Monday, June 15, 2009

Plaxico Burress Saga Will Never End

Remember this guy! Captain Sweatpants? Ringing any bells? Well, you may have assumed that he was already in jail or worse (the CFL), but his trial hasn't even started yet. And now it won't until 2010! Did someone say J-E-T-S?

Plaxico Burress appeared in court today so that a judge could tell him not to come back to court again. His case has been adjourned until September, at which point it will go before a grand jury—where he will almost certainly be indicted—and that means the actual guilty/not guilty trial will probably not take place until next year. It may seem like mindless legal maneuvering, but it actually makes a very big difference to Burress.

Plaxico's lawyers claim that Roger Goodell cannot suspend Plaxico Burress until he has actually been convicted of something. So by moving the trial back to February or later, he could conceivably play the entire 2009 season before any verdict is handed down. The NFL, however, doesn't necessarily agree with that interpretation of the player conduct policy. The league may try to suspend him anyway (followed by a lengthy grievance process with the Player's Association), but (maybe) can't do that until he's actually signed by a team. And no one will sign a guy if they think he's going to be suspended. And round and round we go...

No one can know what lurks in the mind King Goodell, but now every non-baseball sport has called it a season, you will be forced to ponder these questions until late August.

Photo's Of Riots following Iranian election results in Tehran

Supporters of reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi demonstrate against the results of the Iranian presidential election, which declared incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner, in Tehran, Iran on June 13, 2009

What do you think?

IMF predicts US economic recovery

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said the US economy will recover more strongly and more quickly, than it previously thought.

It now believes that the world's largest economy will grow by 0.75% next year, rather than the 0% it forecast earlier this year.

The IMF also thinks that the US economy will shrink less sharply this year.

However, the fund stresses that "an unusual level of uncertainty" and "significant downside risks" remain.

'Solid recovery'

The fund's latest report on the US economy predicts a fall in GDP of 2.5% this year, compared with its previous forecast of a 2.8% contraction.

The slight improvement in outlook for both this year and next is, in part, due to the US government stimulus plans that have "become increasingly strong and comprehensive" since the end of last year, the report said.

But despite the fact that recent figures suggest the sharp fall in output may now be ending, "economic activity remains weak", it continues.

"The combination of financial strains and ongoing adjustments in the housing and labour markets is expected to restrain growth for some time".

For this reason, "a solid recovery [is] projected to emerge only in mid-2010," the IMF predicts.

The fund also predicts that US unemployment will "peak at close to 10%" next year.

The IMF forecast forms part of its regular economic assessment which it carries out among its members.

Figures released earlier this month showed that the pace of US job cuts slowed dramatically in May, while separate data published in May showed US consumer confidence at its highest level since September last year.

Such figures have led a number of economists to believe that the US recession may be bottoming up.

Susan Boyle to sing in Scotland on Monday

LONDON (AP) — Singing sensation Susan Boyle will rejoin the "Britain's Got Talent" live tour on Monday, her spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman said the 48-year-old Scottish singer took a break Sunday, but is scheduled to perform in Glasgow on Monday night.

"She had one rest day, but she will be back on stage tonight," she said, adding that she expected Boyle to take part in the rest of the tour, which runs until early July. The spokeswoman spoke anonymously in line with company policy.

Boyle, whose first appearance on the TV talent show generated had millions of YouTube hits and compliments from around the world, had been hospitalized a few weeks ago for exhaustion after finishing second in the competition.

The church volunteer was due on stage for a matinee and evening show at the Manchester Evening News Arena on Sunday, but did not perform.

She received standing ovations at the tour's previous shows in Birmingham and Sheffield.

Hundreds Attend LA Funeral for David Carradine

LOS ANGELES -- Hundreds of people, including friends, family and former co-stars, attended a funeral service for actor David Carradine Saturday.

Iran curbs media after poll result

Iran has taken steps to control the flow of information from both domestic and international news sources, accusing them of exaggerating reports of anti-government protests in Tehran, the capital.

On Monday, the government ordered the expulsion of a Spanish television crew who were covering the protests against the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, one of the journalists said.

"We are the unwelcome witnesses," Yolanda Alvarez of the RTVE public broadcasting network said.

"They want to get rid of all the foreign media ... the streets last night were full of ant-riot police. The reason there has been no repression (until now) is definitely because they know we were there," she said.

Al Jazeera's Teymoor Nabili, reporting from Tehran, said that it had become increasingly difficult for the media to operate in Iran since the elections results were announced on Saturday.

"Day-by-day our ability to access any information has been slowly whittled away," he said.

"I now stand in a position where I am no longer allowed to take a camera out onto the streets, I am not even sure if I can walk out onto the streets with a mobile phone without getting into trouble.

Newspaper suspended

Also on Monday, a reformist newspaper owned by Mir Hossein Mousavi, the defeated presidential candidate, was suspended by the authorities.

"It seems to be part of a pattern of behaviour by the Iranian authorities to limit the reporting of the aftermath of the disputed election"

Peter Horrocks,
BBC World Service director

According to a report in another newspaper, Mousavi's Kalameh Sabz (Green Word) newspaper was suspended following the publication of an unspecified caricature, and a complaint concerning an insult to Ahmadinejad.

The paper's website reported that more than 10 million votes in Friday's election were missing national identification numbers, data which make the vote "untraceable."

However, it did not say where it got the information.

The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) said its broadcast was being electronically jammed causing service disruptions for viewers and listeners in Iran, the Middle East and Europe.

It said it had traced the jamming of the satellite signal broadcasting its Farsi-language service to a spot inside Iran.

"It seems to be part of a pattern of behaviour by the Iranian authorities to limit the reporting of the aftermath of the disputed election,'' Peter Horrocks, the director of BBC World Service in London, said.

Internet filtering

Ahmadinejad lashed out at the media shortly after he claimed victory in the election that critics say was marked by widespread voter fraud.

The government increased its internet filtering. Social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter were not working, and mobile phone services were restored on Sunday, after being down on election day.

Geronimo Akerlund, a spokesman for the Swedish network SVT, said its reporter had been asked to "leave Iran as soon as possible", and Al Arabiya, the Dubai-based news network, said its correspondent in Tehran was verbally told by Iranian authorities that its office would be closed for a week.

At a news conference on Sunday, Ahmadinejad sought to allay fears about a media crackdown and said: "Don't worry about freedom in Iran. Newspapers come and go and reappear. Don't worry about it."

Morgan Freeman Responds to Auto Wreck Lawsuit

An attorney for Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman on Friday claimed a woman who was with the actor when he wrecked a car in Mississippi was partly to blame for the accident.

Attorney Jack Hayes, Jr. didn’t elaborate on how Demaris Meyer, who was in the car with Freeman when it ran off the road and flipped, may have helped cause the accident. Meyer is suing Freeman in U.S. District Court in Oxford, Miss. for negligence.

Both Meyer and Freeman were seriously injured during the accident, which occurred about five miles from his home.

Meyer sued Freeman in February for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, permanent disability and property damage.

Damon Weaver visits the West Wing of the White House

Her Essence Cover Latifah on Abuse and Could Have Married

Queen Latifah is looking summery and pretty fab on the July cover of Essence mag. In the issue, she reveals her story of her own abuse as a child that she’s never opened up about before:

Of the traumatic experience, Latifah tells that she was violated by a teenage babysitter, saying, “He violated me. I never told anybody. I just buried it as deeply as I could and kept people at an arms length. I never really let a person get too close to me.”

She also admits that, because of the abuse, she’s since struggled with commitment. “I could have been married years ago, but I had a commitment issue.”

Nationwide Insurance Survey Reveals African Americans in DC are Twice as Optimistic About Their Financial Future But Most Don't Have a Game Plan

Tavis Smiley and Nationwide Insurance Kick Off Five-City On Your Side® Tour in DC with Financial Empowerment Workshops

Washington, DC ( - African Americans in Washington, DC, are twice as optimistic as the general U.S. population that their financial situation will improve over the next year. However, most say they don't have a financial game plan and many don't know where to start, according to a new survey commissioned by The Smiley Group and Nationwide Insurance. To help people plan for a brighter future, the five-city On Your Side® Tour with Tavis Smiley is kicking off in Washington, DC, with free financial and retirement planning workshops that focus on empowering people with information and resources.

"It's one thing to be positive, but it's another to be practical, proactive and prepared to weather this difficult economic climate," said Smiley. "This survey reveals the critical need in DC for an honest assessment of our financial status and these workshops will help ensure that we are taking the steps necessary to safeguard the future for ourselves, our families and the next generation."

This free event is open to the public and will be held June 6 at the Washington Convention Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tavis Smiley will start the day with a general session, which will be followed by informational breakout sessions on financial planning, career planning and insurance information to help participants protect what matters to them most. Participants will be able to ask questions and receive tools and resources about financial planning. Additional 2009 scheduled stops include:

* August 15 in Philadelphia, PA
* September 19 in Sacramento, CA
* October 10 in Charlotte, NC
* October 24 in Charleston, SC

The need to address financial literacy -- especially among African-American households -- is highlighted in the survey of 1,600 Americans -- including 400 in DC -- that shows a disconnect between Americans' attitudes and actions when it comes to personal financial planning.

While 59 percent of African Americans in Washington, DC, expect their household situation to be better a year from now, compared to only 30 percent of the general U.S. population sharing similar optimism, most African Americans in DC surveyed indicated they are not taking deliberate actions to better their financial circumstances:

* Nearly half of African Americans in DC say they are not proactive about their financial future
* 2 in 3 say they do not have a written financial plan
* 1 in 5 say they don't know where to start when it comes to personal financial planning
* 4 in 5 do not have a professional financial advisor, because they don't think they need one or think they can't afford one.

More than half of African Americans in DC say they are confident in their ability to make savings and investment decisions, but nearly 2 out of 5 also indicate they are struggling with credit card debt.

On saving for college, nearly one in three African Americans in DC with children under 21 said they are extremely worried about being able to afford a college education for their children, while only about one in 20 actually have a college savings plan. Only 12 percent say saving for education is their most important financial goal.

Hungry for Information

While few African Americans in DC have a formal financial advisor or financial plan, they are more likely than African Americans across the country to have a written financial plan and shop around for financial products and services. African Americans in DC also show a greater interest than the general U.S. population in obtaining financial and retirement planning information from seminars, a financial advisor, an insurance agent, family/friends or television.

"This study is encouraging because it says that, despite the economic downturn, there is a strong desire in many Washington, DC households to seek out advice and information to overcome the immediate financial challenges and plan for long-term dreams like college and retirement," said Mark Berven, regional vice president for Nationwide's Mid Atlantic Region. "We're starting this tour in DC to help, because Nationwide shares Tavis Smiley's passion about empowering people with information and resources that can help them plan for a brighter future and protect what matters most to each household."

Teachable Moment for a Generation

African-American parents in Washington, DC, are much more likely than other parents in DC to have talked to their child about saving money and have done so within that past month (69 percent vs. 54 percent). However, of those participants with children in school, 4 out of 5 acknowledge they have not researched if their school teaches about saving money.

"Providing our children and young adults with basic information about finances and personal financial planning will have a profound effect on how the next generation spends, saves and invests," said Berven. "It's crucial that all Americans seek advice and information from someone they trust. There are many places to find advice for free and there are also professionals to help."

Minority Lawmakers Want Bill to Close Health Gaps

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Black, Latino and Asian lawmakers warned Democratic leaders that any health care overhaul that ignores health gaps between whites and minorities will face stiff opposition.

The lawmakers said they would be hard-pressed to support a bill without a new program providing access to health care for all Americans.

"The public health option has to be there," Rep. Mike Honda, a California Democrat who chairs the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said at a news conference. "If we don't have a public option, there's no discussion."

Republicans are resisting a government health insurance program that would compete with private insurance companies, arguing that the companies would be put at a competitive disadvantage.

Members of the Asian caucus, along with the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said they plan to introduce legislation this week that includes their wish list for broadening health care overhaul beyond various plans floated in the House and Senate. The three minority caucuses have a total of 91 members, most of them Democrats and enough to help shape the final legislation.

Citing federal research showing higher rates of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and infant mortality among minorities, they said they would seek more funds for community health centers that provide care in poor neighborhoods.

The lawmakers also called for expanding a National Institutes of Health center that focuses on minority health concerns, works to improve work force diversity in the medical industry and collects more data to better track disparities in health care.

They said the costs of reaching into low-income, minority communities to improve upfront health care would be more than offset in the long run by preventing expensive procedures and hospital stays.

"Believe me, a comprehensive health care reform bill without the aspects that we're discussing today will be set for failure," said Rep. Nydia Velazquez, a New York Democrat who chairs the Hispanic caucus.

Later, at a discussion of minority health issues at the White House, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the Obama administration is committed to addressing the "alarming disparity in the delivery of quality health care."

Doing so, Sebelius told officials, is critical to lowering health care costs.

Sebelius noted that 75 percent of the nation's $2.2 trillion health care expenses go toward treating chronic diseases, referring to far higher rates of such diseases among minorities. She said the rising rates of HIV/AIDS among African-Americans is among "the most troubling" developments in U.S. health care.

"Minority Americans not only are more likely to be uninsured, so they don't have preventative care, don't have early intervention, but are less likely to have quality care when they come to seek the care that they need," she said.

The White House issued a summary report on minority health care showing that African-Americans are seven times more likely as whites to have HIV/AIDS, that blacks and Hispanics have diabetes rates nearly twice as high as whites, and that black men are 50 percent more likely than whites to have prostate cancer.

The report said more than one in three Hispanics and American Indians, and about one in five African-Americans, are uninsured. That compares to one in eight whites lacking coverage.

Palestinians angered by Netanyahu peace terms

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Palestinian officials sought U.S and European help to salvage foundering peacemaking on Monday after tough terms laid out by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but they stopped short of refusing to resume negotiations.

Palestinian disappointment was echoed in capitals across the Arab world, where leaders accused Netanyahu of setting more obstacles in the path of an already stymied peace process.

Laying out his Mideast policy in a speech Sunday, Netanyahu bent to U.S. pressure and backed down on decades of opposition to Palestinian statehood. He invited the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world to resume peace talks.

However, he removed from the negotiating agenda the fate of Palestinian refugees displaced by Israel's 1948 creation and said Israel would retain sovereignty over all of Jerusalem — two issues previous Israeli governments had agreed to negotiate.

Netanyahu also said he would keep building in Jewish settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians, despite a U.S. demand for a complete freeze. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said he would not resume talks unless Israel honored previous pledges to halt construction.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Netanyahu's speech was so riddled with conditions that he "left nothing for negotiations."

But he said the Palestinians didn't want to be cast in the role of rejectionists and didn't rule out the resumption of talks that broke off late last year.

"Netanyahu wants to put us in a situation where he looks like he offered something, and we said no," Erekat said. "Netanyahu's speech was very clear. He rejects the two-state solution."

Erekat said he contacted American, European and Russian mediators in the wake of the speech and urged them to hold Israel — along with the Palestinians — to their obligations under previous peace plans. Israel is required to halt settlement construction, while Palestinians are asked to rein in militants.

Abbas's popular support has been slipping because of failed attempts to negotiate a peace deal with Israel. He would likely lose credibility at home if he resumes negotiations without a halt in settlement construction first.

Netanyahu spoke after months of pressure from Washington to endorse Palestinian statehood, as successive Israeli governments before his have done.

In Washington, Robert Gibbs, a spokesman for President Barack Obama, welcomed Netanyahu's conditional acceptance of Palestinian statehood as an "important step forward."

But he suggested more needs to be done, saying the U.S. would work with all sides to make sure they fulfill the obligations "necessary to achieve a two-state solution."

The European Union also said Netanyahu's endorsement was a step in the right direction.

At the same time, Netanyahu's nationalist tone, tough conditions and vague language on peacemaking appeared to avert a crisis in his hawkish coalition, where there was strong opposition to the U.S. pressure.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the most powerful hard-liner in Netanyahu's government, said the prime minister's speech outlined "the balance between our aspirations for peace and the aspiration for security."

"Netanyahu opened the door to the Palestinians and the Arab nations to begin peace talks, and we hope the other side will take up the offer to renew negotiations," Lieberman said after the speech.

In his speech, Netanyahu called on Arab leaders to meet with him "any time, any place."

But he pointedly avoided mentioning an Arab peace initiative that offers to trade normalized ties with the entire Arab world for a complete Israeli withdrawal from lands captured in 1967, a demand Israel rejects.

He demanded Palestinians recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state — another way of saying Palestinian refugees must give up their hopes of returning to lost homes inside Israel.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a key mediator between Israel and the Palestinians, said that demand "will further complicate the situation and scuttle any chance of peace," according to the state news agency MENA.

In Jordan, the pro-government Al-Rai daily ran an editorial titled, "Netanyahu offered rotten merchandise. Nobody will buy it."

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman described Netanyahu's speech as "intransigent when it comes to dealing with peace or regarding the solution for Palestinian refugees." Saudi Arabia's state-run Al-Nadwa daily said "every paragraph of Netanyahu's speech makes us more pessimistic."

The Arab League's undersecretary general for Palestinian affairs, Mohammed Sobeih, said the speech might satisfy "extremists in Israel" but was "too far from what peace needs."

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who brokered the landmark 1979 treaty between Egypt and Israel, said his experience in the region shows that no differences are insurmountable.

"We had even greater differences between me and (Israeli leader) Menachem Begin when he was first elected," Carter said after meeting with Israeli lawmakers in Jerusalem. "But we gave ground on both sides, we sought common ground and he, with his political courage and integrity, was able to reach an accomodation, not with me, but with (Egyptian President) Anwar Sadat."

Associated Press writers Amy Teibel, Ben Hubbard and Joseph Marks contributed from Jerusalem. Omar Sinan contributed from Cairo, Bassem Mroue contributed from Beirut and Donna Abu-Nasr contributed from Riyadh.

NBA Finals Game 5 (contains spoilers!)

The Lakers did it! They won their title #15, Phil Jackson's title #10, Kobe Bryant title #4. The Magic appeared wounded by after the occasion lost in game 4 while the Lakers looked more confident and ready to take the final win. The first half was close but in the second half the Lakers took control of the game and in the fourth quarter they never gave the impression they could lose it.

It's obviously an incredible satisfaction for Kobe Bryant, the obvious MVP for the Finals: someone said that he couldn't win without Shaq but he did it, now maybe someone will say that he can't win a title without Fisher... Gasol and Odom got a lot of criticism last year but in these finals they won their match-up versus Howard, Ariza was in the roster last year's finals but he had just come back from an injury so this time he was really able to give his contribution and of course there's Derek Fisher, the veteran you can trust when the ball is really heavy.

The Magic achieved a great goal reaching the finals considering that they defeated the defending champions Celtics and the favourite Cavaliers, now they need to keep that group and come back with the same attitude next season.

For the Lakers eventually it all came together which can look incredible if you think that:

Phil Jackson left the Lakers in 2004 and published a book that contained comments about Kobe Bryant that were far from kind;

Derek Fisher left the Lakers and came back just because his daugher was diagnosed with a rare desease and in Los Angeles she could get the proper medical attention;

Kobe Bryant was about to leave the Lakers in 2007 because he thought he couldn't win another title with that team and there was a very serious offer from the Clippers.

Well, it's Hollywood after all so don't be surprised of the way things turned out!

Now the Lakers must try to resign Odom and Ariza and hope that Bynum will learn from his negative experience of these playoffs and will come back to play next season without injuries and the next playoffs with some confidence to show his real value.

Tens of thousands defy ban to march in Tehran in support of Mousavi

Tens of thousands of Iranian opposition activists have taken to the streets of Iran for a third day protesting against the disputed presidential election, defying a ban by the Interior Ministry.

Chanting crowds wearing green campaign colours greeted Mir Hossein Mousavi, the defeated candidate in Friday's disputed presidential elections, as he slowly moved through the streets on the back of a four-wheel drive car.

"Mousavi we support you! We will die but retrieve our votes!" shouted the crowds of thousands, young and old, who packed his route.

Both Mr Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, another defeated candidate who appeared alongside him today, have lodged complaints that the vote was rigged, after the results - which awarded a record-breaking 25 million votes and 63 per cent of the electorate to President Ahmadinejad - were announced before the ballot boxes had even been opened in some areas.

Today it emerged that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, has been forced by the strength of public opinion to perform a U-turn and back an election inquiry.

On Saturday Ayatollah Khamenei declared that the victory by Mr Ahmadinejad, his political creature, were not merely fair but a "divine intervention".

"This is a turnaround for Khamenei, and it's an embarrassing one," said Professor Ali Ansari, the director of the Iranian Institute at St Andrews University.

Dozens more protesters were arrested overnight, as police and militia stormed the campus at Tehran's biggest university after about 3,000 students at dormitories of Tehran University began a demonstration, chanting "Death to the dictator".

Tehran University was the site of intense but short-lived clashes during student-led protests in 1999, and is one of the nerve centres of the pro-reform movement.

Iran's powerful 12-member Guardians Council said today it would rule on the candidates' complaints within 10 days. The chances that they will overturn the result are thought to be remote.

Despite the use of teargas, rubber bullets and beatings by baton-wielding militiamen, there have been no reported fatalities. But with most of the foreign journalists allowed into Iran to report on the election due to leave today, there are fears that the crackdown may intensify.

Iran faced a growing backlash abroad over the election result.

The Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said today that there were signs of irregularities in the election, while her Foreign Minister summoned the Iranian ambassador for a dressing-down over the tactics employed by baton-wielding police.

“The actions of the Iranian security forces are completely unacceptable,” said Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in comments shown on German television.

Both Mr Steinmeier and Bernard Kouchner, his French counterpart, today urged Iran to hold a swift inquiry into claims of vote rigging.