Saturday, May 29, 2010

It’s Time: “UFC 114: Evans vs Rampage” – A grudge match to savour

UFC 114 is packed full of interesting fights with the pick of the action being a genuine grudge match between Rashad Evans and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.

Evans and Jackson were coaches on the least season of the Ultimate Fighter and the escalating animosity between them was there for all to see. The idea was that the two coaches should meet in a light heavyweight showdown once the series had concluded but instead Jackson surprisingly announced his retirement from MMA.

Frustrated fight fans wishing to see the two settle their differences in the Octagon will finally get their wish at UFC 114. It is an intriguing match up between two fighters who despite their very public differences share obvious similarities.

Both are former light heavyweight champions, both have only been beaten once in the UFC and both come from a wrestling background. Both men are good with their hands and both hold first round knockouts over former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell.

Jackson is not renowned for his submissions but is more than competent on the ground. Despite having been recently awarded a BJJ black belt Evans has never won a professional MMA match by submission. Jackson appeared particularly susceptible to low kicks in his loss to Forrest Griffin. This is one aspect of his game which Evans may look to exploit but he may be reluctant to throw too many kicks for fear of being taken down.

Unless either man has a major surprise in store it is likely that the game plan for both will be to either finish the fight with a big right hand or impress the judges with a series of eye catching take down. With a huge amount of pride at stake, as well as a shot at newly crowned light heavyweight champion Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, this is a fight fit to headline any UFC card.

While the headliners may be motivated by their dislike for one another Dan Miller and Michael Bisping should need no more motivation then the knowledge that they will be fighting for their UFC futures in this middleweight clash. Both men have lost two out of their last three fights and another loss would do serious damage to their chances or long term survival in the UFC. Bisping’s profile is sufficiently high that the UFC will be reluctant to cut him too quickly but three losses out of four would leave him in a very precarious position. A third consecutive defeat would almost certainly spell the end of Miller’s UFC career.

Miller is a BJJ black belt and will be looking for a submission win. Bisping is a well rounded fighter whose only losses have been to the very best in the business, Rashad Evans, Dan Henderson and most recently Wanderlei Silva. He bounced back from both his previous losses and will be looking to get back on track after a disappointing decision loss to Silva. Bisping will be looking to utilize his stand up whereas Miller will be desperate to take the fight to the floor which should make for an interesting clash of styles.

Recent heavyweight arrivals Todd Duffee and Mike Russow find themselves surprisingly high up the card. Although a newcomer to the UFC Russow is a veteran of 14 MMA fights and will be looking to make a name for himself by making it two UFC wins out of two. Duffee is still something on an unknown quantity having won his first fight by knock out only seven seconds into the opening round. An impressive win could potentially catapault either man up the rankings in a division which currently lacks a little depth.

A couple of more established fighters will also be in action. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira stepped out of the shadow of his elder brother, former heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, in spectacular style knocking out Luiz Cane in the very first round of his UFC debut.

He looks an outstanding prospect in a division dominated by Brazilians and will be expected to easily overcome the challenge of Jason Brilz. A late replacement for the injured Forrest Griffin, Brilz is a wrestler who has won three out of his four UFC fights. Nogueira is an excellent boxer and will be looking for another early knock. He is also a BJJ black belt and even if Brilz can take him down he will be very comfortable fighting off his back. It would represent a major surprise if Brilz can stop ‘little Nog’ from rising further up the light heavyweight rankings.

Diego Sanchez has decided to vacate the lightweight division after a vicious beating at the hands of BJ Penn. He returns to the welterweight division to face unbeaten Englishman John Hathaway. It will be by far the toughest test of Hathaway’s career with Sanchez expected to make an immediate return to winning ways.

UFC 114 is an enticing concoction of veterans with a point to prove and up and coming fighters with nothing to lose. The highlight will undoubtedly be the long awaited clash between Evans and Jackson. These two have not been shy about expressing their dislike for one another and now it is time for them to let their fists and feet do the talking.

Jamaica's Violence Claims 73 Lives While Authorities Seek Drug Kingpin

Jamaica Unrest Death Toll Reaches 73 -- Voice of America

Jamaican police say 73 people have been killed since authorities launched an assault Sunday for an alleged drug lord wanted by the United States.

Authorities announced the increased death toll Thursday.

The outbreak of violence was triggered when the Jamaican government moved to extradite Christopher "Dudus" Coke. He is wanted in the United States for alleged cocaine and arms trafficking.

Read more ....

Crushing burden of student loan debt

Parents of Earth, read this New York Times column! Excerpt:

Like many middle-class families, Cortney Munna and her mother began the college selection process with a grim determination. They would do whatever they could to get Cortney into the best possible college, and they maintained a blind faith that the investment would be worth it.

Today, however, Ms. Munna, a 26-year-old graduate of New York University, has nearly $100,000 in student loan debt from her four years in college, and affording the full monthly payments would be a struggle. For much of the time since her 2005 graduation, she's been enrolled in night school, which allows her to defer loan payments.

This is not a long-term solution, because the interest on the loans continues to pile up. So in an eerie echo of the mortgage crisis, tens of thousands of people like Ms. Munna are facing a reckoning. They and their families made borrowing decisions based more on emotion than reason, much as subprime borrowers assumed the value of their houses would always go up.

Meanwhile, universities like N.Y.U. enrolled students without asking many questions about whether they could afford a $50,000 annual tuition bill. Then the colleges introduced the students to lenders who underwrote big loans without any idea of what the students might earn someday -- just like the mortgage lenders who didn't ask borrowers to verify their incomes.

Columnist Ron Lieber adds:

It is utterly depressing that there are so many people like her facing decades of payments, limited capacity to buy a home and a debt burden that can repel potential life partners. For starters, it's a shared failure of parenting and loan underwriting.

But perhaps the biggest share lies with colleges and universities because they have the most knowledge of the financial aid process. And I would argue that they had an obligation to counsel students like Ms. Munna, who got in too far over their heads.

I've written before here about how when I was preparing for college in 1984, I had stars in my eyes about Georgetown. My father pointed out that we couldn't afford it. No problem, I told him, I'll apply for student loans. He put the smackdown on that idea, saying it was foolish to go heavily into debt for an undergraduate degree. I thought he was a mean old bastard. I ended up at LSU on scholarship. It was one of the greatest things my dad ever did for me: giving me the gift of graduating without the burden of student loan debt. I can't tell you what an impression that made on me, and how grateful I am for it. And it has made me radically re-evaluate the advice the follow-your-bliss a respected English professor gave me when I was an undergraduate. I didn't take it -- I thought my bliss then was a philosophy degree -- because I was fortunate enough to discover a love of and a talent for journalism. Still, while I understand where that professor was coming from, that kind of advice borders on malpractice. Professors, like the college loan officers cited in Lieber's column, seem to feel their responsibilities end at keeping the system running, no matter what the ultimate cost in indebtedness and poor job prospects to the undergraduates.

When my niece Hannah was here last week, I listened to her dreams for college, and told her the story of how Pawpaw once seemed like a cruel crusher of my college dreams, with his stingy bean-counting -- but how I later understood that he had made for me an extremely wise choice, one I was incapable of making because I was thinking emotionally, and receiving enabling advice from people who had the same emotional orientation toward higher education that I did (e.g., there's no such thing as paying too much for a top-quality education). I don't know if any of it sank in; I'd be surprised if it did. So it may well fall to her parents to be spited for a few years, then thanked profusely later, once Hannah gets into the dreaded Real World, and grasps how much a big student loan load would straitjacket her future and freedom of movement.

"All I could see was college, and a good college and how proud I was of her," [Cortney Munna's mom] Cathryn said. "All we needed to do was get this education and get the good job. This is the thing that eats away at me, the naïveté on my part."

By Rod Dreher

Back home in Chicago, Obama hits hardwood floor

CHICAGO (AP) — President Barack Obama has begun his hometown holiday weekend by playing some basketball.
The president is in Chicago with his family for a few days over the Memorial Day weekend.
Obama left his home in the Hyde Park neighborhood on Saturday morning and arrived at the University of Chicago Lab School to play basketball.

He wore a Chicago White Sox cap — they’re his favorite baseball team.

His daughters, Malia and Sasha, attended the Lab School when the family lived in Chicago.

Gaza Latest: Israel Prepares Confrontation with “Freedom Flotilla”

Posted by Ali Yenidunya

On Saturday, seven ships from a “Freedom Flotilla”, bringing aid, will try and reach Gaza. It will be met by at least 12 Israeli naval boats, helicopters, and a “counter-flotilla”.

On Friday, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman denounced the flotilla:

The aid convoy is violent propaganda against Israel, and Israel will not allow its sovereignty to be threatened in any way, in any place – land, air or sea.

There is no humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Despite Hamas’ war crimes against Israeli citizens and the thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns, Israel continues to respond in the most humane way possible.

Israel: “The Ideal State: A Dream-Country Without Criticism” (Levy)

Israeli gunships were ordered to take position to stop the convoy, and West Jerusalem made clear that it would overtake the ships as soon as they enter a 20-mile Israeli-controlled zone off Gaza. If the ships do not stop, Israel will attempt to connect the flotilla to naval boats and tow them to the Israeli port of Ashdod where the Israelis have prepared a detention centre. Those who do not want to take a flight back home will be taken to jail.

On Friday, Greta Berlin, one of the organizers of the effort, said a total of seven ships were headed to Gaza after an eighth vessel suffered a malfunction and had to turn back. Halting during darkness, they are expected to reach Israeli waters on Saturday.

The Israel Defense Forces responded that they will not hesitate to use limited force. The Turkish daily Hurriyet reports that the IDF will use a special technology to blackout media coverage in case of an operation.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Ministry Director General Yossi Gal held a round of explanatory calls with foreign ministers from countries whose citizens are participating in the flotilla. The Israeli message is that the activists are welcome to bring the humanitarian aid to the port of Ashdod, where it will be examined and, if found suitable, will be permitted to enter the Gaza Strip through land crossings. If the activists try to break the siege, they will be arrested.

The spokesman of the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, Umit Sonmez, said that the organisation does not trust Israeli officials who took the members of an earlier convoy into custody for 21 days for no reason. The HRF had written to Israeli officials regarding the planned journey to Gaza but had not received any reply.

Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, writing in Haaretz, assess:

The flotilla is not expected to alter in any substantial way the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. It is mostly a battle of public relations that is meant to strike a blow at Israel. Perhaps if Israel was less eager to confront the activists, some of the media attention would have dissipated. Had the flotilla been allowed in, Hamas would have its day, and the entire affair would evaporate quickly.

Haaretz’s editors urged the Israeli Government to resume indirect talks with Hamas, to be more flexible about releasing prisoners and to lift the siege on Gaza. They argue that blockade, siege, and military operations, with the hope that Gazans would topple Hamas, has failed: “The suffering that Israel is causing 1.5 million people for this purpose is not only inhuman, but extremely detrimental to Israel’s status around the world”.

The editors warn, “Even if Israel manages to prevent the flotilla from reaching Gaza, it will still have to contend with other demonstrations of support.”

Dennis Hopper, RIP

**Written by guest-blogger Doug Powers

This past week, Art Linkletter and Gary Coleman died, and this morning came news that actor Dennis Hopper has passed after a long battle with cancer:

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Hollywood actor Dennis Hopper, best known for directing and starring in the 1969 cult classic “Easy Rider,” died Saturday at his home in Venice, California, from complications of prostate cancer, a friend told Reuters. Hopper was 74.

The hard-living screen icon died at 8:15 a.m. PDT , surrounded by family and friends, said the friend, Alex Hitz.

I always enjoyed Hopper’s on-screen presence — something about him was easy to watch no matter what the role.

Hopper was also a Hollywood rarity: A Republican since Reagan (Hopper once said that in his earlier years he was “as left as you can get without being a communist”) — but that Republican streak ended after Hopper voted for Barack Obama, reportedly because he didn’t like McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin. But that was Dennis Hopper — unpredictable, but always interesting and entertaining.

So what was your favorite Dennis Hopper role (degree of difficulty: No “Easy Rider”)? Oh I’m just kidding — we can’t possibly remove that from the mix. Put me down for his role as “Shooter” in the film Hoosiers, for which Hopper received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

**Written by guest-blogger Doug Powers