Saturday, October 31, 2009

Why Andre Agassi wore a wig for his first Grand Slam final

Former tennis star Andre Agassi wore a wig held together with pins in his first Grand Slam final, excerpts from his autobiography have revealed.

The hairpiece – in his famous mullet style – had fallen apart the night before the 1990 French Open final, which Agassi lost to Andres Gomez.

Before the match he prayed "not for victory, but that my hairpiece would not fall off", he writes in Open.

Earlier excerpts revealed his use of drug crystal methamphetamine in 1997.

The 39-year-old, who retired in 2006, admits that – in order to escape a ban – he lied to tennis authorities that his drink had been spiked with the highly addictive drug.

Clamped together

Further excerpts describe his distress at the hair loss which led to him wearing a hairpiece.

"Every morning I would get up and find another piece of my identity on the pillow, in the wash basin, down the plughole," he writes.

But after the wig fell apart in the shower the night before the Paris final, his brother helped him clamp it together using about 20 clips.

Agassi writes: "Of course I could have played without my hairpiece, but what would all the journalists have written if they knew that all the time I was really wearing a wig

"During the warming-up training before play I prayed. Not for victory, but that my hairpiece would not fall off.

"With each leap, I imagine it falling into the sand. I imagine millions of spectators move closer to their TV sets, their eyes widening and, in dozens of dialects and languages, ask how Andre Agassi’s hair has fallen from his head."

Agassi went on to win eight Grand Slams during his career and is one of only six men to win all four major titles.

Pat Robertson And CBN Friends Are Tripping Again

Too bad I'd already selected my Shut Up Fool! award winner for this week or televangelist Pat Robertson and CBN contributor Kimberly Daniels would have snatched the prize.

Pat posted an unhinged commentary by Daniels on his Christian Broadcast Network website as part of his anti-Halloween crusade.

His Hateraid for Halloween goes back to 1982. Back in the day he called it a “Satanic ritual” and said on his 700 Club TV show, “I think we ought to close Halloween down.”

On Oct. 29, 2007, Robertson called Halloween a “festival of the devil” and added that celebrating the holiday is “a mistake for Christians.”

Kimberly Daniels took it a step further by stating in the piece that has subsequently been taken down from the CBN website, “[M]ost of the candy sold during this season has been dedicated and prayed over by witches,” Daniels wrote. “I do not buy candy during the Halloween season. Curses are sent through the tricks and treats of the innocent whether they get it by going door to door or by purchasing it from the local grocery store. The demons cannot tell the difference.”

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, urged Robertson and Daniels to lighten up.

“I’ve heard of the devil being in the details, but to think he’s lurking inside a Snickers bar is a little too much,” Lynn quipped. “Pat Robertson has always peddled some scary stuff, but this is over the top.”

Added Lynn, “I hate to see all of that candy go to waste. I wish Robertson would send it to me, because I’m throwing a Halloween party and could use it.”

I agree, Rev. Lynn. A chocolate bar is a terrible thing to waste. That's why I eat as much chocolate as I can stand and revel in every delicious minute of it.

It would also be a travesty to let those gummi bears, gumballs, malted milk balls and other delectable confections that hardworking people created go to waste as well.

“I think Pat has been watching too many scary movies. Still, if he doesn’t want to celebrate Halloween, that’s fine with me, but he should quit trying to spoil everyone else’s fun.”

No kidding, Rev. Lynn.

Yo Pat and Kim, if you have any candy corn, send it my way. I'll be glad to scarf it up for you or any candy you're not using tonight.

But seriously, y'all need to stop tripping over there at CBN.

Serena and Venus Williams to face in Sony Ericsson Championships final

The Williams sisters saw off their semifinal opponents to reach the final of the $4,550,000 Sony Ericsson Championships – Doha 2009.

Jelena Jankovic entered the semifinals more due to luck than anything else. She lost the matches she played against healthy opponents, and won two thanks to injured Dinara Safina and Caroline Wozniacki. Today she won the first set but eventually lost to defending champion Venus Williams 5-7 6-3 6-4, who has thus moved to the finals.

Venus will next play sister Serena Williams, who had a 6-4 0-1 retirement victory when Caroline Wozniacki pulled out with a left abdominal strain after just 45 minutes of play. It is yet another unfortunate injury for Wozniacki this week, who had been troubled by a leg injury throughout the tournament.

Serena leads an all-time record against Venus 12-10, and is coming into the encounter with three successive victories over her sister, including the extremely tight one here in Doha a few days ago.

‘Caring’ mosque leader dies in a shoot-out with FBI agents in Detroit

THE FUNERAL took place earlier today of a radical Detroit mosque leader who was shot in an exchange of gunfire with FBI agents this week.

Luqman Ameen Abdullah, 53, was fatally shot inside a suburban warehouse on Wednesday after firing at agents while resisting arrest. According to this report, the FBI wanted him on charges of weapons violations and conspiracy to sell stolen goods. He was one of 11 people named in a criminal complaint.

According to the FBI, Abdullah was a leader of a national radical Sunni group that wants to create an Islamic state within the US.

That Islamic state, investigators said, would be ruled by Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, formerly known as H Rap Brown, who is serving a life sentence for killing two Georgia police officers.

Cop-killer Jamil Abdullah Al-Aminwho was named as the coming supremo when the US falls to Islam
But members of Abdullah’s mosque claim that was a caring man who followed the tenets of his Islam faith. They dismissed as “utterly preposterous” the allegations that he was part of a radical group.

Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid of New York told mourners at the Muslim Center in Detroit:

We ask Allah to reward him with the promised reward of those who are martyred.

Meanwhile, the last two of the 11 defendants wanted in connection with the investigation were arrested today in Windsor, Ontario. Authorities said Mohammad Philistine, 33, and Yassir Ali Khan, 30, were taken into custody without incident.

Both are charged with conspiring to sell stolen goods.

Abdullah expected to boycott Afghan run-off as U.S. combat injuries sharply rise

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah may pull out of next week’s runoff election against President Hamid Karzai, due to concerns about the credibility of the poll. After the fraudulent August 20 elections, a recount left Karzai with less than 50 percent of the vote, triggering a runoff, to which Karzai agreed last week. But Abdullah’s demands for the resignation of top officials including the head of the Independent Electoral Commission to avoid fraud in the second round of voting November 7, have not been met. A senior campaign aide said if Abdullah’s conditions were not met, “we will not participate in an election which is not transparent and fraud-free.”

Abdullah is expected to make his announcement at an address in Kabul at 9:30 am (0500 GMT) on Sunday, which the media have been invited to attend. Karzai is holding last minute talks with Abdullah, trying to head off a boycott. Under the Afghan Constitution, the run-off could go ahead with Karzai as the only candidate, but it would have a serious impact on the new government’s legitimacy, which is already highly in question.

President Obama has been holding off on a decision to send more troops to Afghanistan even with 68,000 troops currently installed, until the election dispute is resolved, citing concerns for stability. Meanwhile the past months has been the deadliest period in the Afghanistan war for American soldiers, and in the last three months the number of wounded troops has escalated as well. Over 1,000 troops have been injured in the past three months, a number that accounts for one-fourth of the total number wounded since the war began in 2001. Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell acknowledged that the casualties in Afghanistan have surpassed Iraq surge proportions.

Cleveland Police Go to Arrest Sex Offender for Rape & Find 6 Bodies at Home … Anthony Sowell Arrested By Police

Here is something that police did not expect and talk about your ghoulish and heinous crimes. They go to arrest a convicted sex offender for rape and discover their suspect is a serial killer.

On Thursday, Cleveland, OH police went to the home of convicted sex offender Anthony Sowell to arrest him on charges of felonious assault and rape. However, upon entering the home police found three bodies and expect to confirm three more. Police found two badly decomposed bodies on the third floor of his home on Thursday and a third was discovered Friday afternoon in the basement’s dirt floor. The possible remains of three more people were found in Sowell’s house and backyard. Sowell had lived in the home since 2005.

Police say Sowell spent 15 years in prison for a 1989 rape. As we always say, there is no such thing as a one time rapist and they cannot be rehabilitated.

In 1989, Sowell lived on Page Avenue in East Cleveland. That’s where he lured a 21-year-old woman into his bedroom, choked her and repeatedly raped her, prosecutors said. That led to his prison sentence from 1990 until 2005.

This case once again brings up the question as to why we let serial rapist out of prison? Why are they not at least forever on probation? Since Sowell was no longer on probation, police needed a search warrant to get in.

Once released, Sowell had to register as a sex offender. He was required to report to the sheriff’s office once a year until 2008, when a change in the law caused him to report every 90 days.

He last checked in on Sept. 2. On Sept. 22, deputies did a spot check on him to verify he lived on Imperial. Sowell answered the door, but deputies did not enter the home. Since Sowell was no longer on probation, they needed a search warrant to get in.

Maybe the discovery of these 6 bodies can put some family’s pain to some rest in the case of any missing persons cases?

Corzine Campaign Aide Busted on Drug Charges?

Well, I figure you have to be high on something to support Jon Corzine. But who knew his campaign aides were so heavy into the drugs?
A man who identified himself as an official with New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine's re-election campaign was arrested last night after cops found found ecstasy tablets wrapped and ready to be sold in his car, police said.

Jason Shih, 25, was pulled over by East Rutherford cops at about 11:30 p.m. last night because he was talking on his cell phone on Route 17, said Lt. Chris Conforti of the East Rutherford police.

Officers wound up finding 19 "blue star" ecstasy tablets in Shih's car, each wrapped in its own little plastic bag.

Shih -- who was stopped within 100 feet of Becton Regional High School -- also had had "several hundred" empty plastic bags in his car, Conforti said.
Maybe he was so whacked out he's spinning stories.
Corzine spokeswoman Elisabeth Smith said Shih is not on the payroll of the campaign or the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, and that the campaign doesn't know who he is.

Shih was charged with possession of drugs, possession of drugs in a school zone, intent to distribute drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was also charged with two motor vehicle violations -- driving while using a cell phone and having drugs in his car.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Iran's conditions push nuclear deal close to collapse

• Tehran wants to hand over uranium only in batches
• Move represents blow to US policy of engagement

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei

Hopes of a diplomatic breakthrough over Iran's nuclear programme were dwindling tonight after Tehran demanded changes to a uranium exchange deal that European diplomats described as "unacceptable".

If the deal collapses, as seemed likely, the apparent progress made over Tehran's nuclear programme in recent weeks would evaporate, the diplomats said. It would deliver another critical blow to the Obama administration's policy of engagement, and put international sanctions and Israeli military action back on the table.

The uranium deal, agreed in principle in Geneva at the beginning of the month, involved Iran shipping out most of its enriched uranium and, in return, being provided about a year later with fuel rods for its research reactor in Tehran.

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What to expect if Blair is made President of Europe

This morning the Guardian reported that this evening's summit in Brussels will likely be the first occasion in which the subject of Tony Blair's candidacy to be Europe's first president is broached.

Having lived under Blair's regime in England for many years, I can say that in many ways he is the embodiment of European politics (and I do not mean that positively). Many Americans are simply unaware of the paradigm constitutional shifts that occurred in Britain during Blair's administration. Yet such awareness ought to be at the forefront of public debate if Blair is indeed going to occupy the position of European president.

When Tony Blair first came to power, he promised to be tough on crime. Only in retrospect could we have understood the reality behind these words. Mr. Blair would indeed be tough on crime, but he would do so by creating thousands of new offenses, eroding hundred year old civil liberties, criminalizing a plethora of previously legal activities and altering the very structure of British common law.

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What Hillary Clinton Should Say In Pakistan This Week

by Amanda Kloer

Hillary Clinton is on day two of her official three day visit to Pakistan, the first of her career as Secretary of State. I'm pretty sure that while she's there, she'll remember to talk about terrorism and the Taliban. I hope she might even slip in a comment or two about women's rights. But will Clinton mention the rampant debt bondage and slavery that makes modern Pakistan look more like 11th century Europe than a modern nation? And next to terrorism, is that even important?

To borrow some terrorism language, the situation of debt bondage in Pakistan is quickly deteriorating from a Code Orange to a Code This-Whole-Freakin'-Country-Is-Getting-Dragged-Back-Into-the-Dark-Ages. For example, according to TIME Magazine, at least three landlords have held as many as 170 bonded farmworkers at gunpoint on their estates since late September. Most traffickers have tools other than guns to keep workers enslaved, but the fact that these traffickers can hold their victims at gunpoint for months with no government interference speaks to the impotence of the Pakistani government in addressing debt bondage. In Pakistan today, 10% of men own 90% of the land. The vast majority of farmers are somehow indentured, and many of them are caught in false debts and held under the threat of violence -- they are slaves. Debt bondage is not the exception in Pakistan. It would be the rule, if there was any system of enforcement.

The U.S. government hasn't addressed this issue with Pakistan, in part because the Taliban, Al Queda, and all the other violent and extremist goings-on look like a much bigger and more important issue than some farmers not getting their due. Well I've got news for Secretary Clinton and all the foreign policy wons who think they can ignore slavery -- ending slavery in Pakistan will go a long way towards reducing terrorism and creating a peaceful, stable Pakistan.

Here's how it works:

The feudalist system that exists in Pakistan currently is both a cause and a symptom of the political instability there. Debt bondage, corruption, exploitation, and slavery are rampant because there is no stable mechanism to enforce the rule law. In turn, when people are exploited, enslaved, and impoverished by corrupt officials, extremist factions become more attractive and they are more likely to undermine what rule of law exists. This breeds both the social and political chaos that allows radical Taliban leaders to hide in and control large chunks of the country. If Pakistan had a free working class making a living wage, the Taliban could not have gained so much strength as they have today because they would have had many fewer supporters. Slavery and terrorism in Pakistan are connected, and reducing one will help you reduce the other.

So, Secretary Clinton, what you should say in Pakistan this week is that America supports the freedom and prosperity of the Pakistani people. That slavery is unacceptable, and that everyone has a right to freely choose and be paid for work. We cannot hope to ignore slavery and battle terrorism any more than we can hope to ignore oil consumption and battle climate change or ignore fast food advertising and battle obesity. A stable Pakistan with little love for extremists is a free Pakistan.

And, Secretary Clinton, if you'd like to chat about this in person, I have no major plans this weekend and have always wanted to see Islamabad.

Obama honors 1st African-American elected to US Senate

US President Barack Obama paid tribute on Wednesday to fellow political trailblazer Edward Brooke, who in 1966 became the first African-American elected to the Senate by popular vote.

In the US Capitol rotunda, Obama presented Brooke, 90, with the Congressional gold medal, the highest civilian award given by the government's legislative branch.

"Today's honor bears a unique significance: bestowed by this body of which he was an esteemed member; presented in this place where he moved the arc of history; surrounded by so many -- myself included -- who have followed the trail that he blazed," said Obama as he stood next to the former senator from Massachusetts.

Brooke, who served as a Republican from 1967 to 1979, was the first of just three blacks popularly elected to the Senate in the modern era, including Carol Mosely Braun (1993 to 1999) and Obama himself (2005-2008).

Other African-Americans had previously served in the Senate before Brooke, but they were chosen by state legislatures.

Obama, a Democrat, hailed Brooke as someone who managed to navigate a fiercely segregated America and "spent his life breaking barriers and bridging divides."

The only black senator currently serving in the upper chamber is Roland Burris, who was appointed senator from Illinois to replace Obama after he won the White House in 2008.

Shyne Officially Deported — He’s Already Touched Down In Belize

Shyne was officially deported to Belize on Wednesday (October 28), taken directly from holding to the airport in New York, where he flew to his home country.

According to local outlets, he arrived in Belize around 2:40 p.m. local time on Thursday (October 28), escorted by a U.S. Marshall following his deportation.

He was processed by local authorities at the airport, then was welcomed by his father Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize, his mother Imeon Myvett and other members of his family, as well as fans.

Shyne's team told media that he would now like to be called Moses Michael Leviy to reflect his conversion to Judaism.

"Shyne is home. He wants to say how happy he is to be home and to be a free man," said the rapper's uncle, Michael Finnegan, current Minister of Housing. "He would love to have a conversation with the media, but because he was legally advised by Professor Ogletree, he must not speak to the media because he doesn't want to prejudice his situation with the US government or with the Belize government. So he asked me to ask you that he does not want to disrespect you the media, but please to understand what is going on."

Finnegan also revealed that Shyne has been given an entire floor at the Radisson Fort George Hotel to give him some privacy, until his place is set up at his uncle's house, which will take around two weeks.

"He needs some privacy, he needs not to be around anybody, he needs just to sit down in isolation and contemplate his life," his uncle explained. "I think that we need to respect that. If you notice, he has lost an extreme amount of weight."

The rapper was set to be released earlier this month, but U.S. Customs officials delayed it while they decided whether he should be deported or not.

The decision has been made, but Shyne plans to fight the decision from Belize. But, in the meantime, reports say he'll work on new music while his immigration issues are hashed out.

Rev. Wright selection sparks controversy

Rev. Jeremiah Wright, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ (TUCC) and former spiritual mentor of democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, speaks at the Nationals Press Club in Washington on April 28, 2008. Wright spoke on black theology and its traditions throughout American history and said that the recent media attacks on himself were really attacks on the black church.

A Maryland chapter of the NAACP is drawing criticism for selecting President Barack Obama's former pastor to speak at its awards dinner, a recipient says.

Perry Ealim, a black businessman who is being honored by the Anne Arundel County NAACP, says many of his friends and associates refuse to attend the Nov. 20 dinner, the Baltimore Sun reported Wednesday.

Ealim, a Republican, says he has been told they are boycotting the dinner because Rev. Jeremiah Wright is going to be the speaker.

"I am happy for your honor, however, I cannot support an organization that would have a racist/bigot such as Mr. Wright as (its) speaker," one of Ealim's friends wrote to him.

The Rev. Wright is the former minister of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago where Obama was a longtime parishioner.

Internet videos of his sermons showed him condemning the United States and saying that the attacks of Sept. 11 were "chickens coming home to roost."

Michelle Obama, Jill Biden Attend World Series

Last night's game was ugly, but still provided plenty of star power at the opener of the World Series. No, we're not talking about A-Rod and Kate Hudson.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden's wife, Jill, took the field during pre-game ceremonies to a big ovation, along with a Yankee legend.

Major League Baseball dedicated Game One of the Yankees-Phillies series, won by the NL champion visitors, 6-1, to the charity Welcome Back Veterans.

Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden escorted World War II veteran Yogi Berra - the Yankees Hall of Fame catcher - to the mound for the first-pitch ceremony.

All wore jackets with "World Series" on the front and their names on the back. Iraq war veteran Tony Odierno threw the first pitch to Derek Jeter.

Odierno, who lost an arm in Iraq, works in the Yankees' stadium operations department. His dad is Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

Yogi Berra receives - and gets - a hand from Michelle Obama and Jill Biden.

Jill Biden is a Phillies fan. Michelle Obama, unlike her White Sox-fan husband, grew up a Cubs fan. They high-fived fans as they walked down the tunnel.

Earlier that day, Obama and Biden honored wounded veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx.

The First Lady's message was simple but profound: We can all do a little something to honor the men and women of the military. And please, Michelle emphasized, don't forget the families they often have to leave behind while serving overseas.

"You can do something as simple as offering to drive a car pool, or offering babysitting," Obama told the room of veterans and staff members. "Above all, each of us can simply reach out and do something really small - and say thank you."

Obama weighed Hillary, worried 'bout Bill

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Tony Rezko also rattled the Obama campaign.

David Plouffe, left, manager of President Barack Obama's winning camapign, writes of some serious deliberations, and worries, during Obama's bid for the White House in a forthcoming book, The Audacity to Win, excerpted in Time magazine

by Mark Silva

President Barack Obama gave serious consideration to picking Hillary Rodham Clinton as his running mate - surprising even his own campaign advisers with his seriousness - but worried about Bill Clinton.

"Obama was clearly thinking more seriously about picking Hillary Clinton than (adviser David) Axelrod and I had realized," David Plouffe, the manager of Obama's presidential campaign, writes in a forthcoming book. "He said if his central criterion measured who could be the best VP, she had to be included in that list."

Although Obama considered his erstwhile rival in the Democratic Party's primaries throughout the summer of 2008, he ultimately eliminated her name from the list in early August, fearing, according to an account in Plouffe's book appearing in excerpts in Time magazine, that there "were just too many complications outweighing the potential strengths."

"I think Bill may be too big a complication,'' Plouffe quotes Obama as saying. "If I picked her, my concern is that there would be more than two of us in the relationship."

Ultimately, the president-elect named the then-senator from New York as his secretary of state - a relationship which also has been complicated by former President Bill Clinton's continuing presence on the international stage, with his Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative.

In Plouffe's book, The Audacity to Win, the president's campaign manager also reports on the crisis that emerged with the incendiary remarks of Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, coupled with the controversy surrounding Chicago power broker Tony Rezko.

"The Wright story broke on a Wednesday and exploded across the media landscape the next day,'' Plouffe writes. "We decided Obama had to take questions about ( Wright) head-on on Friday, in a series of lengthy national cable interviews.

"There was one not-so-minor complication. He was already scheduled to do editorial boards that Friday afternoon with both Chicago papers about Tony Rezko, two hours each, no holds barred. Given no choice but to address Wright as soon as possible, we decided we would do a round of TV interviews on him directly after the Rezko boards,'' Plouffe recalls.

"It shaped into quite a day, like having your legs amputated in the morning and your arms at night. The question was whether we would still have a heartbeat at the end of the day.''

Shaq seeks to become deputy sheriff in Cleveland

Shaquille O'Neal is looking to continue a sideline career in law enforcement now that he's in Ohio playing for the Cavaliers.

Spokesman John O'Brien of the Cuyahoga (ky-uh-HOH'-guh) County sheriff's office says the Cavs center has applied to become a special deputy. He would have the right to carry a gun and make arrests but not be a paid, formal employee.

O'Neal previously served roles with law enforcement agencies in Arizona, Virginia and Florida.

The sheriff has forwarded the application to the state agency that must consider the request to deputize O'Neal.

State attorney general's spokeswoman Holly Hollingsworth says that if approved, O'Neal would need 36 hours of police training and would have to take the Ohio police exam.

(This version CORRECTS Hollingsworth's title to attorney general's spokeswoman, instead of attorney general.)

Obama honors fallen Americans at Dover

President Barack Obama salutes as a carry team carries the transfer case containing the remains of Army Sgt. Dale R. Griffin of Terre Haute, Ind., who died in Afghanistan according to the Department of Defense, during a dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Del., Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009.

Standing in the pre-dawn darkness, President Barack Obama saw the real cost of the war in Afghanistan: The Americans who return in flag-covered cases while much of the nation sleeps in peace.

In a surprise midnight dash to this Delaware base where U.S. forces killed overseas come home, Obama honored the return of 18 fallen Americans Thursday. All were killed in Afghanistan this week, a brutal stretch that turned October into the most deadly month for U.S. troops since the war began.

"It was a sobering reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that our young men and women in uniform are engaging in every single day, not only our troops but their families as well," Obama said later Thursday, hours after his return to the White House. "The burden that both our troops and their families bear in any wartime situation is going to bear on how I see these conflicts, and it is something that I think about each and every day."

The dramatic image of a president on the tarmac was a portrait not witnessed in years. Former President George W. Bush said the appropriate way to show his respect for war's cost was to meet with grieving military families in private, as he often did, but he never went to Dover to observe the remains coming off the cargo plane. Obama did so with the weight of knowing he may soon send more troops off to war.

For all the talk of his potential troop increase — maybe 40,000, maybe some other large figure — Obama got a grim reminder of the number that counts: one.

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Fisher switches to Young at QB for 0-6 Titans

The owner of the Tennessee Titans wants more of Vince Young. He's getting just that with the winless Titans switching from veteran Kerry Collins back to the 2006 Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Coach Jeff Fisher announced the expected move Thursday after practice for the 0-6 Titans.

That means Young will start Sunday against Jacksonville (3-3), the team that helped send him to the bench in the 2008 opener by picking him off twice and spraining his knee. Collins started 20 of the 21 games since then.

Young has eight career interceptions against Jacksonville with only three touchdown passes. But he has won five of his last six starts, a stat that includes the end of the 2007 season.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The owner of the Tennessee Titans wants to see more of Vince Young. He's reportedly getting just that with the winless Titans making a change at quarterback from veteran Kerry Collins back to the 2006 Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Coach Jeff Fisher plans to announce the change after practice Thursday. But The Tennessean newspaper, citing anonymous sources, said on its Web site Thursday morning that Young will start Sunday against the Jaguars (3-3).

Fisher was not available an hour before practice, and the team had no immediate comment.

But Young split the work evenly with Collins at practice Wednesday. The Titans (0-6) also added John David Booty to the practice squad to do the work previously handled solely by Young.

Could `Michael Jackson's This Is It' win an Oscar?

LOS ANGELES — "Michael Jackson's This Is It" comes too late in the year to be considered for a 2009 documentary Oscar, but the film about the late King of Pop's preparations for a series of comeback concerts could qualify for other Hollywood honors this year, including the Academy Award for best picture.

The film, which opened around the globe Tuesday and Wednesday has already earned rousing praise from fans and critics, who say it restores Jackson's reputation as a world-class entertainer. It already tops the box office with $20.1 million worldwide after just one full day in theaters.

Director Kenny Ortega, a longtime Jackson collaborator who was overseeing his London concert comeback, crafted the nearly two-hour film from more than 100 hours of footage recorded during rehearsals for the London shows, which were to have begun in July. Jackson died June 25 at age 50.

"What we did here was focus on telling a good story and creating a film for the fans really enabling them to understand what Michael Jackson had dreamed for them," Ortega said Wednesday.

He added it was his hope "the audience for this film will grow and that as many people come to see it as possible because I think that it's a wonderful story about a brilliant man. ... Awards, Oscars, that's all great wishful thinking."

It may be more than wishful, said Steven Gaydos, executive editor of the Hollywood trade paper Variety and a self-described cynic. With the Academy Awards best-picture slate expanded to 10 films this year rather than the traditional five, "This Is It" could find itself among the contenders, he said.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Justice, American Style:Sarah Kruzan 16-Year-Old sentenced to life for killing pimp

By: Tolu Olorunda

I was browsing the web a few days ago when I ran across the following headline: “16yr old gets life in prison for killing her pimp.” Perhaps my considerable awareness of the way the internet works–Shock and Awe = Traffic–was what led to initial skepticism; but once I clicked the YouTube video link, all ambiguity vacated.

I was introduced to the story of Sarah Kruzan, 29, a female inmate in California. Filmed by the National Center for Youth Law, an advocacy group assisting her, Sarah tells in full detail her background, and the path leading up to the prison cell she resides in today.

She grew up in Riverside, California, in the home of a drug-addicted mother who frequently abused her. Nonetheless, this “over-achiever” excelled in school, making the principal’s Honor Roll consistently, running track, winning a Young Author’s Award for a book on the effects of drugs. It all seemed like the perfect Horatio Alger mythology come true, until she met a 31-year-old man, G.G.

The missing “father figure” vacuum in her life was happily filled by G.G. who would take her and her friends skating and to the mall. “G.G. was there at some times,” she says, “and he would talk to me, take me out, and give me all these lavish gifts… and then he would tell me, sex-wise, ‘you don’t need to give it up for free’.” G.G. was a skilled manipulator who knew what he wanted, and just how to get it. When Sarah turned 13, he raped her.

“He uses his manhood to hurt–like break you in,” Sarah recounts. The break-you-in allusion is a mere euphemism for prostitution. At that same age, Sarah was put on the streets, working 12-hour shifts (6P.M.-6.A.M.) for G.G. Sarah saw none of the money she worked for. “Everything was his,” she reports.

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How Racist Are You?

Are you racially biased? Harvard University has been trying to find out with their Racism test. The four-minute test throws different races at you and has you identify the images as "bad" or "good" as quickly as you can. The idea is that your first reaction is most likely your honest reaction.

You can try the test out for yourself, after clicking on the "Demonstration" button and then clicking the "Race IAT" button.

Project Implicit is a joint investigation between Harvard, the University of Washington and the University of Virginia into our subconscious biases. The project began 11 years ago. Many would say that they are not biased against Latinos, those with darker skin, obese people or women, but researchers say that we can harbor subconscious biases that we are not even aware of.

Ask the average person whether they have a bias toward male executives over female executives and the answer might be no.

That's what I said when Anthony Greenwald of Project Implicit asked whether I thought of men and women differently when it came to leadership in business, math and science. He quickly informed me that I was probably like a majority of Americans who incorrectly think they don't have a bias toward male leadership.

"Eighty percent of Americans, black and white and Asian, have associations that associate women less than men with leadership in business, science and math. You may be aware of some biases you have but less aware of others," Greenwald, a principal investigator for Project Implicit and professor of psychology at the University of Washington, told Black Voices in an interview.According to the Project Implicit web site:
The Full Story

Revised Formula Puts 1 in 6 Americans in Poverty

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The level of poverty in America is even worse than first believed.

A revised formula for calculating medical costs and geographic variations show that approximately 47.4 million Americans last year lived in poverty, 7 million more than the government's official figure.

The disparity occurs because of differing formulas the Census Bureau and the National Academy of Science use for calculating the poverty rate. The NAS formula shows the poverty rate to be at 15.8 percent, or nearly 1 in 6 Americans, according to calculations released this week. That's higher than the 13.2 percent, or 39.8 million, figure made available recently under the original government formula.

That measure, created in 1955, does not factor in rising medical care, transportation, child care or geographical variations in living costs. Nor does it consider non-cash government aid when calculating income. As a result, official figures released last month by Census may have overlooked millions of poor people, many of them 65 and older.

According to the revised NAS formula:

The Full Story

Michael Jackson - Is this it?

Music - Michael Jackson's final words in public... This Is It. These three little words are brought back to life with a brand new song, album and film, all titled 'This Is It'.

'This Is It' was orginally written with Paul Anka in 1983 for a planned duet that never happened, but since Michael Jackson's death, a version of Michael singing with a piano accompaniment was found within a box of tapes. Michael's brothers have since added backing vocals, as well as strings and a finger-click percussion.

The new song features on the credits for the movie 'This Is It', released worldwide today. The film has already broken box office records as one of the fastest selling ever. The movie was premiered worldwide simultaneously last night, and attended by stars including JLS, Mel B, Westlife, Taio Cruz and Peter Andre in London. In the US, the Jackson brothers attended alongside Will Smith, Paris Hilton, Paula Abdul, Jennifer Lopez, and Katy Perry who took pal Adam Lambert along to the LA premiere. The concert/documentary features unseen rehearsal footage recorded just days before Michael died.

Close friend Elizabeth Taylor wrote on her Twitter: "It is the single most brilliant piece of filmmaking I have ever seen. I wept from pure joy at his God-given gift. There will never, ever be the likes of him again."

The album 'This Is It' is also released this week, as a 2-CD collector's edition, and features the music that inspired the movie Michael Jackson's This Is It. The package includes a 36-page, commemorative booklet featuring exclusive photos of Michael from his last rehearsal along with an 11"x17" (approx. 28cm x 43cm) movie poster. There is a Deluxe Four Vinyl LP (180g) set, which contains the original album masters of some of Michael's biggest hits, previously unreleased versions of classic tracks plus two versions of the never-released "This Is It".

And if that isn't enough for you, the Michael Jackson Exhibition also launches today in London. For the first time, Michael Jackson's estate has opened the doors to his extraordinary personal belongings to celebrate his life.

The exhibition will celebrate Jackson's rise to fame in Motown through his record-breaking solo career and end with the spectacular shows he had planned for The O2 arena before his untimely death.

Michael Jackson's estate has opened up extensive archives from his homes, Neverland Ranch, concert collections and video vault to present more than 250 items including awards, clothing and a wide range of personal belongings. These include an original Jackson 5 contract, personally-commissioned portraits, the largest publicly displayed collection of his iconic concert and video costumes, his personal Rolls Royce and the famous sequined glove.

3 arrested in Calif. in alleged gang rape of girl

Three more people have been arrested in connection with the gang rape and beating of a 15-year-old girl outside her high school homecoming dance in an attack that has generated widespread outrage.

A man and two boys were arrested late Tuesday, including 21-year-old Salvador Rodriguez of Richmond, Calif., and two teens, 16 and 17. They were each booked on one count of gang rape and likely face other charges including robbery and kidnapping.

"These are people who played a significant role in the incident," Richmond Police Lt. Mark Gagan said Wednesday. "I'm confident that more arrests will be made."

The arrests bring to five the number of people taken into custody in the attack that occurred Saturday night at Richmond High School, located in the San Francisco Bay area. The attacks and its aftermath have rattled Richmond, Calif., a crime-ridden city of about 120,000 in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Police believe as many as 10 people ranging in age from 15 to mid-20s attacked the girl for more than two hours at a dimly lit area near benches Saturday night. As many as two dozen people saw the rape without notifying police.

The victim, a sophomore, had left the dance and was drinking alcohol in a school courtyard with a group when she was attacked, police said.

Officers found the girl semiconscious and naked from the waist down near a picnic table. She remains hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.

Police also hope a $20,000 reward will bring more people forward with any information.

Gagan said the girl left the dance and was walking to meet her father for a ride home when a classmate invited her to join a group drinking in the courtyard. The girl had consumed a large amount of alcohol by the time the assault began, police said. Gagan said the girl's father tried to call her cell phone, but no one answered.

Police received a tip about a possible assault on campus from a young woman, a former student, who heard two males bragging about it.

The victim was found nearly an hour after the dance had ended.

US new home sales slip back again

The annual rate of US new home sales fell unexpectedly in September, raising doubts about the strength of the housing sector's recovery.

The Commerce Department said sales fell by 3.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 402,000 homes, down from a revised 417,000 in August.

This marks the first fall in the rate of home sales since March.

The median sales price of $204,000 (£124,000) was down by 9.1% from $225,200 a year earlier.

Tax credits

Some analysts argue that the housing sector has been supported by the $8,000 tax credit for first-time buyers introduced by the government to boost demand for houses.

They argue that the latest figures simply reflect the fact that the credit is due to run out on 30 November.

The Full Story

Larry Johnson Gay Slur on Twitter, in Locker Room Results in Ban From Team

The NFL's Kansas City Chiefs have barred star running back Larry Johnson from all team activities as the club and league look into comments he made Monday.

In telling reporters to get away from him, Johnson used a slur that referred to gays. He used the same slur on Twitter in an exchange with one of his followers.

A day later, he used a gay slur again as he brushed off reporters and told them he had no comment, according to the Kansas City Star, which recorded this.

He has also posted demeaning remarks about Coach Todd Haley, questioning his authority. Yeesh. Now that's a lot worse than any Bob Griese taco comment.

Larry Johnson eludes a tackler. And basic social decency.

In a statement released through his agent, Johnson apologized for his remarks, though in the list of people to whom he apologized, he did not mention gays.

Last season, Herman Edwards, who was the Chiefs’ coach, benched Larry Johnson for three games for a then-unspecified violation of the team's rules.

Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for a fourth game for violating the NFL player-conduct policy in connection with incidents involving women in bars.

Johnson, who has 358 yards on 132 rushes and no touchdowns in 2009, was sentenced to two years’ probation after pleading guilty todisturbing the peace.

We'll see if he takes the field anytime soon this year.

How will the Dems spin this one? Christie surging 6 days out of Election Day

From Eric Dondero:

This is precisely the type of headline any candidate wants to see one week out of an election. From Politico:

Christie with a late surge
Two new polls out today suggest that Republican Chris Christie is holding the late momentum in the New Jersey gubernatorial race over Gov. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.)

The latest Rasmussen survey shows Christie taking the lead over Corzine, 42 to 38 percent, with Independent Chris Daggett winning 14 percent of the vote. Last week, Corzine held a one-point lead over Christie, 37 to 36 percent in the initial ballot test.

A separate poll from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling finds that late-deciding voters are lining up behind Christie. The poll shows Christie leading Corzine by four points, 42 to 38 percent with Daggett at 13 percent. Christie only led by one point over Corzine in the last PPP survey two weeks ago.
Meanwhile the race is essentially over in Virginia. If you haven't heard the news one poll - Battleground from Ed Goeas (Republican) and Cylinda Lake (Democrat) polling firm, has Bob McDonnell now leading Democrat Creigh Deeds by 19 points!

So, we just got this "Pre-Post Election" spin from the Washington Post:

There’s been a fair amount of punditry of late to the effect that the Virginia governor’s race is shaping up as a big referendum on Obama’s presidency. If GOPer Bob McDonnell wins, lots of people in DC will be eager to claim that Obama is one of the race’s Biggest Losers.

But the internals of the new Washington Post poll in Virginia suggest that Obama may not really be an important factor at all. It finds:

* Seventy percent of likely voters say Obama is “not a factor” in ther choice. Only 15% say opposition to Obama is a factor, while 14%, say support for him is a factor.
Entirely predictable. No surprise there. But how are the Obama lapdogs going to explain New Jersey? Obama has spent considerable political capital campaigning last minute for Corzine.

Democrats may be able to spin McDonnell's big win as a poor candidate running in a Red-leaning southern state. But they can't spin a Christie win in deep blue Democrat territory.

It's increasingly looking like Late Tuesday Night may be a great opportunity for a virtual Gloat Fest for Republicans nationwide.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

'Michael Jackson's This Is It' to open worldwide

When Michael Jackson died in June, he was just days away from launching a 50-show run of comeback concerts in London.

Now, video footage of preparations for those performances have become "Michael Jackson's This Is It," a documentary opening worldwide Tuesday.

The simultaneous showings around the globe will be anchored by a star-studded premiere at the Nokia Theatre, a 7,100-seat concert venue across the street from Staples Center, where many of Jackson's rehearsals — and his high-profile public memorial — were held.

Longtime Jackson collaborator Kenny Ortega, who directed and produced "This Is It," is expected to attend, as are members of Jackson's band and the executors of his will. Entertainers including Snoop Dogg, Smokey Robinson and Zac Efron are also on the guest list.

Fans are likely to swarm the area, too: Many waited in line for days to buy tickets for advance screenings of "This Is It" at the new Regal Cinemas on site, which will show the film to sold-out audiences Tuesday on all 14 of its screens.

The film, culled from more than 100 hours of rehearsal footage, shows an enthusiastic King of Pop meticulously crafting his moves and performing some of his most beloved hits. No critics have seen it, but Sony — which paid $60 million for the film rights — showed a 12-minute clip to entertainment journalists last week.

Some of Jackson's family members and friends have seen "This Is It" in its entirety. Elizabeth Taylor, a longtime friend of the pop star, posted her thoughts Monday on Twitter.

"It is the single most brilliant piece of filmmaking I have ever seen," she wrote on the micro-blogging site. "It cements forever Michael's genius in every aspect of creativity."

The 77-year-old actress added that she "wept from pure joy at his God-given gift" and urged her fans to see the film "again and again."

"This Is It" opens in theaters Wednesday for a limited run, lending it some of the exclusivity of Jackson's aborted concert stand in London.

"We think the 16 days is right. It's sort of a special event that you want to frame in a special way," said Rory Bruer, head of distribution for Sony.

Jackson died June 25 at age 50. The Los Angeles County coroner has ruled the death a homicide, caused primarily by the powerful anesthetic propofol and another sedative. Jackson's personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, has not been charged with a crime but is the focus of the police investigation.

Jackson's 50 comeback concerts at London's O2 arena were to have begun in July.

Girl Gang Raped and Beaten at Richmond High School, Ca

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According to CNN, a 15-year-old girl left her homecoming dance at Richmond High School with someone she knew and was later gang raped and brutally beaten for over 2 hours on school grounds by at least 4 individuals as people watched, walked by or even participated.

Reportedly, no one called the police until someone overheard talk of the incident. It has been said that when the police arrived, they witnessed 5-6 males fleeing from the scene.

19-year-old Manual Ortega and a 15-year-old was arrested in this case.

The victim was life-flighted, unconscious and in critical condition to a local area hospital.

As of yesterday (Monday, October 27, 2009), she was in stable condition and doesn’t seem to have any life-threatening injuries.

Those involved will face charges of rape, robbery and kidnapping.

Boston cops: Psych patient stabs doc, is shot dead

BOSTON — Police say a man stabbed a doctor while being treated at a psychiatric ward at a Boston medical building and was fatally shot by security guard who saw the attack.

The attack took place Tuesday afternooon at a high-rise building affiliated with Massachusetts General hospital.

The doctor, whose name was not released, was in stable condition. Police say the suspect died of gunshot wounds.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

BOSTON (AP) — An attack outside a psychiatric office in a high-rise medical building Tuesday ended with one person shot and one stabbed, police said. Authorities did not immediately have information on the condition of the victims but said a suspect was under arrest.

The attack occurred in the afternoon at 50 Staniford St., a building affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital. It wasn't clear whether the attacker might have been among the injured.

Security guards locked down the building, notifying employees and patients inside they could not immediately leave. Nearby streets were shut down.

A hospital spokeswoman, Heather Clucas, said officials knew of the attack but did not have information on the exact circumstances or who was involved.

The building is in a largely commercial area. It contains businesses with various treatment specialties and several medical groups associated with nearby Massachusetts General.

Iran, Brazil want nuclear energy 'for everyone'

With the Iranian president scheduled to set out on a state visit to Brazil next month, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki says Tehran and Brasilia share the same stance on peaceful nuclear activities.

"The two countries have a common position in relation to peaceful nuclear activities and insist on [defending their] rights," Mottaki was quoted as saying by the Brazilian daily Folha de S. Paulo in a conference in Tehran.

Tehran says its nuclear program is aimed at the civilian applications of the technology and has called for the removal of weapons of mass destruction from around the globe. Western countries, however, accuse it of seeking nuclear weaponry.

Meanwhile, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has defended Iran's right to a peaceful nuclear program.

Referring to the Brazilian president's stance, Mottaki described the joint position of Iran and Brazil as "peaceful nuclear energy for everyone, and nuclear weapons for no one."

Iran's ambassador to Brasilia Mohsen Shaterzadeh said on Tuesday that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit Brazil on November 23.

Addressing university students in Brasilia, Shaterzadeh said Brazilians will be pleased to hear what President Ahmadinejad has in store for them.

"I am sure that people of Brazil will hear good news from President Ahmadinejad," the Iranian envoy said.

Eight more US troops dead in Afghan war's blackest month

KABUL — Bomb attacks killed another eight American soldiers Tuesday in southern Afghanistan, making October the deadliest month for US forces in their eight-year war against the Taliban.

The latest attacks, which were claimed by the Taliban, came the day after 14 US soldiers and narcotics agents died in helicopter crashes, piling pressure on US President Barack Obama as he mulls sending tens of thousands more troops.

Seven of the soldiers were killed along with an Afghan civilian in one attack in the south of the country, said NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The eighth died in a separate attack in another part of the south, said ISAF without giving further details about the locations.

The deaths occurred in what a statement referred to as "multiple complex IED attacks," referring to improvised explosive devices that have become the scourge of troops fighting a resurgent Taliban.

"Additionally, several service members were wounded in these incidents and were transported to a regional medical facility for treatment," it added.

A Pentagon official confirmed the deaths made October the deadliest month for American forces since the war began in 2001, in the wake of the September 11 attacks on Washington and New York by Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.

The deaths brought the number of Americans killed to at least 53 for the month, compared with 51 killed in August, the next deadliest month for the US.

Tuesday's deaths bring the number of foreign soldiers killed in Afghanistan so far this year to 445, according to an AFP tally based on that kept by the independent website Of those, 277 are Americans.

Southern Afghanistan is the most violent region in the country, the traditional stronghold of the Taliban and where foreign forces, backed by their Afghan counterparts, are concentrated.

In a separate statement, ISAF said it had recovered the remains of three civilian crew and the wreckage of a plane that went down in rugged terrain in Nuristan province on October 13.

The Army C-12 Huron failed to return to Bagram airfield, near Kabul, after a routine mission, it said.

"Upon visible inspection of the site, the mission changed from search and rescue to search and recovery," it said, adding that the cause of the crash was still being investigated but "hostile action is not believed to be the cause."

Commanders in the country have requested significant reinforcements, saying that the more boots on the ground the greater the chance they have against a Taliban-led insurgency that has intensified in recent months.

Obama on Monday promised US troops a clear mission before pitching them into the worsening battle, after conducting the latest meeting of his war council, which is mounting an exhaustive review of Afghan and Pakistan strategy.

"I will never hesitate to use force to protect the American people or our vital interests, I also promise you this -- and this is very important as we consider our next steps in Afghanistan," Obama told military personnel in Florida.

"I will never rush the solemn decision of sending you into harm's way.

"I won't risk your lives unless it is absolutely necessary, and if it is necessary, we will back you up.

"Because you deserve the strategy, the clear mission, the defined goals and the equipment and support you need to get the job done."

Obama critics, some senior Republicans among them, have complained that Obama's weeks-long security review is dragging on too long. Former vice president Dick Cheney last week accused the president of "dithering."

Monday, October 26, 2009

TODAY'S NEWS NJ Frontline Documentry Video of the week: THE WARNING

Alan Greenspan, Lawrence Summers and Robert Rubin

"We didn't truly know the dangers of the market, because it was a dark market," says Brooksley Born, the head of an obscure federal regulatory agency -- the Commodity Futures Trading Commission [CFTC] -- who not only warned of the potential for economic meltdown in the late 1990s, but also tried to convince the country's key economic powerbrokers to take actions that could have helped avert the crisis. "They were totally opposed to it," Born says. "That puzzled me. What was it that was in this market that had to be hidden?"

In The Warning, veteran FRONTLINE producer Michael Kirk unearths the hidden history of the nation's worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. At the center of it all he finds Brooksley Born, who speaks for the first time on television about her failed campaign to regulate the secretive, multitrillion-dollar derivatives market whose crash helped trigger the financial collapse in the fall of 2008.

"I didn't know Brooksley Born," says former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt, a member of President Clinton's powerful Working Group on Financial Markets. "I was told that she was irascible, difficult, stubborn, unreasonable." Levitt explains how the other principals of the Working Group -- former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin -- convinced him that Born's attempt to regulate the risky derivatives market could lead to financial turmoil, a conclusion he now believes was "clearly a mistake."

Born's battle behind closed doors was epic, Kirk finds. The members of the President's Working Group vehemently opposed regulation -- especially when proposed by a Washington outsider like Born.

"I walk into Brooksley's office one day; the blood has drained from her face," says Michael Greenberger, a former top official at the CFTC who worked closely with Born. "She's hanging up the telephone; she says to me: 'That was [former Assistant Treasury Secretary] Larry Summers. He says, "You're going to cause the worst financial crisis since the end of World War II."... [He says he has] 13 bankers in his office who informed him of this. Stop, right away. No more.'"

Greenspan, Rubin and Summers ultimately prevailed on Congress to stop Born and limit future regulation of derivatives. "Born faced a formidable struggle pushing for regulation at a time when the stock market was booming," Kirk says. "Alan Greenspan was the maestro, and both parties in Washington were united in a belief that the markets would take care of themselves."

Now, with many of the same men who shut down Born in key positions in the Obama administration, The Warning reveals the complicated politics that led to this crisis and what it may say about current attempts to prevent the next one.

"It'll happen again if we don't take the appropriate steps," Born warns. "There will be significant financial downturns and disasters attributed to this regulatory gap over and over until we learn from experience."

Steve Phillips Fired by ESPN [UPDATE]

Steve Phillips, whose affair with ESPN staffer Brooke Hundley was exposed last week, has been fired from ESPN. This email arrived at 8:26 pm from ESPN PR:
Steve Phillips is no longer working for ESPN. His ability to be an effective representative for ESPN has been significantly and irreparably damaged, and it became evident it was time to part ways.

Initial reaction: Steve Phillips was on shaky ground when the story broke Wednesday (if you were out of the country/in a coma, get up to speed here), and we thought he’d survive. But Friday’s revelations that Brooke Hundley filed a restraining order against the Baseball Tonight analyst, combined with the “out-of-court settlement” turned the situation into another Harold Reynolds saga. Phillips is believed to have had two years left on his contract at ESPN.

To those who will ask, “Why fire a guy for sleeping with this chick? Who cares? What does that have to do with his analysis of Joe Girardi’s late-game pitching management?” … here’s a guess:

a) ESPN desperately wants/needs to shake the frat house culture that has become increasingly evident in the last decade
b) The inter-office romances featuring a guy in a position of power (on-air talent) and someone way down the totem pole open the company up to sexual harassment lawsuits.

Obama's Luster Tarnishing

If the recent fundraiser for Massachusetts’s Governor Deval Patrick is any indicator, Obama’s luster may be wearing off. The event was nowhere near a sellout, and word on the street is that operatives were pimping tickets up to the very last minute of the event. Worse yet, they weren’t finding any takers.

You’d think that with all the contacts on Obama’s crackberry, he could scare up enough “friends” to sell out a governor’s fundraiser?! The lack of participation by Bostonians is simply no way to treat a Nobel Peace Prize winner! Teddy Kennedy, the ugly cousin of LiberoFascism is rolling over in his grave!

The event was held at the Westin Copley, occupying the entire 4th floor--a venue that easily holds about 2000 people. Based on my radio producer’s report from a source who spoke to a cousin of a man who knows a friend of one of the maids said, “There was plenty of room for “disco dancing!” For journalistic integrity, we were able to confirm this with a taxi driver, who knows the sister of one of the vendors, who did overhear the concierge confirm this with his mother-in-law.

SHAMELESS PLUG - Consider investing in my Amazon Best Selling book, The BIG Black Lie, if you enjoy my work! Then get 10 others...just do the same! Send this message to TEN friends or something bad will happen. - Dept of Shameless Plugs at The Black Sphere!

A year ago a venue the size of the Westin Copley would not have been considered for such an event, if the messiah was to be in attendance. They would have planned on a stadium, Wembley Stadium most likely…New England game be damned! And even that would not have been big enough, so they would have had to simulcast it on big screens. And even that would pale. Thus Liberals would have clamored to see the spectacle on Pay-Per-View! Read more here...

Conservatives Outnumber Liberals 2-1

Conservatives continue to outnumber moderates and liberals in the American populace in 2009, confirming a finding that Gallup first noted in June. Forty percent of Americans describe their political views as conservative, 36% as moderate, and 20% as liberal. This marks a shift from 2005 through 2008, when moderates were tied with conservatives as the most prevalent group.

The 2009 data are based on 16 separate Gallup surveys conducted from January through September, encompassing more than 5,000 national adults per quarter. Conservatives have been the dominant ideological group each quarter, with between 39% and 41% of Americans identifying themselves as either "very conservative" or "conservative." Between 35% and 37% of Americans call themselves "moderate," while the percentage calling themselves "very liberal" or "liberal" has consistently registered between 20% and 21% -- making liberals the smallest of the three groups.
Unfortunately, many of those mushy "moderates" are liberals pretending to be moderates, likely too ashamed to admit how hard left they are.

Now if only the Republican Party would wake up and start supporting conservative candidates instead of these weak-kneed RINOs. Much of the promising news from this polls shows a trend of independents moving to the right, which does not bode well for the Democrats as we enter the 2010 election cycle.

Wall Street Follies: The Next Act


It certainly sounded good.

Hoping, perhaps, to persuade a dubious public that curbing reckless business practices is indeed a Washington priority, the Obama administration and Congress produced a hat trick of financial reforms last week. The outlines of a consumer financial protection agency emerged from the House Financial Services Committee. The House Agriculture Committee spelled out ways to regulate risky derivatives trading, and the United States Treasury’s compensation czar announced his plan to rein in runaway executive pay at seven companies that, in total, have received hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer help within the past year.

Not to be outdone, the Federal Reserve announced plans late Thursday to review pay practices at the nation’s largest banks. It all left the question, would it make Wall Street safe for America?

For all the apparent action in Washington, some acute observers say that it was much ado about little. Last week’s moves, they say, were tinkering around the edges and did nothing to prevent another disaster like the one that unfolded a year ago.

(More here.)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fortune Brands 3Q profit falls, raises outlook

Fortune Brands Inc., a seller of consumer goods ranging from faucets to bourbon, said Friday that its third-quarter profit dropped 63 percent as the prior-year's results included a hefty gain related to the termination of a joint venture.

Despite the lower earnings, shares rallied to a 52-week high as adjusted results soared past estimates.

The company earned $124.1 million, or 82 cents per share, for the three months ended Sept. 30. That's down from $335.9 million, or $2.21 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding restructuring charges and other items, profit was 77 cents per share. Fortune Brands said the impact of the weaker dollar hurt earnings per share by 7 cents.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, whose estimates normally exclude one-time items, called for earnings of 61 cents per share.

Year-ago results included a gain of 94 cents per share related to the end of the Future Brands U.S. spirits distribution joint venture and other items.

Sales fell 10 percent to $1.72 billion from $1.92 billion on essentially flat sales of spirits as well as golf and home product sales declines. The results still managed to surpass Wall Street's estimate of $1.63 billion.

Fortune Brands said that new products such as Red Stag by Jim Beam, eco-friendly Moen faucets and a new line of Titleist golf balls contributed to its quarterly results.

The company boosted the low end of its full-year earnings guidance, citing its quarterly performance and signs of stabilization in the U.S. new home construction market. It now expects a profit of $2.10 to $2.30 per share. Fortune's prior forecast was for earnings of $2 to $2.30 per share.

Analysts predict 2009 profit of $2.23 per share.

In midday trading, shares of Fortune Brands rose 17 cents to $43.30. Earlier the stock traded at $46.77, its highest level since October 2008.

Bernanke urges Congress to overhaul financial regulatory system

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke prodded Congress Friday to enact legislation overhauling the nation's financial regulatory system to prevent a repeat of the banking and credit debacles that had thrust the country into crisis.

"With the financial turmoil abating, now is the time for policymakers to take action to reduce the probability and serverity of any future crises," Bernanke said in prepared remarks to a Fed conference in Chatham, Massachusetts.

For its part, the Fed has been taking steps to strengthen oversight of banks, sharpen consumer protections and on Thursday unveiled a sweeping proposal to police banks' pay policies to make sure they don't encourage top executives and other employees to take reckless gambles.

But Congress needs to step in and close regulatory gaps and make other changes that only lawmakers have the power to do, Bernanke said.

At the top of the Bernanke's list: Congress must set up a mechanism - along the lines of what the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. does with troubled banks - to safely wind down big financial firms whose failure could endanger the entire financial system.

And, the costs for such a mechanism shuold be paid through an assessment on the financial industry, not by taxpayers, the Fed chief said.

Moreover, Congress needs to step better systems for regulators to monitor risks lurking in the financial system.

The Obama administration has proposed such action as part of its revamp of financial rules. Its plan would expand the Fed's powers over big financial institutions but reduce it over consumers. Congress, however, is leery of expanding the Fed's reach because it and other regulators failed to crack down on problems that led to the crisis.

A House panel on Thursday approved a piece of the Obama plan create a federal agency devoted to protecting consumers from predatory lending, abusive overdraft fees and unfair rate hikes. Doing so, strips some powers from the Fed.

Bernanke, in his remarks Friday, talked about the Fed's efforts to bolster consumers protections. And, he said the Fed is working on rules to better safeguard consumers from abusives when it comes to overdraft protection, reverse mortgages and gift cards.

US probes pilots who overshot airport by 150 miles

US aviation officials and the FBI probed Friday how pilots of an airplane with 149 people on board managed to overshoot their destination by 150 miles (240 kilometers), prompting fears of a hijacking.

The US National Transportation Safety Board said controllers lost radio contact late Wednesday with the Northwest Airlines flight heading from San Diego, California to Minneapolis, Minnesota.

A Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) spokesman in Minneapolis confirmed to AFP that the agency had launched its own investigation into the incident, but declined to comment further.

Passengers reported being unaware of any mishap until police boarded the plane when it eventually landed at Minneapolis Airport more than an hour behind schedule.

"The crew stated they were in a heated discussion over airline policy and they lost situational awareness," the safety board said, although a source close to the investigation said the crew had not yet been independently interviewed.

The plane's cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder are being sent to Washington for analysis. Northwest Airlines reportedly suspended the pilots from flying as the probe got under way.

During the 78-minute radio silence officials initially feared the pilots were in distress or the plane had been hijacked.

"When you aren't speaking to a commercial airliner, that's a big issue for us," said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tony Molinari told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"We see them on the radar, but not being able to talk to them is a problem."

The Star-Tribune reported that military fighter jets were readied to chase down the plane, which was travelling at its highest cruising altitude of 37,000 feet (11,300 meters), before contact was reestablished.

"The descent to the airport normally begins about 150 miles before the airport and they flew 150 miles behind it, so that is very curious," former federal aviation investigator Bill Voss told AFP.

"Many people are skeptical about the pilot's explanation that they were in heated arguments. There would have been many visual cues on the flight director ... Another possibility, of course, is fatigue and they could have fallen asleep."

Voss said Wednesday's drama brought to mind a February 2008 incident in which a Go! Airlines plane overshot Honolulu's main airport by 15 miles (24 km). The pilots were later fired after they admitted they fell asleep.

Photo's of the week: Trenton Streets

Boy hurts himself on his bike and brother helps him.....

By Daryl Mikell Brooks

Priest found slain in rectory of his NJ church

<Father Edward Hinds, the pastor of St. Patrick Church in Chatham, was found dead inside the rectory Friday morning, officials said. (FILE)
Scene outside Saint Patrick's Church Photo

CHATHAM, N.J. (WPIX) - Authorities are investigating the death of the pastor of a northern New Jersey church after he was discovered dead Friday morning, officials confirmed.

The body of Father Ed Hinds of Saint Patrick's Church in Chatham was found inside the church's rectory, dressed for mass. Officials say the pastor was scheduled to preside over an 8 a.m. service, but never showed. A parishioner later discovered Hinds' body in the rectory kitchen.

The church, which is located on 41 Oliver Street, remains closed as police investigate. The Morris County Prosecutor's Office tells PIX News that authorities are treating the death as a homicide.

Local and county police officers have closed off several blocks around the church. Students from neighboring Saint Patrick's school are being sent home for the day, church officials said. The school reportedly has nearly 400 students enrolled.

"We are deeply saddened by the unexpected death of such a great and giving pastor,"Bishop Arthur Serratelli with the Diocese of Paterson told reporters outside of St. Patrick's Church. "We are praying for the repose of his soul."

CHATHAM, N.J. — Authorities say a priest was found slain in the rectory of his northern New Jersey parish one day after police held a public safety seminar there.

Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi said Friday that the body of the Rev. Ed Hinds (HYNDZ') had wounds "consistent with a homicide."

The prosecutor would not say how the priest was killed, and no one has been arrested.

The clothed body of the 61-year-old priest was found in the morning at St. Patrick's Church in Chatham. That's about 10 miles west of Newark.

Police held a safety seminar at the church Thursday in which they fingerprinted and photographed young children.

Blasts Take More Than 20 Lives in Northwest Pakistan

Police in Pakistan say three explosions in the northwestern part of the country have killed more than 20 people. Friday's violence comes as the military finishes the first week of its offensive against Taliban extremists near the Afghan border.

Police say a suicide bomber struck a checkpoint Friday morning near a key military air base.

The Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra, northwest of the capital Islamabad, is a major site for Pakistan's air force maintenance and research.

A police official says there was adequate security to stop the bomber at the first checkpoint leading to the complex. He also says there were several pedestrians in the area.

Hours later, authorities in the northwestern city of Peshawar say a car bomb exploded outside a restaurant.

The head of the bomb disposal squad told reporters that officials believe the car bomb was triggered remotely. He said authorities have found the car's engine number, which can be used to help hunt down the attackers.

Shortly after the explosion, officials in the Mohmand tribal region said a blast struck a passenger bus, killing civilians - including women and children - on their way to a wedding.

In recent weeks, suspected Taliban militants have launched a series of attacks, hitting police centers, the army's headquarters, a United Nations office and an Islamic university.

There have been at least five instances of violence since the Pakistani military began its offensive against the Taliban in South Waziristan.

Authorities have tightened security across the country, as well as closed educational institutions.

Pakistani peace activist Natasha Kamal tells VOA there is a general fear of where the next attack might occur.

"This is exactly what these terrorists are looking for, to scare everybody to make all of us just sit tight in our homes, do not let our children go to school or college or even anywhere else and us not going outside or having a normal life," said Kamal.

Army officials say troops have killed at least 128 militants in the South Waziristan tribal region, while 18 soldiers have died in the intense fighting.

There is no independent confirmation of the tolls, as the region is closed to outsiders and is dangerous even for local reporters to visit.

IAEA says Iran needs more time to review nuke deal

VIENNA — The International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran needs more time to decide whether to back a plan that would ship most of the country's uranium abroad for enrichment.

The Vienna-based nuclear watchdog says Iran told IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei that it is "considering the proposal in depth and in a favorable light, but needs until the middle of next week to provide a response."

The draft proposal was put forth Wednesday after three days of talks between Iran and world powers.

The plan was seen as a way to curb Iran's ability to build a nuclear weapon. The United States, Russia and France have already endorsed the deal.

Global “Thriller” Dance-Off Goes Down This Weekend

Have you ever wanted to break a world record? How about an awesome world record? Well, this weekend is your chance. On Sunday at 12:30 am GMT (for New Yorkers, that’s Saturday at 8:30 pm), meet up with a group of Michael Jackson fans and aspiring zombies in your area to participate in the biggest simultaneous “Thriller” dance ever. The annual “Thrill the World” event is now in its fourth year, but I have to imagine it will be especially popular (and poignant) this year, given, well… you know. If you want to join one of many officially registered, public events, you can find the one closest to you here. Don’t know the dance yet? Don’t despair! It seems many organizers are also running lessons to learn the all-important choreography. If you’d prefer to learn on your own, the folks at “Thrill the World” also provide unbelievably detailed instructions. And if you’re interested to see what this whole shindig looks like, be sure check out the video of last year’s event, posted below.

Meanwhile, in other “Thriller” news, New York magazine’s Vulture blog is reporting that the forthcoming Jackson doc This Is It will also feature “brand-new, reimagined versions of the videos for ‘Thriller,’ ‘Man in the Mirror,’ and ‘Earth Song.’ MJ made the videos to serve as transitions to the live performances during the This Is It concerts in London.” Of course, it’s kind of alarming to hear about a remake of what might be the best music video of all time. But never fear, superfans: choreographer Travis Payne avers that “We didn’t touch what we considered the sacred inside of it.”

Magic Johnson blindsides Isiah Thomas in new book

So Isiah Thomas–former Detroit Piston and now headline making b-ball coach–is mad about a book his rival Magic Johnson is putting out that could expose him in some way. Magic accuses Isiah of spreading rumors in the NBA that Magic is gay:

Magic’s most shocking accusation is that Thomas was responsible for spreading rumors that Johnson was gay or bisexual after Johnson tested positive for HIV, forcing his retirement
at age 32. “Isiah kept questioning people about it,” Magic says. “I couldn’t believe that. The one guy I thought I could count on had all these doubts. It was like he kicked me in the stomach.”

And Magic popped off about why he and Michael Jordan and others blackballed Isiah:

“Isiah killed his own chances when it came to the [1992] Olympics. Nobody on that team wanted to play with him. … Michael didn’t want to play with him. Scottie [Pippen] wanted no part of him. Bird wasn’t pushing for him. Karl Malone didn’t want him. Who was saying, ‘We need this guy?’ Nobody.”

Isiah’s response:

“Magic acted and responded off some really bad information that he got,” Thomas went on. “Whatever friendship we had, I thought it was bulls— that he believed that. Let me put it to you this way: If he and I were such close friends, if I was questioning his sexuality, then I was questioning mine too. That’s how idiotic it is.”

I’m glad that he’s finally had the nerve and the courage to stand up and say it was him, as opposed to letting Michael Jordan take the blame for it all these years. I wish he would have had the courage to say this stuff to me face to face, as opposed to writing it in some damn book to sell and he can make money off it.”