Archive for July, 2009
Did Michael Vick deserve a conditional reinstatement?
A couple of years after a conviction on animal cruelty charges related to dog fighting, one time NFL star Michael Vick has been “conditionally” reinstated to the professional football league by its commissioner Roger Goodell. Analysts were split on exactly what would happen to Vick, a quarterback with enough talent for three or four players. Some insisted he would be let back into the league immediately, having served a full two year suspension. Still others expected that Vick would never play football again, at least not for the NFL.
It turns out both camps were wrong. Though some people will quickly call Vick’s “conditional reinstatement” an error, arguing that Michael Vick should face more severe action from the league, still others are already lining up to point out what they feel is an obvious case of double jeopardy. For example, one prominent sportswriter is already on the record saying that Vick’s additional give game suspension is like “kicking a dead horse” — a line that makes me wonder if said writer could have possible come up with a less tasteful metaphor. You see, some people think that the additional five games added to Vick’s two year suspension (keeping him off any NFL field until the sixth game of the upcoming season at least) is addint insult to injury. “He’s already done the time,” they’ll say, and they may be right. But Vick’s crime was more than a petty crime — it has been charged that Vick personally abused dogs.
For his part, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell did what he has long promised he would do — look for actions over words. Besides just adding the first five games of the upcoming 2009 season to the length of Michael Vick’s suspension, Goodell promises that he’ll be watching Vick’s behavior, intimating that Vick will be on the shortest of leashes. Though he did conditionally reinstate Vick to the NFL, there is, as always, a caveat: “only actions matter”. Goodell has made it clear that Vick’s words will not be neough to act as a true “rehabilitation”. In my opinion, that is about the only way Goodell could have handled the Michael Vick situation. Goodell is taking time to watch Vick, judge the man by his deeds, and not fall back on listening to Vick’s promises.
This is not a crime that happened ages ago — in fact, Michael Vick’s nearly two year prison sentence ended last week (last week!) when his house arrest was ended. Who can be rehabilitated in a week — what person charged with cruelty to animals can change his or her ways in just a couple of years? If Goodell didn’t add a little “insult” to Vick’s “injury”, it would be absurd. Goodell would basically be saying “Okay, you’ve paid your dues, one week was enough, strap on your helmet.”
From the angle of Michael Vick’s supporters — and there are plenty — Vick has paid a very steep price for his dog fighting crimes. He missed two seasons (or so) of NFL football, and lost out on millions of dollars in contract money and endorsements, some of which he’ll never get back, and the rest of which he’ll have to PAY back, in cash. Vick’s supporters, for the most part, agree that his inhumane treatment of animals was disgusting and that his crime shouldn’t be minimized, but they argue that the man has already paid that debt and should be allowed back in the game ASAP.
There is another angle for Michael Vick and his crowd of yeasayers. Compare Vick’s sentence and penalties to those of other NFL athletes who have committed equal (or even more serious) crimes. Take the case of Leonard Little for example. After he left a friend’s birthday party (with a blood alcohol level of 0.19 percent) in 1998, Little crashed into the car of Susan Gutweiler, killing her instantly. For his crime, which amounts to murder, Leonard Little received just 90 days in jail. Now, we can argue about the value of a dog versus the value of a human, but a two year prison sentence for cruelty to animals versus a 90 day jail sentence for killing a human is downright laughable. Even this year, we heard the results of the case against Donte’ Stallworth, also guilty of vehicular manslaughter. Stallworth received around 20 days in jail — even less than Little — and settled with the family of the deceased for an unknown amount of cash. So sometimes the criminal justice system doesn’t make sense. I still think that misses the point of Vick’s case.
Michael Vick’s crime was premeditated — he knew what he was doing to these animals, and continued to do it until he was caught. You could say that Vick would still be choke slamming dogs and pitting house pets against trained fighting dogs if he hadn’t been busted. Vehicular manslaughter, though terrible, is not as premeditated a crime as the creation and maintenance of a dog fighting ring.
I guarantee you, the Vick debate will rage on for a few months until his first game — then, if he keeps his nose clean — we’ll all go back to thinking of Mike Vick the amazing quarterback. No matter what side if the debate you’re on, one fact that you can’t deny is that Vick hasn’t yet done enough to prove to the league that he’s mentally able to play the game of football. To determine when Vick is truly “rehabilitated”, the NFL needs to take some time to track Vick’s actions and make sure they’re in line with his vocalizations of remorse.
Roger Goodell has been nothing but consistent in his comments and opinions about Michael Vick and the dog fighting situation. The commissioner has never said anything but this — that he wants to see “real remorse” on Vick’s part before he is welcome back to the league. The problem for Goodell is and has always been that he’s selling a product, and Michael Vick simply makes that product more profitable.
Michael Vick may be out of the slammer, but he has clearly not done what the NFL wants him to do inorder to be fully reinstated.
Are mercury dental fillings safe?
Mercury is well known as one of the most dangerous metals on earth. One of only four metals that are in liquid form at room temperature, mercury (also known as quicksilver) is a poison that can cause sickness and even death. So how does it make sense that we get mercury-based fillings in our teeth?
Though people have been petitioning the government for answers for years, a definitive answer has only recently been offered by the FDA.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced this week that the silver colored dental fillings containing mercury are safe for patients. This is good news for most of us, as we are all likely to have a mercury based filling or two in our mouth. This decision by the FDA is a reversal from an earlier caution they relased to doctors and dentists against the use of mercury for medical purposes in specific types of patients, most notably pregnant women and children under the age of 16.
In the statement released Tuesday, the FDA had this to say — “While elemental mercury has been associated with adverse health effects at high exposures, the levels released by dental amalgam fillings are not high enough to cause harm in patients.” The report cites an agency wide review of about 200 scientific studies published in the last couple of years.
Millions of us have mercury fillings used to patch cavities in our teeth. The FDA said it certainly does not recommend any patients have their fillings removed.
The fillings, which are silver in color, are also known as ‘amalgams” in dental parlance. The filling itself is not 100 percent mercury, but is actually a combination of many metals including mercury. Mercury has been linked to brain and kidney damage when it is absorbed into the body at high levels. The FDA has basically reported this week that fillings don’t have enough mercury to do real harm.
In 2006, a group calling itself Moms Against Mercury sued the FDA (along with three other groups) to have mercury amalgams removed from the U.S. market. Early in 2007, an FDA panel reported that most people would not be harmed by the small amount of mercury, but that more information was needed. In fact, that same panel recommended that mercury based fillings not be used on children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people particularly sensitive to mercury.
The dangeorus little metal, whether found in medicine, vaccines, fillings, or food, has generated a ton of controversy in recent years. Many consumer groups say that the fillings can “trigger” a variety of serious health problems including Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Some parents are refusing to vaccinate their children out of fear of mercury, and even more people are avoiding consuming fish because of rumors of high mercury levels.
But in the FDA’s final regulations on mercury issued this week as part of an earlier legal settlement, the government group stated that the fillings arre now considered “only a moderate risk”. The FDA will clear the air more in the coming weeks by issuing specific details about the risks and benefits of mercury products. These products will also now carry warnings on their labels — warnings doctors will use to inform patients who have mercury allergies or other specific health concerns.
The problem with mercury and other heavy metals is our lack of knowledge. Sure, we know a ton about what exposure to these metals can do, but serious questions still exist about what chronic low-level exposure over the course of a lifetime does to our bodies. According to the FDA’s new release, there is no “causal link” between mercury amalgam fillings and chronic health problems. While some are relieved by this statement, there are still questions from consumer advocacy group, and Moms Against Mercury is still not convinced.
Moms Against Mercury President Amy Carson is on the record saying she is “disappointed in the FDA’s reversal”. Her group filed yet another petition with the FDA as soon as the announcement was made, calling for a ban on mercury fillings yet again. While I’m not sure what Moms Against Mercury knows that the FDA doesn’t, it is impressive that they’re sticking to their guns.
Over the past 20 years, the FDA reports that they’ve only heard about 140 reports of problems with the fillings, or patients who may have suffered problems from the fillings.
The FDA’s decision could have a serious impact on the businesses that manufacture metal fillings. These groups, such as Dentsply International Inc and Kerr, saw their stock prices soar on the news. For now, the dental manufacturing industry is applauding the decision. Shares of Dentsply closed up than 21 cents to rest at $30.80 per share on the Nasdaq.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), 30 percent of fillings given to patients are contain mercury, though a growing number of patients ar echoosing tooth-colored natural options such as resin composites. Even more alternative products exist outside of resin — these include porcelain, glass cement, or even gold. The problem with these fillings? They are much more expensive and far less durable.
Are tanning beds a cancer risk?
International cancer experts have determined, once and for all, that the use of tanning beds and any other device that transmits any kind of ultraviolet or UV radiation do cause cancer. How have they done this? By moving up tanning beds, sun lamps, and similar devices to “the highest risk category”, the same as very dangerous poisons, such as mustard gas.
The new classification for these devices is more than just a symbolic gesture. It means that there is now medical support for the belief that tanning beds and UV rays definitely cause cancer in humans, just as tobacco smoke, and the hepatitis B virus do — two other things listed in the “highest risk category”. It also means that worldwide bans on these devices are being considered.
This information was handed down by the International Agency for Cancer Research (known as IARC). This group is the World Health Organization’s cancer study wing and is based in Lyon, France. The announcement on the updated cancer risk level for tanning beds appeared in a piece of research published this week in the online branch of the medical journal Lancet Oncology. Before this announcement, the IARC determined that tanning beds and other UV delivery devices were “probably carcinogenic to humans”. This has been changed to “definitively carcinogenic to humans”.
Doctors who support the move believe this announcement will increase already tight pressure on the tanning bed industry to regulate the use of UV delivery devices. This isn’t more of the so called “Nanny State” — there is hard evidence that the link between tanning beds and skin cancer is incredibly high. This announcement is just the latest in a long string of similar charges made in medical journals.
As expected, representatives from the tanning bed industry have been quick to state that there is no proof that there is a link between the “responsible use of tanning beds and skin cancer”. Sure, if you ignore the last ten years of medical science.
The IARC is made up of cancer experts charged with making recommendations related to cancer to the World Health Organization. This is not some group of people set to profit from the collapse of tanning.
The IARC made this decision after a lengthy review of scientific research which determined that the risk of melanoma — which is the deadliest form of skin cancer in humans — was increased by an average of 75% in people who use tanning beds regularly before the age of 30. The link to age is also interesting, and presents a worse picture for tanning salons everywhere — the tanning industry will now be painted as “giving our kids cancer”. Not usually a good sign for any business.
An additional risk of a very scary cancer was found through the us of tanning beds. The recent IARC declaration is not the only group to notice that there is much greater risk for a teenager to develop melanoma of the eye if that person uses a tanning device. Take your pick — melanoma of the eye or slightly paler skin?
Cancer Research UK, a huge charity group dedicated to cancer awareness, already made a warning earlier this year that even average use of tanning beds or sun lamps is mostly responsible for the rising number of people worldwide being diagnosed with melanoma. In fact, that number jumped to over 10,000 a year in Great Britain alone for the first time this year. Over the last three decades, melanoma rates in the UK have quadrupled and then some. In 1977, for instance, there were 3.4 cases of melanoma per 100,000 people. In 2006, that number was nearly 15 per 100,000.
The British government will be one of the first to act to protect its citizens. There is already a proposal in Great Britain to ban the use of tanning devices in people under the age of 18. A ban on tanning beds has already taken place in Scotland. The representatives we quoted earlier have weighed in on this topic, and they agree that a ban on people under the age of 16 is negotiable, but they make the argument, again, that “there is no scientific evidence for a ban on people aged 17 or 18″.
The fact is this — now that we know that exposure to UV rays of all kinds (A, B, or C) creates a huge risk of getting cancer, the responsible thing to do is to avoid tanning beds for cosmetic purposes. In fact, there is no health benefit to tanning, and armed with the knowledge that cancer is a distinct possibility, it is the opinion of many in the medical community that these devices should be banned worldwide.
Are computer games addictive?
I remember my first personal computer — it was 1987 and my uncle gave us his old Apple IIe. What was then a 3 year old computer system seemed to me a playground unlike any other. Looking back, it was a simple machine. Kids wear more complicated devices on their wrists now and call them watches. “Programs” (read Games) ran off floppy disks and the monitor displayed a dizzying mix of toxic green and charcoal gray.
And I was something of a computer game addict. There was nothing more engaging to me than repeated journeys through a Nazi prison or the repetitive jumping up and down on trampolines to catch poorly sketched apples. After school, before school, and eventually during school (under the guise of “computer science”) if I was awake, I was tapping keys.
I got over this pretty quick. For a child of the 80s, I was not much of a video game player. I got interested in the outdoors, in sports, and eventually (under the guise of “group dating”) girls. If computer games are addictive, as a new report from a group of German psychologists suggest, then I am well into my recovery.
Still — just because I was able to kick the demon of the floppy drive doesn’t mean that gaming isn’t addictive. Games today are all encompassing, with graphics that mimic or even improve on reality, and involved gameplay that can cause hours to melt from your clock. I haven’t played a computer game (outside of the odd Minesweeper or Solitaire jaunt) in about fifteen years. I’m not the best guy to ask if the games are addictive.
So perhaps computer games do carry the actual risk of a real physical addiction, as suggested by a new study in Germany. According to the press release, computer game addiction is a total addiction — and the withdrawal from gaming comes complete with all the classic symptoms of drug withdrawal. Psychologists in Germany found that computer game addicts who are not given access to their normal amount of gaming show symptoms like a racing heart beat, sweating, and even nervous tics and dilation of the eyes. Klaus Woelfling, a psychologist at the Clinic for Gaming Addiction at the University of Mainz in Germany, headed the study that is garnering a bit of buzz on the Internet this week.
According to Woelfling, whose last name is very similar to the Caste Wolfenstein of my misspent early 1980s, a gaming problem exists when the game player stops being able to control his play — a gamer, much like a drug addict, loses his ability to make good decisions about gaming — when to play, when to shut the thing off, when to stop thinking about games, etc. Game addicts feel an uncontrollable urge to play, making this a very real addiction.
If you see danger signs in yourself or your friends, you should consider the idea of gaming addiction. If you’re confronting a friend or family member, do so without making direct commands or accusations. Many addicts (of any substance) will shut down when discussing their potential problem, says Woelfling, most likely because of their own guilt on the matter.
Woelfling further suggests that the desire for change has to come from within the individual. If you know someone who might need help with gaming addiction, your best bet is to get them into a twelve step program, or into the office of a psychologist, as currently (at least in the USA) there is only one hospital dealing with the specific problem of gaming addiction.
Is texting while driving dangerous?
Surprisingly, the issue of cell phone usage while driving is a divisive issue. Ask a crowded room how they feel about laws banning the use of handheld cell phones for calling, texting, or any other use, and you’re likely to split the room. On one hand, there are people who will always favor less legislation or “small government”. Those on the other side of the issue feel that it is sometimes the government’s duty to regulate issues related to safety. We’ve all used our phones at inappropriate times — in class, during a movie, and so on — but how many of us are willing to justify the use of a handheld cell phone while we’re driving?
Another study into the relative safety of handheld cell phone usage while driving was released this week. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute weighed in on the issue that is creating legislation from Texas to Maine. This study looked into texting specifically, leaving out any info on the dangers of talking on a cellphone. Not surprisingly, this study concludes much the same as similar inqueries that driving while texting on a cell phone or smartphone simply isn’t safe. In fact, according to the VTTI, texting makes a driver as much as 23 times more likely to be involved in a car crash than drivers who are not texting. Sure, some of you are reading this wondering why we needed yet another study to prove what seems obvious — but there are still plenty of people who gripe about anti cell phone laws. In my state, the fine for using a handheld cell phone while driving is $1,000 minimum. That’s enough to keep me from using my phone while the car’s in motion, and I’m guessing other drivers on the road feel the same way.
The report from Virginia Tech makes a conclusion that can’t be misinterpreted — driving while texting should be banned, everywhere, and that any cell phone use in cars should be banned for inexperienced drivers. Apparently, texting is more dangerous than talking, which seems obvious enough. Looking down at the screen and the keys while typing seems much more dangerous that simply holding a phone to your face and talking. But since this study didn’t look into cellphone chat, and instead focused on texting, it is difficult to fully buy into their conclusion.
Still, the Virginia Tech report comes less than a week after very similar conclusions were made in a report orchestrated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That report, which was a hefty 266 pages, came from information that was compiled 7 years ago, in late 2002. This information was kept out of the public’s hands until two as yet unknown consumer advocacy groups filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to obtain the information. The data recommends, without a doubt, that drivers should be banned from using cell phones in moving vehicles, and there’s a twist. While most states, including my own, allow hands free cell phone use, the study by the NHTSA suggests that even hands free listening devices are a dangerous distraction.
I’m going to tip my hand here — I hate cell phone use in cars. Has there ever been a study that proved that texting or talking on a cell phone improves your driving skills? Does it even make sense that adding yet another distraction to our vehicles (besides the radio, friends, fast food in your lap, etc) would have anything but a negative impact on one’s driving ability?
Put simply — driving while texting is a huge problem, especially for those of us in high traffic areas. This practice needs to be completely banned — to save lives and keep our insurance premiums down, etc.
Another suggestion of mine (and several advocacy groups) — young or inexperienced drivers are distracted enough without the addition of cell phones. I know when I first got my license, I was barely conscious of things around me, and it took a couple of years behind the wheel before I learned the confidence I now feel necessary to get on the road. In short, young drivers should be explicitly banned from using cell phones, maybe until the age of 21. Have you ever seen someone under the age of 21 that wasn’t completely consumed by their cellphone, PDA, or smartphone? If anyone needs an immediate ban on all cell phone use it is these inexperienced road warriors.
I wonder how many studies like those released just in the past week we need to learn about before we force our government to do something about the distraction of driving while texting?
Keep the roads safe for everyone — if you must send a text or make a call while you’re on the road, it won’t take but a few seconds to pull off, park the car, and get it done while you’re not hurtling down the highway.
What is the iTablet?
The iTablet is Apple’s next attempt to shake up the entertainment industry — this time with a kind of revamp of some older Mac technology.
Apple’s cult hit Newton was a kind of early PDA. It was hugely popular among a percentage of the population, but is a well known flop in the computing industry. This time around, Apple is introducing a device, known for now as the iTablet, that is portable and lets its users download movies, play games, and read digital books. According to insiders, more and more pieces of entertainment are being marketed with multimedia trappings — think of CDs released with digital booklets, or movies that come with trivia games, etc.
This new iTablet device will likely be hitting stores sooner than you think. Tech analysts have been discussing an Apple tablet device since a reference at an Apple conference in 2004 sparked rumors about a return to the Newton. Many of these bloggers are now suggesting that the iTablet could see a launch in the early part of 2010.
The iTablet will be a touch screen internet ready gadget that aims to do what Microsoft failed — compete with Amazon’s Kindle, SOny’s Reader and another device that Barnes & Noble is set to release. The iTablet, which will be similar to an iPod Touch device according to insiders, is expected to have a 10 inch screen. Some writers have suggested that the new iTablet product would be just another extension of Apple’s massive iPod line — a holding that owns more than 70 percent of the American digital music market — due to the iPod’s recent loss of market share. In fact, just last week, Apple announced that iPod sales were sagging between 7 percent and 8 percent. Tech writers say that the iTablet product could breathe new life into the iPod line or fill a specific niche in Apple’s product line.
So why is Apple pouncing on an even more modern way of delivering content? Besides expected losses from the still widespread online piracy of music, the recording and film industries have taken a huge hit in the bankbook from the standard behavior changes found in all consumers — this iteration of entertainment consumers are moving away from traditional means of ownership. In layman’s terms, no one’s really buying albums and movies anymore, at least not from the usual places. In 2007, sales of download singles rose 27 percent while sales of physical CDs and albums dropped a massive 25 percent this according to the RIAA. One potential bright spot for musicians interested in making more than just singles — downloaded albums rose 34 percent.
In an effort to push back against this trend, record industry types and film studios are hunting desperately for new ways to get people to buy their products. Part of what they’re doing is revamping the product — the most recent album I bought (digitally) came with a beautiful digital “booklet” and a video of an interview with the band. This kind of material not only generates the all important industry “buzz”, but it also creates a need for different kinds of devices to enjoy them. For instance, I can’t enjoy the digital video that came with the album unless I’m using a music player that plays video, and even then I can’t leaf through the digital booklet unless I have a device that can read that sort of file, and on and on.
Expect Apple’s new iTablet device to be polarizing — remember, when the iPod came out there were plenty of people willing to line up against it, for whatever reason. If Apple can build on the parts of the Newton that were succesful, while drawing in some new customers to the world of PDAs and portable display units, the iTablet is a sure winner.
Additional related articles:
- What Is Wireless Internet Access?
- What Is Computer Software?
- What Is a Hard Drive?
- What Is a Software Patch?
- What is an External Hard Drive?
Terrorists in North Carolina?
According to the FBI and several major news outlets, seven people were charged today with “conspiring to provide material support to terrorists” and “conspiring to murder, kidnap, maim, and injure persons abroad”. The press release, issued by David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division, and other FBI agents name the following people as part of the case:
Dylan Boyd, 22, U.S. citizen, resident of North Carolina
Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, 22, U.S. citizen, resident of North Carolina
Ziyad Yaghi, 21, U.S. citizen, resident of North Carolina
Daniel Patrick Boyd, 39, U.S. citizen, resident of North Carolina
Hysen Sherifi, 24, Kosovo citizen, legal permanent resident located in North Carolina
Anes Subasic, 33, U.S. citizen, resident of North Carolina
Zakariya Boyd, 20, U.S. citizen, resident of North Carolina
The defendants in the case were arrested Monday morning, July 27, 2009, at various locations by the FBI with the cooperation of other law enforcement agencies. The defendants all made their first court appearances today, in the federal court building in Raleigh, N.C.
Probably the scariest part of the indictment are the weapons charges. The indictment alleges that Daniel Boyd obtained a variety of weapons in the pursuit of his terrorist conspiracy, including a Bushmaster M4A3 rifle, an ETA M16 V System C-MAG, and a Ruger mini 14 long gun. But it gets worse.
The indictment further alleges that Boyd purchased a Mossburg 100 ATR .270 rifle, a Llama Camanche III .357 revolver, a Century Arms AK Sporter 7.62 X 39 rifle, a Ruger mini 30 7.62 X 39 rifle, an Ishmash SAGA .308 rifle, a Century Arms Polish Tantal 5.45 X 39 rifle, a Century Arms C91 rifle .308, a Century Arms M70B1 7.62 X 34 rifle, a Ruger mini 14 5.56 rifle, and a Smith & Wesson MP15 .223 rifle. The list of weapons obtained is not quite finished. According to the indictment, in February 2009 Daniel Boyd and his son, Dylan Boyd, sold a Beretta 9 mm handgun and ammunition to a convicted felon.
The indictment unsealed and issued today suggests that Daniel Boyd was trained at terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan, that he is in fact a “veteran” of these camps, and has conspired with other citizens in America over the past three years to “recruit and help” young men travel overseas in order to learn how to kill.
Given the amount and firepower of the weapons allegedly involved in the conspiracy (and the extreme nature of the charges against the men), expect this case to take a while to develop.
All of the defendants named above are charged with “conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists”, as well as a charge of “conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons abroad”. In addition, some of the suspects (namely Daniel Boyd, Hysen Sherifi and Zakariya Boyd) will face a charge of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence on top of the other charges. Daniel Boyd and Dylan Boyd will also face one charge each of selling a firearm to a convicted felon based on evidence gathered in the case. To wrap up the charges, Daniel Boyd will also face a felony charge of receiving a firearm through interstate commerce as well as two charges of making false statements in a terrorism investigation. Some of these guys, if convicted, won’t be free for quite some time.
The FBI is trying to make a point with these arrests and the severity of the chargest — that terrorists and those who support their efforts are not just people living in a cave in the desert half a world away, or people confined to a remote hideout in the Middle East, but that people right her ein America are involved in illegal terrorist related activity.
This investigation is notable because of the amount of cooperation between different law enforcement agencies. Federal, state and local cops worked together for the entire length of the investigation. This new amount of law enforcement partnership is possible because of the the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Back to the indictment — allegedly, during the years between 1989 and 1992, Daniel Boyd traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan in order to be trained “military-style” in terrorist tactics — according to the indictment, this training was for the purpose of participating in a violent jihad. The indictment further suggests that Daniel Boyd actually participated in terrorist activities in Afghanistan in the early 1990s.
Each one of the defendants named faces what amounts to a life imprisonment if they are convicted of the charges of conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim, and injure persons abroad — in fact, that charge comes with a mandatory life sentence in prison. In addition, the charges of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists carries a maximum 15-year sentence. The further charges of receiving a firearm through interstate commerce and selling a firearm to a convicted felon carry a 10-year sentence apiece. The charge of making false statements in a terrorism investigation carries with it a mandatory eight year sentence, and finally, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence will get you a five-year sentence minimum.
Please keep in mind that any indictment is just a collection of allegations, and that all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
Who won the 2009 Tour de France?
As predicted here at AskDeb.com, the winner of the 2009 Tour de France is Astana team member Alberto Contador. This is not Contador’s first time on the podium — he won last year’s seminal cycling event as well.
The battle for top prize in this year’s Tour de France (the 96th running of the race, by the way) ended in a mostly ceremonial conclusion event. Lance Armstrong was there — he took third place — and he was exhibiting stiff body language and looking rather uneasy. You get the feeling that Armstrong thought he had what it takes to win this year’s event. Third place isn’t too shabby for a cancer survivor who, let’s be honest, is getting a bit old for this sport. Armstrong stood to the left and slightly below his Astana teammate Alberto Contador — Contador, of course, was the man of the moment, wearing the yellow jersey and celebrating wildly.
Armstrong was on the podium for the eighth time in the past 11 years, but you could tell his heart wasn’t in it. In fact, reporters in France were shocked when Armstrong adsent-mindedly forgot to take off his cap for most of the Spanish national anthem. Later, Armstrong said that there was no disrespect intended by the move — he was distracted. Lost in though about what might have been, and probably considering another retirement from the sport he loves and made famous in America.
The “beef” between Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador is not news — and watching the procession towards the winner’s podium, it was no surprise that Armstrong was so cold toward Contador. In stark contract, he made a big show of warmly greeting runner-up Andy Schleck, even placing his hand on Schleck’s shoulder, offering enthusiastic congratulations. To be sure, Armstrong should exhibit better sportsmanship, but can you blame the guy? Armstrong is used to winning the Tour, not taking home a consolation prize.
So Lance Armstrong was denied his record eighth victory in France — and he readily acknowledges that Contador was the better rider during the 21 day competition. Brushing aside rumors of retirement, Armstrong (the 37-year-old record holding cycling champion from Texas) let everyone in the media know that he plans to come after the Spanish rider known as “El Pistolero” in next summer’s race — and he’s formed something of a dream team.
For the first time in a few years, Armstrong will be the team leader for a well funded American team. Next year’s team will be sponsored by Radio Shack and the team operator is none other than Johan Bruyneel, the Belgian cycling mastermind responsible for Contador’s second victory — it was Bruyneel’s ninth Tour victory as operator.
Contador on the other hand is still an Astana team member, having pedged his allegianc for another year to the team that got him his second win. One thing’s for sure, Contador and Armstrong won’t be attempting a revival of their at time uneasy relationship. Contador, for his part, has spoken directly to the face that he and the Texan phenom are “totally incompatible.”
Lance Armstrong has also made it abundantly clear that he didn’t like the way Contador won the Tour. Armstrong claims that Contador ignored the team’s plan of attack — a method of riding that could have left the championship open to Armstrong and would have probably “served the greater good”, according to Lance. One example — Contador’s chase after runner-up Schleck and his brother and teammate Frank Schleck during the last two climbs in the Alps probably cost one of Contador’s team mates Andréas Kloden a shot at the podium, and a shot for Armstrong to climb up one place to runner-up.
Much has been made in the media of Armstrong’s snub of the Contador/Astana victory party. What did Armstrong do instead? On Saturday night, Armstrong was seen partying and socializing with his new found Radio Shack friends. Armstrong told the French media on Saturday that he was “satisfied” with his third place finish, though he looked like a spoiled and angry child on the podium on Sunday. Let’s be honest — any podium position is a miracle for an older rider like Armstrong. In fact, only one rider (Raymond Poulidor), got a spot on the podium at an older age. Poulidor was 40 in 1976 when he won second place. In the Tour’s 106 year history, there is only one guy older than Armstrong who rode as well, and he should be happy with his finish.
What are the top ten college football teams heading into the 2009 season?
There are so many college football polls out there it is difficult to decide which one to rely on. It seems every newspaper and sports venue has their own ranking of the top 10, top 15, top 25, or even top 130 teams in the country.
To make things easy, we’re going to take a look at the top 10 teams in this year’s preseason Associated Press poll. While many of you are sure to disagree, this is the concensus opinion of a ton of journalists who tend to know what they’re talking about. We’ll break down the strengths and weaknesses of each team, as well as where we think they’ll REALLY end up at the end of the season. To keep things interesting, let’s start at the bottom — number 10.
10. Ohio State
A perennial poll darling, Ohio State has the tradition you’d expect from one of college football’s greats, not to mention a good deal of recent success — including a National Championship in 2002. Ohio State has one of the toughest schedules this season — a factor that can give your team a ton of respect (if they win games) or make them a national laughingstock (if they blow it). Just look at the matchup with USC on September 12 — one of the most intriguing games of the season. Also, OSU has road games at Penn State and at Michigan, not an easy task when both of those teams are close to their peak. With Sophomore sensation Terelle Pryor at the helm, the Buckeyes ought to put up big numbers. I predict they’ll end up much higher than their preseason number ten spot — look for them in a BCS game at season’s end.
Boise State made the Western Athletic Conference its bitch last season, plain and simple. An 8-0 conference record (and a 12-1 overall record) is what placed them in the AP top 10 this preseason. But do the Broncos have what it takes to stay in the AP’s good graces? Let’s take a look at their schedule for starters — they only play one other ranked team, and it is in their first game at Oregon. Let’s be honest, the Broncos will likely lose this first game and fall quickly out of their poll position. The running back Ian Johnson, who pulled off 13 touchdowns last season could offer some spark, but this team will not end up in the top 10 — heck, I’d be surprised if they ended the season ranked at all. Sleep on this team.
Much like Boise State, Texas Tech is benefitting from their amazing performance last season. You remember — they nearly swept the tough Big 12 conference, including an embarassing defeat of rival Texas (remember that last second catch by Michael Crabtree?) but got spanked by Oklahoma and moved from number 2 in the nation down to number 7 or 8. Tech lost plenty of talent in the offseason, including phenoms Crabtree and QB Graham Harrell. Put simply, this is a rebuilding year for the fans in Lubbock, Texas. This team simply won’t match up to last season’s record breaking season. Looking at their schedule, there’s some problems but some bright spots. Tech will face three top 15 teams this season — Texas, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. Luckily for Tech, they face Oklahoma on their home turf — and Tech’s stadium can put an opponent in his place. Don’t forget about Tech’s awesome passing game — four of Tech’s last five QBs led the nation in passing, and new star Taylor Potts could follow in his fellow QBs footsteps. Time will tell — but don’t expect this team to remain in the top 10.
Poor Utah has been the victim of a BCS system that is crippled at best. In the past couple of years, Utah has been the little engine that could — they finished 13-0 overall last season and earned a spot in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama. If their manhandling of Alabama wasn’t proof enough that “non-BCS” schools should be given greater consideration in the polls, then nothing will be. The Utes have a pretty tough schedule this season, including three ranked teams all of which are away games. Plenty of experienced upperclassmen return to a high powered offense, including Senior running back Matt Asiata and Senior receivers John Peel and David Reed. All in all, the Utes chances at returning to a major bowl game look good . . . just don’t expect another undefeated season. I expect Utah to remain in the top 10 all season.
6. Penn State
Yes, Joe Paterno is likely the greatest college coach still in action. And yes, the Nittany Lions are a powerful team. I don’t think they deserve the high ranking they’ve been given by the AP. For one, the higher up you go in any top ten poll, the tougher schedule you expect, and Penn State’s schedule just doesn’t deliver. Sure, they’ll face three top 25 opponents, but look closely — those opponents are Iowa, Michigan State, and Ohio State. Let’s face it — Penn State can’t take on Ohio State’s talent, they’ll lose that home game for sure. The other two — Iowa and Michigan State, are at the bottom of the top 25 poll, and aren’t exactly big ticket items. For a team like Penn State to stay in the top 10, they’ll basically have to go undefeated, and the Big 10 offers plenty of opportunities for the Nittany Lions to blow it. I expect Penn State to remain ranked, just not in the top 10.
Another perennial poll topper, USC has a good shot at going all the way this season, even though they are only ranked 5 in the preseason top 10. Two tough away games — at Ohio State and at Oregon — aren’t the least of their worries. USC has two possible bracket busters — at Notre Dame and at home against Oregon State (the team that came out of nowhere to beat them up last season). Still, USC has plenty of talent to back up their number 5 preseason rank. Their senior QB Garrett Green has been waiting in the wings for his coming out party, and don’t write off Adam Goodman, the senior FB. His impact on the Trojans game may be the difference between a BCS game and a disappointing season. I expect USC to float around the top 5 for most of the season.
Sure, the Crimson Tide got shocked in last season’s Sugar Bowl by an underrated Utah Utes team. And yes, the schedule that Alabama faces is pitifully weak — just two games against ranked opponents. But the SEC gets mad respect from pollsters, and Alabama is a constant threat to win that tough conference. Rumors abound that the Crimson Tide are switching to a spread heavy offense, which means one of two things. Either the team will be confused by the new offensive tactics, or their opponents will be left looking silly. As the season plays out, the ability of this Alabama team to follow their new offense will determine their SEC dominance, and that dominance will in turn determine if they can stay ranked as highly as they are. Look for Alabama to finish in the top 10.
This is difficult for me to say — I believe Texas got the shaft in this year’s preseason AP poll. As an avid Texas Tech fan, I loathe the Longhorns — that doesn’t mean I don’t respect them. Colt McCoy is back for another year tearing up the gridiron, and if he can stay healthy, I expect Texas to beat out their rivals Oklahoma for the Big 12 title. If that happens, and if Texas can take down their tough schedule (four ranked opponents in six weeks and a tough away game at Texas A&M at season’s end), expect to see the Longhorns (sigh) playing for the National Championship. Obviously, I expect Texas to be highly ranked for the entirety of the season, perhaps landing as high as number one.
I just don’t get it. Oklahoma above Texas in the preseason AP poll? Sure, their schedule is as tough as any in Division One football — four ranked opponents amid a conference that’s getting better every year — and sure they ended last season well — ranked number 2 overall — but do they have the deep talent necessary to take out Red River rival Texas? Sam Bradford’s back, and he’s only a junior. Bradford is a force under center, and is a leading contender for the Heisman trophy. Don’t forget about the Sooners tough linebackers — two returning seniors (Ryan Reynolds and Keenan Clayton) will give the Big 12s QBs headaches all season long. However, I have doubts about the Sooners offense outside of Bradford. Do they have the receiving corps needed to catch Bradford’s masterful passes? I expect Oklahoma to end up in the top 10, but not to end up as high as the AP has them.
We deal with this every year. Florida fans (and many sports analysts) moaning about how Florida should be ranked higher than they are. Well here you go, Gator fanatics — you can’t get any higher than number one. What bothers me is that the Gators ended the season with a 13-1 record in a year when we had an undefeated team (Utah). I believe Florida unfairly benefits from their position as a “BCS perennial”. Another thing bothers me — a weak schedule. Florida only has two ranked teams in their sights, and these are lowly Georgia and Florida State, either one of which could potentially be a loss. Am I excited about Florida’s prospects at repeating as National Champion? No. I believe they’ll fall out of the top 10 and stay there.
How was ESPN reporter Erin Andrews filmed while undressing?
It has become one of the hottest search terms of the year — millions of people entering Erin Andrews name into web crawlers looking for a video that is shocking, disturbing, and downright wrong.
Erin Andrews was filmed in various states of undress, without her knowledge, in hotel rooms recently. The video, which appears to have been filmed in at least two different locations, is available on the web for viewing. However, you have to understand that this woman is going through hell — use the Golden Rule here, people, and don’t look for it.
One big question about the incident — how did someone manage to film her without her knowing in a private hotel room?
The clips of Andrews, who is 31 and a beautiful statuesque blonde, were posted online last last week and the web searches for the video have topped Google’s search trend list for four days running. Erin Andrews has developed quite a cult following since she began working at ESPN in 2004.
The video is made up of rather grainy images shot through what looks like a man made hole in the wall. In the video, Andrews is undressing and appearing nude in an unknown hotel room. Her behavior indicates that she is completely unaware that she is being filmed. Private investigators interviewed by sources all over the country all say the same thing — that the suspects responsible for the illegal taping worked closely with her — close enough to have access to her room.
Erin Andrews, for her part, has sworn to press criminal charges and sue the as yet anonymous peeping tom who posted the video of her (shot through a hotel room peephole of all things) on the Internet for anyone to view. Investigators go on to say that the mystery will eventually be solved. According to those same private investigators, the criminals left behind enough clues to get themselves busted.
Several clips of Erin Andrews, along with similar videos of other unsuspecting women, were posted on the web by someone using the screenname Goblazers1.
One sports analyst has already done Erin Andrews a small favor by digitally “tracing” the videos in question to fairly specific locations in Montgomery, Alabama and Buffalo, N.Y.. The friend of Andrews used available technology that can pinpoint where a video is shot using details from the video.
There’s nothing dirty or outlandish the thing’s Andrews is doing in the clips — she is brushing her hair, ironing her shirt and pants, looking at her body in the mirror — but the reason it has become so popular is that Erin Andrews is the lust object of so many Americans. You could say that Andrews’ illegal tape is the Pamela Anderson sex video of 2009.
It is a shame that so many people in our nation have spent this work week looking desperately around the Internet for the video. Multiple variations of “Erin Andrews peephole video” have popped up all over Google’s trends analysis.
One thing we can all take from this is that our privacy may not be so private. According to experts, very little technology is needed to pull something like this off — a hole as small as an eraser and a cheap camera is all that stands in the way of you and your privacy.
AskDeb.com will stay on top of the story and provide more details as they arrive.
Why was Henry Louis Gates arrested?
Recently, Harvard professor and the director of Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research was arrested while “breaking in” to his own home.
The backlash from this event has brought up issues of race and ethnicity that many thought buried for years. Even President Barack Obama has found his way into the controversy — it doesn’t help that he is a friend of Henry Louis Gates or that he is the first African-American president. Obama spoke out about the arrest of America’s most prominent black scholar, and in doing so Obama accused the local police that arrested Gates of “acting stupidly”. What’s the story on Gates’ arrest?
Proessor Henry Louis Gates was arrested last Thursday night as he was breaking into his own home. The 58-year-old, a friend of President Obama and probably the best known black scholar in the country, was seen by a neighborhood resident as he and his driver were trying to to pry open the broken front door of his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The bystander, seeing a couple of black men prying a door open in a rather affluent neighborhood, called the police. Within minutes, a uniformed white officer arrived. By then, Mr Gates was inside his home on the phone with the Harvard Real Estate office to report the faulty front door.
According to Mr. Gates (in his first televised interview since the arrest — with CNN) he told the officer: “This is my house. I’m a Harvard professor. I live here.” When that wasn’t enough or the officer, Mr. Gates showed the officer his Harvard University identification card and his driver’s license. When the officer still didn’t respond the way Mr. Gates would expect, Mr. Gates asked the police officer for his name and badge number — a request which the officer decided not to comply with.
Gates: “He didn’t say anything. I said, ’Why are you not responding to me?’ Are you not responding to me because you’re a white police officer and I’m a black man?”
The officer then requested that Mr. Gates step outside of his home — which Gates did. Gates was surprised when he was handcuffed, especially considering that Mr. Gates is handicapped and requires the use of a cane. Eventually, he was handcuffed in a more comfortable position, was arrested, and spent four hours in police custody before being released. A charge against him of “tumultuous behaviour” was later dropped and the police want nothing to do with the controversy now surrounding Gates and his arrest.
Even as President Obama spelled out the case against the police officers and argued that this arrest is “a sign” of the country’s continuing racial divide, Obama joked that he might face an even worse fate if he ever tried to break his way back into the White House. “Here, I’d be shot,” said Obama, part joke, part serious.
Mr. Gates was named by Time magazine in 1997 as one of the 25 most influential people in the United States. For a man of his stature to be handcuffed and taken to a police station for breaking into his own home is simply despicable. Gates is now considering legal action against the Cambridge police. In his interview with CNN, Mr. Gates spoke of the vulnerability of black men, the fact that all people of color and all poor people look like suspects to certain law enforcement officers.
Mr. Gates has already heard apologies from the mayor of Cambridge, Denise Simmons, and the Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick — both of whom are black. Interestingly enough, the white officer involved, Sergeant James Crowley, has refused to apologize to Mr. Gates. In fact, Cambridge police are insisting that Mr. Gates was personally responsible for his arrest because he overreacted and shouted at the policeman. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen many people shout at police and not end up in handcuffs.
The President, while angry and upset by the case, did acknowledge his friendship with Mr. Gates may be coloring his reaction, and also admitted that he did not know the full facts of the case. But he went on to say this about this case — “I think it’s fair to say: number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and number three – what I think we know separate and apart from this incident – is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately, and that’s just a fact.”
What are Vibram Five Fingers?
When a piece of footwear occupies the top spot in Google’s web search trends, it may be time to pay attention.
I’ve been hearing about Five Fingers shoes for about a week now. First, a friend of mine (who does a lot of cross training) shows up for a short run wearing what look like river shoes. Before I have a chance to ask him what the heck he’s wearing on his feet he offers up an explanation — “They’re Vibram Five Fingers”. He extended his foot and wiggled his toe. The strangest shoes I’ve ever seen.
Vibram Five Fingers are shoes — you might be tempted to call them slippers, or socks with a rubber sole. They approximate the feeling of being barefoot while protecting and cushioning your foot. The flexible Vibram rubber sole on the bottom and the way the upper fabric wraps around each of your toes — that’s the gimmick here. The shoes have five toe cutouts and absolutely no “arch support” or any kind of foam padding you’d expect in the soles.
Vibram Five Fingers come in multiple varieties, but are all variations on a similar theme — some pair provide a little more foot coverage, there is one pair meant for use in the water, and the “classic” Vibram Five Fingers shoe that uses a system similar to pack webbing that you see hikers use. This bungee cord like “webbing” prevents the shoe from falling off when you use it in a more robust activity.
My friend who cross trains went on and on about his Five Fingers. He rattled off a list of activities he’d done in his new Vibrams — everything from free weight lifting, riding a sail boat, walks and jogs, frisbee games, and rowing to grocery shopping and just lounging around his house.
It is easy to see the instant appeal of Five Fingers shoes — I hate wearing shoes and have always preferred to go barefoot. Think back to your childhood — didn’t you always want to run around without shoes? Five Fingers are a great option for those of us that are active but just can’t find a comfortable shoe. Barfoot’s tough — you don’t want to risk walking around on glass or other sharp things.
Vibram Five Fingers minimize contact between the ‘shoe’ and the ground by design. This shoe has very little to get hung up on the ground surface. Runners and joggers often talk about “interference” of their shoe. The Five Fingers have a practically insignificant rubber sole that makes very little interference.
According to reviews on the net, and the glowingly positive review of my workout buddy, the Five FIngers shoe allows for a kind of “foot feel” that no other shoe can offer. When you wear Five Fingers outside, you feel the temperature of the ground, the curve of a hill, the crunch of grass under your feet. You get a real sense of the textures of the ground and feel hardly removed from the Earth at all.
So what’s the real appeal of walking around barefoot? Too many of us have been wearing large, restrictive, and just plain “clunky” shoes and sneakers during workouts or everyday life. It is a unique feeling to slide on a pair of Five Fingers and walk about, it is like a new freedom for your feet.
Another bonus to the Five Fingers is that your walk or run will work out different muscles in your feet, ankles, and legs. You can actually increase your agility by working out muscles that are normally kept mute by athletic shoes.
The truth is, if you are an active person who enjos going barefoot but wants a little more protection, you’re going to love Vibram Five Fingers.
These shoes are amazingly light. They are also very compact and ideal for travel. If you run cross country or encounter anything wet during your workout (or if you’re into water sports) these shoes are perfect for you. Regular sneakers will get soaking wet and could end up smelling of mold or weighing you down. If your Five Fingers get wet, there’s no problem at all. They dry ridiculously fast. Last but not least, these shoes are completely machine washable. Just toss them in the washing machine, then hang them out to dry like an old sweat shirt.
Now that you’re interested, you gotta go to some specific places to pick up your own pair of Five Fingers. You should look at the specific styles available at the official Five Fingers website, look around, determine what style is right for you. The “classics” I’ve just ordered set me back just $68. All of the varieties of Vibram Five Fingers can be picked up (free shipping!) at kayakshed.com.
One warning — there is a style of Five Fingers called “sprint” style. They include a strap that runs over the top of your foot, and the rumor on the web is that this strap causes some pretty serious chafing. My hiking buddy sprints in his “classic” Five Fingers and has never had a problem with them coming off. You probably won’t need the strap for sprinting.
Sizing is also different from traditional shoes. Again, check out the website (kayakshed.com) for information on how to order your size.
Sure, people are going to look at your weird new shoes and ask all sorts of questions. If they’re anything like me, they’ll be put off at first, but be quick to rush online and order their own pair. If you’re looking for a unique piece of footwear, Vibram Five Fingers has a pair of shoes for you.
How is the new swine flu vaccine going to be tested?
U.S. health officials announced this morning that trials of the experimental new H1N1 swine flu vaccine will start in August. The trials will take place at eight different university medical centers and some university clinics within the next thirty days. The first two vaccines to be tested are made by two pharmaceutical giants — vaccines made by Sanofi Aventis and CSL Limited will get the first tests.
This vaccine is in rush mode because of the impending flu season, which experts think could give us a resurgance of H1N1 cases. After all, a normal influenza season can be downright deadly, much less on that includes a strain of flu virus that is deadly and already resistant to most on the market flu medicines.
The first round of tests will be given to adults, for safet’y sake. According to the University of Maryland (the leading site for the vaccine trials) the tests will very quickly begin in children, once their efficacy and safety have been determined. Dr. Karen Kotloff of the University of Maryland, who is at the head of one of the drug trials, did not say much to the media, though Dr. Kotloff assured reporters that she has been “told that there is sufficient vaccine in existence to perform the studies”, and that people shouldn’t worry that the drug, though expensive to make, will be available only to the rich, as rumors have suggested.
Although some vaccine manufacturers have complained that the H1N1 vaccine is not especially easy to make, this may be a necessary hit to take in financial terms. The H1N1 virus is relatively unknown, has already shown itself to be deadly, and has been declared a pandemic by the World Heatlh Organization.
The trials of the two new vaccines, scheduled tentatively to begin on August 10th, have already been swamped by people willing to volunteer, perhaps out of fear. In fact, according to Dr. Kotloff, there is “a great amount of interest” from people who are willing to risk a few side effects for free vaccination against the deadly ‘swine flu’.
H1N1 has caused the first true influenza pandemic of the 21st century. The virus spread around the globe in a manner of a few weeks, eventually infecting millions of people.
The reason H1N1 is so dangerous? It appears to behave very differently from traditional ‘seasonal’ flu — H1N1 causes very severe sickness, both gastrointestinal and respiratory, in young adults and older children, a strange focus group for a virus. On top of those two targeted groups, there are the traditional flu prone groups to worry about — pregnant women and people with asthma and diabetes and the elderly. “Swine flu” also appears to cause serious disease in obese individuals, although only small scale studies have confirmed this or provided any date, and strangely enough, other studies suggest that the elderly may have some natural immunity against it, strange considering that most of the population has no natural immunity to H1N1.
The first studies will look at dosing issues — the makers of these drugs want to know just how much of a dose of H1N1 vaccine will protect a patient without injuring them or causing serious side effects. For Sanofi-Aventis, this means determing if one or two 15 microgram doses of H1N1 vaccine are needed. The drug made by CSL will be testing at the 30 microgram dose level. The difference in dose size could be a big win for Sanofi-Aventis — when less of a vaccine is required to protect people from illness, more doses can be manufactured and distributed.
Unfortunately, we still have no idea just how many doses of either vaccine will be manufactured.
Other facets of the vaccine research involve examining the safety of each vaccine and any potential immune system response in adults and children. The study will be done concurrently with a study of the ability of the H1N1 vaccine to mix well with the traditional seasonal flu vaccine — the pharamaceutical industry wants to know if people will need both, just one, etc.
“As soon as early information from those studies indicates that these vaccines are safe for adults, similar trials in healthy children, aged 6 months to 17 years old, will start.” So said an official from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which will oversee the trials.
Global and national health officials have said that H1N1 vaccination campaigns should begin no later than this coming October.
What charges will Ben Roethlisberger face?
Ben Roethlisberger’s lawyer spent all day yesterday with any news source he could find denying adamantly any of the allegations that have been made against the Steelers quarterback. Big Ben, as Roethlisberger is known, is one of several men who have been named in a lawsuit by a woman accusing the men of sexually assaulting or contributing to her sexual assault last summer.
Roethlisberger, whose rise to fame in the NFL is the stuff of legend, has cancelled a news conference that was scheduled for today, perhaps to circle the wagons and have his team of publicists figure out how to deal with the accusation.
The woman making the accusation was working as an “executive casino host” at Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe, California last July when she claims that Roethlisberger struck up a friendly conversation at her desk during a celebrity tournament. According to the lawsuit, the woman’s claim is that Roethlisberger charmed her into his penthouse hotel suit and raped her the next night.
Roethlisberger’s lawyer, David Cornwell, had this to say about the accusation — “Ben has never sexually assaulted anyone. The timing of the lawsuit and the absence of a criminal complaint and a criminal investigation are the most compelling evidence of the absence of any criminal conduct. If an investigation is commenced, Ben will cooperate fully and Ben will be fully exonerated.’’
You read that right — there was no criminal complaint and police are saying there will be no criminal investigation. This gives the woman’s case about as much weight as your neighbor’s opinion about the BCS.
The lawsuit levied against Roethlisberger and others seeks a minimum award of $440,000 in damages from the quarterback, another $50,000 minimum in damages from the Harrah’s staff and officials, and an as yet unspecified amount of “punitive damages”. As explanation for why she didn’t file a criminal complaint, the accuser says she didn’t file that all important criminal complaint with police because she feared Harrah’s would side with Roethlisberger and she would lose her job.
Details are starting to leak about about the alleged rape as the lawsuit’s paperwork leaks to the media. The woman claims she “went to Roethlisberger’s room to address a problem he reported with his television”. Allegedly, as she turned to leave, Roethlisberger physically blocked her exit and began to make sexual advances, which she claims she rejected.
“But instead of stopping,’’ these words taken directly from the law suit filings, Roethlisberger “held her against her will and physically moved the plaintiff and pushed her onto his bed’’ where he proceeded to rape her. The lawsuit adds to the punitive and other damage claims by insisting that the accuser suffered mentally, requiring hospitalization for treatment for depression and other mental illnesses after the alleged attack last summer.
One of the most common questions about the ongoing Ben Roethlisberger situation is why his accuser didn’t ever file a criminal complaint against Roethlisberger and the other men, opting instead to wait for a civil suit. A jaded individual might suggest that in civil court there is less requirements in terms of evidence and proof.
The answer we’ve heard from the woman, through her lawyer, doesn’t hold much water. If she felt she would be fired by Harrah’s for coming out against Roethlisberger when it happened, why would she wait only one year? Allegedly, the woman is still employed by the casino and would face similar persecution to the kind she feared last year. It just doesn’t hold much water.
Why is it so difficult to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay?
President Barack Obama’s campaign promise to close the military base at Guantanamo Bay within a year of taking office is certainly turning out to be easier promised than accomplished. The process of closing the base, and the detention center there, is quite complex due to the need to place inmates in the proper Federal facilities (which are already quite crowded), and this process is much more more complex to achieve than it was to simply announce during the campaign for the Presidency.
President Obama has organized a task force to make certain “recommendations”, and they have issued what has been described by the White House as “an interim report”, but the same group recommends an allowance of an additional six months to give Obama a full report on how to go about shutting down America’s most controversial prison.
The six-month extension to the recommendation (which was provided for in Obama’s initial executive order) will bring the President’s final report right up to the January 22nd deadline, which would be the anniversary of the President’s order for the camp to be closed. This does not mean that President Obama’s promise will not be kept — rather that Obama’s meeting of his target date could be a very close call. The reason for the closing is simple– Obama says that conditions for prisoners and other ethical concerns that arose from Guantanamo Bay (or Gitmo) have damaged the global standing and reputation of the United States.
This is not the only panel working on Gitmo for President Obama — a second group is examining specific interrogation techniques used at the base in the Caribbean to determine if torture took place there. That panel has at least another two months before their final report is due.
Part of the complication involving the base at Gitmo is the structure of deals made with potential terror suspects. The detainees at Gitmo are in a legal grey area — it is unknown if they should be treated as citizens or as enemy combatants. In fact, the outcome of Obama’s closing of Gitmo will have an impact on all future legal measures used to deal with terrorist suspects. What is clear is that what the American Civil Liberties Union wants will not happen — the ACLU wants all terror suspects detained at Gitmo to be given a fair trial in American courts.
So far, one thing is for sure — military tribunals to sentence terror suspects will continue as they did during the administration of President George W. Bush. How do we know this? Obama’s panel on Gitmo made this clear in their initial report — in fact, most of that first report is dedicated to the legal difficulties surrounding the detainees and how their military tribunals should take place.
One bright spot for groups like the ACLU, who want the detainees to face a fair trial, is that the panel on Gitmo has decided that the first choice for detainees will to be to take a case to a Federal criminal court if this is at all feasible. Decisions on detainees’ ability to stand trial as American citizens depends entirely on criteria laid out for the first time in an addendum to the initial report. Specifics of each case, such as “the nature of the offense” and the “protection of intelligence” will determine what sort of trial a specific detainee will be awarded.
What legal principle would allow certain detainees to enjoy a Federal trial? According to the report, “justice cannot be done… unless those who are accused of crimes are proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law that affords them a full and fair opportunity to contest the charges against them”. This is fairly comprehensible Legalese that has enflamed conservatives and die hards nationwide, people who want to see all terror suspects tried by militart tribunal.
The prison at Gitmo was opened after the attacks on September 11, 2001 — the US began rounding up terror suspects from around the world and detaining them, hoping to stem the flood of potential attacks or perhaps to discover more about the terror plot that unfolded that terible day.
As for the military tribunals that are sure to occue, President Obama and his cabinet broadly agree with the judicial reforms proposed by the Senate Armed Services Committee to the law that established the tribunals in the first place. Why did the President have to kowtow to the Senate? The Supreme Court ruled a few years ago that a Presidential order was not enough to set up a military tribunal. The reforms suggested by the SASC include a prohibition on the use of statements which may have been obtained by “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”, and a major caveat which requires the laws of war to be kept during sentencing. The report by Obama’s panel justifies the continued use of military commissions and tribunals — their argument? Only military tribunals are equipped to take into account the so called “battlefield truths” — factors in a case that may be impacted by the aforementioned rules of war.
Obama administration officials have constantly denied that the report on Gitmo and its closure is “bogged down” and in fact have said that they extended the deadline in order to achieve a more effective framework for the closure. We know even less about the specific work of the second team, the group focusing on interrogation and potential torture. In layman’s terms, we know that the second panel is asking whether the CIA can do its job effectively after the ban imposed by President Obama on certain methods, specifically any method not described in the Army Field Manual. The second panel is looking into if the CIA must use tactics identified as “torture” in order to effectively interrogate terror suspects.
Where will this month’s solar eclipse be visible?
This Wednesday, June 22, 2009, a large portion of the population of Earth is in for quite a show.
The longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century is about to take place — specifically, this Wednesday, with time around 2:35:21 UTC. This will be the longest totality event until June 13 2132, when none of us will be alive to view its beauty — hell, it is unlikely that any of our children will be around then.
There will be no other eclipse to rival its duration for over a hundred years. This huge eclipse will last a full 6 minutes and 39 seconds, and it will reach its maximum phase around 80 miles south of the Bonin Islands in the southeast of the nation of Japan.
The eclipse, which scientists have assigned a magnitude of 1.0799, will be visible from northern India, eastern Nepal, northern Bangladesh, Bhutan, the northern tip of Union of Myanmar, central China and the Pacific Ocean, including the Ryukyu Islands, Marshall Islands and Kiribati. The totality itself will be seen by citizens of Surat, Varanasi, Patna, Thimphu, Chengdu, Chongqing, Wuhan, Hangzhou and Shanghai. A wider swath of Asia will experience a partial eclipse event — this darkening of the sky will be noticeable in the much wider path of the moon’s shadow, covering most of southeast Asia and northeast Oceania.
The lengthiest and most accessible solar eclipse of the 21st century, for the majority of the population, will stretch over half of the globe. NASA is predicting that the path of the eclipse will cover all of India and Indonesia and most of China, as well as parts of the entirety of Eastern Asia and the islands of Japan and the Pacific Ocean. While no one in the Western hemisphere will be able to see the eclipse live, NASA has come up with a few cool ways for those of us not living in the East to experience this amazing phenomenon.
First, there’s an interactive map available online that uses Google Maps to track the path of the total eclipse, though the boundaries of various partial eclipse phenomena are much, much wider. The path for what is called “totality” (the area of the world that will experience a total solar eclipse) is notable mostly because it passes through or near huge population centers in Asia — metropolises like Shanghai and Mumbai. There are also plans to broadcast video of the eclipse both in video replay and in real time over the Internet. A team of scientists and tech enthusiasts from the University of Madrid (who would normally not be able to view the largest exclipse of any of our life times, as they are not in the path of the eclipse) have set up cameras and a web presence to display the events of the eclipse for the world to see.
As of this writing, the eclipse broadcast is accessible at this website (http://om.fi.upm.es/CiclopeAstro/?locale=en).
This eclipse is generating a lot of attention, and not only because it will be the largest and most visible of any of our lifetimes. The position and magnitude of this eclipse has some scientists (but mostly end of the world paranoids) predicting massive earthquakes and tsunamis off the coast of Japan — the theory is that the tidal pull created by such a solar event will rattle the tectonic plates in the area, which are notoriously picky about being shaken about.
Tourism is also a huge even for some cities in the path of the totality — there are reports that the very small and poor Indian village of Taregana is enjoying the massive increase in tourism and influx of cash that comes with the honor of being labelled the “ideal vantage point” for viewing a total eclipse. Naturally, Chinese scientists disagree that Taregana is the best spot for viewing the totality, claiming instead that parts of China are the best place to be. In actuality, the best spot to view the totality event is probably the island of Iwo Jima, since the maximum duration of eclipse won’t be anywhere near the mainland of Asia.
There won’t be an eclipse like this for another 12 decades — unless you’re planning on being unfrozen in a hundred years it is unlikely there will be a more engaging eclipse event in your lifetime. If that fact alone doesn’t send you into a state of reverie and awe, you’re unlikely to be excited by any solar or space event.
Who took home an Espy award in 2009?
Surprisingly, the biggest winner at the 2009 Espy awards (put on by cable sports channel ESPN) was one of sports’ most controversial figures.
Michael Phelps, in trouble recently for his off camera behavior (including the circulation of pictures of him smoking marijuana), won four awards in last night’s show in Los Angeles. In a year when it seemed there were dozens of men and women eligible for multiple prizes (think Manny Pacquiao, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Serena Williams, Lorena Ochoa, Phil Jackson, Sidney Crosby, etc) Phelps snapped up all four awards for which he was nominated, including one group award for the US Men’s swimming team.
There were few surprises in last night’s event, hosted by veteran actor Samuel L. Jackson, ouside of Best Male Athlete going to Michael Phelps — many predicted Kobe Bryant had an easy route to victory. But even in Kobe’s best category — Best NBA Player — there was a bit of a shocker, as LeBron James walked away with the trophy. I assume that Kobe got shafted by the Espy’s because of the perception that the team he plays on is better than LeBron’s team, making LeBron’s game more of an uphill battle.
I was personally upset when Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree didn’t win the award for best play (full disclosure: Tech is my alma mater) after a once in a lifetime last second catch and touchdown to beat Tech’s rival the University of Texas. However, since Texas Tech didn’t do much with the last minute win (and the winner for best play went to a Super Bowl winning touchdown pass by Ben Roethlisberger) I can understand why the votes fell where they did.
Below there’s a full list of the nominees and winners by category.
BEST MALE ATHLETE
Kobe Bryant, NBA
LeBron James, NBA
Jimmie Johnson, Auto Racing
Michael Phelps, Swimming ***WINNER***
BEST FEMALE ATHLETE
Natalie Coughlin, Swimming
Nastia Liukin, Gymnastics ***WINNER***
Maya Moore, NCAA Basketball
Candace Parker, WNBA
Serena Williams, Tennis
BEST CHAMPIONSHIP PERFORMANCE
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies
Michael Phelps, Olympic Swimming ***WINNER***
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, Olympic Beach Volleyball
BEST BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETE
Shawn Johnson, Olympic Gymnastics
Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons ***WINNER***
BEST RECORD BREAKING PERFORMANCE
Usain Bolt, Olympic Sprinter
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
Phil Jackson, Los Angeles Lakers
Michael Phelps, Olympic Swimmer ***WINNER***
Mine That Bird wins the Kentucky Derby
Oregon State stuns then #1 USC
Tampa Bay Rays win the American League Championship Series
US Soccer shocks Spain in the Confederations Cup semifinals ***WINNER***
Federer vs. Nadal in the 2008 Wimbledon Final
Steelers vs. Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII ***WINNER***
Syracuse vs. Connecticut in the Big East Tournament Quarterfinals
Florida’s Tim Tebow’s speech
Helio Castroneves wins the Indy 500
US swim team wins thrilling finish in Olympic relay ***WINNER***
Ovechkin vs. Rangers
Pacquiao KO’s Hatton
Roethlisberger to Holmes Super Bowl Winning TD ***WINNER***
Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree makes game-winning catch vs. Texas
Connecticut Women’s Basketball
Los Angeles Lakers ***WINNER***
North Carolina Men’s Basketball
Phil Jackson Los Angeles Lakers ***WINNER***
Geno Auriemma Connecticut Women’s Basketball
Dan Bylsma Pittsburgh Penguins
Joe Maddon Tampa Bay Rays
Mike Tomlin Pittsburgh Steelers
BEST SPORTS MOVIE
The Express: The Ernie Davis Story ***WINNER***
BEST MALE COLLEGE ATHLETE
Tim Tebow Florida Football ***WINNER***
Sam Bradford Oklahoma Football
Matt Gilroy Boston University Hockey
Blake Griffin Oklahoma Basketball
Stephen Strasburg San Diego State Baseball
BEST FEMALE COLLEGE ATHLETE
Maya Moore Connecticut Women’s Basketball ***WINNER***
Kerri Hanks Notre Dame Women’s Soccer
Courtney Kupets Georgia Gymnastics
Danielle Lawrie Washington Softball
Dana Vollmer California Swimming
BEST MALE ATHLETE WITH A DISABILITY
Jason Lester Ironman ***WINNER***
Jeremy Campbell Track and Field
Will Groulx Wheelchair Rugby
Oscar Pistorius Track and Field
BEST FEMALE ATHLETE WITH A DISABILITY
Erin Popovich Swimming ***WINNER***
Jessica Long Swimming
Maureen McKinnon-Tucker Sailing
Asya Miller Goalball
BEST MALE INTERNATIONAL ATHLETE
Usain Bolt Jamaica, Sprinter ***WINNER***
Pau Gasol Spain, Basketball
Lionel Messi Argentina, Soccer
Rafael Nadal Spain, Tennis
Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal, Soccer
BEST FEMALE INTERNATIONAL ATHLETE
Lorena Ochoa México, Golf ***WINNER***
Yelena Isinbayeva Russia, Pole Vault
Marta Brazil, Soccer
Stephanie Rice Australia, Swimming
Dinara Safina Russia, Tennis
BEST BASEBALL PLAYER
Albert Pujols St. Louis Cardinals ***WINNER***
Roy Halladay Toronto Blue Jays
Ryan Howard Philadelpia Phillies
Dustin Pedroia Boston Red Sox
Francisco Rodriguez Los Angeles Angels/New York Mets
BEST NBA PLAYER
LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers ***WINNER***
Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers
Dwight Howard Orlando Magic
Dwyane Wade Miami Heat
BEST WNBA PLAYER
Candace Parker Los Angeles Sparks ***WINNER***
Deanna Nolan Detroit Shock
Diana Taurasi Phoenix Mercury
Lindsay Whalen Connecticut Sun
BEST NFL PLAYER
Larry Fitzgerald Arizona Cardinals ***WINNER***
James Harrison Pittsburgh Steelers
Peyton Manning Indianapolis Colts
Adrian Peterson Minnesota Vikings
Kurt Warner Arizona Cardinals
BEST NHL PLAYER
Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins ***WINNER***
Pavel Datsyuk Detroit Red Wings
Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh Penguins
Alexander Ovechkin Washington Capitals
BEST MLS PLAYER
Landon Donovan LA Galaxy ***WINNER***
Juan Pablo Angel New York Red Bulls
Jon Busch Chicago Fire
Kenny Cooper FC Dallas
Guillermo Barros Schletto Columbus Crew
BEST MALE ACTION SPORTS ATHLETE
Shaun White Snowboarding/Skateboarding ***WINNER***
Ryan Sheckler Skateboarding
Kelly Slater Surfing
James Stewart Motocross
BEST FEMALE ACTION SPORTS ATHLETE
Maya Gabeira Surfing ***WINNER***
Torah Bright Snowboarding
Sarah Burke Skiing
Ashley Fiolek Motocross
Norm Duke ***WINNER***
Jimmie Johnson ***WINNER***
Manny Pacquiao Boxing ***WINNER***
Lyoto Machida MMA
Shane Mosley Boxing
Anderson Silva MMA
BEST MALE GOLFER
Tiger Woods ***WINNER***
BEST FEMALE GOLFER
Lorena Ochoa ***WINNER***
Calvin Borel ***WINNER***
BEST MALE TENNIS PLAYER
BEST FEMALE TENNIS PLAYER
UNDER ARMOUR ALL-AMERICA MOMENT
Andre Debose & Russell Shepard Football ***WINNER***
Jake Bernhardt Lacrosse
Tara Glover Softball
David Renfroe Baseball
Hannah Werth Volleyball
Arthur Ashe Courage Award: President Nelson Mandela
Jimmy V Award For Perseverance: Don Meyer, Northern State University coach
Best Comeback: Dara Torres, Olympic swimmer.
What is Congress doing about health care?
The United States Congress has increased their workload based on the expected overhaul of the $2.5 trillion healthcare industry. Congress is making good on their promise to the President to attempt to pass legislation in each chamber before the August congressional recess takes place.
The first rumblings of action from the Senate committees took place on Wednesday — the Senate started debates on its own versions of the healthcare overhaul, meanwhile House of Representatives’ Democrats are pushing legislation and debate on their approach. The White House released information Wednesday that confimed that the total cost of the health care plan would be about $1 trillion over the next decade.
So what’s next for health care reform in the US Congress?
Three committees in the House began their work this week, with each committee taking on the major issues in the single bill that is under the jurisdiction of that committee. Sound complicated? It is — but this is a complicated issue that must be taken one step at a time.
The House Ways and Means Committee, the committee that has jurisdiction over Medicare and the tax revenue needed to pay for healthcare and healthcare reform, began its debates early Thursday morning.
The House Energy and Commerce committee, especially its chairman Henry Waxman (who has been the main force behind changes in the insurance industry to expand coverage to all Americans) was starting work right as of this writing, Thursday afternoon.
The House Education and Labor Committee, which has jurisdiction over employee health benefits (a major facet of this bill) opened its debate early on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, two committees in the Senate are working on two separate bills that are expected to be put before the full Senate as one conjoined bill.
The Senate Health committee, probably the most important committee to this bill, has approved its version of the bill without the support of any Republicans. Their controversial version of the bill sets up a government run insurance program that would compete directly with private insurers. Their bill also requires almost all employers to provide some sort of insurance plan for their workers or face stiff government penalties. This plan also requires individuals to buy their own insurance, with government subsidy if necessary, much like the government requires auto insurance.
The Senate Finance Committee, which claims jurisdiction over Medicare and Medicaid as well as the taxes needed to fund the bill, is debating methods for the government to meet the estimated $1 trillion (over ten years) cost of their plan. Unfortunately, the committee (which reportedly hoped to work on the legislation as early as next week) has reported that that work on legislation is doubtful.
So, what happens after these committees report to the larger bodies of Congress?
Each chamber of the Congress has high hopes to pass their own version of the legislation before the August recess, as President Obama requested. While Democrats control a majority of seats in both chambers, including a near filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, this control by one party does not really guarantee that individual members of Congress will vote the way their leadership wants, potentially delaying action until after the August recess.
When Congress returns to work in September, there are reports that a small group of like minded members of Congress will meet to iron out differences between the different version of the healthcare bill that have (hopefully) been passed in the House and Senate. After this meeting, each chamber of Congress will vote on the “compromise bill”.
Lastly, if this compromised bill passes, President Barack Obama would find the legislation on his desk for his signature, making the bill into law. Obama has set an October goal for signing the bill — and if Congress makes good on their promise to hash things out by October, this just may happen.
What baseball teams will make the playoffs this year?
Sports predictions are notoriously shaky. In baseball, the situation can be even more challenging, considering certain teams’ penchant for going on win streaks late in the season and ruining all analyst’s insight. Think of the Houston Astros, whose late season heroics are legendary, or the Colorado Rockies’ “Rocktober” performance from last year. But now that we are at baseball’s halfway point, we can start to get a picture of what this year’s playoffs will look like.
Here is a breakdown of every time, their high and low points, and a look at the intangibles that may have a bigger impact on the playoffs this year than any other.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
1) NEW YORK METS
Hitting: The Mets are hitting really well, and their offense could propel them into the playoffs.
Pitching: No one expected the Mets pitching staff to be performing this well. Can they keep it up?
Intangibles: The Mets seem determined to make up for the last two years. Mets fans have been tortured in recent years, and deserve a solid showing this season.
2) PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES (Wild Card)
Hitting: Okay, so the Phillies aren’t batting as well as they did during last year’s championship run. Can their pitching and defense make up for it?
Pitching: If Hamels can stay healthy, count the Phillies in for the Wild Card.
Intangibles: The fact that no World Series champion has repeated in the last nine years may be the Phillies curse.
3) ATLANTA BRAVES
Hitting: A young batch of players means the Braves lack the experience necessary to make a run very deep.
Pitching: While the hitters are young, the Braves pitching staff is, well, ancient.
Intangibles: The Braves manager, Bobby Cox, is the epitome of intangibles. Will he be a boon or a drag on the Braves? Time will tell.
4) FLORIDA MARLINS
Hitting: Solid hitting performance hasn’t done much to bolster this team’s record.
Pitching: Unlike the Braves ancient pitching staff, the Marlins are dealing with a crowd of young’uns that may not have the experience necessary.
Intangibles: The poor Marlins major intangible is their division — the NL East is simply packed with solid teams.
5) WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Hitting: An unknown roster and a lackluster performance means the Nat’s will stay in last place for a couple seasons to come.
Pitching: See “hitting” — no one knows who these guys are.
Intangibles: A lack of fan support means that Nationals play more often to empty seats — never good for any sports team
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
1) ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Hitting: Powerful hitting as usual
Pitching: If Chris Carpenter can stay healthy, the Cards will make yet another playoff run
Intangibles: For the Card, the intangible is the fact that they seem to make the playoffs every year. Plus, their fans are loyal and loud.
2) CHICAGO CUBS (Wild card)
Hitting: Lots of lefties means the Cubs are keeping pitchers guessing
Pitching: Solid closers . . . questionable starters
Intangibles: For the Cubs, the intangible is the fact that they are in a major playoff drought
3) HOUSTON ASTROS
Hitting: Lots of power, lots of big numbers, lots of big names.
Pitching: Closers are making a huge splash
Intangibles: The Astros are one of those teams that always makes a late push. Pay attention to the end of their season . . .
4) CINCINNATI REDS
Hitting: Plenty of power hitting to support a lackluster pitching rotation
Pitching: Nada. Nothing. Zip. Zilch.
Intangibles: Dusty Baker as manager . . .
5) MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Hitting: Middle of the road.
Pitching: Besides Gallardo, who do they have?
Intangibles: Lack of defensive ability, and playing in a division that no one expected to be this competitive
6) PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Hitting: One good hitter does not an offense make
Pitching: Yet another NL Central team with lots of holes in the pitching staff
Intangibles: Manager trouble, lack of fan support
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
1) LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Hitting: The Dodgers are the most successful team in baseball at the All Star break. Plenty of hitting.
Pitching: A wounded pitching staff may not need to do much to support a powerful offense
Intangibles: Joe Torre, the manager, is a winner wherever he goes. Also, the performance of Manny Ramirez after his steroid suspension
2) COLORADO ROCKIES (Wild Card)
Hitting: Streaky but solid.
Pitching: Nothing to write home about.
Intangibles: Can the Rockies pull off another late season win streak?
3) ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Hitting: What was once an inexperienced squad has grown into a solid offensive force
Pitching: Plenty of solid starters with no one to support them. Middle relievers may as well phone it in.
Intangibles: If the Rockies start losing, or the Dodgers hit a bad streak, watch out for the D-backs to hit the Wild Card.
4) SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Hitting: Offense? What offense?
Pitching: Probably the best pitching rotation in baseball. Unfortunately, pitchers don’t win games.
Intangibles: If the Giants can make a good last minute trade, they may be able to contend. Otherwise, sleep on this sleepy team.
5) SAN DIEGO PADRES
Hitting: Besides Adrian Gonzalez, nobody.
Intangibles: Does being labelled the “worst team in the National League” have a big impact on morale? We shall see.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
1) BOSTON RED SOX
Hitting: A balanced offense that puts fear into the hearts of their opponents
Pitching: By adding some youth to their pitching staff, the Red Sox catapulted themselves into favorites in the American League
Intangibles: With the rise of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Sox now have two solid divisional contenders — not just the Yankees anymore.
2) TAMPA BAY RAYS (Wild Card)
Hitting: A surprising and varied offense that can kill you more than a couple ways.
Pitching: Solid if not remarkable.
Intangibles: Their incredible defensive ability, and the fact that they just plain know how to win, will push the Rays into the Wild Card spot
3) NEW YORK YANKEES
Hitting: $200 million roster, ten cent chemistry. Like an All Star team that doesn’t get along.
Intangibles: Like the Red Sox, the Yanks now have two teams to compete with
4) TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Hitting: Powerful but injured
Pitching: Middle of the road
Intangibles: When no one, including your fans, expect you to do well, what’s the incentive to compete?
5) BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Intangibles: If the Blue Jays, Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox all die in a horrible plane crash, MAYBE the Orioles will find a playoff spot
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
1) CLEVELAND INDIANS
Hitting: Getting on in years.
Pitching: See “hitting”
Intangibles: The Indians, like the NL’s Astros, can put a hurting on their opponents after the All Star break. Also, they play in a terrible division.
2) MINNESOTA TWINS
Hitting: A veteran hitting squad that can score points
Pitching: A young pitching staff, but one that can go deep into games
Intangibles: The Twins are the best managed team in the American League — don’t forget, the AL Central is just plain awful
3) CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Hitting: Confusing moves by the management has left the offense flustered
Pitching: The top three starters are outstanding . . . move beyond that and its Loserville.
Intangibles: They’re the White Sox. Perennial chokers.
4) KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Hitting: A surprising offense that started the season as one of baseball’s biggest, well, surprises.
Pitching: Nothing to write home about.
Intangibles: Just about any team in the AL Central stands a chance of hitting a streak and earning a Wild Card.
5) DETROIT TIGERS
Hitting: Plenty of offense, unfortunately they get no support
Pitching: Maybe the worst in the American League?
Intangibles: Managerial troubles
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
1) LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Hitting: While the Angel’s bats will win the AL West, that’s not saying much. Look at the competition.
Pitching: A solid lineup that can beat just about any team on any given day.
Intangibles: The AL West is notoriously bad.
2) TEXAS RANGERS
Hitting: If the offense can stay healthy, they’ll earn the Wild Card
Pitching: Like the defense, better than expected.
Intangibles: How many runs can the offense score to keep up with division contenders?
3) SEATTLE MARINERS
Hitting: Too old.
Pitching: A joke
Intangibles: Some say they have too many ex Cubs on the roster (four) to go anywhere in the playoffs. The curse continues!
4) OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Hitting: Don’t even ask.
Pitching: Pitching staff written off before the season started.
Intangibles: Can being called the American League’s worst team spark a winning streak? Probably not.
Will Sonia Sotomayor be confirmed as the newest Supreme Court Justice?
Sonia Sotomayor has become a controversial figure during the past couple of months. In fact, ever since she was nominated to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice David Souter, political pundits can talk of little else.
The conservative right want the concentration to be on her controversial “wise Latina” statement, a piece of her stump speech that indicates her belief that a Latina in America has had such a wide range of experience that she may be “more likely” to be a good judge than a caucasian. While not an overtly racist statement, it does indicate Sotomayor’s beliefs about her Latina heritage. Those on the left want the concentration to be on Sotomayor’s experience and record — over a decade on the court of appeals in New York, and an amazing life story that started in the projects of Brooklyn and will most likely end in the hallowed halls of the Supreme Court.
Even Republican members of the House and Senata must admit that Sotomayor’s confirmation is highly likely. In fact, Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, made the hilarious but true statement during her confirmation that “unless [she] has a major breakdown [she] will be confirmed”. There’s simply very little for the Republicans to attack her on.
Sure, some remarks that came out of her past speeches have generated more questions and controversy during her Supreme Court confirmation hearings this past week — but these questions can do little more than (as one GOP senator put it) “bug the hell out of” Republicans. The fact is that Sotomayor has not shown a true racial bias during her time on the appeals court — she voted against people seeking recrimination for racial discrimination 90% of the time. In some ways, Sotomayor is a true red-blooded American hero, being almost single handedly responsible for saving baseball, the national pasttime. It was Sotomayor who brokered a deal in the mid 90s that put baseball players back on the diamong.
In fact, a major sign of of Sotomayor’s strength and political momentum broke this morning when Senate Republicans confirmed that they do not intend to filibuster her nomination on the Senate floor. A filibuster may not have prevented her nomination, but it could at least have slowed it down. Senate Republicans also indicated that the full Senate would vote on her nomination before breaking for the August recess — there had been talks of Republican boycott of the vote to confirm Sotomayor’s nomination.
Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, indicated this morning (the fourth day of the hearing to confirm Obama’s pick for Supreme Court justice) that he would oppose any and all filibuster attempts on the Senate floor, and that he looked forward to a full Senate vote on Sotomayor. For once, it would appear that Republicans aren’t going to play the role of “party of No”.
“She is a good person, [with] a wonderful background,” Sessions told the news media, but he also expressed the standard Republican concern that Sotomayor will be “an activist for liberal causes on the Supreme Court.”
According to Graham, Sotomayor’s speeches are disturbing to conservatives because they suggest certain gender and ethnic bias. Republicans are concerned that Sotomayor will take those biases with her to the floor of the Supreme Court — most of her alleged preferences would work against the Republican agenda.
However, in the same breath, Graham pointed out that Sotomayor’s record as a judge has not been one of a radical liberal. Graham called her a centrist, though acknowledged that at times she has sided slightly with the left. Other Senate Republicans admit that her judicial rulings have been mainstream, and that her confirmation will most likely fly through the Senate.
Why do the personal opinions of Supreme Court justices matter so much? As many have pointed out during Sotomayor’s hearings, the Supreme Court has the ability to shape the political landscape of the country. Think of the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case that practically ended segregation in the nation’s schools — that was one case where the Supreme Court stepped up to do something that regular politicans simply didn’t have the guts to. While “Brown” ended up being a successful Supreme Court experiment, many on the political right are concerned that a similar political decision could be made by the court — but that this time, it could be disastrous. Issues like abortion rights, gay marriage, and other hot button topics will likely be decided on by the next session of the Supreme Court, and the conservatives want assurance that Sotomayor won’t use her political or ethnic bias to change the face of American politics. As Graham put it, “The personal views of Supreme Court justices matter because . . . [there is no] law book that tells you how to rule on contentious social issues such as same-sex marriage or whether there is a “fundamental” right to bear arms.” In other words, sometimes Supreme Court justices have to rely on their own beliefs. Republicans merely want to know what her beliefs are.
Sotomayor fought back. She stated that the Supreme Court spends considerable time on cases, including Second Amendment cases involving gun control. Her point is that Supreme Court justices don’t merely open a case, read the headline, decide how they feel, and then rule. Sotomayor then repeated that the Constitution and facts of the case would be the basis of her rulings.
In her response to one of Graham’s questions, Sotomayor had this to say about the role of the Supreme Court — “It does appear that the Supreme Court docket has lessened over time. Because of that, it does appear it has the capacity to take on more cases.”
According to Senator Arlen Specter, the Supreme Court decided 451 cases in 1886, with a total of 161 signed opinions in 1985. In the 2008-2009 session that ended recently, there were only 75 signed opinions. This was brought up because some Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee have complained that the Supreme Court in recent years has made de facto rulings on vital issues by simply refusing to hear them. Democrats don’t want the court to become a place where controversial issues go to die, which is perhaps why an opinionated and controversial woman like Sotomayor was nominated.
About that “wise Latina” comments — when committee Republicans brought the statement up once again, Sotomayor responded in kind.
“I regret that I have offended some people. I believe that my life demonstrates that that was not my intent to leave the impression that some have taken from my words.”
Regardless of what rogue Republicans may attempt, it looks as though our next Supreme Court justice will indeed be the wise Latina from Brooklyn.
Who got snubbed in this year’s Emmy nominations?
You would think that this year’s Emmys would be less of a snub factory than usual — after all, the Emmy awards have expanded. Most categories now features six nominees instead of the traditional five, with the two biggest categories (Best Drama and Best Comedy Series) expanding to seven.
Before revealing the full list of nominations, I want to point out some interesting oversights. Jim Parsons was finally recognized with a nomination in the Best Actor in a Comedy Series category for his role in the hilarious The Big Bang Theory, a one time cult hit that is gaining popularity by the week. Fans can finally stop whining about that show getting the big snub from critics and award shows. Also, two other nominations that are sure to please fans — Damages’ Rose Byrne and 30 Rock’s Jane Krakowski both got Supporting Actress nominations in the Drama and Comedy category respectively. Fans of these shows were primed and ready to explode if these actors weren’t recognized. Last but not least, there’s the surprise nomination of Vanessa L. Williams for her role in Ugly Betty.
Some shockers — Michael Urie’s performance in Ugly Betty got a major snub. Over in the Lead Actress in a Drama category, Mariska Hargity of Law & Order: SVU earned a nod even though that show is practically dead this season (terrible writing, predictable plots, etc), and Brothers & Sisters’ star Sally Field was nominated even though her performance on that show can best be described as “woody” — her character Nora Walker seems to live out the same story line every episode. The big snub in the Lead Actress in a Drama category was Patricia Arquette from the show Medium. While we’re on the subject of Medium, Arquette’s on screen spouse, played by Jake Weber, was snubbed in the Lead Actor in a Drama series in favor of the rather bland William Hurt from Damages. I’m not sure that the Emmy awards voters are watching the same shows I am.
More snubs — Anna Paquin, the most exciting thing about True Blood, woke up this morning without a nomination. A strange semi-snub is in the air for Kiefer Sutherland, who was nominated for the TV movie prequel of 24 but not for the show itself. Strange happenings in Emmy land.
But the biggest problem that fans have with this year’s Emmys has to do with Battlestar Galactica — sure, it’s on the SciFi Network, and yes, it can be a bit of a nerd magnet, but that show features some incredible acting and has a fan base that has to be seen to be believed. Add in the fact that there are now seven individual shows nominated in the Best Drama Series category, and you’ve got yourself a big dilemma. Once again, the groundbreaking and popular sci-fi series gets snubbed, even though the category expanded this year. There weren’t even any acting nominees from Battlestar. One would think that Mary McDonnell (who plays President Laura Roslin on Battlestar) could earn some serious Emmy hardware for her acting chops.
As much complaining as people will do about this year’s Emmys, the awards show got a ton of stuff right. House’s Hugh Laurie was recognized for his outstanding work as the sociopathic doctor, and Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston (who is the reigning champion of his category) certainly deserves attention for his work in that outstanding series. Holly Hunter and Kyra Sedgwick do in fact still deserve recognition for their work on Saving Grace and The Closer. So it isn’t all bad news — just a bit shocking at times.
Here’s a complete breakdown of the Emmy nominees by category.
BEST DRAMA SERIES
BEST ACTOR, DRAMA SERIES
Bryan Cranston, ‘Breaking Bad’
Michael C. Hall, ‘Dexter’
Hugh Laurie, ‘House’
Gabriel Byrne, ‘In Treatment’
Jon Hamm, ‘Mad Men’
Simon Baker, ‘The Mentalist’
BEST ACTRESS, DRAMA SERIES
Sally Field, ‘Brothers and Sisters’
Kyra Sedgwick, ‘The Closer’
Glenn Close, ‘Damages’
Mariska Hargitay, ‘Law & Order: SVU’
Elisabeth Moss, ‘Mad Men’
Holly Hunter, ‘Saving Grace’
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA SERIES
William Shatner, ‘Boston Legal’
Christian Clemenson, ‘Boston Legal’
Aaron Paul, ‘Breaking Bad’
William Hurt, ‘Damages’
Michael Emerson, ‘Lost’
John Slattery, ‘Mad Men’
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, DRAMA SERIES
Rose Byrne, ‘Damages’
Sandra Oh, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’
Chandra Wilson, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’
Dianne Wiest, ‘In Treatment’
Hope Davis, ‘In Treatment’
Cherry Jones, ’24′
BEST COMEDY SERIES
‘Flight Of The Conchords’
‘How I Met Your Mother’
BEST ACTOR, COMEDY SERIES
Jim Parsons, ‘The Big Bang Theory’
Jemaine Clement, ‘Flight Of The Conchords’
Tony Shalhoub, ‘Monk’
Steve Carell, ‘The Office’
Alec Baldwin, ’30 Rock’
Charlie Sheen, ‘Two And A Half Men’
BEST ACTRESS, COMEDY SERIES
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, ‘The New Adventures Of Old Christine’
Christina Applegate, ‘Samantha Who?’
Sarah Silverman, ‘The Sarah Silverman Show’
Tina Fey, ’30 Rock’
Toni Collette, United States Of Tara’
Mary-Louise Parker, ‘Weeds’
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, COMEDY SERIES
Kevin Dillon, ‘Entourage’
Neil Patrick Harris, ‘How I Met Your Mother’
Rainn Wilson, ‘The Office’
Tracy Morgan, ’30 Rock’
Jack McBrayer, ’30 Rock’
Jon Cryer, ‘Two And A Half Men’
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY SERIES
Kristin Chenoweth, ‘Pushing Daisies’
Amy Poehler, ‘Saturday Night Live’
Kristin Wiig, ‘Saturday Night Live’
Jane Krakowski, ’30 Rock’
Vanessa Williams, ‘Ugly Betty’
Elizabeth Perkins, ‘Weeds’
BEST VARIETY, MUSIC OR COMEDY SPECIAL
‘The Colbert Report’
‘The Daily Show’
‘The Late Show With David Letterman’
‘Real Time With Bill Maher’
‘Saturday Night Live’
BEST LEAD ACTOR IN A MINISERIES OR MOVIE
Kevin Kline, ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’
Brendan Gleeson, ‘Into The Storm’
Sir Ian McKellen, ‘King Lear’
Kevin Bacon, ‘Taking Chance’
Kiefer Sutherland, ’24: Redemption’
Kenneth Branagh, ‘Wallander: One Step Behind’
BEST ACTRESS IN A MINISERIES OR MOVIE
Chandra Wilson, ‘Accidental Friendship’
Shirley MacLaine, ‘Coco Chanel’
Drew Barrymore, ‘Grey Gardens’
Jessica Lange, ‘Grey Gardens’
Sigourney Weaver, ‘Prayers For Bobby’
BEST GUEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Edward Asner, ‘CSI: NY’
Ted Danson, ‘Damages’
Jimmy Smits, ‘Dexter’
Ernest Borgnine, ‘ER’
Michael J. Fox, ‘Rescue Me’
BEST GUEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Sharon Lawrence, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’
Ellen Burstyn, ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’
Brenda Blethyn, ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’
Carol Burnett, ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’
CCH Pounder, ‘The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’
BEST GUEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Beau Bridges, ‘Desperate Housewives’
Justin Timberlake, ‘Saturday Night Live’
Steve Martin, ’30 Rock’
Jon Hamm, ’30 Rock’
Alan Alda, ’30 Rock’
BEST GUEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Christine Baranski, ‘The Big Bang Theory’
Gena Rowlands, ‘Monk’
Betty White, ‘My Name Is Earl’
Tina Fey, ‘Saturday Night Live’
Jennifer Aniston, ’30 Rock’
Elaine Stritch, ’30 Rock’
BEST REALITY COMPETITION
‘The Amazing Race’
‘Dancing With the Stars’
BEST REALITY SHOW HOST
Phil Keoghan, ‘The Amazing Race’
Ryan Seacrest, ‘American Idol’
Tom Bergeron, ‘Dancing With The Stars’ ‘
Heidi Klum, ‘Project Runway’
Jeff Probst, ‘Survivor’
Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio, ‘Top Chef’
Wine is an elegant, classy beverage that makes one think of sparkling glassware and subtle aromas. In Europe, wine has been the drink of choice for any celebration or festivity. In the United States, it was usually reserved for the society’s elite or for romantic dinners and occasions.
Yet over the past several years, there has been a growing interest in wines. It is not just for a select privileged few. More and more people are letting their taste buds experience the different vintages. The growing interest has even sparked numerous wine blogs.
Wine blogs cover everything from different labels, to which wines had a good year, to where you can get some affordable deals on a good bottle. Here is a list of some wine blogs for anyone wanting to know more about this wonderful drink of the gods.
Some Good Wine Blogs
The Wine Spies – The Wine Spies is a fun but very informative blog that critiques different wines from several vineyards. The blog is written like a mission file for a spy. For every wine reviewed, the blog names the mission, the agent, the objective, the current wine and winery, and the wine maker. After conducting a tasting of the wine (that also involves look, smell, and feel) a mission report is written that gives the conclusion of the mission.
Some of the wines that are reviewed in their ‘missions’ are 2004 Frazier Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004 Burgess Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005 Dry Creek Vineyard Somers Ranch Zinfadel, and more.
Wine Girl – Written by a couple in Cincinnati, this blog mainly focuses on local wine events in that area. They have a Wine Trail that has a list of area wineries along with wine tastings for every night of the weekend. The blog even has an events calendar. The couple has some experience with wines as they have been judges for several wine tasting competitions. One of the interesting items about the blog is the wine rating scale. It is a series of smiley face icons that range from a happy face for wines that they loved to a sour face for wines that they didn’t like at all.
Steve Heimoff – This blog is written by a wine aficionado who has written two books, A Journey Along the Russian River and New Classic Winemakers of California. Heimoff is also the West Coast Editor of Wine Enthusiasts magazine. He has been writing about wines since 1989 and has been involved in the industry as an educational speaker, hosting wine seminars, reviews, and marketing. His blog probably has everything you could want to know about wine. He writes about types of wines, sales, shipping, packaging, wineries, and events.
Wanderer Wines – Here is an interesting blog that centers on a different part of the world. Wanderer Wines is a blog dedicated to the wine industry of South Africa. While South Africa may not be France, the industry there is doing well as the climate and conditions are similar to that of California. The site has a lot of local information which is only helpful if you live or are traveling to South Africa in the near future. But the blog also has a wine educational section that features articles on food pairing and reviews of international wine events. There are also reviews of local vintages that are an interesting read.
Wine Lovers Page – Credited as the oldest and largest wine site on the Internet, it is the definitive authority on wines. If you can’t find it here, it probably doesn’t exist. They have articles for beginners such as how to properly taste wines and what makes a good wine. There is a whole section with several chapters on wine education. They take you from the origins of wine to the current wine makers in the U.S. There is an extensive list of wine tasting notes from all over the world. If you have any questions, there is a section where you can ask a wine expert or join in on a forum discussion.
About.com’s Wine Blog – About.com is a large and resourceful site full of useful information. They have a pretty decent blog section for wine. There are articles on the basics of wine as well as introductions to red wine and white wine. The blog covers information that is suitable for beginners. There are videos on how wine is made, how to store and serve wine, wine tasting, and buying wine. The blog also has recipes for sangrias and reviews on various wines.
Wine Welfare – Advertised as “Wine Suggestions for the Fiscally Challenged”, this blog is mostly all reviews on wines that have a great taste and an affordable price tag. Nothing reviewed is over $20. The articles are all written in ‘layman’s terms’ so that you don’t have to be a true wine expert in order to read and understand it. But the reviews are pretty extensive as far as covering a wide variety of wines. And no boxes were reviewed.
Serious About Wine – This blog is a little different from the other wine blogs. It focuses more on wine marketing, packaging, and design. The categories for the blog cover everything from Innovation, Branding, Jobs, Label Design, and such, it is interesting to see what the latest trends are in the market today. This blog really is for someone who is in the wine business or maybe thinking about getting into it. Still good reading, though.
Bordeaux Undiscovered – This site is simple to navigate but has a very wide range of wine-related topics. He writes about everything to do with the industry from news, different wine maker profiles, wine reviews, wine history, and even some really good recipes that go well with wine. The best thing about this site is the writer gives so much background into early wine makers and how their labels came about.
Vinography: A Wine Blog – Vinography is a popular blog created by a man named Alder Yarrow. He has been proclaimed as the pioneer of wine blogs. Vinography was started in 2003 and has been going strong since. The site gives wine reviews, articles about wine events, wine bars and restaurants of the San Francisco area, and so much more. A really great source if looking for a review about a particular wine.
What is the Big Green Egg?
In the life of every serious backyard chef, there comes a time when you have to break down and get hold of a serious backyard grill.
Some barbecue aficionados prefer dropping thousands of dollars on fancy, sleek, complex backyard kitchens — with grills from here to eternity packed with every feature you could possibly want. DVD players, wine chillers, expensive South American woods, modern styling . . . grills can get so fancy it’d be a shame to cook on them.
For those of you looking to kick up your backyard cookery game without taking on a second mortgage, or for those weekend warriors who don’t fancy spending their weekends behind a piece of machinery certified by NASA, there is the Big Green Egg.
The Big Green Egg is based on a Japanese style of cookery known as Kamado. These traditional Japanese vessels, usually made of wood or charcoal fired clay, were normally used as a stove or oven. Their adaptation to outdoor cooking has made them hugely popular among backyard chefs in the know. The Big Green Egg is not a traditional Kamado piece, as it is a high gloss ceramic grill. Still, it is based on these popular and nearly timeless pieces of equipment that are sweeping the country.
Okay, so why is the Big Green Egg such a hit? Besides the conversational value of the Big Green Egg’s odd shape (the name says it all), experts say that the ceramic composition of the grill imparts absolutely nothing to the flavor of what you’re grilling. Often, a metal grill (even the top of the line masterpieces mentioned above) will give your grilled food a not so delicious metallic flavor. When you combine the ceramic grill with a lump wood charcoal, as opposed to briquettes, you’re practically cooking on air. Another popular feature of the Big Green Egg (and other Kamado style grills) is its versatility. Sure its great for grilling, but Kamado grills are also great for baking bread, making pizza, or just about anything you could do in an oven.
The Big Green Egg maintains this versatility despite a compact shape that takes up a little less space than a traditional smoker. Kamado grills are famous for their ability to hit temperatures higher than 600 degrees, or maintain a temp as low as 200. That gives you an insane amount of control over the temperature of your food — it means you can sear a steak one minute and be ready to smoke a bigger piece of meat in very little time.
There are four sizes of Big Green Egg ranging from Extra Large to Small. According to the manufacturers, the most popular is the Large size, boasting an 18 inch diameter cooking surface . . . if that sounds small, think of it as 255 square inches of straight up grilling machismo. The large Egg can hold a twenty pound turkey, and if you’ve never had a turkey prepared in a grill, you’re in for a treat.
Want to get a look at the Egg? Check out their website — while you’re there, you can find an authorized dealer near you. Don’t expect to find an Egg, or any quality Kamado grill, at your local hardware store or big box monstrosity.
Some people may be a bit nervous about a ceramic shell — it may sound flimsy or insubstantial. But think about it — the ceramic shell on the Big Green Egg has to be strong enough to be able to withstand that extremely wide range of temperatures. One major benefit of the ceramic design is the heat trapped within the grill — because Kamado style grills are so efficient, you’ll be using less charcoal, even when compared to a similar sized grill.
The Big Green Egg is easy to use, according to reviews and posts made on the website’s public forum. The grillmaster in your home can control the heat by means of two vents — one in the bottom of the unit and another one on the top. Don’t let the simplicity of the vent system fool you, they may be user friendly but you give up nothing in the way of control.
The one major downside for me is the price tag. Big Green Egg grills are not cheap, however they are likely to last for a decade or more. The Large Egg clocks in at about $700, but if you own and use it for ten years, that’s a measly seventy bucks a year.
Versatile — works great as a smoker, grill, and even oven
Ceramic shell — holds heat in, doesn’t get hot to the touch
Double ventilation is easy to use and gives you perfect heat control
The grill’s stand is sold separately
Around $700 price tag
What you get –
Spring loaded lid — easy to open
Heavy ceramic shell stops annoying temperature changes
An easy to clean, glazed interior
255 square inches of cooking surface
Cast iron and steel vent construction
Easy to clean and quite effective porcelain and steel grill grates
Why was Gmail in beta release for so long?
Many of us were so used to seeing the cute little “beta” tag attached to the Gmail icon, we assumed it was part of the name. “Gmail Beta”.
The fact is that applications and software, as well as any old invention really, starts life out with the “beta” tag we’ve all come to know and love. A “beta” release of an item means that item is in its infancy, its first stages of release outside of a private organization. In general, a “beta release” of a product implies that product is incomplete to some degree — between 20 and 40% incomplete according to my geek sources. So why was Gmail in “beta release” for five years? And why did Google suddenly decide to drop the “beta” tag this week?
Unfortunately, not because Google finally implemented some major change, or completed that pesky 20-40%. In fact, the Gmail you use today is basically the same as the one you used a month ago.
Google announced this past week that many of its applications — Gmail, Google Docs, Google Talk, Calendar, etc — “work well enough to no longer be prefaced by the beta tag”. Google’s philosophy about beta goes a little something like this — Google apps are considered in their “beta phase” when that app is solid enough for widespread public use, but still under development to the point that the widespread use may be limited to an interim basis. In English — the apps that haven’t reached the point where Google is totally confident in the program is held in “beta”.
No upgrade or major alteration to Gmail or any of the other apps lead to this announcement — this change was related to the actions of higher up Google engineers who finally gave many of the apps that necessary stamp of approval. According to Google product management director Matthew Glotzbach, writing for the always fascinating Google Blog put it this way — “We’ve focused our efforts on reaching our high bar for taking our products out of beta, and all the applications in the Apps suite have now met that mark.”
Some questions still remain — if the products were finished from major alterations say 6 months ago (like Gmail or Google Docs), why the lengthy stay in beta? Remember, Gmail has been in beta release for a tedious five years now. The answer may be simple — Google has been marketing Gmail and other Google Apps at businesses — they’ve been attempting to woo businesses great and small into using their software. Why would this create such a delay? Google is smart — Google knows that businesses are (rightfully) nervous about changing anything, especially something complex like a computer system. By taking their time, or at least seeming to take their time, Google seems more serious about the product.
Google Apps, which already enjoys a sizeable amount of regular customers, is taking it slow. Google claims that around 2 million companies already use Google’s “suite of enterprise software”, and a strange trend has developed over at Gmail. This past year alone, use of Gmail has skyrocketed as much as 50% depending on what tech writer you believe. Is this another reason to escape the confines of beta? By removing the “beta” tag from Gmail and other products, Google is stepping up to the plate to prove that it is ready to embrace its built in market. And just in time.
Is the H1N1 flu scare over?
It has been over a month since the end of major news reporting about the so called “Swine flu” — a strain of flu more properly identified as H1N1.
Just because CNN and other big name news outlets have stopped reporting about the H1N1 virus does not mean that the danger has passed. Remember that the “Spanish flu” incident in the 1930s started out very mild in the spring time before becoming a full fledged epidemic later that year, during the more traditional flu season.
In fact, President Obama spoke with governors and medical officials at a “swine flu” summit on Thursday, bringing the H1N1 virus back into the media’s attention. Is this fear mongering? What does the President know that we don’t?
For starters, the H1N1 flu strain is far from dead. Just two weeks ago, Danish officials announced that a strain of H1N1 found in Denmark is completely resistant to the front line drug against H1N1 — tamiflu. After the announcement in Denmark, officials in Spain and England verified that they, too, had difficulty treating some cases with tamiflu. The problem? The world has stocked up on supplies of tamiflu as a first defense against a possible outbreak.
President Obama’s speech to governors and health professionals at the recent swine flu preparedness summit tried to calm fears about a potentially larger outbreak of the swine flu this fall. Obama started by saying that he expects “rigorous planning” by the attendees of the summit in order to prepare for that potential outbreak.
Kathleen Sebelius, the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, says researchers who spoke to her have warned of the potential impact of a broader H1N1 virus scare. “We want to make sure we aren’t promoting panic, but we are promoting vigilance and preparation,” Sebelius said.
Obama spoke to the group via a remote link from Italy, where the President is attending the G-8 meeting of major industrialized nations. Obama practically pleaded with state and local health officials, including those responsible for school district health care, to prepare for what he calls a “vaccination campaign” this coming fall. Obama said the information presented to him suggests that schools could be largely affected, and may be the source of a wider outbreak.
The swine flu preparedness sessions, held at the National Institutes of Health, is being attended in person by Kathleen Sebelius, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and National Security Adviser John Brennan. In a statement released this morning, Sebelius said that the goal of the summit is to launch “a national influenza campaign by bringing federal, state and local officials, emergency managers, educators and others together with the nation’s public health experts”. Sebelius emphasized the need for Americans to work together to develop pandemic plans, or to revamp plans currently on the books. The goal of the summit? To share lessons learned in the past, and to educate officials about the “best practices during the spring and summer H1N1 wave”, what worked and what didn’t.
Commonly called “swine flu”, the virus is also known as Influenza A or the more common H1N1. This past June 11, the global outbreak of Influenza A was labelled a “pandemic” by The World Health Organization.
Before President Obama spoke, Kathleen Sebelius said some H1N1 vaccine should be available for distribution starting in the middle of this coming October.
Though a vaccine is in the works, health care officials are concerned that a “candidate vaccine”, or one that can be put to use safely in humans, may not even be ready for testing until early August. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also spoke at the meeting, and expressed his concern that an early August completion date may be catastrophic. Fauci’s suggestion, that more time is needed to test a vaccine that could be used on tens of millions of patients, was probably the most terrifying aspect of the summit.
Still, the White House is acting early. This summit was convened several months before the start of flu season. President Obama has pulled out all of the stops for this summit, inviting some of his top aides and cabinet members, and speaking personally during a busy time for him, his first G-8 summit.
Though the H1N1 virus does continue to circulate in the United States (and 120 other countries around the world), the current outbreak may be nothing compared to this coming fall. Consider this next flu season “a perfect storm” for Influenza A — a nasty new strain of flu that is potentially deadly combined with the traditionally difficult flu season.
How many cases of Influenza A are we dealing with in America? According to Sebelius, there are currently more than 34,000 confirmed and probable cases of the virus in the United States, and these cases led to an unconfirmed 170 deaths. This information was given to Sebelius by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Worldwide, according to the CDC, there have been over 100,000 cases confirmed, and the swine flu is being held responsible for nearly 500 deaths. Why is this particular strain of flu so deadly? The virus has bucked traditional “flu outbreak patterns” — the typical routes that lead to sickness. In general, Influenza is more active during the winter months, slowing up when the weather gets warm. Swine flu has not lived up to the flu’s typical patterns in that respect.
What is Chrome OS?
The war between Google and Microsoft wages on. And that’s good news for consumers.
The last year of the conflict between the two computing giants has led to the release of Microsoft’s new (and quite popular) Bing search engine, as well as many innovations from Google that have varied in their levels of popularity. For my part, I don’t know where I’d be without Google News Timeline or Google’s outstanding new browser Chrome. The race for dominance on today’s web — as well as the push for top dog in the new “semantic” web — has led to a great number of user friendly and intuitive functions.
Now Google is taking on a Microsoft product nearly as old as the web itself — Windows. Google’s popular Chrome browser is set to be the inspiration for an entirely new operating system, one that Google promises will be “lightweight” and “fast”. In the eyes of many, Google is already leaps and bounds ahead of Microsoft in terms of web presence. Now Google wil set their sights on Microsoft’s largest income producer.
The first version of Windows was released in 1985, though it was not popular. Windows 1.0 was little more than an extension of MS Dos. If only Microsoft could have seen into the future, a time when the Windows operating system would be responsible for powering 90% or more of the world’s computers. Success did not come easy for Microsoft — in fact, it took five years for Microsoft to come up with a version of Windows that garnered any success. Windows 3.0, released in 1990, was a big hit.
Why is Windows such a boon for Microsoft? For one, it acts as a gateway for PC users into the world of other Microsoft products. Every Windows based desktop computer comes with a pre packaged requirement that a user of that computer take advatange of other Microsoft software.
What does this kind of “software imperative” mean for Microsoft’s competitors, like Google? The stated goal of Google, especially during the past couple of years of struggle against Microsoft, is to gather information from all over the world and use that collective of knowledge to earn their bread and butter.
Google has decided to return fire on Windows — and soon, all of us who utilize Google’s technology instead of Microsoft (myself included) will be given the opportunity to use a Google OS — Chrome OS — for all of our computing needs. “Google everywhere” could really mean something soon.
How will Chrome OS be different from other operating systems? According to insiders at Google, Chrome OS will break down desktop functions to their bare minimum. Rather than counting on your computer to crunch numbers and work hard, major applications for desktop work will run via your web browser (hopefully tuned in to Google products) which will be run on Google’s massive server capabilities.
Think of Chrome OS as a drawbridge rather than the whole castle.
The main difference between Google and Microsoft has always been marketing strategy. Microsoft earns the bulk of their money by charging customers once for the use of the Windows operating system — ranging from $20 for the now elderly Windows XP software up to $150 or more for Windows Vista and the mysterious and soon to be released Windows 7. Customers pay the one time fee and Microsoft is done earning money from them, for the most part.
Here’s the first big difference between Windows and Chrome OS — Google is probably not going to charge a dime for the use of Chrome OS. How does this work out for them? Google expects customers to quickly establish an online presence, and use as many Google services as possible. Web search? Use Google Chrome and other Google search apps. Want to check your email? They hope you’ll sign up for Gmail . . . and on down the line. Remember that pesky “Google Everywhere” line you keep hearing? Chrome OS will act as the starting line in Google’s race to dominate your web presence.
Chrome OS is the result of Google sitting on a big pile of cash, hiring the best engineers in the business, and thinking of computing as a blank slate. Google asks itself — “What can we do that has never been done?”
The outlook for Chrome OS is not all roses and kittens. Microsoft, working inside of a legacy stretching back into the 1980s, doesn’t worry about new operating systems relative compatability with older software and technology. If you own a bundle of programs and files that you can’t live without, it isn’t likely that new versions of Microsoft technology will keep you from using your favorite functions.
Chrome OS, on the other hand, may not be compatible with your old “stuff”. Say you’re a consumer who wants to get hold of Chrome OS but has a ton of software that is necessary to your daily functions. Just like Google proper, you and your computer will have to start with a blank slate after installing Chrome OS. You may face the prospect of losing all your old computer junk.
There’s also a segment of the population that are simply too involved with certain computing functions to consider a switch to a “lightweight” OS. Chrome OS seems aimed at people like me who mostly use computers for web searches, email, document editing, and other small scale computing tasks. Gamers, video or photo editors, or anyone who uses computers to run specialized and complex software will not be able to take advantage of Chrome OS.
Still, the number of people who — like me — use computers for the most basic of functions are likely to be pleased as punch with Google’s new OS.
Don’t forget that for the first time, there will be a third player in the OS wars. Apple and Microsoft have had a ball advertising against each other. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear “I’m a PC” or “I’m a Mac, he’s a PC” blasting from my television screens. Will Apple and Microsoft gang up on the young rascal Google, or will they choose to simply ignore it?
Google’s announcement of Chrome OS, as usual, is about as interesting as the product itself. Microsoft is set to launch Windows 7 this coming fall. Unlike Windows Vista, the predecessor to their new product, Windows 7 is getting solid reviews from users of the largest growing segment of PC ownership — portables. Google’s Chrome OS will have a tough time changing the rules of the OS game at a time when Microsoft has seemingly just gotten these rules right.
Don’t get too excited about Chrome OS. Google says it won’t be ready until the summer of 2010. Google is hoping that the economy will be in full recovery mode around that time, though the timing may be just as bad if Windows 7 gains popularity and eats up the OS market.
Google has a long way to go to make Chrome OS popular. The current incarnation of Chrome, a simple but very user friendly web browser, holds the tiniest of browser market shares, a measly 1.2%. Google’s stunning smartphone program, Android, is well reviewed but only available on a couple of phones. The one area where Chrome OS could make a huge impact is in the cult like open source Linux OS. In fact, Google’s Chrome OS reportedly uses some of the Linux “kernel”, that part of Linux that connects the OS to the computer itself.
The bottom line? Chrome OS is a direct shot across Microsoft’s massive brow. As I find myself saying again and again, only time will tell.
Was Steve McNair murdered?
On the Fourth of July, the stunning news of the death of former NFL quarterback Steve McNair broke, though few details were known.
Since that time, it has become clear that McNair was murdered, and that the body of the woman found next to him is that of his suspected murderer — a 20 year old waitress who purchased the gun that led to McNair’s death. Though Sahel Kazemi, the woman in question, seems guilty, we can only report that she is a suspect.
Steve McNair was found with multiple fatal gun shots, including one bullet in the head, and a pistol was eventually discovered near the body of the young Kazemi. The two were found dead last Saturday in a Nashville condominium. Nashville police were quick to identify the woman, whom sources are calling a “friend” of McNair’s. She had a single gunshot wound to the head. The implication of multiple gun shots to McNair’s body and just one to Kazemi’s (a blast to her head made at close range) is that she commmited a classic murder/suicide.
Police state that the 36 year old McNair was found on the sofa in the living room, and Kazemi was very close to him on the floor. Confusingly, police said that the gun near Kazemi’s body was not “readily apparent” when police first arrived. Autopsies have been completed for both bodies, and the results are trickling out a bit at a time.
Fred McNair, who is Steve McNair’s oldest brother, said a few close family members travelled to Nashville this past Monday to talk with Steve McNair’s wife. McNair purchased a car for Kazemi and placed it in his name, and was also arrested in her presence just a day before the shooting, leading many to believe that McNair and Kazemi were engaged in an adulterous affair.
Fred McNair said he did not know who Kazemi was and never heard her name before.
The bodies of both McNair and Kazemi were discovered last Saturday afternoon by McNair’s longtime friend and one time college football teammate Wayne Neeley, who said he rents the condo with McNair. Another strange detail — why would McNair rent a condo when he lives with his wife?
The police have realeased Neeley’s statement — in his report, Neeley told law enforcement authorities that he went into the condo, saw McNair on the sofa and Kazemi on the floor but “walked first into the kitchen before going back into the living room”, when he first saw the blood. Rather than call 911 himself, Neeley “called a friend”, who then called the police.
According to police, a witness in the neighborhood reports seeing McNair arrive at the condo between 1:30 and 2 in the morning on Saturday and that the vehicle belonging to Kazemi was already in the parking lot. Just a day before, a Nashville police officer arrested Kazemi on a DUI charge while she was driving a 2007 Escalade registered to both her and Steve McNair. McNair was in the front passenger seat, but because he wasn’t driving or breaking the law in any other way, he was allowed to leave the scene by taxi cab.
What do you do when your alleged mistress has just been arrested for DUI in a vehicle you bought for her? Naturally, you bail her out of jail. Neeley said McNair told him he was “seeing Kazemi”, and that the two met while Kazemi was working as a waitress at popular restaurant Dave & Busters.
Steve McNair played 13 solid seasons in the NFL and led the otherwise feckless Tennessee Titans to within one yard of forcing an overtime in the 2000 Super Bowl. McNair, who led a hall of fame career most of those 13 seasons, couldn’t get the job done at that Super Bowl game, and the Titants lost 23-16 to the St. Louis Rams. He also played a season for the Baltimore Ravens before retiring from the game in April 2008.
Shaheed Rahman, a friend of McNair’s and a man who sometimes worked as McNair’s driver, spoke to Steve McNair just two weeks ago. He said the former quarterback, a future hall of famer, was “in good spirits” and loved living in Nashville.
Four time Pro Bowler Steven McNair will likely be remembered for his good actions off the field as well as his skill on it. McNair was a charitable man who often participated in community activities. Personally, I will never be able to forget the image of McNair and teammates loading sandbags for delivery to victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
“I am deeply saddened to learn of today’s tragic news regarding the death of Steve McNair. He was a player who I admired a great deal,” said New England Patriots senior football adviser Floyd Reese, who was the General Manager of the Titans when McNair played there. “He was a tremendous leader and an absolute warrior. He felt like it was his responsibility to lead by working hard every day, no matter what.”
McNair was only thirty-six years old.
What names are on the alleged “2003 steroid list” ?
Just when you thought the steroid talk in baseball had died down.
Allegedly, part of the “list of names” of players that failed a drug test in 2003 has been leaked.
What is being called the “2003 steroid list” has been popping up on the internet, first among sports bloggers, eventually making its way into more mainstream web sources.
Before you read the list of names, it is important to remember than anyone can make a list of 103 names of baseball players. There is no verification that this is the “official list”, though some of the names on the list have already been accused publicly for their subtance abuse.
AskDeb.com is not saying that any of the below players used or didn’t use performance enhancing drugs. In fact, it may be smart to take this list with a grain of salt, as the actual source of the leak is unknown.
Having said that, there are precious few names on this potential 2003 steroid list that would come as a surprise. Many players who have already been accused are here, and many others who played on teams with these players or saw similar meteoric improvements in their game can be found the list below.
One sports site in particular is betting the farm that this list is legitimate. Rotoinfo.com is heavily promoting the fact that they have the full list of names of players testing positive in 2003. Not only are they claiming they have a factual list, they are suggesting that there is a longer list and that they are in possesion of it. What Rotoinfo.com has released is the below list of 103 names, the same list as is circulating on other pages.
What are the biggest names on the list? Mostly big names we aren’t surprised by — Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and Miguel Tejada. In fact, all of these players have gone through some kind of process that confirms their steroid use. The big shockers are probably David Ortiz, Francisco Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Ivan Rodriguez, Roberto Alomar, Juan Gonzalez, and a handful of others. Some of these names are Hall of Fame caliber players, and if this is a legitimate list, it will be a great shock to a great many fans.
There are a few reasons to doubt this list’s veracity. For one thing, Rotoinfo.com, the site that’s really pushing this “news”, also led a story last month that said that Lance Berkman was set to get a fifty game suspension for steroid use — that never happened.
Another thing — there’s not a ton of variety in the list in terms of team representation. There’s a huge number of players from the “big three” — the Boston Red Sox, the Chicago Cubs, and the New York Yankees. It would make more sense if there weren’t so many well known players on the list. Do the creators of this list expect us to think that no rookie or unknown prospect is out there juicing up to get an advantage? About the most D-list ballplayer I can find on the list Matt Herges.
Let’s also no overlook the complete absense of one specific team — the Houston Astros. There are NO members of the 2003 Houston Astros team on the leaked list. In one of the great books on steroid use in Major League Baseball (Jeff Pearlman’s The Rocket That Fell To Earth ) it is stated by an insider that the Houston Astros club was sort of the “ground zero” for MLB steroids use, potentially due to the stadium’s proximity to Mexico and that major source of performance enhacing drugs.
So the list has some flaws. Let’s look at some more specifics — if this list holds true, almost all of the Cubs 2003 starting pitching rotation is guilty of flunking the 2003 test — Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano, and Matt Clement. This makes sense, as all of these guys have had injury trouble since the 2003 test — implying that the test scared them away from the drugs that helped them get over injuries in the past. There’s reasons to believe, and reasons to doubt. Use your best judgement.
Let’s hope this list doesn’t generate more negative publicity for Major League Baseball. The last time fans lost respect for the game was after the big strike in the early 90s, and our great American sport nearly collapsed. In one way, if this list is legitimate, fans can feel better about their sport. The names will be known, their crimes will be assessed, and hopefully they can pay their due back to the fans that deserve it.
1. Nomar Garciaparra
2. Manny Ramirez
3. Johnny Damon
4. Trot Nixon
5. David Ortiz
6. Shea Hillenbrand
7. Derek Lowe
8. Pedro Martinez
9. Brian Roberts
10. Jay Gibbons
11. Melvin Mora
12. Jerry Hairston
13. Jason Giambi
14. Alfonso Soriano
15. Raul Mondesi
16. Aaron Boone
17. Andy Pettitte
18. Jose Contreras
19. Roger Clemens
20. Carlos Delgado
21. Vernon Wells
22. Frank Catalanotto
23. Kenny Rogers
24. Magglio Ordonez
25. Sandy Alomar
26. Bartolo Colon
27. Brent Abernathy
28. Jose Lima
29. Milton Bradley
30. Casey Blake
31. Danys Baez
32. Craig Monroe
33. Dmitri Young
34. Alex Sanchez
35. Eric Chavez
36. Miguel Tejada
37. Eric Byrnes
38. Jose Guillen
39. Keith Foulke
40. Ricardo Rincon
41. Bret Boone
42. Mike Cameron
43. Randy Winn
44. Ryan Franklin
45. Freddy Garcia
46. Rafael Soriano
47. Scott Spiezio
48. Troy Glaus
49. Francisco Rodriguez
50. Ben Weber
51. Alex Rodriguez
52. Juan Gonzalez
53. Rafael Palmeiro
54. Carl Everett
55. Javy Lopez
56. Gary Sheffield
57. Mike Hampton
58. Ivan Rodriguez
59. Derrek Lee
60. Bobby Abreu
61. Terry Adams
62. Fernando Tatis
63. Livan Hernandez
64. Hector Almonte
65. Tony Armas
66. Dan Smith
67. Roberto Alomar
68. Cliff Floyd
69. Roger Cedeno
70. Jeromy Burnitz
71. Moises Alou
72. Sammy Sosa
73. Corey Patterson
74. Carlos Zambrano
75. Mark Prior
76. Kerry Wood
77. Matt Clement
78. Antonio Alfonseca
79. Juan Cruz
80. Aramis Ramirez
81. Craig Wilson
82. Kris Benson
83. Richie Sexson
84. Geoff Jenkins
85. Valerio de los Santos
86. Benito Santiago
87. Rich Aurilia
88. Barry Bonds
89. Andres Galarraga
90. Jason Schmidt
91. Felix Rodriguez
92. Jason Christiansen
93. Matt Herges
94. Paul Lo Duca
95. Shawn Green
96. Oliver Perez
97. Adrian Beltre
98. Eric Gagne
99. Guillermo Mota
100. Luis Gonzalez
101. Todd Helton
102. Ryan Klesko
103. Gary Matthews
How will new Facebook policies affect users?
Facebook is getting ready to overhaul its users privacy options in an effort to provide transparency and to “simplify the way in which [Facebook] offers privacy to its users.” There are a few other tweaks, but the biggest change for Facebook is in user’s privacy features.
Though Faceook is preparing to alter the landscape of the site (by allowing content published on Facebook to be archived like other info on the web and therefore searchable), they say this new set of policy changes has nothing to do with the massive change planned for later. The problem, according to Facebook, is the way that privacy controls are handled right now. As a user of Facebook I can verify this — information and privacy settings are set in a labyrinth of sorts, and most computer users aren’t concerned enough about their privacy to really take control of it. There are so many “privacy settings” pages that I’m often confused as to just how deep in the privacy settings I am.
Facebook says this level of complexity among privacy settings keeps most of their members from using basic protections that could save them from identity theft, fraud, theft of passwords, or other crimes. In fact, Facebook’s privacy settings are one of their bright spots — sites like Myspace are losing members, often directly to Facebook, over privacy concerns among other things. In other words, privacy should be one of Facebook’s selling points.
What does this change mean for Facebook users? Its simple — Facebook will consolidate all of their privacy settings options into one settings page, and “make the options more uniform”. What this means is that you will have five “privacy access levels” — Everyone, which for sharing information that you want with everyone (including people not on Facebook), Friends and Networks, which compiles all of the people from your “friends and networks” lists as well as the people on the same work or school network, Friends of Friends, which is a network of people your friends know but who may not know you, Friends only, and a setting called “Custom”, which allows the Facbeook user to select by hand the people to share certain info with. Reminds me of my buddy lists back in the AOL days.
Facebook is by far the most popular social networking site — a huge group of websites dedicated to keeping people in touch. With names like Twitter, Myspace, and Flickr, social networking sites are the biggest news story to come out of the internet since the Paris Hilton sex tape. It seems that most of the news media have just discovered social networking. CNN even makes heavy use of Twitter and Facebook during their news reports, in case you wanted to know what an anonymous source somewhere in the world thinks about what CNN is saying. Social networking is being given credit for supporting Iranians during their current quasi revolution. How does Facebook maintain superiority in such a crowded room?
Many of their customers would say the reason Facebook is the best is that Facebook is the safest. You could ostensibly operate a Facebook account and remain completely private — I’m not sure why you’d want to join a social networking site if you don’t want to “network”, but the point is that this is possible. You can block users you don’t want to find you, you can keep specific people from looking at certain pictures of you, and best of all — the info on Facebook doesn’t pop on any computer with access to Google. Pretty soon, Facebook will be changing that.
Back to the quesiton at hand — what will the privacy setting changes really mean? Facebook will keep allowing members to do things like set specific privacy settings for certain sections of their profile or info boxes, as well as for individual pieces of content — like photos, status updates, video clips, notes , etc. The option to share with “Everyone” just means “Everyone on Facebook”, but be on the lookout, as this is the first step toward Facebook’s posting its content web wide.
According to insider at the massive social site, Facebook has not yet made an official announcement of this change because they haven’t officially decided how deep search engines like Google or Bing will be able to dig. Should they allow all content aimed at “Everyone” to pass around on the net, or would that take the fun and privilege out of being a Faceook member?
Why is Facebook making this change? The popularity boom over at Twitter continues, and Facebook has always been on the lookout for a policy that would give its members even more options for sharing their content. After all, that’s what Twitter is all about.
Just last week, Facebook introduced a test for a new version of the Facebook Publisher — one of the touchstones of the site that members use quite often to post notes, links, videos, music, and other notes and content on each other’s “walls” to share. This is basically the core of what Facebook is about — sharing information. The new version of Publisher, which you most likely haven’t seen as its in extremely limited beta, lets Facebook members select a different privacy setting of each individual post they make, rather than selecting one privacy settng for all. The new Publisher also includes (wait for it . . . wait for it . . .) the option for Facebook users to share their posts and content with the ubiquitous “Everyone” — and this “Everyone” means everyone on the Internet, whether they are a member of Facebook or not.
Even if you’re a heavy Facebook user you may have missed other small changes, or run into them without noticing. This past March, Facebook began to allow users to share whatever parts of their profile or info page they wish with anyone on Facebook. This may not sound revolutionary, but it seems to go against the privacy heavy Facebook type. Most people on Facebook don’t want their info hanging out for anyone to see — previous to March, users could only share this info with a set of specific “friends”, or members of the same school or job networks.
Other small changes include the removal of geographical “groups” that are too large and useless — “American” for instance, rather than “East Texan” or what have you. These changes to Facebook will be up and running in just the next few days. During this transition process, Facebook will offer their members something called “transition tools,” which are pages that explain the new changes and offer suggestions about how users may want to set up their accounts.
What medications may have led to Michael Jackson’s death?
It has been widely reported that Michael Jackson used the painkiller Demerol (generic name meperidine) for back trouble. While no one is insinuating that Jackson was an addict, reports of his use of Demerol could be a clue to his cardiac arrest. Long term use of Demerol can cause all sorts of nasty side effects, including the buildup of a chemical called normeperidine — a toxic metabolite of meperidine that normally causes no harm in short term use. Over time, however, the buildup of normeperidine is known to cause cardiac problems.
However, news is currently breaking about Jackson’s potential use of a drug called Diprivan for problems with insomnia. Diprivan is not a recreational drug, unless “recreation” to you means sleeping for a few hours. According to Jackson’s nurse and nutritional consultant for his upcoming concert series in London (her name is Cherilyn Lee) Jackson repeatedly asked her to administer Diprivan (generic name propofol) so he could get rest. Ms. Lee’s comments appeared on CNN and in an AP report. According to Ms. Lee, while she was in Florida on June 21, she got an alarming call from Jackson’s staff. Apparently, Jackson had been given some sort of “central nervous system” drug that made his body hot and cold alongside a few other symptoms. Lee extrapolated from this side effect that Jackson had been given Diprivan, though she says she never assisted him in getting the drug.
Ms. Lee says firmly that Jackson “did not look like he was on drugs”, but seemed more like a person looking for relief. The jury is still out on what exactly led to Michael Jackson’s cardiac arrest, but clues pour in on a daily basis.
Diprivan, the drug Cherilyn Lee says Jackson was “adamant about getting”, is the trade name for a chemical called propofol. Propofol is a product made by pharmacy giant AstraZeneca. According to the AstraZeneca website, estimated US annual sales of Diprivan are between 300 and 400 million dollars. Medical information about propofol indicates that the drug, used as anesthesia or as a deep sedative, is usually dispensed as an emulsion with egg products that gives the chemical a white, milky appearance. It is a very common intravenous anesthetic drug used mainly for outpatient surgical procedures. Why outpatient surgery? Apparently, propofol begins to act on the nervous system quickly, usually within less than a minute, and that patients can come out of the anesthesia quickly, ideal for a setting where the patient goes home after surgery.
While propofol is classified as a sedative, some patients report a kind of euphoria imparted by the drug. Also, while it is considered a very safe intravenous anesthetic, it doesn’t mix well with certain opiate painkillers, such as morphine or demerol, both substances Jackson was allegedly taking. However, propofol’s interaction with opiates is about as minor as an anesthetic can get — so it is unlikely that a reaction between painkillers and propofol occured.
The drug’s manufacturer also includes information with the drug about something called “propofol related infusion syndrome”. In this very rare but possible reaction, the body’s temperature goes up (known as hyperthermia) but not usually to a fatal level. Rarely, propofol related infusion syndrome can lead to catastrophic muscle breakdown in a process known as rhabdomyolysis. This is a truly rare side effect that is also indicated in the warnings for certain cholesterol lowering drugs.
But the final blow to Jackson’s poor heart may have indeed been propofol. If a patient is predisposed to cardiac isues, either genetically or organically, they can experience rhythmic disturbances and a high heart rate after the infusion of propofol.
Whatever the circumstance that led to his heart trouble, the public will find out soon. According to the Daily Mail, police are tracing the drugs in Michael Jackson’s home to determine their source. Police have admitted that some of the drugs in Jackson’s home were “prescription drugs”, but we don’t know how many of them, if any, weren’t actually prescribed to Jackson. Remember the case of Anna Nicole Smith? So many prescriptions were found in her hotel room it was difficult for journalists to keep up, and not a one of them turned out to be legally prescribed.
The problem in the Jackson case appears to be of a similar nature. There were anywhere from 15 to 20 ‘bodyguards’ living with Jackson at any time, and according to anonymous sources, the prescription drugs found by the police were written to several different names, mostly those of his bodyguards and close friends. What does this potentially mean for Jackson? It would appear, if these facts are true, that the 50 year old King of Pop was running a supply chain for drugs, further indicating a dependence on drugs that he could not get from a doctor.
Rumors have said that the star spent as much as $15,000 a month on prescription drugs, and these rumors name just about every drug under the sun, from sedatives like Valium and Xanax to opiate painkillers like Vicodin and Demerol. We may never know the truth about this last tidbit — but if Jackson was getting drugs from bodyguards and others close to him, it does appear he was dealing with an addiction.
If it turns out that Jackson got his drugs in someone else’s name, those bodyguards and other house guests would be in some serious legal trouble. There has been no official cause of death at this point, though the fact that the doctors involved in his autopsy were waiting for “toxicology” information can lead us to one assumption — drug overdose.
Michael’s much reviled father Joe Jackson, who is 80 years old, stirred up trouble related to the death of his son in an almost violent outburst broadcast nationwide. Jackson said he has “a lot of concerns” over Michael’s death. “Michael was dead before he left the house,” Joe Jackson said. ‘I suspect foul play somewhere. He was waving to everybody and telling them he loves them, and all the fans at the gate. A few minutes after Michael was out there, he was dead.’
While the public and some members of the media turned their lens toward the physician who made the 911 call, Dr. Conrad Murray (the doctor) denies all charges that he “did anything wrong.” Dr. Murray denied giving Jackson any of the drugs that are being bandied about as “potential killers” — going so far as to insist that he never prescribed or gave Jackson either strong painkiller, Demerol or Oxycontin.
Until furter toxicology test results come in, we won’t know which specific drugs, if any, led to his cardiac arrest. We know that propofol was found in the home Jackson was renting, as well as lidocaine which is usually given along with propofol to ease the sting that the milky white anesthetic can cause.
How did comedian Al Franken win a Senate seat?
After a mere 545 days, the 2008 election is finally over. It didn’t end when Barack Obama took the (temporarily) mangled oath of office — it ended on Tuesday, June 30th of 2009 when Republican Norm Coleman gave a concession speech — the Minnesota Supreme Court decided that Al Franken earned more votes than Norm Coleman, and will now take his place in the hallowed halls of the United States Senate.
Al Franken, the comedian best known for his work on the variety show Saturday Night Live, famously refused Norm Coleman’s call for him to concede on election night last November. Franken believed, quite rightly as it turns out, that he won the election by the slimmest of margins, and chose to begin the difficult process of vote counting and legal battles to prove his victory. Franken’s fight has now stretched into its eighth month and ended in his victory.
This victory for Franken is huge for the Democrats. With the addition of Franken, the Democrats hold 60 Senate seats. This is a critical number in the Senate, needed to overcome any potential Republican filibuster attempts. As early as next week, Al Franken will take his seat in the Senate and give his party the kind of majority not seen in the Senate in over thirty years. In fact, to find a political party with a filibuster proof majority in the Senate as well as control of the Executive branch you’d have to go back some 70 years.
Norm Coleman, visibly angry, conceded the election within hours of the unanimous Minnesota Supreme Court ruling handed down Tuesday. The ruling found that Franken — who was motivated into politics through his attacks on conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh — shall be certified the winner of the Senate race. How close was the battle between Coleman and Franken? The Senate seat was won by just 312 votes out of a total of 2.9 million votes cast.
With a margin that slim, Coleman could have carried this fight into the federal courts, though political pundits say it is unlikely that the federal court would have overturned the lower court’s ruling. According to Coleman: “The court has spoken.” Coleman, in his concession, said he had phoned to congratulate Franken and that he has “no regrets” about the election drama. There were murmurs from the press about a potential run for governor in 2010, though Coleman didn’t answer these questions.
To hear Franken tell it, he isn’t even considering the impact of his victory on the Democratic party. “The way I see it, I’m not going to Washington to be the 60th Democratic senator, I’m going to Washington to be the second senator from Minnesota.” Humble words from a man who has given his party just what it wanted — power in the white house, and almost complete power in the legislative branch.
This all started eight months ago. When Norm Coleman last checked the ballot totals on election night, he found himself ahead by a slim margin — a few hundred votes — and decided to call on Franken to concede defeat. Famously, Franken refused to do so, perhaps armed with the knowledge that such a thin victory would trigger an automatic recount. Once the recount was completed, it turns out that Franken was technically ahead by 225 votes. As expected, Norm Coleman then challenged the recount results, and he is probably kicking himself for doing that. A review of the recount by three judges found that not only did Franken win, he won by a few more then 225 votes. The final count turned out to be 312.
The drama continued, even though the votes had been “counted” three times over. Norm Coleman appealed his case to the state’s highest court. Coleman’s argument? Election officials throughout Minnesota weren’t consistent in their instructions to voters, including inconsistencies in absentee ballot and ballot counting. According to Coleman, these election troubles literally robbed thousands of people of their vote. Unfortunately for Coleman, this was the last stop. Minnesota’s highest court voted 5-0 that there was “no reason to apply a more lenient standard in judging absentees”.
For Al Franken, the race has been excruciating. Franken, a first time politician, declared his candidacy for the Senate over two years ago. This election wasn’t cheap, as Franken and Coleman racked up over $50 million in fees related to their campaigns. To put that number in perspective, when Coleman won the seat in the previous election, both parties spent a combined $22 million, less than half what was spent these past two years.
You could make the argument that Al Franken was prepared for this victory — after all, Franken has ensure himself a quick transition to office by appointing a “staff in waiting”. Norm Coleman kept an even lower profile in the months since the election, and it is unknown if he had a similar “shadow staff”. We know that Franken hired a ton of people, from a chief of staff all the way down to communications staffers. According to a statement released Tuesday, “[the Franken campaign] have been doing a lot. I’ve been going back and forth to Washington. We’ve been using this time, I think, pretty productively.”
Al Franken will take an immediate spot on the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a role that will shove him directly into the thick of DC politics, as he is part of a committee whose mission it is to hold confirmation hearings over President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Speaking about Sotomayor, Franken told National Public Radio on Wednesday morning that he wants to ask the candidate about “her views on campaign finance reform”.
Al Franken, who is 58, often played goofy characters during the 1980s on Saturday Night Live. In sketches aimed at mocking politicians, Franken was astute. However, his best known character may be the sickly sweet motivational speaker Stuart Smalley. His “political” career seems to have taken off in the 1990s with several books published to point out the flaws in the Republican party’s plans for the country, and specifically attacking Republican radio host Rush Limbaugh. Franken later earned a huge following on his own radio show as part of the Air America network.