the hype surrounding the Eastern Garbage Patch, a group of conservationists and scientists will soon launch a mission to map and run tests on sections of the floating garbage dump. The mission will depart from San Francisco sometime in June with the express purpose of exploring and learning more about the constantly shifting patch of plastic waste and other pollutants. Estimates suggest the Patch is made up of six million tons of discarded plastic alone.
Members of the expedition will be the first to attempt to capture a portion of the Patch and recycle the waste into a monument to “throwaway living” to raise awareness of the problem of ocean pollution. This massive toxic soup of waste went undiscovered until the late 1990s, because of the geography surrounding the majority of the Patch. Sailors tend to avoid oceanic gyres because of the constant presence of high pressure systems (what sailors call “doldrums”) which lack normal wind and currents.
Hopefully the expedition into the heart of the Eastern Garbage Patch will eliminate some of the mystery surrounding the waste vortex — what size is it? what is it composed of? what is its impact on the local ecology? — and lead ecologists and scientists to think of a potential solution.
Little is known about Mr. ZZee — much more is known about his “line of work”.
Mr. ZZee (also known as Mr. Z or Mr. ZZEE) is the infamous celebrity sex tape broker responsible for myriad celebrity sex tapes and the ensuing cocktail of embarassment and publicity that follows.
It is said he is the mystery man behind several best selling celebrity sex tapes, but so far, Mr. ZZee has not disclosed his true identity — probably a good thing considering the rash of lawsuits that are no doubt waiting to be filed against him.
On Sunday night, May 10th 2009, Mr. ZZee began to leak information about a new celeb sex video– the so called “Hoopz” tape.
The Hoopz tape is an amateur video of female celeb Hoopz, real name Nikki Alexander, who is best known for her work on VH1 reality shows Flavor of Love and I Love Money.
The full video will reportedly be made available for online pay per view purchase and on sale in DVD format at your local sleazy retailer. Hithiphop.com posted four Hoopz tape promo pictures that were first leaked on celeb gossip site on221.com. The pictures show Hoopz (censored) in some rather compromising positions with “her boyfriend”, according to reports. Rumors of the contents of the tape were making the rounds quickly on the internet, including the fact that Hoopz apparently displays a “wild side ways cowgirl position that must be seen to be believed”.
Infamous celebrity sex tape broker Mr. ZZee, the mystery man behind the sex tape of Hoopz’ fellow VH1 reality star Buckeey, has merely stated that he “acquired a hardcore sex video starring reality TV star Nikki Alexander aka Hoopz”. We have no idea yet where he got the tape from, although another rumor floating around the web suggests that Hoopz herself sold the tape. Nikki Alexander was the star and winning contestant of VH1’s first season of Flavor of Love and the spinoff I Love Money.
From what I’ve seen of the video, it is surprisingly high quality. Many amateur sex tapes, even of celebrities, feature bad lighting, poor angles, and questionable identities. Hoopz’ video is quite different — the video is high quality, and features multiple positions, the use of at least two cameras with multiple camera angles. For now, only screen shots and a short video clip are available for public viewing.
Why do celebrities make these tapes? The key part of that question is the word “celebrities”. Bigger names don’t need the flash in the pan attention garnered by cheesy amateur sex videos, while “celebrities” and reality stars find their names falling out of popularity, and release these videos as a kind of last ditch effort to keep their celebrity alive. The other side of the question is — do celebrities have a hand in these tapes at all? Many celebrities, like Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson, claim their sex tapes were never meant to be released. Often, a jilted lover or “friend” of the celebrity releases the videos to make money for themselves. Remember, celebs — be careful who you let into your home.
What is “mygener.im”?
It may be time to take extra precautions if you are a Facebook user. The phishing bug that made big news last week when it attacked Facebook users started to show its nasty face again on Thursday morning. The worst part about “mygener.im” is that it spreads from person to person via an otherwise tame looking Facebook message.
Facebook users have been receiving messages from friends that ask them to visit the Web site ‘mygener.im’ or ‘fbstarter.com’. The site is marked as a source of malware in many browsers and virus programs, which is fortunate. Most curious web wanderers will get a direct warning from their browser or their anti virus software if they attempt to visit the link.
For those daring (or stupid) enough to continue on to the site, ‘mygener.im’ or ‘fbstarter.com’ redirects users through a complex series of Web domains, eventually landing at an empty address that seems to be harmless. At least, it is harmless for now. Hackers could be ‘testing’ a particularly nasty bit of malware before releasing it in large doses. For now, there doesn’t seem to be much danger in clicking the link – but who knows when the potential malware will go “live”?
Thursday’s incidents appeared directly related to last week’s phishing outbreak. In that outbreak, many Facebook users were convinced enough by ‘fbstarter.com’s virtual likeness to the Facebook main page that they gave their passwords to unknown scammers. Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt wrote an e-mail to members addressing the issue. In his email, he discussed steps that Facebook has taken to correct the problem.
“We’ve already blocked the URL from being shared on Facebook, and it is now being deleted from inboxes and walls across the site,” Schnitt wrote. “Anyone who shared this content will soon have their account password automatically reset.”
The nature of web design means that just about anyone can make a page that looks like the login page for Facebook. The key is to check your browser’s address bar to ensure you’re on the correct site before plugging in a password. Facebook is only accessible via Facebook.com.
There are steps you can take to ensure that you don’t stumble onto a malware site on your computer, either redirected from Facebook scams or any other source.
1. Err on the side of caution.
If you believe that someone has sent you a suspicious link, proceed with caution. Be suspicious of any message that doesn’t “make sense”. Your first response to a suspicious email or Facebook message is probably correct.
2. Contact the sender of any suspicious message
When I received a link to “FBStarter.com” last week, I was immediately suspicious, and contacted the friend who sent it to me. He responded a couple of hours later that he DID NOT send that link, and that it was automatically sent to the entirety of his friend lists, and to ignore the message. He added that it would be a good idea to reset your password, just in case. Because I contacted him, he was able to protect the rest of his friends, and avoid spreading the virus even further.
3. Pay attention to your bank statements and bills
Many times, the object of “phishing” is to collect your credit card or bank account information – to give hackers access to your identity or your financial resources. If you keep an eye on your bank accounts and other financial investments, you’ll be more likely to catch a problem before it begins.
4. Report suspicious activity to your ISP
By reporting any potential phishing activity directly to your ISP, you’ll be going a step further than merely reporting it to the person who sent it to you. The ISP could detect a virus in its early stage and put a stop to it before it becomes a problem for others.
5. Pay attention to your computer’s warnings
Most of the new versions of the major browsers (Internet Explorer, Safari, Google Chrome, etc) have built in warnings about malware sites and viruses. Pay attention to these warnings, as they could be your last line of defense against harmful malware.
When will the Statue of Liberty’s crown re open for tourists?
There is good news for people traveling to New York City this summer. One of the most popular spots for tourists will be open for traffic after nearly 8 years. The Statue of Liberty’s crown, an observation area high above Liberty Island with great views of the New York City skyline and bridges, will reopen on the 4th of July. Millions of tourists have made the trek up winding staircases and elevators to get a view from Lady Liberty’s crown. The crown was closed after the September 11 terror strikes, to much criticism from the public. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made the announce on the morning of Friday, May 8th, 2009.
Salazar told US media that 30 visitors an hour would be allowed up to the crown, a step down from pre September 11th rates of as many as 60-80 per hour.
Access to the crown – seated atop a very narrow staircase of 168 steps — was suspended after the terror strikes on US targets.
The entirety of Libert Island closed on September 11, 2001, though most of the island’s attractions reopened that same December. However, the majority of the Statue of Liberty has remained closed. Most people assume it is because there is a terrorist threat, however the National Park Service claims that the statue is shut down “because of a long list of fire regulation contraventions”, including seriously inadequate evacuation procedures.
The museum and the first ten stories of the statue’s pedestal are open for visitors, but are only accessible if NYC visitors obtain a “Monument Access Pass”. This Pass is like a reservation that visitors must make before their visit to the Island. The Pass has to be picked up before Liberty Island visitors board the ferry taking them to the island. The interior of the statue remains closed until July 4th, but a glass ceiling has been installed in the pedestal to allow great views of the Statue of Liberty’s iron framework.
Visitors to Liberty Island report that they are often subjected to restrictions similar to those found in airports, like personal searches and searches of their bags and purses.
The Statue of Liberty has been threatened by terrorism before, according to the FBI. In 1965, the FBI announced it had uncovered a terrorist plot to destroy the Statue of Liberty along with two other major US monuments. Three terrorists from the Black Liberation Front (with alleged ties to Cuba) and a fourth terrorist from Montreal were sent to destroy the statue as well as the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, and the famous Washington monument in DC.
For now, tourists can climb up to the base of the statue and the lower observation areas of the Statue – a traditional US symbol of freedom.
The Statue was given to the US as a gift by French artist Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. The gift was designed to mark the 1876 centennial of the US Declaration of Independence, which had a major impact on French politics, eventually leading the people into revolution, mirroring America’s own revolt.
What ever happened to Drew Peterson?
One time Illinois police sergeant Drew Peterson is best known for his purported involvement in the murder of his fourth wife, Stacey Peterson, and for his half crazed behavior in front of the news media.
Stacey Peterson went missing on October 28, 2007. She was officially reported missing in the early hours of October 29, 2007, after her sister, Cassandra Cales, failed to hear from Stacey when she expected to. Drew Peterson claims that Stacy called him at 9 p.m. on Sunday, October 30 to tell him that she had left him for another man and that she had left her car at Clow International Airport.
During the subsequent investigation, the media hounded Drew Peterson about a mysterious “blue barrel”, purchased from a cable company and originally used to store heavy equipment. According to testimony, the barrel was big enough to “contain a body”. Peterson and his stepbrother Thomas Morphey allegedly carried the barrel from the Peterson home into Drew’s SUV a few days after Stacey’s disappearance, and Morphey attempted suicide a few days later, fearing he had helped dispose of Stacey Peterson’s body. There were rumors that Stacey Peterson was cheating on her husband, and that Drew knew who the man was and had buried the body on this mystery man’s property to frame him for the murder.
However, none of these theories were ever put to the test. No body was ever found, and no charges were brought against Drew Peterson.
Until May 7, 2009, when Drew Peterson was taken into custody for the murder of his third wife, a woman named Kathleen Savio.
Always a charmer, Drew Peterson had this to say to cameras as he was being led from his home in handcuffs: “I guess I should have returned those library books.”
Drew Peterson was charged yesterday with two counts — murder and assault in a manner that is expected to cause death. He is currently being held on $20 million bail, due to what officials perceive as a serious “flight risk”.
Prosecutors did not offer many new details at their evening press conference on the day of Drew Peterson’s arrest – apparently they did this to avoid tainting the jury pool. A change of venue request by the defense is expected, claiming that Peterson could never get a fair trial after all the media attention on him, but prosecutors want to keep Drew Peterson in their jurisdiction.
During the press conference, it was revealed that prior court testimony offered by Kathleen Savio herself may now be entered into evidence under a new law in Illinois. Previous court statements by Kathleen, as well as excerpts from her letters and journals will now be admissible under changes to hearsay rule exceptions. This means Kathleen Savio could testify against her own murderer during his upcoming murder trial.
How’d they finally catch him for a murder that allegedly occurred in 2004? In the process of the investigation into what might have happened to Stacey Peterson, police discovered that Drew’s third wife, Kathleen Savio, had died of an “accidental drowning” in the shower. Red flags everywhere.
After reopening the case, police learned of compelling evidence that Savio’s death was a murder. The biggest tip off, according to detectives, was evidence that Kathleen Savio drowned in a dry bathtub.
The death of Kathleen Savio four years ago was ruled an accident at first. She was found dead in her bathtub shortly before her divorce with Drew Peterson was finalized. Though no suspicions officially arose at that time, after the disappearance of Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacey, and allegations of abuse from his first and second wives, police got interested in Savio’s death.
Savio’s body was exhumed late last year after he was named a person of interest in the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacey. His claims that Stacey Peterson ran off with another man are still unconfirmed – in fact, her parents claim that Stacey was looking into a divorce. Not a good thing to do if you’re married to Drew Peterson, according to police.
“We have been investigating this as a murder since reopening the case in November of last year,” Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow said. “We now have a scientific basis to formally and publicly classify it as such.”
Did Manny Ramirez use performance enhancing drugs?
Last night, May 6, 2009, a shocking story began to leak to the sports media. The story reported that Major League Baseball was planning to suspend superstar Manny Ramirez 50 games for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. Dodger’s staff were as surprised as Manny and the media, issuing terse statements or none at all. Where was Manny during all of the frenzy?
Ramirez, the clear star of his team, was finishing up a 10-3 drumming of the Washington Nationals – on the field while reports were surfacing about his impending suspension. Manny had 2 RBIs on one hit and on walk – a solid performance from one of the league’s supposedly “clean” players.
Major League Baseball issued a statement simply stating that Ramirez “tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and was suspended for 50 games.” Considering a MLB regular season lasts around 162 games per team, this is a huge suspension, and will cost Ramirez a big chunk of his new salary.
Ramirez famously signed a new contract with the LA Dodgers this past summer, after being traded to that team in July and making a huge impact – some say Ramirez is the biggest part of the Dodger’s trip last season to the playoffs. His $45 million dollar contract, spread over two years, has just been cut by a full 25% due to this suspension – a bit hit in the pocketbook for anyone, no matter how many millions they make.
Manny Ramirez issued a statement after learning of the suspension. In his statement, he claims that he was treated for a medical condition with a drug that could have triggered a false positive. Ramirez also states that he has passed over drug tests since receiving the treatment, and is confused as to why he is just now being targeted. His statement, in part:
“”[My doctor] gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was okay to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now. I do want to say one other thing; I’ve taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons.”
The basic answer to the question of whether or not Ramirez took “performance enhancing drugs” is not available yet. All we know is that Ramirez’ doctor administered a “banned substance” to him as treatment for an unnamed medical condition. We do not know the name of the substance or the specific medical condition which Ramirez was receiving treatment for.
Ramirez’ agent did not issue a statement. There are no plans for appeal, as Ramirez admits his doctor gave him a “banned substance”, and Ramirez will not return to play until July 3. The Dodgers currently hold the best record in baseball at 21-8. Ramirez has been a big part of the positive start for the Dodgers, having racked up a .338 batting average this season, and he has already hit 6 homeruns and racked up over 20 RBIs. No doubt Ramirez’ absence will hurt the team.
What is the National Day of Prayer?
On the first Thursday in May, religious Americans of many different faiths will gather together to pray, especially to pray “for their country”. This day is officially recognized by the United States Congress, and was made official by then President Ronald Reagan in 1988, with the caveat that people “of all religions could come together to pray in their own way.”
Originally celebrated, though unofficially, in 1952 and suggested by the Reverend Billy Graham, the National Day of Prayer has recently become a source of great controversy. After all, that famous line in the Constitution about ‘separation of Church and State” has yet to be translated in a satisfactory way. The question is – does the National Day of Prayer break Constitutional law? Should we even have a government sanctioned religious celebration?
Some people claim that the government was founded by Christians who often said Christian prayers during legislative sessions – even the Senate fell into this trap in the 1980s when justifying the National Day of Prayer. A Senate report from 1988 made a claim that has since been debunked. Supposedly, the Constitutional Convention, which adopted the U.S. Constitution, prayed together during times of difficult decision, and this prayer became “an established practice” at Constitutional sessions. Unfortunately, history doesn’t back this claim up.
When Benjamin Franklin suggested prayer at the Constitutional Convention, he was basically ignored. According to his own notes on the meetings — “except for three or four persons, [the Constitutional Congress] thought prayers unnecessary.”
What reason, then, do we have for a nationally recognized day of prayer? Thomas Jefferson, one of the aforementioned Founding Fathers, wrote that a President has only civic duties, and thereore has “no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.” On the other hand, is the President, or any part of the government, really “directing” religious exercise, or merely suggesting it? There’s a thin line here, and many people are angry that the government has crossed it.
Atheist groups stage a similar event on every National Day of Prayer called the “National Day of Reason”, when people gather to discuss politics, the government, the state of mankind, and other non spiritual topics. This day is meant to be, like the National Day of Prayer, a day for concentrating on domestic concerns, only without the appeal to a “higher power”.
In fact, some atheist groups have sued past Presidents, including George W. Bush, and other government officials over the National Day of Prayer, claiming it is unconstitutional for a government to endorse any religious act. A website has appeared in the last year meant to counter act the lawsuit – the site is SavetheNDOP.com, standing for Save the National Day of Prayer.
No matter how you feel about the issue, for now the National Day of Prayer is safe and sound. Until there is a higher court ruling on the constitutionality of the government sponsored prayer day, the first Thursday in May will find Americans of all religions gathering to pray for their country.
What is the bank stress test?
The country’s 19 largest banks have recently faced the toughest test they’ve seen to date. The Federal government, in anticipation of future financial troubles, has issued a “stress test” to these economic giants to determine what these banks need to do to prepare for the tough economic times ahead.
These banks were put through some paper simulations of potential future economic problems – to determine how they would respond and hold up under stress. Much like a patient with heart trouble will undergo “stress testing” to see how his or her heart responds, the nation’s big name banks were put to the test. Some of they key questions — What if unemployment rises to 10.3 percent? What if home prices plunge 22 percent? What if overall economic growth drops to negative 3.3 percent?
The most important consideration for banks to think about under such conditions is — what will happen to the banks’ balance sheets? Also trouble areas — what does the bank lose from increased defaults on mortgages, auto loans and credit cards? The results of these questions will reveal how much more money the banks really need to stock up on, probably as a handout from the government via taxpayers, to stay solvent and keep lending.
The idea behind the stress test was to show the stock market and other financial institutions that banks are stronger than people assume. In other words, the idea was to get positive results from banks to “prove” that the nation’s top 19 banks could stay solvent in even the most desperate of economic climates.
But there are two big roadblocks to this theory that treasury officials don’t know the answers to – at least not for certain. The government doesn’t know whether, instead of inspiring confidence, the stress test might actually undermine confidence in banks that fail or perform poorly on the test. Also, they don’t know if the remaining $350 billion in bailout funds available to banks will cover the complete need.
What were the bank stress test results?
We don’t know much about the results as of this writing – only a handful of banks have voluntarily released the results of their stress tests, although the treasury department expects to release the full results to the public “soon”.
Two of the nation’s largest institutions, JP Morgan and Goldman-Sachs, have already hinted to the public that they passed the test with flying colors. In fact, these two groups will probably be able to repay some of the money already given them, and avoid taking any of the money remaining from the government. This has inspired some good times on Wall Street, which anticipates similar results from the other 17 banking groups.
Unfortunately, early signs from other groups aren’t as optimistic. Even solid names like Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Bank of America are showing up a bit in the red, and will likely need to bring in as much as $59 billion additional dollars just between the three of them. This far outweighs the government’s current financial commitment of just $35 billion.
There’s an even darker possibility for smaller banks like Regions Financial. These institutions have small market caps – in Region’s case, their cap amount is only $4 billion. If a bank this small needs to raise money and cannot find it in the traditional capital markets, a conversion of government shares could make taxpayers the largest shareholders, in effect nationalizing the banks. This would be of great concern to Wall Street.
May 5th is not just another day on the calendar that happens to fall between the 4th and the 6th. It is also a national day of celebration in Mexico known as Cinco De Mayo. Cinco De Mayo is a day of great importance that combines food, music, and festivals. It is not to be confused with Mexican Independence Day which is celebrated on September 16. Mexican Independence Day is the day that Mexico gained its independence from Spain. No, Cinco De Mayo celebrates another important event in Mexican history. It commemorates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. The holiday is observed only in certain regions of Mexico, namely around the Puebla district. But it is highly observed in Latin communities throughout the United States and elsewhere in the world. It is a day that signifies Mexican pride and traditions. Yet how did it all come about? What is the history of Cinco De Mayo and how is it celebrated? One of the best things about this day is that you don’t necessarily have to be Latin to be able to enjoy this festive day.
History of Cinco De Mayo
In 1862, Mexico was in a state of violent chaos and upheaval. After claiming Independence from Spain in 1821, Mexico had gone through several internal wars fueled by politics. There was the Mexican-American War between 1846 to 1848 and the Mexican Civil War of 1858. In fact, the Mexican economy was in shambles after so many years of conflict.
During these years of strife, Mexico had accumulated a large amount of debt to other countries such as the United States, England, Spain, and France. Their debt to the U.S. was settled after the Mexican-American War but they still owed other countries. In 1861 President Benito Juarez declared that all debt payments would cease for two years while Mexico tried to rebuild its economy. France was intent on increasing its empire at that time and as soon as Mexico stopped payments on its debt, France used that as an excuse to invade and gain control of Mexico. The plan was to set up Archduke Maximilian of Austria, a relative of Napoleon III’s, as ruler.
The French army landed near the state of Vera Cruz along the Gulf Coast. Their intent was to march directly to Mexico City. During their march, they met resistance from a smaller Mexican force near the town of Puebla. Led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin, the militia of just over 4,000 men held off the better-trained and better-supplied French army of almost 7,000 soldiers. At that time, the French army had not known a defeat for almost 50 years. But this smaller army of militia managed to turn the invaders back and was cause for a national unity all across Mexico.
Unfortunately, the victory did not completely stop the French from achieving their goal. When reports of the army’s defeat reached Napoleon III, he sent reinforcements and a year later French armies arrived in Mexico City and set up Maximilian I as Emperor of Mexico which lasted from 1864 to 1867. By this time the American Civil War was over and the U.S. began to supply assistance to Mexican nationals to repel the French occupation. Maximilian was deposed and executed by President Benito Juarez. His bullet-riddled shirt is still on display at the museum at Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City. So what Cinco De Mayo really celebrates is the bravery of the outnumbered defenders of Puebla against the massive French army.
Cinco De Mayo Celebrations And Activities
Cinco De Mayo is not widely celebrated throughout Mexico to the same degree. Some regions do not celebrate it at all. The biggest celebrations naturally take place in Puebla where the vents took place. Unlike some other Mexican holidays such as Day of the Dead, which involves prayer and can be somber in tone, Cinco De Mayo is much more festive. It is a celebration of life. It involves cultural food, social gatherings, parades, and traditional Mexican music known as mariachi music. Dancing is also a big part of Cinco De Mayo’s celebrations. Traditional and regional dances such as ballet folklorica are almost a celebration requirement.
Cinco De Mayo celebrations can also be educational. There are many websites that have resources and lesson plans for teachers that revolve around this holiday. Activities and crafts may include anything from constructing cultural items such as maracas or a sombrero. It may involve cooking traditional Mexican foods. Teachers can even educate their children on the colors of the Mexican flag. One of the best activities for kids is, of course, the Mexican piñata. This simple but fun construction is filled with candy and prizes then hoisted up in a tree. Children are then blindfolded and then take turns swinging a stick to try to break open the piñata and get the candy.
Many people celebrate Cinco De Mayo on their own. They decorate their homes and invite friends over for a party. If you want to have a Cinco De Mayo celebration in your home, a good thing to do is plan ahead and send out invitations. Decorate your home in traditional Mexican colors. Think bright greens, reds, blues, and yellows. You can pick up some Mexican mariachi from the music store along with other decorations. The Mexican Flag along with the colors of the flag should be used (green, white, and red). Drinks and food are a big part of the holiday so you will want to plan a menu of cultural foods like nachos, fajitas, quesadillas, chile rellenos, and other regionally appropriate items. Tortillas are a must and you can do anything with them. Pick a spot for dancing and a spot for a piñata and you are all set.
Over the years Cinco De Mayo has become, like many celebrated holidays, very commercialized and many people see this holiday as an excuse for fun and dance without realizing its true significance. In fact, Cinco De Mayo has become more of Latin-American holiday than a Mexican one. Cinco De Mayo is much more celebrated in the United States by Americans of Mexican descent than it is in Mexico.
Cinco De Mayo Facts
There is a lot of information related to the celebration of Cinco De Mayo. If you are interested in facts and trivia, here is more about the cultural holiday.
- In 2006, the U.S. Census declared that there were 28.3 million U.S. residents of Mexican origin. They made up 64% of the Hispanic population in the U.S. and 9% of the nation’s total population.
- General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin was Texas-born.
- The Battle of Puebla lasted for 4 hours before the French retreated.
- The French army was carrying supplies to aid the Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War. When they were stopped, this allowed the Union time to build their army which went on to claim victory at Gettysburg, thus securing their overall victory in the Civil War.
- The commander of the Mexican cavalry that fought the French army at Puebla was Col. Porforio Diaz who later became Mexico’s president and dictator.
- The first recognized Cinco De Mayo celebration was held in 1967 in the United States by a group of California State University students. They wanted to start a new tradition because they felt there were no Chicano holidays. By celebrating Cinco De Mayo as culturally historic, it helped the students in their struggle for the formation of a Chicano Studies program at the university.
- The largest Cinco De Mayo celebration is held in Loa Angeles, California and is called “Festival de Fiesta Broadway”. It averages 600,000 celebrating visitors a year.
- The Cinco De Mayo celebration in Chandler, Arizona, is known for its Chihuahuas. There are parades, pageants, and even races that all involved the small, wiry dogs.
- Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city, is believed to be where mariachi music and the Mexican hat dance is to have originated.
- The ancient Mayans of Mexico were the first known people to harvest the peanut.
- The colors of the Mexican flag are green, white, and red. Traditionally, the colors have significance. Green stands for hope and independence. White stands for purity and religion. Red stands for Spain and unity. In the center of the flag is an eagle and a snake which have roots in Aztec mythology.
- Mexico actually celebrates 365 festivals each year.
- People celebrating Cinco De Mayo wear red, white, and green traditional clothing.
- In many Cinco De Mayo parades, parade volunteers dress as either the French soldiers or the Mexican militia.
What is Wolfram Alpha?
Wolfram Alpha promises to be a “new kind of search engine”. Developed by British physicist Stephen Wolfram, best known for his work on the computational mathematics system known as Mathematica. Wolfram Alpha is set to premiere in May 2009 as an “answer engine”, meaning it will answer questions rather than searching for generic terms. Users may be somewhat familiar with the concept of the “answer engine” as Google can handle some basic question and answer formats — try typing in “What is 2 plus 2?” in Google and you’ll see what I mean. Wolfram Alpha promises to answer “How”, “What”, “Why”, and many other types of questions on top of providing facts and data related to user’s searches.
Wolfram Alpha differs from traditional search engines in that it goes beyond simply returning a list of results a la Google or Yahoo. Working outside of the realm of “keywords”, Wolfram Alpha will compute answers and provide “relevant visualizations” from the world wide web’s massive collection of info and data. While there have been other new search engines and attempts at creating “answer engines” — most notably TrueKnowledge and Powerset (developed by Microsoft). These types of search engines are known collectively as “semantic search engines”. To put it in layman’s terms, “semantic search engines” index a big batch of answers, and then try to match the user’s question to an answer. Its like the search engine is playing Jeopardy.
Wolfram Alpha is very similar to a project called Cyc, which itself is aimed at developing a common sense inference engine and has been under construction since the 1980s. Unfortunately, after all this time, there is nothing to show for Cyc, as there has been no commercial release or beta test. The founder of Cyc, Douglas Lenat, was one of the few outsiders given access to an early version of Wolfram Alpha before its major release next month. According to Lenat’s article at Semantic Universe, a blog dedicated to semantics research, Wolfram Alpha ” . . . handles a much wider range of queries than Cyc, but much narrower than Google.” Lenat goes on to say he was very impressed with Wolfram Alpha, but that it has its limitations, as is to be expected. Lenat says “[Wolfram Alpha] understands some of what it is displaying as an answer, but only some of it.”
So how does Wolfram Alpha work, and what do its results look like? It is difficult to say, as only a handful of people have been allowed access so far. Looking at interviews with the BBC from Lenat, Wolfram himself, and a few other cyber geeks, we can get a basic idea of his this “new search engine” might work.
Here’s an example. If a user were doing research on the battle casualties in the second World War, they may type in something like “WWII deaths France / Germany”, Wolfram Alpha would calculate and return a graph or chart of the basic fraction of France’s war deaths to Germany’s own deaths during that war. If you just type in “world war II deaths”, without specifying a country, Wolfram Alpha establishes what country you may mean by looking up your local web host and displaying the information related to your own country — it assumes you’re asking about that which is most important to you — information about your own country. Not only would you get a nice chart on the topic of world war two deaths, but Wolfram Alpha would include various pieces of information about deaths during the second world war, and other related mathematical information — you see, all of Wolfram’s knowledge comes from a mathematical perspective and not from a more “semantic” one. It is important to remember that Wolfram Alpha does not have a database of knowledge, so what it knows about death during WW II is limited to the math involved.
This distinction is important — don’t expect Wolfram Alpha to (immediately) compete with Google for basic web search functions. Google will respond to just about any query, “like a faithful puppy bringing in the morning newspaper” as Doug Lenat puts it. Google returns results without any kind of “understanding” of those returns — Google simply spits back what it finds without attempting to figure out if the results match your question. This leads to sometimes hilarious results — Google will display search results and “ads” that may include all kinds of false “answers” and leads. I remember one personal example — I was searching for a recipe for Pralines on Google, and I got a ton of results for a German exotic dancer calling herself “Praline” and offering all sorts of services and photos that were more than inappropriate to my query. At the other extreme of this issue are other “semantic engines”, which only can answer a very specific line of user searches, but provide mutiple answers that are directly related to that query. Wolfram is attempting to fill the void between these two extremes — relevant results for a wider selection of queries.
The problem with web searches is that they require something computers have a difficult time with — “common sense”. Users want search results where every piece of the search query and every piece of all of the answers provided by a search engine are as deeply understood as mathematics. Unfortunately, this becomes difficult — try teaching a computer to differentiate between a food recipe and a stripper’s personal ads and you’ll end up banging your head against the wall. Wolfram Alpha is an attempt to create a search engine that can tailor results to an individual search query, not just to all queries involving the word “praline”. Doug Lenat provides an example of this that he used to ‘test’ Wolfram Alpha’s “common sense” — he says if you ask for things that happen at 10 centimeters per year, Wolfram can tell you the fact that hair grows at this rate. But if you ask Wolfram “how fast does hair grow?” it will not be able to tell you. Unfortunately, Wolfram Alpha still depends on the user asking “the right question” — which is often the problem with Google. To put it another way, if the connection between two facts isn’t or can’t be represented by a mathematical equation, Wolfram Alpha is convinced that this connection simply doesn’t exist at all.
Not yet, anyway. Remember that Wolfram Alpha is very much in its “Alpha” stage — Dr. Wolfram is aware of the limitations of his system, and is sinking plenty of itme and money into future plans for addressing these issues as Wolfram Alpha continues to be developed.
Will Wolfram Alpha compete with Google for search traffic? Not right away. Is it a “new search engine” — probably. Until Wolfram goes online to the general public sometime in May 2009, many of our questions will be as up in the air as my search for the perfect Praline recipe.
Sassy water is a cool, refreshing drink with no calories. Some people use it to get off their soda habit. This sassy water recipe makes it easy to make your own batch of sassy water. (Sassy water was originally talked about in Prevention’s “Flat Belly Diet”,
Sassy Water Recipe
Sassy Water Ingredients:
- Water, 2 quarts
- Mint leaves, about 12
- Cucumber, 1, peeled and sliced
- Ginger, 1 teaspoon, grated
- Lemon, 1, sliced
Add all the ingredients to the water and refrigerate overnight.
Then drink your sassy water and feel refreshed.
Flat Belly Diet
The Flat Belly Diet is a diet promoted by Prevention magazine. It promises to help you lose 15 pounds in your first month on the diet. Basically, you eat 1600 calories a day on a Mediterrenean style diet, and you limit your intake of red meat to once a month. A Mediterrenean style diet focus on whole grains and vegetables. Fruits, nuts, and seeds are also important foods in any Mediterrenean style diet.
The Flat Belly Diet encourages the addition of a monounsaturated fat to every meal. Some examples of foods rich in monounsaturated fats include:
- Dark chocolate
You eat four meals a day on the Flat Belly Diet, and instead of counting calories, you choose from a menu of meals that are 400 calories each.
Is the Flat Belly Diet a Good Diet? Does the Flat Belly Diet Work?
The Flat Belly Diet calls for plenty of fruits and vegetables, which is healthy enough.
The Flat Belly Diet also calls for plenty of water, in the form of their “Sassy Water” recipe, and that’s healthy enough too.
The Flat Belly Diet calls for 4 meals a day, spaced out every 4 hours, and each meal is 400 calories. Nothing unhealthy about that either, unless you’re someone who NEEDS more than 1600 calories a day. Most people probably don’t.
The Flat Belly Diet calls for plenty of monounsaturated fats. There’s lots of evidence that these kinds of fat are good for your health too.
Looking at all of these factors, it’s probably pretty safe to say that the Flat Belly Diet is a good diet. At 1600 calories a day, it’s also probably safe to say that the Flat Belly Diet works. Almost anyone will lose weight steadily on a 1600 calorie a day diet. I’m a big man, and I’ll consistently lose weight on 2500 calories a day, frankly.
But I’m not sure you need an entire book to implement this diet. Calculating a menu of 400 calorie meals and then eating 4 of those per day every day seems like something tha would be pretty easy to do on your own.
The Worlds Best Places to Live 2009
As the world economy continues to slump and health scares such as the swine flu terrify millions, many people are becoming increasingly interested in the world’s best places to live in 2009. Fortunately, Mercer Consultings releases a yearly list ranking the world’s best places to live out of 420 global cities. A score is given to each city on the list, with New York City considered the base (with a score of 100). Factors used to determine ratings include:
- Law enforcement
- Strength of the economy
- Quality of health care
- Restrictions on free speech and personal freedom
- Sports activities
- Relationships with neighboring countries
- School quality
- Cost and availability of housing
- Natural disasters
- Access to grocery markets
- Infrastructure (including public transportation, traffic congestion, mail service, available water and electricity, and more)
European cities ranked among the world’s best places to live in 2009, with seven being in the Top 10. The highest-ranked American cities were Honolulu, Hawaii (#29) and San Francisco, California (#30). The three lowest-ranked places to live were N’Djamena, Chad; Bangui, Central African Republic; and Baghdad, Iraq (with a score of just 14.4, compared to New York City’s base score of 100).
Below, I’m going to list the 10 cities which are currently considered the world’s best places to live in 2009. While it’s safe to assume that they scored high on most of the criteria listed above, I’m also going to throw in a few additional reasons why each city might be a pleasant place to live. If you decide to move to one of these amazing destinations, be sure and drop me a postcard or email.
Ranked as the world’s best place to live in 2009, according to the Mercer score of 108.6. Vienna is Austria’s largest city and capital, and the total population is in the range of 1.7 million.
- While it scored the top spot in 2009, it also took second place in 2008. As far back as 2001, it ranked third for quality of life.
- Conveniently located near Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.
- The economic, cultural and political capital of Austria.
- Half of the population adheres to the Roman Catholic beliefs, making it an excellent choice for people of this religion. Other religions include Jewish, Muslim, Orthodox and Protestant.
- Vienna has a large public transportation network.
- Numerous parks and gardens add to the beauty of the city.
- Renowned for its architecture, museums and theaters (including opera and classical music).
Ranked #2 on the world’s best places to live for 2009 (with a score of 108), Zurich is the cultural and commercial center of Switzerland. Having finished in first place in 2008, Zurich routinely ranks among the world’s cities with the best quality of life.
- It is often ranked as the wealthiest city in Europe.
- Zurich is among the world leaders in protecting the environment.
- The city is a hub for air traffic, roads and railways.
- A leading financial center, Zurich is also the biggest center for offshore banking. Numerous international companies make their home here.
- Zurich is home to two of the most prestigious universities in Switzerland, ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich. Both are ranked among the top 200 universities in the world.
- The city contains a number of art and history museums, including Uhrenmuseum Beyer (which documents the history of timekeeping and timekeepers). The Zurcher Opernhaus is one of the leading opera houses in Europe.
- Zurich is known for its nightlife, with a multitude of bars, clubs, restaurants, cinemas, hotels and lounges. There’s also a thriving red light district. Every August, the city hosts the internationally-known Street Parade.
Ranked third on the list of the world’s best place to live in 2009, Geneva also ranked second in 2008. The total city population is 438,177, and it is known as a center for international diplomacy and cooperation. It is sometimes known as the “Peace Capital.”
- Considered the sixth most important financial center in the world.
- Numerous international organizations make their home in Geneva, such as the Red Cross and the United Nations. Over 25,000 people are employed by these agencies alone.
- The city has a temperate climate, and locals enjoy swimming in Lake Geneva and going to the public beaches.
- An abundance of art galleries and museums are located in the city.
Considered the fourth best place to live in the world for 2009 (tied with Auckland, New Zealand). Also ranked fourth in 2008. The largest city in Western Canada and British Columbia.
- Vancouver has a low rate of unemployment, and the economy is consistently strong.
- Compared to cities in Europe, Vancouver boasts a relatively low cost of living.
- The cost of healthcare is low, and the quality is high.
- Both public schools and universities are highly regarded.
- Numerous recreational activities exist in and around the Vancouver area.
Auckland, New Zealand
Tied with Vancouver as the fourth best place to live in the world in 2009, the largest city in New Zealand finished in fifth place in 2008. This city has the largest Polynesian population in the world, and many Asians have begun to migrate there over the last two decades.
- While the city is large, the number of people are relatively small. This allows residents to live inside the city but maintain houses instead of cramped and overpriced apartments.
- Over 200,000 Auckland residents speak multiple languages, and over 55,000 speak three or more languages.
- The city enjoys a mild climate throughout the year.
- Numerous educational and employment opportunities exist.
- One of the top 25 richest cities in the world.
- Known as the “City of Sails,” Auckland’s harbor has more yachts per capita than any other city in the world (an estimated 135,000 yachts and launches).
In both 2008 and 2009, this capital city of North Rhine-Westphalia finished in sixth place in the Mercer rankings. Located on the River Rhine, the total city population is 581,858.
- Known for many yearly events, including trade and fashion fairs. One July fair in Dusseldorf draws more than 4.5 million visitors.
- The average yearly temperature is a mild 51 degrees (10.5 C).
- Known as a center for German fashion and advertising.
- Over 18 internet providers are located in the city.
- King’s Avenue has some of the most exclusive–and expensive–shopping opportunities in all of Germany.
- A major railway hub, more than 1,000 trains stop in Dusseldorf each day.
- A wide array of culture is available, including ballet, opera, political cabarets, and museums for film, art, and history.
Ranked seventh among the world’s best places to live in 2009, it also ranked seventh in 2008. The capital city of Bavaria, Germany has a total city population of 1,300,000 (making it the nation‘s third largest city). Locals often refer to Munich as “Millionendorf,” which means “village of a million people.”
- 47.4% of Munich does not belong to any religious group. This is the fastest growing segment of the city’s population.
- Munich consistently ranks in the Top 10 in regards to quality of life.
- The city’s economy is driven by publishing, technology and biotechnology.
- Low levels of environmental pollution.
- The crime rate is much smaller than other major German cities.
Ranked eighth by the Mercer survey, Frankfurt finished seventh as one of the world’s best cities to live in for 2008. The fifth-largest city in Germany, the population of Frankfurt is 662,000.
- The largest financial center in continental Europe.
- Frankfurt International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world.
- The only German city listed as one of the world’s 10 Alpha cities.
- The Frankfurt Central Station is one of the busiest (and largest) train stations in Europe.
- Boasts the highest concentration of jobs in Germany (with 922 jobs per 1,000 residents). The Frankfurt International Airport is the largest supplier of jobs in Germany.
- The Museum Riverbank Festival is one of the largest cultural festivals in Germany, drawing more than 3 million visitors each year during a 3-day period in August.
- More than 20 museums are located on the Main Riverbank.
- Numerous places of culture and history exist, including Frankfurt Opera House, Old Opera House, Saint Paul’s Church and Saint Bartholomeus’ Cathedral.
- Has the highest number of home owners in Germany.
Ranked ninth by Mercer in both 2008 and 2009. The total city population is 962,983.
- The city market is located in the center of Bern, and fresh fruits and vegetables are available three times per week.
- The city’s size allows residents to walk almost anywhere they need to go.
- Covered walking areas allow shoppers to stay comfortable in both winter and summer.
- Citizens love to swim in the river Aare during the summer, and the free Marzili baths are also very popular.
- Many small, quaint towns are located with five minutes of Bern.
Sydney finished tenth in 2008 and 2009, making it consistently one of the world’s best places to live. This largest Australian city has 4.34 million residents and serves as the capital of New South Wales. It was also the site of the first British colony to be established in the country.
- Built around a port, Sydney is known as “The Harbour City.”
- Numerous international sporting events have been hosted in Sydney, including the 2000 Summer Olympics and the 2003 Rugby World Cup.
- The Economist has ranked Sydney is the Top 10 of the world’s most livable cities.
- One of the most multicultural cities in the world.
- Of all the cities in Australia, Sydney has the highest median household income (equivalent to $42,559).
- A large variety of culture can be enjoyed in Sydney, with the most famous being the Sydney Opera House.
- Sydney is also well-known for its beaches, bays, rivers, and national parks.