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

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Phelps Minute with Michael Phelps

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

New Orleans evacuates as Gustav nears

New Orleans residents have begun to evacuate the city as the 'storm of the century' takes aim at the Louisiana coast in southern US.

New Orleans mayor, Ray Nagin, has ordered the mandatory evacuation of more than 239,000 residents in order to avoid a replay of the 2005 Katrina catastrophe.

On August 29, 2005, the city of New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina - a Category 3 storm.

Katrina, the third-strongest hurricane ever to hit the US, caused more than 1,600 deaths, while flooding about 85 percent of the city.

Calling Gustav 'the mother of all storms', Nagin urged citizens not commit 'one of the biggest mistakes' of their life by seeking to ride out the storm.

"This is not the one to play with," he said.

Gustav has already killed 81 people by triggering floods and landslides in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.

Gustav's projection path toward New Orleans, LA
The US National Hurricane Center says Gustav has slightly weakened after sweeping across Cuba, where at least 300,000 Cubans fled its screaming 140mph (220kph) path.

Gustav is projected to regain strength, as it moves over warm water, to a top-scale Category 5 hurricane later Sunday before its expected landfall near the west of New Orleans on Monday.

Category 5 is the highest level on the Saffir-Simpson scale used to rate tropical cyclones - with winds above 155 mph (249kph).

At 4 a.m. CDT, Gustav was 425 miles southeast of New Orleans and moving northwest at 16 mph.

President Bush has pre-emptively declared states of emergency for Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama in a bid to clear the way for federal aid to supplement state and local efforts and formalize coordination.

The Bush administration did the same before Hurricane Katrina, which was severely criticized for slow, botched response that exacerbated disaster, leaving hundreds of thousands of people displaced in the aftermath of the 2005 storm.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Darling: British Economy Is at 60-Year Low

The outlook for Britain's economy is the bleakest since the days when the country was rebuilding from the Blitz, Chancellor Alistair Darling tells the Guardian. Darling warns that the downturn for the UK and the wider world could be "more profound and longer-lasting" than people expect. He acknowledges that voters are "pissed off" with the Labour party, and him personally.

"I was at a filling station recently and a chap said: 'I know it's to do with oil prices—but what are you going to do about it?' People think, well surely you can do something, you are responsible, so, of course, it reflects on me," Darling said. His assessment is darker than that of beleaguered PM Gordon Brown, who is attempting to win back confidence by explaining how he will help struggling families through the downturn.

Under Italy's Mob, Toxic Trash Heaps Growing

Heaps of garbage tower in southern Italy’s legal and illegal dumps, and may even be contributing to cancer and birth defects in the area—but the mafia’s grip on disposal makes it near impossible to fix the problem, the Los Angeles Times reports. “For years the waste has been accumulating, nothing has been done to clean it up, and the consequences are lethal,” says an “eco-mafia” prosecutor.

Factories send their trash to middlemen who pass it on to waste companies in the Campania province, which is under the control of the mob. Toxins from the garbage taint the groundwater, stoking fears of a health crisis. But those who have attempted to stop it face mafia intimidation, or worse, the Times notes. And while some legal action is being taken against the mafiosi, it seems to have little effect, say locals.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Monkey Takes Over News Desk

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Baseball Strikes It Rich With Online Content Pitch

Major League Baseball’s full-bore embrace of the internet is paying off for its online service, Jay Yarow writes in BusinessWeek. Most professional sports leagues limit web content for fear of encroaching on TV ratings, but MLB’s Advanced Media allows streaming video of full games, downloadable highlights from every game, and a mountain of stats—nearly all of it accessible on mobile devices.

MLBAM’s revenue tops $450 million annually, between the game subscription service and advertising. The league’s success suggests online usage doesn’t detract from TV ratings or game attendance: “Rights fees are up, attendance is up, viewership is up," one exec says. “Putting [games] on every device that has a plug or a battery has worked for the business partners. Even more important, it's worked for our fans.”

The State of US Wine, in 50 Bottles

Wine snobs contend that "terroir"—soil, climate and topography—restrict great wines to certain regions. But are they right? All 50 US states make wine, so Joel Stein sampled a bottle from each to test the claim in Time. He discovered "quite good" varietals from surprising states like Delaware and Kentucky, but also "truly disgusting" wines from the Deep South.

Stein also sampled several grapes he hadn't encountered before, including East Coast Chambourcins used in "weird, interesting reds" and pleasing Midwest Nortons. "After all this, though, I still don't know if terroir matters," Stein writes. "It could be that the South's muscadine grape is inherently horrifying or just that people who drink sweet tea should not make wine."

Comcast Caps Internet Use, Says 99% Won't Notice

Comcast subscribers will soon have their Internet usage capped, Reuters reports. From Oct. 1, the nation’s largest cable operator will limit monthly residential data use to 250 gigabytes to improve the quality of Internet delivery. The company says up to 99% of its subscribers will be unaffected by the cap—equivalent to 50 million emails or 124 standard-definition movies.

Comcast warns that customers who exceed the limit twice in 6 months could see their service terminated for a year. The initiative comes as web use soars, and Comcast faces investigations for its attempts to curb it. A consumer group conceded that the 250-GB cap was “relatively high,” but added that improved technology could soon render it outdated.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Summer Movies Smash Record

Hollywood studios are reeling in their highest-grossing summer ever, the Los Angeles Times reports. Domestic ticket sales stand at $3.9 billion, up from last year's record-breaking summer. A steady stream of smash hits—and higher ticket prices—accounted for the record take, more than making up for costly flops like Speed Racer.

Paramount racked up the most among the studios, with Iron Man, Kung Fu Panda, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull each raking in more than $200 million. Warner Brothers only made second place, despite The Dark Knight becoming the second-highest grossing film in history.

Investors, Companies Benefit by Accounting Switch: SEC

The Securities and Exchange Commission sees a smoother ride for American companies, and investors, in its plan for the US to adopt international accounting standards, the Wall Street Journal reports—though the shift would be an expensive, “massive effort,” some say, requiring new training from business schools on up. Critics worry the international standards aren’t as precise and may cause confusion during the transition.

But the SEC, which wants the new standards in place by 2014, believes international rules will make it easier for investors—two-thirds of whom own shares of foreign companies—to compare international and US operations. The commission says the move will cut costs for firms currently preparing two sets of books, one for the US and one for their international bases.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

States Consider Leasing Roads as Upkeep Takes Toll

With Pennsylvania legislators set to vote next month on a $12.8 billion deal that would put the 537-mile Pennsylvania Turnpike under private operation, such public-private partnerships are accelerating across the US, the Wall Street Journal reports. Often bankrolled by infrastructure funds—which have $160 billion under management—the projects provide relief to states hamstrung by ballooning budget deficits.

Crumbling infrastructure nationwide needs about $1.6 trillion over several years. Pennsylvania alone needs $11 billion for deficient bridges and is looking to Indiana’s model, in which a $3.8 billion, 75-year lease of its toll road has shored up state finances and improved its credit rating. But critics argue that tolls will rise, jobs will be lost, and money will flow to overseas investors.

Campbell Soup Sacks NFL Moms

Wilma McNabb and the other NFL moms are finished as corporate spokespeople, the Wall Street Journal reports. Campbell's Chunky Soup has launched a new distinctly mom-less advertising campaign after market research indicated that the 30-year-old men they’re targeting weren’t relying on their mothers’ food advice. Their new ad likens LaDanian Tomlinson to a working man, coming home to a hot bowl of soup.

“"LaDainian Tomlinson doesn't need his mom to tell him which products have protein and which products don't,” said Chunky’s brand manager. Chunky sales slid last year, opening the door for the end of the successful 11-year campaign. Wilma McNabb, one of Campbell’s earliest maternal spokeswomen, doesn’t mind losing the gig. “We moms are kind of behind the scenes anyway,” she said.

Mariotti Quits Sun-Times, Newspaper Biz

Jay Mariotti has resigned from the Chicago Sun-Times, the controversial sports columnist tells the rival Tribune, after observing the toll the Internet has taken on newspapers. “I don't want to go down with it,” said the 47-year-old known for his contrarian opinions and run-ins with colleagues and athletes alike, adding that his stint at the Beijing Olympics convinced him of the impending doom.

Mariotti signed a lucrative 3-year contract extension in June, but after seeing the proliferation of web writers covering the Beijing Games, he decided that the future was online. “I'm a competitor and I get the sense this marketplace doesn't compete,” said Mariotti, adding that he doesn’t have an immediate destination but will continue appearing on ESPN’s Around the Horn.

High-Tech Suit Gives Hope to Paralyzed

A mechanical exoskeleton developed by an Israeli firm allows paraplegics to stand upright and walk, the BBC reports. The ReWalk device consists of a backpack, leg braces and a wrist controller. Once a mode is selected, such as climbing stairs, leaning forward activates motors in the braces. “It lets people live at the upright level and make eye contact,” one health professional said.

The device is only feasible for patients “who still have good control over their hands and shoulders,” a doctor said, and “might not be any better than a wheelchair in terms of convenience.” Regardless, for one patient ReWalk was a revelation: “Only when standing up can I feel how tall I really am and speak to people eye to eye, not from below.”

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Replay Starts Thursday: Source

Major League Baseball umpires will be allowed to watch instant replays in home run calls starting this week, anonymous sources tell the AP. The decision represents an about-face on traditional MLB policy, and comes months after general managers voted heavily in favor of using the technology. An official announcement is expected later today.

Police Rescue 1,000 Dogs From Kennel in W. Va.

The longtime owner of a West Virginia kennel has surrendered her approximately 1,000 dogs to humane officials amid allegations that the animals were never let out of their cages and were rarely, if ever, touched by a human being. Authorities raided the facility over the weekend. To avoid arrest, the owner has agreed never to operate a kennel again.

Rescuers said the dogs, mostly purebred dachshunds, stumble when they try to walk on grass, tile, or carpet. "I equate this to living in one room of my house for all of my life and somebody just dropping groceries by once a week, not a lot of stimulation," said a Humane Society official. "This is not what dogs were put on this planet for."

Monday, August 25, 2008

Google Cuts Back on Its Food Perks

Life at the Googleplex just got a little less delicious. Google is cutting back on its famously generous food benefits, taking free dinners and free snacks off the menu, Valleywag reports. It’s a surprising change, since Google has milked its cafeteria for publicity, and recently told shareholders to expect more perks for employees, not fewer.

The change is due in part to a disastrous partnership with an outside restaurant management company, which led to the departure of Google’s star chefs. But it could also signal a change of heart from Google’s founders. Sergey Brin reportedly complained recently of his employees’ growing sense of entitlement to “bottled water and M&Ms,” though Brin denies that report.

Home Sales Climb, but Prices Keep Falling

Existing home sales were better than expected in July, rising 3.1% to an annual rate of 5 million, the Wall Street Journal reports. But inventories continued their steady expansion anyway, driving prices further downward. The median home price for July was $212,400, down 7.1% from July 2007. The downward price trend is in turn keeping buyers on the sidelines, waiting for better deals.

“Inventories continue to remain high, which means we are in a buyers' market,” says one economist. “Builders need to continue to cut production.” Lenders are also continuing to tighten their mortgage standards, driving more buyers out of the market. Roughly 75% of lenders told the Fed they’d tightened up, compared with 60% in May.

Polish Actors Paid to Fake iPhone Frenzy

Poland’s largest mobile provider is refreshingly straightforward about its efforts to boost iPhone sales, Reuters reports. “We have these fake queues at front of 20 stores around the country to drum up interest in the iPhone,” a spokesman for Orange said. The iPhone flew off the shelves in the US, but pricey monthly fees may put a damper on Polish sales.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

5 Football Saturdays to Savor

With the college football season set to kick off Thursday, blogger The Kid outlines the five weekends that will help decide who plays in the national championship game on Jan. 8 in Miami.

Aug. 30: Illinois and Missouri square off in St. Louis; Clemson and Alabama meet in Atlanta. “Grilled sausages will be distributed according to need,” Kid writes.
Sept. 13: No. 2 Ohio State at No. 3 Southern Cal. “It’s the Rose Bowl in September, winner has a (virtually) clear road to the title game.”
Sept. 20: “While the previous week is like taking a belt of the Jaeger bottle, this weekend looks at you square in the eye like a bottle of the devil’s private tequila stock and says ‘Bring it.’” Top-ranked Georgia visits Arizona State; Louisiana State-Auburn is also this Saturday.
Oct. 11: “The obligatory shoutout to any weekend that counter programs against Oklahoma-Texas, but goddamn this is some serious reason to buy a satellite dish.”
Nov. 22: “If your family, marriage, or friendships are still intact by this week, kudos to you:” Michigan-Ohio State highlights a rivalry weekend.

World Economy Falls With US

Gone is the hope that the global economy will stay strong as America's financial fortunes flag. The world’s largest economies are showing signs of a slowdown, the New York Times reports. Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the UK, even famously fast-growing India and China are all taking a hit. Global growth overall will slow to 4.1% from 5% last year, the International Monetary Fund predicts.

High energy prices and real estate disasters are largely to blame. As global demand for goods diminishes, the American economy is likely to slide further. Some experts say the storm is navigable, but the good days appear to be over for the near future. “We had buoyant world growth for a few years,” said one economist. “It was too hot not to cool down.”

US Men Back on Top With Basketball Gold

The US Men's Basketball Olympic team pulled off a hard-fought victory to beat Spain 118-107 today to grab the gold medal. The US team has won gold every Olympics but three, including embarrassing defeats in 2004. "Much respect to Spain, but the US is back on top again," boasted player LeBron James. The US women's basketball team nailed gold yesterday. Spain brought on a surprisingly tough game after being trounced by the Yanks earlier in the competition.

The US team led by just 4 point with 2.5 minutes left to play. Dwayne Wade—who scored a total of 27 points, with Kobe Bryant racking up 20—quickly made a 3-pointer and added a lay-in off a pass from Bryant. When it was over, "Redeem Team" USA—peppered with NBA multi-millionaire players—partied at midcourt with Born in the USA blasting on loudspeakers. Argentina won the bronze.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

GM Plans New Chevy Compact

General Motors will invest $500 million to build its new compact car in the US, the Detroit News reports. The Chevrolet Cruze, expected to get about 45mpg, will go into production in 2010 in Lordstown, Ohio. The ailing automaker, once heavily reliant on SUVs, continues to alter its production line to meet demand for small, fuel-efficient cars. GM's US sales are down 18% this year, led by a 23% decline in truck sales.

The Cruze will be bigger than the Chevy Cobalt but smaller than the Malibu. GM plans to phase out the Cobalt once the Cruze is in full production. The sticker price is expected to be well above the $15,000 base price of the Cobalt, the Wall Street Journal notes.

Ringback Tones a Goldmine

Ringback tones—the music callers hear while waiting for the party they’re calling to answer the phone—are sounding less like Justin Timberlake and more like a cash register to wireless providers. Sales of ringback tones should triple to $4.7 billion by 2012, CNET reports. That’s almost what mobile games bring in, making ringback tones the second-most-lucrative premium service available.

“Ringback tones are quickly becoming the ‘golden child’ of the mobile music market, due to a winning combination of consumer popularity, and minimal impact from DRM or piracy,” said one researcher. What’s more, ringback tones—typically sold separately from full songs and ringtones—give wireless providers and recording companies an excuse to charge consumers a second time for songs they already own.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Safety of US Tap Water Remains Murky

As critics pan bottled water as wasteful and frivolous, many Americans are turning back to tap water—only to find a debate of equal concern waiting at their kitchen sinks. The Wall Street Journal examines the controversy over tap-water purity, and why many argue the federal government isn’t doing enough to protect us from newly discovered impurities.

Water quality experts are particularly concerned by the presence of pharmaceutical drugs in the public water supply—at levels that could affect humans, particularly pregnant women and those with chronic health issues. Other chemicals, including fuel additives, are being targeted by state regulators who say the Environmental Protection Agency has failed at the federal level to keep water supplies safe.

Recession May Take Down More Banks: Expert

The credit-market slump could take a further toll on the largest US banks, a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund tells Bloomberg. Claiming “the worst is yet to come,” Kenneth Rogoff says the financial sector “needs to shrink” before the economy will recover, and that institutions must be allowed to collapse as a matter of integrity.

“You can't just have an industry where they make giant profits or they get bailed out,” he adds. Rogoff expects the recession to worsen, with the possibility of another major bank going under. The comments follow recent statements by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson that the US needs regulatory reform that would let institutions go bust without compromising overall economic stability.

Monday, August 18, 2008

7 Songs That Scream Summer

Salon’s critics pick the songs that sizzle in summer 2008—from Estelle and Kanye West's sartorial lust to Tilly and the Wall's bubble gum New Wave:

Estelle with Kanye West, “American Boy”: Elegant English beats blend with in-your-face American lyrics.
Jonas Brothers, “Burning Up”: Saccharine silliness that fills a hole in our inner 13-year-old, boy-band-loving hearts.
Ida Corr, “Let Me Think About It”: Sexy beats that have kept us dancing (and Corr in the Top 10) for 40 weeks.
Duffy, “Rockferry”: Honeyed British vocals and echoey piano chords sound like the summer of '68.
Beck, “Gamma Ray”: Hypnotic riffs and heat-soaked lyrics from the king of minimal and mellow.
Tilly and the Wall, “Falling Without Knowing”: Bubble-gum lyrics and lightweight, New Wave beats.
Sharleen Spiteri, “Don’t Keep Me Waiting”: A clutch of summer staples (including the “na na na” chorus) from a lustrous Scottish singer.

Booming Brazil Nabs A-List Ad Campaigns

If you want proof that the Brazilian economy is on fire, look no further than the TV ads. While Sarah Jessica Parker professes her love for a Sao Paulo mall, Richard Gere promotes hair care products in dubious Portuguese. What's made the influx of American stars possible, writes Bloomberg, is Brazil's booming currency—the real has been the biggest gainer of the world's most traded currencies for 4 years straight.

The real hit a 9-year high against the dollar this month as Brazil has established itself as the Western hemisphere's new economic powerhouse. Analysts are predicting a fall—but they've done so for the last 5 years, and every year they've been wrong. While Brazil booms, celebrities from Kiefer Sutherland to Pierce Brosnan will keep flying down to Rio; as one ad exec said, "Now they are not only affordable, they are actually cheaper than the locals."

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Dropped Calls Plague New 3G iPhone

Owners of 3G iPhones complain that their new phones are suffering from glitches, especially dropped calls—and that Apple seems keen to drop their calls when they report issues, ABC News reports. A company spokeswoman refused to comment when contacted about the iPhone problems, which also include slow web access and a lack of access to AT&T's network.

A growing number of owners are expressing frustration, both with the problems and Apple's failure to address them. Some analysts believe a rush to get the phone to market has resulted in a half-baked product, and sources say the problems are linked to a faulty chip that could require a recall, BusinessWeek reports.

Jamaica's Bolt: World's Fastest Man

Jamaica's Usain Bolt rewrote the record books again and easily captured his first Olympic medal by running the 100-meter dash in a stunning 9.69 seconds. Laying claim to the title of "world's fastest man," Bolt beat Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago by 0.2 seconds, while American Walter Dix was third. It marked the first time six runners came in under 10 seconds in the Olympic race.

It was a blowout as the 21-year-old Bolt took a huge lead halfway through the race and finished upright, looking to his right to find not a challenger but a gaggle of photographers recording history. "It wasn't planned," he said of the record. "My aim was to come out and win. When I saw the time, I'm celebrating. I'm happy." American Tyson Gay, who was supposed to challenge, was eliminated in the semifinals.

Friday, August 15, 2008

'Bigfoot' DNA Actually Human, Opossum

DNA from an alleged Bigfoot carcass is actually part human, part opossum, a scientist said today. A University of Minnesota expert debunked the DNA at a Palo Alto, Calif. press conference before the two men who allegedly found the corpse—and who sell Bigfoot merchandise. The head of a group dedicated to finding Bigfoot said the samples may have been sullied and promised an autopsy.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Isaac Hayes - Shaft R.I.P. Issac

Bernie Mac - My sisters Kids- R.I.P. Bernie

Oldest Working CEO Dead at 107

Jack A. Weil, the Henry Ford of Western shirts who was thought to be the oldest working CEO, died yesterday at age 107, the Denver Post reports. “Papa Jack,” as he was known in the Denver community, popularized the Western shirt as we know it. The sawtooth pocket and diamond snap design of his Rockmount Ranch Wear apparel is the longest continuous style produced in the country.

Weil’s store was patronized by commoners and celebs alike, from the Killers to Bob Dylan, and all celebrated his down-home friendliness. He started the company in 1946 after emigrating from Indiana at the behest of a garter company he worked for, the Rocky Mountain News reports. "He always greeted you by standing up, giving a firm handshake and looking you in the eye, and that's part of Western culture, and a big part of who Jack was," said a friend.

Banker Predicted Georgian Invasion 2 Days Early

An investment banker in Kiev predicted the Georgian conflict two days before it occurred, Reuters reports. "So whaddaya think?,” Geoff Smith wrote on Aug. 5 to a fellow strategist at Renaissance Capital. “I say Saakashvili is going to 'restore the territorial integrity of Georgia' five minutes before the opening ceremony starts in Beijing and dare the Russians to invade while the Games are on."

On Aug. 7, the day before the Olympics began, Saakashvili did just that. "It was just intuition," Smith told Reuters. "Certainly the next White House will not be as supportive of Saakashvili as this one, and so if Saakashvili wanted to reunite Georgia he really had to do it this year and he was probably hoping the Olympic Games gave him the right cover."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Trick My Writing

By Bob Rehak

While I believe that the oldest trick in the book is when you get a dog to “sit” (I believe Adam taught it to his lesser known dog, which he named “Beta”), the journalistic equivalent of the oldest trick in the book is to fill up a space with comments on more than one topic. For example, Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times uses it all the time; under the guise that you’re getting 4 columns for the price of one. What he’s really saying is that he can’t fill up the space with enough to say about one particular topic, so he gives you 4 appetizers rather than an entire entrĂ©e. The second oldest trick in the book of journalism is to fill up a column with letters and emails from readers, then insert pithy one-liners as a “response”. Watch for one of those columns from your favorite columnist coming soon. I guarantee you it took 4 minutes to write that column. Probably on a golf course. Since I don’t have reader email and letters to respond to, (although I have plenty of pithy one-liners [that’s the second time I used the word ‘pithy’; I really like it]), I will just stick to the four-columns-in-one trick to satisfy my editorial obligations this week:

Bartman won’t appear at convention for $25,000 for single autograph: As reported on this website and elsewhere, infamous Cubs fan Steve Bartman turned down an offer to appear at a Sports Memorabilia convention for $25,000 in exchange for a single autograph. Bartman has always pledged to never profit from his unfortunate choice of seats for Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. I admire him for his conviction. I’m sure there are many of us who would be hard pressed to turn down that much money for a single signature, but he’s made his choice and he’s sticking to it. Either he’s a man of his word, or he’s holding out for more money. I will continue to admire him if he sticks to his word, but I will also understand if he waits it out for a better offer, and takes it. As a Cubs fan who was at that game, I am in an elite group of only 42,000+ other people on this planet who felt cheated that we didn’t witness the Cubs win the pennant that night in person. But I don’t blame Bartman. I blame the umpires. Take a look at the picture of Steve and Moises Alou as they both go for the ball. Can you honestly say that the ball is inside the railing in the stands? It’s always looked to me like the ball was headed onto the field, had it not encountered Steve’s bare hands. And if that’s the case, then it’s fan interference, and the batter is automatically out, and it’s a dead ball. Since this was the NLCS, there was a 6 man umpiring crew (2 extra umpires watching the outfield foul lines). That crew did not have the nerve to call fan interference, and it cost us an out. Whether or not we would have won the game will never be known. So there’s nothing to forgive Bartman for. There’s not a fan alive (an honest fan) who would have backed off that ball, including all the fans near Bartman who can be seen reaching for the ball as well. Hold out for more money, Steve. Or hold out for your convictions. Either way, this Cubs fan is behind you.

The Army reneges on promise to Caleb Campbell to allow him to play in the NFL: Before Caleb Campbell graduated from West Point, he was told by the Army he could enter the NFL draft this year, and that if he made the team, he would be allowed to play for the Detroit Lions and carry out his military service as a recruiter.

But military policy was reinterpreted recently, and the Army informed Campbell that he would be required to serve at least two years on active duty before he could apply to be released. He was told of this change of purple heart the day before training camp opened. This one conflicts me, like paying $2 a pound for crab legs that are 3 days past their expiration date. Campbell chose the military and had to know that it wasn’t all fun and war games. He made a commitment. On the other hand, the Army also made a commitment to him to let him enter the NFL, only to back out of the deal so as not to set a bad precedent (or just to satisfy a general who hates the Lions). In my mind this set a nice precedent for young men and women everywhere: the military will not pamper you or show you favoritism. If you go into the military, be prepared to fulfill your commitment. Maybe other young men and women will now think twice about joining the military. Perhaps we saved a few lives here.

Parents Upset that “Dark Night” is too “dark”: Some parents (who probably should have their Parent Cards taken away) have complained about all the violence in the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight”. They say it’s too violent for children. I agree; that’s why there’s a PG-13 rating attached to the movie that says, “FOR INTENSE SEQUENCES OF VIOLENCE AND MENACE”. Part of the problem is the numbing down and dumbing down of moviegoers. “Dark Knight” was given a PG-13 rating because we’re all getting numb to the violence that’s depicted on big screens at the Cineplex and little screens in the home (though some homes have Cineplexes in the home). Blood courses through prime time television offerings, and it gets kicked up a notch at the movies. If you think your child is too young to see someone get a pencil in the head, or too young for “intense violence and menace”, leave little Johnny at home. There’s a reason why it’s not recommended for children under 13. There’s also a reason why there’s an explanation of the PG-13 rating right on the movie poster. There’s also a reason why not everyone should be a parent.

Drew Peterson’s friends wear a wire: Two friends of suspect Drew Peterson secretly taped conversations they had with him, during which he supposedly implicated himself in the murders of his one dead and one missing wives. Drew’s attorney basically laughed off the whole sting operation, knowing that it wouldn’t hold up in court, especially with Stacy Peterson still missing. Just like Joran van der Sloot, the prime suspect in Natalee Holloway’s disappearance, Peterson spouted off about his role in his crime to people he knew as friends. And just like van der Sloot, Drew won’t be headed to jail anytime soon. These days it takes a videotape of the actual crime to get convicted of anything, and even then you can just claim it isn’t you on the tape (see R. Kelly). Everyone is presumed innocent, even after they admit to being guilty.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

New WebVet Coughs Up Tips for Ailing Pets

A newly launched website aims to lure pet owners away from Google with a storehouse of tips on curing sick pets, TechCrunch reports. WebVet.com offers abstracts on ailments from Lyme disease to rabies, and boosts its content with articles on such pet essentials as travel, gifts, and fashion. And fear not—its articles are all vetted by vets to ensure accuracy.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Bernie Mac Has Pneumonia

Comedian Bernie Mac is in “very, very critical” condition and in a Chicago hospital being treated for pneumonia, a family friend told the Chicago Sun-Times. But the 50-year-old’s publicist called reports of his death "a very horrible rumor" and said he'll be released soon.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

7 Reasons to Get Hitched

If you're considering getting married—or divorced—it may be time to mull over Maclean's reasons why matrimony is healthy:

Married people have less chance of dying from car accidents, cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, heart attacks, and homicide.
Men who divorce or separate are six times more likely to be depressed than those who stick with it; women, 3.5 times more likely.
Two words: combined income. Married people usually have more money when they retire, too.
Young married couples with kids are more likely to buy a home than singles who earn just as much.
Married women and men are less likely to be raped or assaulted.
Married people volunteer more and give more to charity.
Husbands and wives get more sex, more frequently—and some studies suggest they even enjoy it more.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

French Winemakers Turn to Terror

Tough times have turned some wine-growers in southwestern France to "wine terrorism," Time reports. Guerrilla grape-growers have bombed supermarkets and government buildings, hijacked trucks carrying foreign wine, and drained tanks. The growers want the French government to protect them from the cheap imports they say are threatening their survival.

The price French wine-growers get for their crop has plummeted in recent years as less-expensive pours from around the globe flow into the country. The wine commandos say violent action is the only way to get the government to take their concerns seriously. A video message from the group to Nicolas Sarkozy warned "blood will flow" if the growers don't receive help.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Merrill Panic May Mark Bottom of Stock Market

Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain has seen better days, Floyd Norris writes in the New York Times. He's gone from “cockiness to capitulation. Distinction to desperation.” Thain recently unloaded a bundle of his company’s securities for 22 cents on the dollar and raised $8.5 billion from a stock sale. But this uncharacteristic fear could indicate that Wall Street has finally hit bottom.

“It is Wall Street legend that bottoms are made when the most optimistic give up,” Norris notes. “The worst of the economy is almost certainly ahead of us. But it is possible that the worse of the stock market is not.”

Border Agents Have Right to Seize Any Traveler's Laptop

US border agents can seize laptop computers or other electronc devices from any traveler entering the country and keep them indefinitely, even without suspicion of wrongdoing, the Washington Post reports. A policy update released by Homeland Security, dated July 16, says agents can keep any information-storing device they please and can share the data with other agencies, "absent individualized suspicion."

Officials say the measures—which apply to all travelers, including US citizens—are necessary to fight terrorism, but civil liberties advocates argue that agents are trampling individual freedoms. "They're saying they can rifle through all the information in a traveler's laptop without having a smidgen of evidence that the traveler is breaking the law," said one. They've been seizing laptops and cellphones in increasing numbers, reports the Post, keeping them, in one case, for months.

Turtle Assists in Pot Bust

Agent 99, watch out: A 6-inch-long box turtle known as "No. 72” may want your job. Washington, DC, police recently got an assist from No. 72 in making a drug bust, the Washington Post reports. One of several turtles fitted with transmitters that allow National Park Service researchers to track them, No. 72 happened to receive a visit from a scientist while plodding amid some suspicious plants. "I could tell they were marijuana plants," said Ken Ferebee.

"I called the police to come see, because I knew they'd be interested in that," Ferebee continued. Police checked in on the stash occasionally for a few weeks until the grower, a 19-year-old college student, showed up to tend them. He’s been arrested and charged with possession with intent to distribute the pound and a half of pot in the patch, worth about $6,500 on the street.