"God Bless the Dream, the Dreamer and the Result." 

Monday, June 30, 2008

Ed McMahon's "Banapple"

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

N. Dakota's New Crop: Instant Millionaires

Many North Dakotans are enjoying their own milkshakes as oil makes landowners instant millionaires. Oil companies are drilling new wells at record rates, and those lucky enough to own the land above deposits are becoming wealthy overnight, the AP reports. "It's the easiest money we've ever made," says an ex-sales clerk.

The president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council puts the number of new millionaires, anecdotally, at one a day. Some large new homes are being built, but most North Dakotans "don't want people to know how much money they got and they don't want to be tagged with being wealthy—they want to be themselves," says a local government official.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Healthcare - Why Congress Can't Fix It

by: Bob Kinford

Hillary Clinton says she will fix our health care system. Barack Obama says he can fix it better. The fact is that neither of them will “fix” anything. Either of them will change system, but there are some serious issues as to why neither of their plans will actually do anything to lower the cost of health care in the United States. The reason is very simple when you stop and think about it rather than get emotional about the issue.

You cannot solve a problem until you know what the cause(s) of the problem are. As with most problems of the self-inflicted kind, no one in the government can look in the mirror and see himself or herself as a part of the problem. Are drug companies, insurance companies, hospitals, and doctors regulated? Yes, they are, and guess who creates the legislation to regulate them. Congress does. Who are the people claiming to have the plan to fix health care? The very people who have been regulating it in the first place. Until Congress can look itself in the eye and realize that it is the cause of our health care problems, the problems will not be fixed. The problems in our health care system are multi-layered and Congress is at the center of every layer.

Nearly everyone agrees the cost of health care in the United States is dramatically higher in the United States than either Canada or Mexico. Just how much so is astounding. A prime example was when I was working in Montana on the Canadian border. I injured my leg, and as the closest medical facility was i across the border in Canada. The total cost of the visit (including doctor’s fees for stitching my leg, admittance, and drugs) was under $50. In the United States, we pay that much just for the local anesthesia. It does not stop there. I have worked in the livestock industry for over thirty years. We use many of the same drugs in cattle that are administered to people for respiratory illness. If it cost twenty-five dollars to treat on a three hundred pound calf on a five-day treatment, we consider it an expensive medicine. This is about the same as treating two average sized people. The drug dexamethasone, purchased through a veterinarian, costs roughly five and a half cents per mil-liter. It your child is born prematurely, he/she will be administered the same medicine for a hundred dollars a mil-liter. Even giving consideration to the fact there are different strengths of this drug the markup for the higher strength (at $0.25 per ml) is still a four hundred percent markup

Over charging the American people for drugs is just one layer. While I have nothing against drug or insurance companies making a profit, a four hundred-time markup is more akin to robbery than it is to profit. If drug companies make a profit on the drugs they sell in Canada and Mexico, they should be able to sell them at the same price here in the United States and still make a decent profit.

Another layer is malpractice suits and the costs of malpractice insurance that is passed on to the consumer through higher prices in actual medical costs, and medical insurance as well. The biggest problem with malpractice suits is that the insurance companies want to save the money of going to trial so they settle out of court. This protects doctors from actually being found, in court, of being negligent. It also encourages attorneys to take on frivolous malpractice suits on a contingency basis because the odds show that it will be settled out of court. Congress needs to pass legislation demanding that all malpractice suits go to trial and that if the doctor is not found guilty, that the attorney filing the suit cover all court costs and legal fees.

Along this same line, currently if a doctor loses their license due to malpractice in one state, they simply go to another state, get a new license and start over. Congress needs to pass legislation requiring all doctors to have a federal license to practice medicine. Before a state could issue a license to practice medicine they would need to cross reference the doctor with the federal data base. In this manner, a doctor guilty of malpractice could not just start over in another state.

The third layer is health insurance. While the advertised purpose of health insurance companies is to provide you with health care, the real reason behind these companies is for them to turn a profit for their shareholders. When you buy a policy, the company is gambling that you will pay more into the system than you take out. Your premiums are combined with those of others buy from them as well as other investments they make in order to hedge against their losses. Most will not pay for pre-existing conditions because that is a bad bet. Your pre-existing condition assures them that they will have to pay out more than you will put into the program. This is a perfectly understandable practice. However, setting limits on how much they will pay, or canceling your policy, if and when you do have a catastrophic illness shows only a concern for the bottom line and not for the customer. The bottom line is that cancellation should only occur if a client does not pay the premiums for reasons other than catastrophic illness. There needs to be provisions made to protect the policies of those who become so sick they cannot work enough to pay their policy premiums.

Along the same lines, if you lose your job, you also lose your company provided insurance. Help is available with the COBRA plan, but it is expensive and unaffordable for many of those being forced to live on unemployment while searching for another job. It is just another quasi safety net to make it look like the government understands, and is taking action on the problem. Something needs to be done to assure that if one loses their job, that their company provided insurance would not lapse. Legislation could be passed to continue covering employer provided insurance through unemployment.

Another big cost of health care is advertising prescription drugs. Billions of dollars are spent by drug companies advertising in multi media formats like modern day snake oil salespersons. Drugs are advertised along with their symptoms to get people to visit their doctors and ask for the drug. It should be the other way around. If you don’t feel well and go to the doctor, you should be able to tell him/her what your symptoms are and he should tell you what kind of drug you need. These advertisements only add to the healthcare problem by increased costs, and by instilling general hypochondria in the general population.

While this is but a short version of the problems with our health care system, it shows some of the biggest flaws. It also demonstrates that, at the middle of each problem, is our very own Congress. Before Congress can develop a health care program there is a list of things they need to do:

1. Determine the cost of drugs in neighboring countries

2. Regulate drug costs in this country to be more in line with our neighbors to the north and south of us (as well as in line with the rest of the world.)

3. Have a national program to register doctors and keep doctors who lose their license from starting practice in a new state

4. Prevent malpractice lawsuits from being settled out of court, with the attorney filing the case paying court costs and doctor’s legal expenses.

5. Standardize insurance policies

6. Pass legislation to preventing insurance companies from canceling policies for any reason other than non-payment (for reasons other than hospitalization or being disabled from medical conditions)

7. Pass legislation preventing insurance loss from job loss by paying premiums through unemployment benefits

8. Cut billions out of the cost of drugs by prohibiting the advertising of prescription drugs

Congress could, and should have addressed all of the above items to lower the price of healthcare. Yet they have not been addressed. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both claim to have the cure for our healthcare crisis yet they have not mentioned any of the above problems within our healthcare system. Before you can fix anything, you have to know what the problem is. Fixing our healthcare system by instituting a national healthcare system (paid for by taxpayers) is akin to painting a car to fix a faulty transmission. It may look better from the outside, but it does not fix the problem. The only way to fix the problem is to actually address the issues causing the problems. While this is only a partial list of what needs to be done, it does address the real problems behind our healthcare issues. These are all problems which need to be addressed by Congress. The only way to get Congress to look at the situation in a different manner is to change Congress. We need to level the power base in Washington.

The only way of doing this is to set term limits on all Washington held elected offices. This is a Constitutional amendment we can make as provided by article V of the Constitution You may visit my website and download a copy of a petition to do just that from my Constitutional Conventions page. Be sure to read the requirement for this petition to be legal. Check the threads in the forum. If there is not one for circulating the petition in you state, start one by clicking on “post” and you will be able to start the thread. Inform all of the people in your email address book about this campaign and urge them to join and notify their friends and family.

Government for the people, by the people is dependent upon the people. If we do not take individual action for change, we will be dependent upon change from those whose main interest is their own power, and their own place in history. We have the tools imbedded in our Constitution to change our government for the better. We also have the tools of communication to efficiently use those tools. The only way our government can go against our will, is for us to allow it. If we do not work towards change, than we cannot complain when government does not follow our wishes.

About The Author

Bob Kinford is a common working man who looks through the facade of modern politics. He is also a man who is giving "we the people" a chance to change teh face of American politics at http://www.bobkinford.com

World's Diciest Landing Strips

The scenery is spectacular, but lofty mountaintops, stiff trade winds, and abbreviated tarmacs make for teeth-clenching landings at the world’s most harrowing runways, per Travel and Leisure:

Paro Airport, Bhutan: Surrounded by 16,000-foot-high Himalayan peaks, what could possibly go wrong?

Barra Airport, Scotland: Hold on tight. The roughness of your sandy landing is determined by the outgoing tide.

Princess Juliana International Airport, St. Maarten: Landing on a 6,000-foot runway is easy—immediately hit brakes.
Repeat as necessary.

JFK, New York: If you thought the subway was crowded, try squeezing between LaGuardia- and Newark-bound traffic—and there's the inhospitable waters of Jamaica Bay if your plane overshoots.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Chicago Watchful for Second Helping of Tainted Taste

With news still coming of people stricken by tomatoes tainted with salmonella, health officials say they're taking full precautions to prevent another outbreak at this year's Taste of Chicago, the Tribune reports. Booths will be inspected four times a day for sanitary conditions at the event, which begins today—though authorities warn they don't test actual dishes for safety.

Last year’s salmonella appearance, officials reminded, was due to bacteria already present in the dish when it was brought to the Taste. "When our inspectors inspect the food, we don't take it to a lab for testing,” Chicago’s health commissioner said. "All we're looking for is conditions that would promote the growth of bacteria."

Last Thing Bulls Should Give Rose is Time

Chicago Bulls GM John Paxson said after last night's NBA draft that he thinks the team should give Derrick Rose some time to settle in, but he seems to be the only person who thinks so, writes Jay Mariotti of the Chicago Sun-Times. The No. 1 draft pick says he wants to focus on "being a point guard and coming in and starting."

"I'm just going to assume Paxson was delirious and doesn't remember making the comment," Mariotti writes. Rose, he says "needs to play and play a hell of a lot." Gaining Rose means the Bulls will have to shed at least one guard, and the No. 1 draft pick is aware that his return to his hometown means the boot for Kirk Hinrich or Ben Gordon.

Tomatoes May Not Be Behind Salmonella Outbreak

As salmonella cases continue to climb, the government is checking to see whether tainted tomatoes are in fact to blame for the record outbreak, the AP reports. Federal officials say the problem may be with another ingredient or with a warehouse contaminating newly harvested tomatoes.The widening outbreak, with 810 people confirmed ill, means whatever is making people sick could still be on the market.

Tomatoes remain the top suspect, and the advice on which ones consumers should avoid hasn't changed, the FDA's food safety chief said. Most worrisome, the latest victim became sick on June 15, long after the outbreak began on April 10 and weeks after government warnings stripped supermarkets and restaurants of many tomatoes.

Teary Farewell for Gates

Microsoft celebrated Bill Gates’ last day as a full-time employee today, the Seattle Times reports. More than 800 employees, family members and friends shared memories at the company’s corporate conference center in Redmond, Wash. CEO Steve Ballmer bid a tearful farewell to his longtime friend: "We've been given a enormous opportunity, and Bill gave us that opportunity," he told the audience.

"My life's work really is about software and working with incredible people," Gates said, also tearing up. "And I love working with smart people. I love working with Steve. I love working with all the incredible people here."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

MC Shaq Rips Kobe in Rap

Even with the Lakers and Celtics matchup over, all is not quiet on the NBA rivalry front. Shaquille O'Neal took the mic at a New York club to perform a freestyle rap suggesting that Kobe Bryant couldn't win a championship without his former teammate: "You know how I be. Last week Kobe couldn't do without me." Shaq says his (mostly unprintable) two-minute verse "was all done in fun," reports the Los Angeles Times.

The Suns center, who has recorded six rap albums, alluded in his lyrics to the accusation Bryant once made that the big man had paid women to stay quiet about his dalliances. "Kobe ratted me out. That's why I'm getting divorced," O'Neal sang. His Miami Heat took the championship in 2006; Bryant hasn't won a title since O'Neal left the Lakers.

Internet Group Eases Rules for New Domain Names

The Internet's key oversight agency relaxed rules today to permit the introduction of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of new Internet domain names to join ".com," making the first sweeping changes in the network's 25-year-old addressing system. The panel, meeting in Paris, unanimously approved new guidelines to streamline review of proposed new suffixes; under the old rules, only 13 were approved in the last 8 years.

New names likely won't start appearing until at least next year, and the agency won't be deciding on specific ones until details are worked out, including fees, expected to exceed $100,000 apiece. The streamlined guidelines call for an initial review phase, during which anyone may raise an objection on such grounds as racism, trademark conflicts, and similarity to an existing suffix. The group also voted unanimously to open public comment on a proposal to permit addresses entirely in non-English languages for the first time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What are the Advantages of having a Bluetooth Wireless Headset ?

by: Frank Anderson

In today’s busy world everyone tries to fit 24 hours of life into an 8 hour day, we are so busy with kids, jobs, spouses, deadlines and commitments. In this busy world we answer the Question, What are the advantages of having a Bluetooth wireless headset?

So, what are the advantages of having a Bluetooth wireless headset you ask?

Well the First and best advantage of a Bluetooth wireless Headset is that both of your hands are free to be of use to you at all times. Have you ever seen a person with a broken arm or no arm at all? Why limit yourself to only having one hand free as you go about your business? Think about this because this is exactly what you are doing when you talk on your cell phone without a Bluetooth wireless headset.

The second advantage of having a Bluetooth wireless headset is when you do any activity your focus is more on that activity than keeping your phone glued to your ear.

Another advantage of a Bluetooth wireless headset which is my favorite is that when you are making business (or personal) calls you are free to roam around the house or office to be more productive, if your are calling somewhere that puts you on hold (for the next available agent) without a Bluetooth you tend to sit around waiting for a extended period of time, being unproductive, but try this with a Bluetooth wireless headset. When I am at home trying to take of business I don’t just sit around on hold, now I will do whatever I can, the trash, clean, laundry, unload the dishwasher or anything else that needs to be done while I am on hold. This makes me extremely more productive in life and I never have much time so I am grateful when I can save a little, you should try this too.

The fourth advantage I can think of in owning a Bluetooth wireless headset is I seem to be more apt to call my family (sometimes I don’t know if this is good or bad) but overall this is a good thing my parents are getting older and I need to check in with them more often. I can usually accomplish this while still going about my daily business.

Another use for a Bluetooth wireless headset is, while driving it keeps your hands on the wheel and not plastered to your ear, personally I DO NOT recommend this except in emergencies, but I know many people are going to do this so at least it is safer than having one hand on the wheel, this is where my wife makes all of her phone calls on the way to work. But please remember driving is difficult enough without any distractions so the more things you try to do the more dangerous it becomes.

In this day and age of the internet and other outlets it is easier than ever to own a Bluetooth wireless hands free headset it does not matter which area of the country you live in urban or rural buying a Bluetooth is just a click away, many websites offer free shipping or discounts one site like this is my own www.BluetoothsRus.com we offer free shipping for orders over $49 and a discount for those who try to save a little more, ours is “UPS” which you enter in the checkout page of the site in the preferred customer code area, this will save you 10% off your entire order.

Another advantage of a Bluetooth wireless headset is not getting an expensive ticket, many states have current or pending laws regarding use of cellular devices while driving, if it’s illegal you will get an expensive ticket. Many states allow for hands free devices like Bluetooths. Bluetooths wireless headsets come in many styles and colors; also Bluetooths that clip on your cars visor or lay on a table are available for those who do not like to wear earpieces.

One last advantage to buying a Bluetooth wireless headset it they make Great Gifts, so if you need a gift that people will remember a Bluetooth is truly a great one. You can get most bluetooths for under $100 and many under $50. A gift like this is sure to be remembered for a long time and its so easy some web-sites offer gift wrapping (for a Fee) but the gift goes directly to the person and no hassles for you, so just sit back and take the credit,” What a country”.

In closing I hope I have answered the question: What are the advantages of owning a bluetooth wireless headset? Have a great day, and if you have any other questions on this topic feel free to e-mail me at the address on my website. Remember technology is a great thing and can save you a lot of time if used wisely so take advantage of any product that can make your quality of life better; this is why I do recommend a Bluetooth wireless headset.

Bizarro Travel-Industry Jobs

From Parisian sewer guides to a coconut safety engineer in St. Thomas, some travel industry jobs straddle the line between necessary and absurd.

Travel and Leisure highlights some of the strangest.

Tourism ambassador, Japan. Diplomacy never looked so soft and cuddly after Japan appointed elder statesfeline Hello Kitty for PR duty in Hong Kong and China.

Karaoke taxi driver, Helsinki. With 5,000 songs to choose from, it's the journey, not the destination, that might drive you crazy.

Manners cop, Venice. Besmirch the city with your shirtless lifestyle and a badge-wearing manners-minder may direct a policeman—and fine—your way.

LEGO professional gluer, LEGOLAND, California. One building requires 140,000 LEGOs and 1,300 hours. Any questions?

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin - Seven Words R.I.P.

Big Easy's Streetcars Finally Full Speed

Streetcars clang-clanged their way down South Carrollton Ave. yesterday, and for many, the sound was as sweet as New Orleans jazz, the Times-Picayune reports. For the first time since Hurricane Katrina, the whole St. Charles Ave. streetcar line is running, and it should bring both tourism and a sense of normalcy back to the end-of-the-line neighborhood.

“It’s brought a lot of business, a lot of tourists to our business,” said one local manager, but it’s done more than that. “Hearing the clang-clang, having to look both ways, brings back normalcy definitely for people who live in this area.”

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Most Lucrative College Majors

College students looking for fast cash after graduation should study computer engineering, Forbes reports. Here are the most lucrative college majors, with salaries for beginners and veterans alike:

Computer engineering ($60,500-$104,000)
Economics ($48,000-$96,200)
Electrical engineering ($59,900-$96,100)
Computer science ($54,200-$94,000)
Mechanical engineering ($56,900-$88,100)
Finance ($46,900-$84,400)
Mathematics ($43,500-$82,200)
Civil engineering ($52,600-$81,700)
Political Science ($39,400-$74,400)
Marketing ($3,400-$72,300)
For the full list, click on the link below.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Gator Caught—in Chicago?

Alligator wranglers may not be the busiest of folks in metro Chicago, but they came through yesterday by yanking a 5-foot unwelcome visitor out of the Chicago River, the Tribune reports. The healthy female, probably a discarded pet, is on her way to a sanctuary in the Southeast.

“Everyone feels it was someone's pet and they just threw it in,” said one official. The gator—the first known visitor of its kind to the river—appeared to be fine shape, perhaps because of the ample supply of carp living in that part of the river, a secluded industrial zone. Tough as it is, the gator probably could not survive a Chicago winter, meaning it was likely dropped off recently.

Rise in Renters Wiping Out Gains in Homeownership

Americans are shifting from being homeowners to renters in rising numbers, the New York Times reports, all but wiping out gains made during the boom. The percentage of homes headed by homeowners dropped from 69.1% to 67.8% this year, which sounds modest, but is, in fact, the biggest decline in 20 years. President Bush's ambitious "ownership society" plan hoped to see more low-income and minority families own their own homes, but these groups have been hardest hit by the subprime crisis.

Many who bought houses are now worse off than before because of foreclosures. Others are having trouble making their first transition to ownership as banks clamp down on credit. "The bloom is off of homeownership,” said a former federal housing chief. “We’re seeing more dramatic growth in renters and a decline in the number of owners. People are beginning to understand that homeownership can be a very risky venture.”

Friday, June 20, 2008

Things You Can't Do...as a Stormtrooper

Proposed Philly Mega-Skyscraper Rivals US' Best

Philadelphia took a step toward entering America's mega-skyscraper club today, the Daily News reports, with a city councilman introducing zoning legislation for a building that, at 1,500 feet, would eclipse Chicago's Sears Tower. Plenty of bureaucratic hurdles remain for the proposed American Commerce Center, including retooling the city's planning commission.

"This could be a wonderful opportunity … for what could be one of the most incredible buildings built not just in Philadelphia but anywhere in the country," Mayor Michael Nutter said. Though the building would beat the Sears Tower by some 50 feet, a 2,000-foot skyscraper is under construction in Chicago, and a 1,776-foot structure has been proposed for the World Trade Center site in New York, Wikipedia notes.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"Do Your Job" by Bruce Springsteen

Supreme Court Sides With Workers on Age Discrimination

The Supreme Court ruled today that it is up to employers in age-discrimination lawsuits to prove that their actions resulted from “reasonable factors other than age,” the New York Times reports. With the opinion making it easier for employees to sue, the court explained to opponents that Congress’ wording of the law “set the balance where it is.”

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Invest In Yourself – Your Career, Future Income Stream, Education And Training

by: Maxwell Z. Rubin

The advice often given to young couples starting off in life is “Not to buy what you cannot afford”. The same basic advice should be heeded by many. If you cannot afford it- then do not buy the item. But what of investing in your own future in terms of an investment in your personal education or training as well as investments in your own personal career. Is this not getting ahead in life? Is this not money well spent? Even if you have to borrow and go into debt is this not money well spent?

If at the end of the day , year or decade you will be much further ahead in position , salary as well as benefits in addition to “job” and “personal” satisfaction is this not money, time and effort well spent and allocated. ? Indeed it is and can well be.

In the case of your education a dollar borrowed now will result in better jobs- that you will most likely find more challenging and enjoyable , and have a lot more financial reward than a job on the status scale – say as a bus driver or a technician doing oil jobs at your local Wal-Mart. In the case of a vehicle or car loan it may be a godsend. If your vehicle is not reliable – then how can you show up on time, keep your job without an image and reputation of reliability? Not only do you want to keep your employment and income associated with the job but also the job references from your employment superiors for use with other employers for better positions and pay, or for promotion within your present organization. You may even run into a case of promotion within your present firm to another branch office or plant. Not having reliable transport may limit your promotion offerings and flexibility. In addition, if you take out a loan to purchase that vehicle, you may well have upscaled and upgraded your car or SUV, from the models that you most likely would have purchased. By doing so, and driving a higher grade auto model, you may well appear as a more established, senior, more experienced and established employee as well as individual. Fortunately or unfortunately in life most comes down to appearances and perceptions.

There may be a much better and / or better paying job but its way across town, or in an area not served by the bus transit system. Or it may be the case that there is bus service - but if devours a good two to three hours a day of travel time. Good bye to your personal social life. You may have all the money in the world – the wealth of Bill Gates Himself and yet no time or energy to enjoy it. So much for all that pay of that new wonderful job.

A real step foreword as they say. It is always a case of reward versus cost or cost versus benefit. It is a case by case analysis.

In addition you should think of additional or add on costs. Do not stretch yourself too thin – financially. A course at university may not be offered in your calendar year – you will have to complete your schooling fully at a later date than expected. A course may be full – ditto for time delay. Or you may even have to repeat a course or change plans along the way necessitating longer time duration of studies. Leave a buffer of funding both for yourself and as well with the agency that provided the loan – be at bank, savings and loan, credit union or even parents or relatives. Don’t break the bank so to speak at the first step. The same analysis of benefit versus costs prevails in the car / transport / job scenario situation. Many people will drive across town for a bargain to save a dollar and spend $ 10 on gas costs in the process. Incorporate the price of gas into your final net salary not as an aside.

Lastly and most importantly – always pay your bills. Never take on more than you can chew, or in this case afford. Before making that commitment for a loan or undertaking always evaluate carefully before signing on the bottom line. It’s not only a matter of convenience. Your credibility itself is on the line, in addition to your personal honor and integrity and reputation. Pay your bills on time – even earlier than required. This applies to all loans – whether they are for rent, mortgage, utility bills, bank loans, charge card payments or student loans. If you cannot pay in full, then at least pay a bit above the minimum payment. If you are really stuck then contact the lender. Explain the situation honestly. Make a commitment and follow through. Remember the whole point of the exercise was your self improvement – an investment in yourself. To not take the exercise seriously is to shortchange yourself and your future opportunities as well as income stream in the future. To borrow for yourself and personal gain make prudent sense.

Food Prices Rising Along With Floodwaters

Rising floodwaters in the Midwest spread over thousands more acres of farmland today, leading to record or near-record prices for corn, soybeans, and cattle and hog futures, Reuters reports. President Bush promised quick federal aid and will visit Iowa on Thursday. That's not enough for Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who blasted the president for learning nothing from Katrina. The US budget, he says, "does not add one thin dime for a boost in levee funding."

The immediate forecast doesn't look promising. The federal government says nearly 30 more levees are in danger of collapse throughout Iowa, Illinois, and neighboring states. Workers are on the job nonstop trying to shore them up. "We have quite a wall of water coming our way," said the mayor of Quincy, Ill.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Celtics Win Title in Blowout

The Boston Celtics trounced the LA Lakers tonight to win their 17th NBA championship. Boston won 132-91 behind a stifling defense and strong shooting, the Boston Globe reports. The Big Three of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett proved too powerful in Game 6 for the overmatched Lakers, who were outscored 34-15 in the second quarter and trailed by 23 points at the half.

Let the Carry-On Wars Begin

With United, American, and US Airways all instituting charges for both first and second checked bags, a carry-on crunch is coming, the Wall Street Journal reminds us. Expect the baggage police to start heading off patrons flouting the cabin limit at security screenings. Airlines hope to to fight overcrowding in overhead bins and lower the total weight of aircraft, leading to lower fuel consumption.

"This fee will just cause many people to drag all their worldly possessions into the cabin," grouses one passenger. The airlines may even bring back metal templates on X-ray machines, which physically limit the size of a bag. The unpopular devices were discontinued in 2001. In other belt-tightening news, US Airways will start charging $2 for soft drinks.

Monday, June 16, 2008

William Stephenson, On Doing More In Life

by: William Stephenson

My name is William Stephenson; I grew up in Manasquan and have spent most of my life in New Jersey. I’d like to speak with you about achieving your best, about making the most of your assets and realizing your biggest dreams.

I was raised with the adage that my accomplishments were only limited to the heights I could imagine. This was a commonly used and inspirational line that many parents shared with their children. At the time, those words didn’t mean so much to me. Upon further reflection however, the spirit of those words was ever present in my blind sub-conscience.

When I was only 9 years of age, I had 2 paper routes on opposite ends of town. It was a morning paper, The Start Ledger; therefore both routes had to be completed by 7am. I pedaled fast to get back from the Manasquan Beach and change in time for school. The early riches that I enjoyed afforded many crucial lessons which would subsequently fuel my future achievements.

By learning the power of hard work and money at such an early age, an age where we’re all highly impressionable, it forever solidified the correlation between the two. I am incredibly grateful to my parents for supporting me in those early desires. The significance of this work should not be underscored; to me, it helped form one of my core values in life, responsibility.

By learning to do for myself and not waiting for someone else to take responsibility, I not only acquired things more speedily, but I had the good feeling of having earned them myself.

This early money was invested wisely, not an IRA, not a 401K, I used those funds for flight lessons at Allaire Airport. At age 13, I was speaking with an Uncle of mine. He was a war hero to me, who fought in Korea. He stated that he always regretted not learning how to fly. For some reason, his regret cautioned me enough not to follow his path. I clipped a 50% off coupon from an Entertainment Guide for an introductory flight lesson. Well, soaring above my home town and central New Jersey served two purposes. First, it sold me instantly on the joys of flight. Second, and more importantly, it extended my reach out into the world; it effectively reduced the size of it and led me to believe that it would be easier to conquer now. Again, I have to thank my parents for allowing me to circle their home at 1000 feet. They clearly hadn’t read all of the accident reports on that scenario.

About one year after that first flight lesson, I accomplished one of my most rewarding feats. I had officially been involved with Boy Scout Troop 59 of Manasquan for only 4 years when I had reached a pinnacle by attaining the rank of Eagle Scout. To this day, less than 2% of all scouts make it that far. To this day as well, I still don’t know why that percentage has remained so low. Even at age 14, my drive was surpassing my moments. Each Eagle Scout applicant must appear before a board of review to validate his award and confirm that he in fact extols the virtues befitting the milestone. At this board of review the applicant sits among and across from several elders in his troop as well as a representative from the council level, the governing body for many troops.

I perplexed them all that evening, not on purpose of course. All I had to do was answer a few questions and I would be an Eagle Scout. Later, I was told that the elders of my troop were kicking themselves underneath the table. They would have preferred that I had said less rather than more that evening.

I was questioned about my awareness of the high honor they would soon bestow upon me. My answers and my feelings in general about the rank of Eagle Scout at the time were slightly dismissive. Quite frankly, I saw the rank of Eagle as just another step along the scouting trail. In fact, as they pressed me about why I didn’t seem as excited about it as perhaps the elders were, I told them that every scout should follow the logical path that I had taken and achieve the rank as well. My unrefined point that evening was that I felt the very act of holding that rank up on a special pedestal was one of the impediments to most scouts attaining it. I believe that more scouts would enjoy the accolade if it were not placed so high above them. Of course, this could possibly dilute the experience at the same time.

After much back and forth, I acquiesced and agreed that it was indeed a tremendous accomplishment. I was now one of the younger Eagle Scouts in our troop’s storied history. My years in scouting provided far too many memories and tales to share with you this evening, however, the leadership skills that I cultivated during those early years would prove pivotal. They have played a key part in every major accomplishment and milestone after that. I believe the Boy Scouts to be a fine organization for our youth when accompanied by active parenting. Its affects are incalculable.

Psychologists say that the majority of our basic learning is acquired by the age of 16; if this in indeed true, the importance of our early decisions is paramount. The more healthy habits and useful ventures we take part in during this phase of life, the better.

Soon, I was off to college at the University of South Carolina. I worked almost continuously through those years and took my virtues to the job place. I found myself in a setting where the status quo ruled. It’s certainly easier in the short term to follow the lead; however, leading the pack at the workplace provides far greater returns in the long run. Standing out and shaking up the system takes courage or simply a set of convictions that disregards the consequences. This is why leading in life is critical. When you place yourself in the driver’s seat you are less beholden to peer-pressures which may lead people astray.

Throughout these years my love for flying never ceased. I worked to learn and that correlation always seemed to get me through the tougher days. After graduating with a Bachelors degree in an area unrelated to flying, I returned home and finished the flight ratings required in order to call myself a professional pilot. I was now getting paid to give sightseeing tours up the Hudson River and around the Statue of Liberty. It was a tremendous feeling being right back where I started 10 years earlier yet so much further ahead. I was now getting paid for every one of those coveted flight hours necessary for advancement, how ironic, I felt?

Another crucial lesson learned during this phase of my life was how two steps back could lead oneself miles ahead. I left that wonderful job at Allaire Airport and gambled on a new venture at Teterboro Airport in North Jersey. I made less money and added one hour to my commute each way. Many thought I was crazy, but I was looking beyond tomorrow.

For the next 6½ years, I participated in a niche market in the business aviation world. I flew organ transplant teams around our country in Lear jets, King Airs, and Barons. It was hard work; we were often called into action at the last minute and it was typically midnight. Years later I would be rewarded for those efforts in a far greater way than just my pay. More on that treat soon.

The challenges that forced my cohorts and I in this last position codified that work ethic learned as a paper boy years earlier. One of the lessons there taught me that we are continually growing and every action or inaction we participate in affects our future. We mustn’t look at each day as just any day. Every morning we wake up is another opportunity to better ourselves. Rarely will anyone of us remain stagnant; we’re either moving a head or behind in life. We make these choices everyday and all day.

After just nine years in the aviation industry I had yet again reached a pinnacle. I have taken a job on a Challenger jet flying a Fortune 200 company and its proprietors around the globe. Those early paper route dollars that I invested in flight training have come full circle. Delivering The Star Ledger has broadened my horizons in the literal sense. My world had in fact shrunk that afternoon at age 13, when I took my first flight and my first flight lesson.

To help drive this point home, as to how each action we take today lends to our successes or failures tomorrow, let me tell you about my high school prom date. Edie was one of the more unique individuals attending Manasquan High School during my years there. I quickly noted something special about her. At the time of our senior prom, she had a boyfriend from another school. Because of those circumstances, I was certainly not looking short term when I asked her to be my date for that event. I was looking far into my future and recently that has paid off for me as well. On May 5th of this year Edie and I were married in Manahawkin, NJ; my high school sweetheart is now so much more and forever.

Now, as promised, the reward worth so much more than a paycheck. About a year ago I found myself at a wake for my friend’s grandmother. At this wake I was introduced to the parents of a 6 year old boy. I was expecting to meet these folks because I knew their son had been given a personal tour of Giant’s Stadium a couple of years prior, compliments of the Make-a-Wish Foundation. We had some mutual friends in that football organization. As I spoke with the boy’s parents, I was less interested in the NY Giants and more interested in what their child had endured to warrant the attention of the foundation. The Father told me that his son Stephen had received a heart transplant in early 2001. As they were asking me about the NY Giants, I persisted with the questions about his son’s heart. Well, as it turned out, at about midnight in early 2001, my copilot and I flew to Bradley International Airport in Connecticut and retrieved Stephen’s heart. Confirming the details of the missionafter the wake made me very emotional. This was the closest I had ever been to realizing the fruits of my labor. About two weeks later, we all gathered at little Stephen’s house and enjoyed the Super Bowl together. Stephen told me after a couple hours, “Thank you for my heart.”

Now, in conclusion, I’m no different than anyone else in this room. The only privilege I had growing up was my parents blessing on the myriad of desires I came home with each week. They thankfully had the courage themselves to let me take things to their conclusion. Well, I’m still reaching. When I fly along at 41,000 feet and I gaze out into the stars at night, they just don’t seem so far away. Each and every one of those stars seems to be inviting me towards it. I know there is something behind each one and the more stars that I can look behind, the more confident I grow. Harness each and every day you live and before you know it, you’ll be leading life, not simply living it.

Thank you all very much for allowing me to share some of the things I have learned about life in my first 34 years.

About The Author

William Stephenson is a self help guru and motivational speaker from New Jersey. You can find more information about him at http://www.AllYourPrints.com or visit http://lr25plt.sofsuccess.hop.clickbank.net/?tid=ARTICLE to learn how you can be more successful today!

Italian kidnaps ex-girlfriend to get ironing done

An Italian man was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping his ex-girlfriend from a pub, taking her home and forcing her to iron his clothes and wash the dishes, police said on Monday.

The 43-year-old man dragged the woman out of a pub in the port city of Genoa, shoved her into a car and took her to his home where he made her iron and wash dishes after threatening her, they said.

Police arrived at his house after being tipped off by a friend of the woman who watched the scene at the pub.

The man, who was apparently furious at his ex-girlfriend for leaving him, was arrested on charges of kidnapping, police said.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

New hotel may be built in Alcatraz

The Alcatraz Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay
The US National Park Service may add a hotel to Alcatraz Island which would give the public 24-hour access to the once notorious prison.

"People are constantly saying they want to see more of the island," National Park Service Spokesman Rich Weideman said. "A hotel would be the ultimate experience in visitor access."

The island, also known as The Rock, is located in the middle of San Francisco Bay in California. With 1.5 million visitors per year, Alcatraz is the western state's second most popular tourist attraction, after its famed cable cars.

Parts of the 12-acre (5-hectare) island are closed to the public, including wildlife areas, the room where prison guards bowled and the prison theater where gangsters watched 'From Here to Eternity'.

Robert Stroud, the Birdman of Alcatraz
Robert Stroud, better known as the 'Birdman of Alcatraz', Al 'Scarface' Capone, George 'Machine Gun' Kelly, James 'Whitey' Bulger and Clarence Carnes, also known as the Choctaw Kid, were among the famous Alcatraz inmates.

The park service is considering several proposals as part of its development and renovation plan for the next 20 years, which also includes serving food to visitors in the prison cafeteria and adding boat tours to the island's perimeter.

Weideman said public comments on the proposals would be used to create new draft of a general plan next year.

Friday, June 13, 2008

MLB Wants Instant Replay by August

Major League Baseball asked its umpires today to implement instant replay by August 1, but details remain sketchy, USA Today reports. Both sides still need to bargain over who can demand replays—umpires or managers—what video feeds will be used, and who will make the final call. "It's all premature," a baseball spokesman said. "Nothing has been decided yet."

Buffalo Boy Made Good

Tim Russert, who died today at age 58, was "possibly America's most influential political journalist," James Poniewozik writes in Time. His no-nonsense style was informed by a Jesuit education in working class Buffalo—but not all appreciated his "gotcha," visceral style of questioning. Yet "his Meet the Press was anything but toothless, and it became established as a required trial by fire for political leaders," Poniewozik writes.

Tributes are flowing in from all quarters of journalism and politics today. Tom Brokaw said in his broadcast that "for all of his success, he was always in touch with the ethos" of blue collar Buffalo, the Chicago Tribune reports. The Clintons, who have had several run-ins with Russert, said in a statement that “in seeking answers to tough questions, he helped inform the American people and make our democracy stronger,” the New York Times reports.

Oil Price Spike Brings Jobs Back to US

As costs for overseas production and shipping soar, US companies are growing reluctant to outsource manufacturing—and some are even bringing their plants back to America, the Wall Street Journal reports. “In a world of triple-digit oil prices, distance costs money," said an economist. But it’s not just the transport: Raw materials are getting pricier, and workers abroad are calling for more money.

One foundry president says shipping costs were “the straw that broke the camel's back." But even domestic transportation is expensive, and for some companies, there are industry-specific reasons to work abroad. “A decent amount of production could come back into the States within five years, not everything,” said a shipper.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

House Votes to Extend Jobless Benefits

The House today approved an extra three months of jobless benefits for all unemployed Americans, knowing the plan's chances are slight in the Senate. After failing to get a veto-proof two-thirds margin by three votes yesterday, Democrats got an exact two-thirds margin with a 274-137 vote—the amount needed to overcome a threatened presidential veto.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he will try to bring up the House bill, but won't force the issue if Senate Republicans object. "We're not wasting weeks" on it, he said. Instead, Reid said, Democrats might attach the jobless benefits extension to the Iraq war spending bill, a move also opposed by the White House.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sporting an Opinion

By Bob Rehak

Someone once said, “Only comment on topics you know something about, or you’ll look like a goof.” I think it was my mother.

I can’t really comment about life, because I’m not old enough. I can’t comment on love, because it came too easily and I haven’t found its limits yet. I can’t comment on anything medical because I’d probably end up putting someone in the hospital. I have no opinion about fashion, because I own shirts that are older than my mortgage, which makes it really hard to figure out the date of old photographs. (I’ll be looking at a picture from 10 years ago and realize that I’m wearing the same shirt!) I could comment about the weather, but I’d never get it right. I could say something about education, but at this point my kids are smarter than I ever will be (but don’t tell them that).

So that pretty much leaves only one topic: sports. I like to play, coach and watch sports. Experience is a great teacher, but at my age I’ve been ditching a lot of classes (basically since the 80s). Coaching keeps me involved peripherally, but most of my current education comes in 8 minute clips on the 10 o’clock news. Occasionally I’ll sit down for a 30 minute lesson from ESPN, but that’s rare. (Although any time I travel out of town for business, my first order of business is to lock in ESPN in my hotel room and keep it running all day, the way stockbrokers keep the ticker going till the final bell).

There have been some interesting sports stories recently, ranging from inspirational to mystifying to disgusting:

--Last month Manny Ramirez hit his 500th home run, a feat that only 24 players have accomplished in Major League history. Manny is a great player. But he’s also infuriating (and fun) to watch. Dozens of times in his career Manny has been called lazy and egotistical for posing at home plate to watch home runs and warning track flies, for not hustling out ground balls, for turning doubles into singles, and for being selfish. After the 2003 season, the Boston Red Sox even tried to get rid of Manny by putting him on waivers, but the other 29 teams in the league took a pass on him and his baggage. He must be hard to root for at times for the Red Sox Nation.

On the other hand…….

On May 14th of this year in Baltimore, with a man on first, Manny ran to the wall to catch a deep fly ball, caught it, hit the wall, high-fived a fan in a Boston jersey in the stands, and turned and threw the ball back to the infield to double the runner off first. Manny’s petulant, selfish play at times makes me cringe. His pure enjoyment of the game makes me wish I could have high fived him.

--Big Brown, the second coming of Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed and Mr. Ed, was a lock to win the Triple Crown last week. His trainer, Rick Dutrow Jr., told us so. He said a win at the Belmont Stakes was “a foregone conclusion” and that Big Brown would win “by daylight, easily.” Big Brown finished dead last. His trainer is blaming the jockey; the jockey is blaming the horse, and the horse has no idea that he finished last. I always have found it curious when people hold racehorses in such high regard as “athletes.” Yes, Big Brown is a beautiful animal, but does he really consider himself an athlete? When champion horses die, there’s this moment of silence feeling that resonates throughout the sports world. When Barbaro finally succumbed to his injury and had to be put down, it was sports page front page news. These are animals, people. If you didn’t own the horse, invest in him or take care of him, he really shouldn’t mean that much to you. He had no clue he was an “athlete.” All he knew was that every once in a while he wore pretty silk colors and ran with other horses around a circle. Most of those horses weren’t his friends, so he had no vested interest in the outcome. Big Brown isn’t depressed today because he came in last at Belmont. He thought of it as a nice day out of the barn. Trust me, his pride was not hurt with that last place finish. Stop deifying animals and giving them human characteristics when they run fast just because a man keeps whipping him to do so.

--Cedric Benson is an athlete, though he certainly has no horse sense. The Chicago Bears cut the running back from the team the other day due to his inability to behave himself off the field. He was arrested in early May for boating while intoxicated, then again last Saturday on a drunken driving charge. Professional athletes can do really stupid things, and the rest of us just shake our heads. We can’t understand how someone can have the talent to play sports and get millions of dollars for it and just throw away that lottery ticket from God. Of course, the more talented an athlete is, the more we’re willing to tolerate his bad behavior. When a Michael Jordan gets caught cheating on his wife or gambling heavily, we wear our Big Brown blinders and pretend it doesn’t matter, as long as the wins keep coming.

I’m always taken aback when athletes tell us fans that we wouldn’t understand the pressures of being a pro athlete; that we have no idea how hard it is to live under the social responsibility microscope. That’s true, we wouldn’t know anything about playing sports professionally. But the pros have no idea how hard it is to be a fan. Once an athlete signs that first contract, he’s no longer an average fan. And chances are he was told how great he was all his life, so he was a star player since high school. He’s in a different social circle than the fans, and he can never come back. It’s like a supermodel saying she knows what it’s like to be average-looking. Cedric Benson was a bust with the Bears because of what he did on the field to begin with. His drunk driving record just tipped the scales of public opinion, of the average fan, way over the “acceptable” line. He’ll never understand why we fans don’t cheer for him anymore, and we’ll never understand why he let us down.

World's Weirdest Festivals

Forget museums and street markets. To truly understand a culture, travelers should take in its bizarre traditions. From fire walking to tomato hurling, Travel and Leisure looks at the world's most off-the-wall celebrations.

Lopburi Monkey Buffet in Thailand: Each November, Lopburi's residents lay out a feast to appease the city's greedy monkeys.
Inti Raymi in Cuzco, Peru: Locals in colorful costumes make offerings to the Sun God in this ancient Incan ceremony. This year, it's June 24.
La Tomatina in Bunol, Spain: Food fight! About 30,000 will gather in the town square in late August to chuck tomatoes at each other.
Hadaka Matsuri in Konomiya, Japan: Men don loincloths and chase a naked fellow for luck on the (brrr) third Saturday in February.

Bud, This Bid's For You: Belgian Brewer Offers $46B

The Belgian-based brewer InBev has made a $46 billion cash bid for US beer giant Anheuser-Busch in what would be one of the largest foreign acquisitions of an American corporation, the Wall Street Journal reports. If it goes through—a prospect that is far from certain—the 132-year-old Budweiser brand will be in foreign hands.

The combined companies would create the world's largest brewer. But Anheuser, based in St. Louis, has been assembling a team of bankers and lawyers in recent weeks to help it mount a defense, the New York Times reports. A nasty battle could draw in a familiar name: Warren Buffett, who happens to be Anheuser's second-largest shareholder.

Welcome To Miami

by: Terry Hely

Miami is a sub-tropical city, climatically very different from most places in the USA. The city is a cosmopolitan playground that attracts more visitors than any other US destination.

Miami appeals to holiday makers wanting warm sun, clean sandy beaches, a laid back lifestyle, sophisticated entertainment in clubs and bars and a mix of art, music and international cuisines.

Travelers visiting Miami may actually spend their time in Miami Beach, a separate municipality situated 4 miles (6 km) across Biscayne Bay from downtown Miami. The combined greater Miami area includes several ethnic neighborhoods such as Little Havana and Little Haiti.

The population of the Greater Miami Area is a 50% mix of assorted Hispanic and the diverse cultural mix is evident in Latin American languages, cuisine and music throughout the city and. Dining in Miami offers the opportunity to visit a different ethnic restaurant every night and enjoy diverse international cuisines.

Once upon a time, Miami attracted mostly retirees turning their backs on snowy, colder climates but nowadays it attracts the ultra-chic glitterati, cashed up yuppies, the boating and yachting fraternity and Cuban immigrants.

** Miami Vacation Attractions

Greater Miami is a great base for access to several major Florida holiday attractions. The northern tip of the Florida Keys is just off shore, the Everglades are just a short distance inland and the affluent enclaves of Palm Beach and Boca Roton are just a short distance along the coast.

The Miami Beach Promenade, aka South Beach, is a favorite spot for cyclists, skaters, joggers and skateboarders. This is the most instantly recognized beach front location in existence and the place to be seen if appearances are important.

Many of the early Miami buildings from the early 1900's have been restored. A walking tour around the South Beach precinct is recommended to see the spectacular rejuvenation of the 1920's buildings in the Art Deco Historic District.

Miami boasts fine museums, galleries, historic gardens, zoos, sports stadiums, spring fed natural pools and of course, the ever present golf courses. Greater Miami has lots to brag about when it comes to world class golf courses and is home to some of the most testing courses in the world.

** Miami Vacation Cruises

The busiest cruise ship center of any city in the USA is the Port of Miami with holiday cruises to the Caribbean and Latin America making up the bulk of these cruises, but there are also cruises to all parts of the world.

Cruises are usually well equipped for gambling and casinos open as soon as the ship passes into international waters. Non stop food, games, movies and onboard activities ensure guests are always entertained and well fed.

** Miami Hotels & Resorts

Miami visitors are offered a range of hotels, resorts and vacation rentals to satisfy all tastes and budgets. There's accommodation and prices to suit everyone, ranging from the restored boutique hotels in the Art Deco and South Beach district, modern glass and chrome high rise hotels, budget hostels, beach front condos and villas, serviced apartments, inns and guesthouses... it's your choice.

** Miami Vacation Transport

Miami International Airport is one of the major airports in the USA, and a major hub city for American Airlines. Major domestic airlines such as Delta, Northwest/KLM, United and US Airways and Continental all servive Miami as well as several economy carriers.

There are two Amtrak trains that run daily from New York down to Miami and the travel time is approximately 27 hours.

The Metro-Dade Transit Agency runs two Miami rail systems, one being Metrorail which is a modern elevated commuter train that connects downtown Miami and the southern suburbs. Metromover is an elevated line looping the downtown precinct and connecting with many of the important attractions, shopping and business districts.

Tri Rail is the south Florida commuter train service that connects Miami with North Palm Beach and all centers in between.

Copyright (c) 2008 Terry Hely

About The Author

Terry Hely specializes in travel destination guides as planning resources for holiday makers. Find out more about Miami vacations from his page at http://www.go-florida.net/miami.htm

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Oil Drives Uneven Finish

The markets ended mixed after moving between gains and losses, as traders tracked gyrations in the price of oil—which finished down 2% from earlier highs of $137 a barrel, MarketWatch reports. The Dow gained 9.44 to end at 12,289.76. The Nasdaq lost 10.52 to settle at 2,448.94, and the S&P 500 lost 3.32, closing at 1,358.44.

Financial blue chips perked back up after yesterday’s wipeout—Citigroup, JP Morgan, AIG, MBIA, Wachovia and Washington Mutual all gained between 2% and 9%. Fed chief Ben Bernanke's apparent concern over inflation sent the dollar up but investors scurrying. "I think the markets are overreacting a bit to the actual level of risk that's out there," on analyst said. "The US economy is still pretty weak, with rising unemployment."

Lakers Take Game 3

Kobe Bryant scored 36 points to lead his LA Lakers to an 87-81 victory over Boston in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, the LA Times reports. Los Angeles now trails the best-of-seven series 2-1. The Lakers also got a strong lift from Sasha Vujacic (20 points), who came up big during game's closing minutes. Game 4 is Thursday in Los Angeles.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Strahan Goes Out on Top

Michael Strahan is retiring after 15 years with the New York Giants, ESPN reports. The defensive end, 36, set the NFL's single-season sacks record with 22.5 sacks during the 2001 season, participated in seven Pro Bowls, and got his first Super Bowl ring earlier this year. Strahan walks away from the $4 million final year of his contract.

“It's a very, very sad day for me personally," one teammate said. "I loved him like a brother. You put in 15 strong years in the NFL, man that is something in this day and age is impossible to do. … He retired at the top of his game. A lot of us don't get the chance to do that.”

YouTube Punishment Fits YouTube Crime

A judge has ordered two teens to create and post an apology video on YouTube as punishment for a vicious prank, Florida Today reports. The boys were convicted of battery and criminal mischief after posting video of one of them throwing a soda back at a drive-thru fast-food server after yelling, “Fire in the hole.”

Fuel Prices Drive Spanish Truckers to Protest

Spanish truck drivers went on strike at midnight to protest skyrocketing fuel prices, erecting blockades across the country and snarling traffic on the border with France, the EiTB network reports. Drivers who attempted to continue operating found their tires slashed, windshields smashed and headlights destroyed. Fuel prices in Spain have risen more than 35% this year.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

3 Steps to a Perfect Steak

Just in time for grilling season, Esquire serves up tips on making the perfect steak.

Choose charcoal wisely: Hardwood charcoal burns hotter, which is great for the grill. You want to sear the meat, so wait until the flames have calmed before tossing in steaks.

Time yourself: Flipping too often dries out meat, and too soon wrecks the crust. For perfection, wait 4 to 6 minutes before grabbing the tongs.
Test by your thumb: Make an "OK" sign with your index finger and poke the base of the thumb. That's the feel of rare meat. Now do it with your middle finger—that’s medium-rare. And so on.

Recognizing, Preventing, And Handling Dog Aggression

by: Darrin Donaldson

A dog is an instinctively aggressive creature. In the wild, aggression came in very handy: dogs needed aggression to hunt, to defend themselves from other creatures, and to defend resources such as food, a place to sleep, and a mate. Selective breeding over the centuries has minimized and refined this trait significantly, but there’s just no getting around it: dogs are physically capable of inflicting serious harm (just look at those teeth!) because that’s how they’ve survived and evolved. And Mother Nature is pretty wily – it’s hard to counteract the power of instinct!

But that doesn’t mean that we, as dog lovers and owners, are entirely helpless when it comes to handling our dogs. There’s a lot that we can do to prevent aggression from rearing its ugly head in the first place – and even if prevention hasn’t been possible (for whatever reason), there are still steps that we can take to recognize and deal with it efficiently.

- Different aggression types -

There are several different types of canine aggression. The two most common ones are:

- Aggression towards strangers

- Aggression towards family members

You may be wondering why we’re bothering categorizing this stuff: after all, aggression is aggression, and we want to turf it out NOW, not waste time with the details – right?

Well … not quite. These two different types of aggression stem from very different causes, and require different types of treatment.

- Aggression towards strangers -

What is it?

It’s pretty easy to tell when a dog’s nervy around strange people. He’s jumpy and on the alert: either he can’t sit still and is constantly fidgeting, leaping at the smallest sound, and pacing around barking and whining; or he’s veerrrry still indeed, sitting rock-steady in one place, staring hard at the object of his suspicions (a visitor, the mailman, someone approaching him on the street while he’s tied up outside a store.)

Why does it happen?

There’s one major reason why a dog doesn’t like strange people: he’s never had the chance to get used to them. Remember, your dog relies 100% on you to broaden his horizons for him: without being taken on lots of outings to see the world and realize for himself, through consistent and positive experiences, that the unknown doesn’t necessarily equal bad news for him, how can he realistically be expected to relax in an unfamiliar situation?

What can I do about it?

The process of accustoming your dog to the world and all the strange people (and animals) that it contains is called socialization. This is an incredibly important aspect of your dog’s upbringing: in fact, it’s pretty hard to overemphasize just how important it is. Socializing your dog means exposing him from a young age (generally speaking, as soon as he’s had his vaccinations) to a wide variety of new experiences, new people, and new animals.

How does socialization prevent stranger aggression?

When you socialize your dog, you’re getting him to learn through experience that new sights and sounds are fun, not scary.

It’s not enough to expose an adult dog to a crowd of unfamiliar people and tell him to “Settle down, Roxy, it’s OK” – he has to learn that it’s OK for himself. And he needs to do it from puppyhood for the lesson to sink in.

The more types of people and animals he meets (babies, toddlers, teenagers, old people, men, women, people wearing uniforms, people wearing motorcycle helmets, people carrying umbrellas, etc) in a fun and relaxed context, the more at ease and happy – and safe around strangers - he’ll be in general.

How can I socialize my dog so that he doesn’t develop a fear of strangers?

Socializing your dog is pretty easy to do – it’s more of a general effort than a specific training regimen.

First of all, you should take him to puppy preschool. This is a generic term for a series of easy group-training classes for puppies (often performed at the vet clinic, which has the additional benefit of teaching your dog positive associations with the vet!).

In a puppy preschool class, about ten or so puppy owners get together with a qualified trainer (often there’ll be at least two trainers present – the more there are, the better, since it means you get more one-on-one time with a professional) and start teaching their puppies the basic obedience commands: sit, stay, and so on.

Even though the obedience work is very helpful and is a great way to start your puppy on the road to being a trustworthy adult dog, really the best part of puppy preschool is the play sessions: several times throughout the class, the puppies are encouraged to run around off-leash and play amongst themselves.

This is an ideal environment for them to learn good social skills: there’s a whole bunch of unfamiliar dogs present (which teaches them how to interact with strange dogs), there’s a whole bunch of unfamiliar people present (which teaches them that new faces are nothing to be afraid of), and the environment is safe and controlled (there’s at least one certified trainer present to make sure that things don’t get out of hand).

Socialization doesn’t just stop with puppy preschool, though. It’s an ongoing effort throughout the life of your puppy and dog: he needs to be taken to a whole bunch of new places and environments.

Remember not to overwhelm him: start off slow, and build up his tolerance gradually.

- Aggression towards family members -

There are two common reasons why a dog is aggressive towards members of his own human family:

- He’s trying to defend something he thinks of as his from a perceived threat (you).

This is known as resource guarding, and though it may sound innocuous, there’s actually a lot more going on here than your dog simply trying to keep his kibble to himself.

- He’s not comfortable with the treatment/handling he’s getting from you or other members of the family.

What’s resource guarding?

Resource guarding is pretty common among dogs. The term refers to overly-possessive behavior on behalf of your dog: for instance, snarling at you if you approach him when he’s eating, or giving you “the eye” (a flinty-eyed, direct stare) if you reach your hand out to take a toy away from him.

All dogs can be possessive from time to time – it’s in their natures. Sometimes they’re possessive over things with no conceivable value: inedible trash, balled up pieces of paper or tissue, old socks. More frequently, however, resource-guarding becomes an issue over items with a very real and understandable value: food and toys.

Why does it happen?

It all boils down to the issue of dominance. Let me take a moment to explain this concept: dogs are pack animals. This means that they’re used to a very structured environment: in a dog-pack, each individual animal is ranked in a hierarchy of position and power (or “dominance”) in relation to every other animal. Each animal is aware of the rank of every other animal, which means he knows specifically how to act in any given situation (whether to back down, whether to push the issue, whether to muscle in or not on somebody else’s turf, etc etc).

To your dog, the family environment is no different to the dog-pack environment. Your dog has ranked each member of the family, and has his own perception of where he ranks in that environment as well.

This is where it gets interesting: if your dog perceives himself as higher up on the social totem-pole than other family members, he’s going to get cheeky. If he’s really got an overinflated sense of his own importance, he’ll start to act aggressively.

Why? Because dominance and aggression are the exclusive rights of a superior-ranked animal. No underdog would ever show aggression or act dominantly to a higher-ranked animal (the consequences would be dire, and he knows it!)

Resource guarding is a classic example of dominant behavior: only a higher-ranked dog (a “dominant” dog) would act aggressively in defence of resources.

To put it plainly: if it was clear to your dog that he is not, in fact, the leader of the family, he’d never even dream of trying to prevent you from taking his food or toys – because a lower-ranking dog (him) will always go along with what the higher-ranking dogs (you and your family) say.

So what can I do about it? The best treatment for dominant, aggressive behavior is consistent, frequent obedience work, which will underline your authority over your dog. Just two fifteen-minute sessions a day will make it perfectly clear to your dog that you’re the boss, and that it pays to do what you say.

You can make this fact clear to him by rewarding him (with treats and lavish praise) for obeying a command, and isolating him (putting him in “time-out”, either outside the house or in a room by himself) for misbehaviour.

- If you’re not entirely confident doing this yourself, you may wish to consider enlisting the assistance of a qualified dog-trainer.

- Brush up on your understanding of canine psychology and communication, so that you understand what he’s trying to say – this will help you to nip any dominant behaviors in the bud, and to communicate your own authority more effectively

- Train regularly: keep obedience sessions short and productive (no more than fifteen minutes – maybe two or three of these per day).

Why doesn’t my dog like to be handled?

All dogs have different handling thresholds. Some dogs like lots of cuddles, and are perfectly content to be hugged, kissed, and have arms slung over their shoulders (this is the ultimate “I’m the boss” gesture to a dog, which is why a lot of them won’t tolerate it.) Others – usually the ones not accustomed to a great deal of physical contact from a very young age – aren’t comfortable with too much full-body contact and will get nervy and agitated if someone persists in trying to hug them.

Another common cause of handling-induced aggression is a bad grooming experience: nail-clipping and bathing are the two common culprits.

When you clip a dog’s nails, it’s very easy to “quick” him – that is, cut the blood vessel that runs inside the nail. This is extremely painful to a dog, and is a sure-fire way to cause a long-lasting aversion to those clippers.

Being washed is something that a great many dogs have difficulty dealing with – a lot of owners, when confronted with a wild-eyed, half-washed, upset dog, feel that in order to complete the wash they have to forcibly restrain him. This only adds to the dog’s sense of panic, and reinforces his impression of a wash as something to be avoided at all costs – if necessary, to defend himself from it with a display of teeth and hackles.

Can I “retrain” him to enjoy being handled and groomed?

In a word: yes. It’s a lot easier if you start from a young age – handle your puppy a lot, get him used to being touched and rubbed all over. Young dogs generally enjoy being handled – it’s only older ones who haven’t had a lot of physical contact throughout their lives that sometimes find physical affection difficult to accept.

Practice picking up his paws and touching them with the clipper; practice taking him into the bath (or outside, under the faucet – whatever works for you, but warm water is much more pleasant for a dog than a freezing spray of ice-water!), and augment the process throughout with lots of praise and the occasional small treat.

For an older dog that may already have had several unpleasant handling/grooming experiences, things are a little more difficult. You need to undo the damage already caused by those bad experiences, which you can do by taking things very slowly – with an emphasis on keeping your dog calm.

The instant he starts to show signs of stress, stop immediately and let him relax. Try to make the whole thing into a game: give him lots of praise, pats, and treats.

Take things slowly. Don’t push it too far: if you get nervous, stop.

Dogs show aggression for a reason: they’re warning you to back off, or else! If your dog just can’t seem to accept being groomed, no matter how much practice you put in, it’s best to hand the job over to the professionals.

Your vet will clip his nails for you (make sure you tell him first that he gets aggressive when the clippers come out, so your vet can take the necessary precautions!). As far as washing and brushing goes, the dog-grooming business is a flourishing industry: for a small fee, you can get your dog washed, clipped, brushed, and whatever else you require by experienced professionals (again, make sure you tell them about your dog’s reaction to the experience first!)

For more information on handling aggressive and dominant behaviors, as well as a great deal of detailed information on a host of other common dog behavior problems, check out SitStayFetch.

It’s a complete owner’s guide to owning, rearing, and training your dog, and it deals with all aspects of dog ownership.

To get the inside word on preventing and dealing with problem behaviors like aggression and dominance in your dog, SitStayFetch is well worth a look.

About The Author

Darrin Donaldson
You can visit the SitStayFetch site by clicking on the link below:

Saturday, June 7, 2008

New Wave of Foreclosures Expected in '09

America’s subprime victims may have grudgingly accepted their fate, but there’s a new class of borrowers primed to suffer, BusinessWeek reports. Homeowners who took out ARMs, or adjustable rate mortgages, will soon face skyrocketing payments as their loans reset. About a million people have the mortgages, but only a small number have already fallen due. “It's a ticking time bomb inside your house that you can't get rid of,” one insider said.

“Most of the public is thinking that the subprime thing is over, but this is another thing waiting," said one industry watcher. “The problem for these borrowers is that once you go underwater, it's very hard to refinance, and if you cannot refinance there is very little option for you.”

Japanese Melon Sells for $6K

A rare black watermelon, one of 65 from Japan's first harvest of the year, sold for more than $6,000 at auction today, the AP reports. The Densuke melon has the distinction of being the most expensive of its kind in Japan, and probably the world, though the Guinness World Records organization points out that it does not keep track of watermelons.

The 17-pound fruit has a dark green rind and a more intense taste than its ordinary cousin. Most black watermelons run about $200 in department stores—still a steep price, but as an agriculture spokesman explains, "It's a watermelon, but it's not the same. It has a different level of sweetness."

Fake Airline Has Philly Giggling

An ad for "Derrie-Air" airlines made Philadelphia readers the butt of a publicity joke today, the AP reports. The owner of two newspapers and an ad agency revealed that the airline—which claimed to charge passengers by weight, and be carbon-neutral—was cooked up to prove the power of advertising. And it's generating online buzz aplenty, a media company says.

The ad aimed to “demonstrate the power of our brands in generating awareness and generating traffic for our advertisers, and put a smile on people's faces," said Philadelphia Media Holdings spokesman Jay Devine. "In other words," the website states, "smile, we're pulling your leg."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Chicago Makes Final Four in 2016 Olympic Bid

Chicago is still in the mix to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, the Sun-Times reports, as the International Olympic Committee today winnowed the field of candidates to four. Vying against the Windy City are Madrid, Tokyo, and Rio de Janeiro.

The final decision won’t come until October 2009, but Chicago officials say it was an important, if expected, step. “We wanted to make it out of pool play,” said one US Olympic Committee executive. “Then the real race begins.”