Friday, October 29, 2010

Activist assaulted by Rand Paul supporters in Kentucky
Activist assaulted by Rand Paul supporters in Kentucky
Hiram Lee
27 October 2010

A video widely distributed on the Internet documents supporters of Rand Paul, the Republican and Tea Party-backed senate candidate in Kentucky, physically assaulting a liberal activist prior to a debate held on Monday in Lexington.

The victim, Lauren Valle, 23, a member of the pro-Democratic Party group, was among a crowd of Paul supporters who had gathered at the site of the final debate of the election. As the candidate made his way into the debate hall, Valle attempted to present him with a satirical “employee-of-the-month award” from a fictional company called “RepubliCorp,” used by to draw attention to Republican candidates’ ties to major corporations.

Video captured a number of Paul’s supporters reacting to Valle’s presence with evident rage. They violently forced Valle, a small woman who clearly posed no threat, to the ground. At least one man in the crowd then held her on the ground against her will, while another man holding a Rand Paul campaign sign stomped on her head, shoving her face into the concrete sidewalk. The assailant was later revealed to be Tim Profitt, a Paul campaign worker.

It is clear that the force of the kick could have severely injured Valle. While Valle was able to speak with the local media following the incident, her face was left swollen and her neck and shoulders were hurt. She spent the night in a Lexington hospital with a concussion and a sprained shoulder.

The attack is another indication of the type of deranged and fascistic elements being mobilized by the Tea Party movement and its candidates as they seek to form a popular base for extreme right-wing politics in the US. The Tea Party appeals to the most backward sentiments—anti-immigrant chauvinism, militarism, racism, religious intolerance, anti-gay bigotry—with the full support of its corporate backers and the Republican Party establishment.

The viscious rhetoric espoused by leading figures in the Tea Party movement, including Rand Paul, has created a political climate that, in effect, sanctions and encourages attacks like the one carried out on Lauren Valle.

The emergence of the far-right, and the growing threat of violence it portends, cannot be fought through the Democratic Party. This is made clear by the immediate context in which the attack on Valle occurred, the Senate race in Kentucky, which has been a thoroughly reactionary affair in which the objective interests of the state’s working class, devastated by the economic crisis, are completely blocked out.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, Paul’s Democratic opponent in the election, has run a right-wing, anti-working class campaign in which he has attacked Paul from the right.

Conway is a millionaire, a supporter of the Iraq War, an advocate of the indefinite extension of the Bush tax cuts, an outspoken advocate of the death penalty, an opponent of gay marriage, and a steadfast ally of the state’s coal companies.

Most recently, Conway has attempted to smear Paul by questioning his devotion to Christianity in a series of television attack ads.

It was revealed late Tuesday afternoon that the assailant filmed in the video is Profitt, who serves as Paul’s campaign coordinator in Bourbon County. The Paul campaign said in a statement that is has “disassociated itself” from Profitt.

On Tuesday, Profitt was served with a summons to appear in court. Police have lodged fourth-degree assault charges against him.

Profitt insisted the incident was not as bad as it looked and attempted to justify his actions. “I’m sorry that it came to that, and I apologize if it appeared overly forceful, but I was concerned about Rand’s safety,” he told the Associated Press.

In comments to the Huffington Post, Valle said she sensed the assault might have been premeditated. Several people came up behind her before the attack, and she said she heard one of them say, “We are here to do crowd control (and) we might have to take someone out.”

“One or two people twisted my arms behind my back and took me down,” Valle wrote. “It was about two-to-three seconds after that that another person stomped on my head.”

Police said that Rand supporters had earlier fingered Valle as a threat, but said that they declined to act because she had not done anything illegal. “It’s not illegal to take a picture with somebody,” Lexington police spokesperson Sherelle Roberts said.

Another Conway supporter said he was also threatened by Paul campaign workers at the event. Michael J. Grossman, described by the Lexington Herald-Leader as “a corporate official in Lexington,” said a Paul supporter tried to “take me down” moments after Valle was attacked.

“It was a relatively calm political event until the Rand Paul people simply went nuts when their candidate arrived,” Grossman said. “By and large they appeared to be a very hostile group of people who were looking for trouble, and I guess they got it.”

Debtors' prisons on the rise in the US
Debtors' prisons on the rise in the US
David Brown
27 October 2010

Both the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Brennan Center for Justice released reports in early October on a disturbing trend in the American justice system: the abuse of jail sentences and probation to collect more money in fines for cash-strapped courts.

The ACLU report, “In For a Penny: The Rise of America’s New Debtor’s Prisons,” focuses on interviews and personal stories in the five states they predicted to be the worst offenders (Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, Georgia, and Washington). The Brennan Center report, “Criminal Justice Debt: A Barrier to Reentry,” covers ten states in addition to the five in the ACLU report (California, Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Arizona, North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama and Missouri) and provides more detailed statistics on a wider array of abuses.

In each of the 15 states examined (covering 60 percent of all state criminal filings), courts placed special “user fees” on defendants to generate revenue.

These fees differ from other legal financial obligations because their sole, express purpose is to put money into the state’s budget instead of punishing the criminal or giving the victim restitution. As many states face budget cuts, they are turning increasingly to these types of fees to fund their court systems. In one example, the district court of Orleans Parish in Louisiana, the ACLU estimated that these fees totaled almost two thirds of the court’s general fund.

This method of funding the courts is thoroughly regressive, fully placing the burden on the poor who constitute the vast majority of defendants. The National Center for State Courts estimates that 80 to 90 percent of all criminal defendants qualify for indigent defense programs due to their financial inability to afford legal counsel. The regressive nature of these fees is compounded by widespread failure to enforce longstanding constitutional protections of the poor.

The United States inherited a tradition of incarceration for private debts from colonial times. By the 1830s, it had reached such absurd proportions that in some states there were three to five times as many people imprisoned for debt as for actual crimes. Imprisonment for debt was abolished under federal law in 1833, but many states continued the practice.

In particular, Southern states would imprison debtors and lease prisoners out to plantation owners as a means of effectively perpetuating slavery after the Civil War. More recently, however, the US Supreme Court has ruled that prison can only be used as a means to collect debts “when a person has the ability to make payments but refuses to do so,” according to the Brennan Center.

In one such ruling, Bearden v. Georgia (1983), the Supreme Court ruled that courts cannot revoke a defendant’s probation for failure to pay a fine that the defendant made a bona fide effort to pay. Like many of the other rulings of the high court on this matter, it is routinely ignored in an effort to squeeze more revenue from defendants.

According to Supreme Court rulings, the only legal way to imprison someone for debt is to demonstrate that a defendant had the means to pay and willfully did not. Yet it has become common for courts to arrest and jail a debtor and only check their ability to pay on appeal.

The Brennan Center noted that in all 15 states its report examined, individuals have been arrested for missing a court-ordered debt payment or failing to appear at a debt-related proceeding. Only after a few days in jail was a hearing granted to determine whether the individual willfully missed his or her obligations. This practice is particularly disturbing because every state except Ohio assessed mandatory fees without taking into consideration ability to pay.

Jailing someone before determining that person’s ability to pay is not only inhumane and contrary to legal standards, but frequently disrupts the debtor’s ability to earn money. In one perverse example in Michigan described by the ACLU, Louis Kalman fell behind on his child support payments of $75 a week, despite paying what he could. At the time he was brought to trial, he was responsible for his elderly and sick father while earning $200 a week, $100 of which went to rent.

Despite documentary evidence that Mr. Kalman had been trying to increase his hours at work to full-time employment and a plea from the mother of his children that the court “not put Mr. Kalman in prison because simply as a practical matter it means she gets no money,” the court sentenced him to a prison term of two to four years. The court further ordered that the child support payments continue to accrue while he was in prison.

In addition to jail time, many states have started charging fees for being in prison, being on probation and parole, and even using a public defender. All but one of the states examined in the reports assessed some form of penalty on anyone incapable of paying their fees immediately. These penalties can include anything from a flat $300 civil assessment for falling behind in payments to a fee for simply entering into a payment plan.

Other states assess excessive collection fees totaling a certain percent of the amount due. Florida authorizes a collection fee of 40 percent of the total debt, while Alabama only allows 30 percent. Telling in the case of Alabama is that state usury laws prohibit interest rates over 8 percent for private debts.

These fees can create a situation of runaway debt, where no matter how hard someone tries to pay it down, the debt keeps growing. The story of a woman referred to as Lisa, interviewed by the ACLU, provides a perfect example of this phenomenon.

A former drug addict in King County, Washington, she was convicted on four felony counts nine years ago. Although she has not committed any new crimes in the past nine years, her inability to make sufficient payments combined with the mandatory 12 percent interest rate on all unpaid legal financial obligations in Washington has caused her debt to balloon to $60,000.

In addition to this excessive financial burden, Lisa has been imprisoned three different times in the past nine years, for a total of 40 days, solely for nonpayment of her legal debts. She understandably feels overwhelmed by the situation and told the ACLU about her debt, “It’s just like a nightmare, you know? Like is this ever going to go away? And the only thing, I keep hearing the judge say ‘if you have to pay $20 for the rest of your life, that is what you are going to be doing.’ ”

At the root of this systematic exploitation is an attempt to pad state coffers. Both the ACLU and the Brennan Center acknowledge state budget cuts, under the impact of the financial crisis, as the driving force for these efforts to raise funds through the courts. However, refunding court and public defender systems is the last thing on the minds of Republican and Democratic politicians who continue their calls for austerity.

50 years ago: Kennedy intervenes for imprisoned Martin Luther King

50 years ago: Kennedy intervenes for imprisoned Martin Luther King
25 October 2010

With days to go before his 1960 presidential contest with Vice President Richard Nixon, Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy intervened to secure the release of Martin Luther King Jr. from a Georgia state prison. Kennedy called King’s wife, Coretta, while Robert Kennedy personally pressured the judge in the case.

King had been arrested for participating in a Georgia sit-in. The misdemeanor charge of failing to vacate private property would not have resulted in prison, but the judge in the case seized on an earlier trumped-up charge against King—operating a motor vehicle without a proper Georgia drivers license—to order King’s jailing for four months. The civil rights leader was hustled away on October 26 in the early morning so that his attorneys could not lodge a habeas corpus plea.

Kennedy’s intervention arose from his emphasis during the campaign on what he argued was the erosion of US global prestige during the Eisenhower administration. He understood that the abuse of King by state authorities was an embarrassment to the US, which was attempting to portray itself in its Cold War duel with the Soviet Union as an unswerving advocate of democracy and freedom.

The move was not without its political risks. The Southern elite had been drifting out of the Democratic Party “New Deal coalition” for some time, and Nixon was leading in the polls in a number of Southern states. During the 1960 campaign, prominent “Dixiecrats” openly campaigned against Kennedy. Among them were Sen. Harry Byrd of West Virginia, Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, and Gov. S. Ernest Vandiver of Georgia, who defended the prison sentence and called King a “race agitator.”

Child soldier Omar Khadr coerced into plea-bargain

Child soldier Omar Khadr coerced into plea-bargain
Keith Jones
27 October 2010

With Canada’s Conservative government acting as their accomplice and in violation of international law, the Obama administration and US military have coerced child soldier Omar Khadr into a plea bargain.

Khadr, who was captured after a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002 when he was just 15 years old, has spent the last eight years in the legal black holes that are the Bagram and Guantanamo Bay detention camps. This summer he became the first person to be dragged before a Military Commission—a special military court where the normal rules governing evidence do not apply.

No sooner did Khadr’s trial begin last August, than the military judge ruled that “evidence” obtained from Khadr when he was lying severely wounded in the Bagram prison hospital was “not coerced” and could be used against him in court. Similarly, the judge discounted testimony showing he had been threatened with rape, subject to sleep deprivation, and other “aggressive” interrogation techniques—techniques that his military-appointed lawyer, himself a US colonel, categorized as torture.

Under the plea bargain, Khadr pled guilty to murdering a Delta Special Forces soldier during the firefight and to four other charges: spying, attempted murder, conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism. He also had to declare in open court that he had “voluntarily” agreed to an eight-page, 50-paragraph “stipulation” or statement “of facts,” that portrays him as an “alien unprivileged enemy belligerent”—i.e., a war criminal—who was eager to kill Americans and Jews and was fully cognizant of the import of his actions.

In exchange for his guilty plea, the US government has agreed that Khadr will be incarcerated for one year in solitary confinement at Guantanamo Bay, then transferred to Canada, where he was born and his family now resides, to serve out the remainder of a sentence of no more than eight years imprisonment.

When Khadr returns to Canada, he will become subject to that country’s more liberal parole laws. It is anticipated, moreover, that his Canadian lawyers will aggressively fight for his early release from prison on multiple grounds. These include that under international law child soldiers are not legally responsible for their actions and therefore not subject to prosecution, that the Military Commission process does not meet basic juridical norms, and that under Canadian law Khadr should be deemed a “young offender,” making him subject to more lenient treatment, given his age at the time of his reputed crimes.

The prosecution and conviction of Khadr via plea-bargain is a legal and political travesty.

As a child who became implicated in a military conflict while under the care of his father, Khadr is by rights a “victim” under international law. And that is before any consideration is given to the abuse that he has suffered at the hands of the US military over the past eight years.

The crimes for which has been convicted are standard practice in the Afghan war or any other military conflict. Those who have prosecuted Khadr—the US government and military—are themselves guilty of horrific war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In July, Khadr defiantly and courageously rejected a plea bargain, saying it would “give [an] excuse for the government for torturing and abusing me when I was a child.”

But Khadr’s lawyers clearly felt compelled to warn him that under the rules fashioned for the Military Commissions by the Bush and Obama administrations he could expect no justice. If he did not accept a plea bargain, he would effectively be placing himself at the mercy of a US military that had shown it was eager to lock him up for life as part of a vendetta against his father, reportedly a high-ranking Al Qaeda operative.

In an interview Monday, Khadr’s Canadian lawyer, Dennis Edney, declared, “Had Omar refused [the plea bargain offer] he would have faced an unfair trial, based on evidence that would have been inadmissible in any real court and he would have been exposed to life in Guantanamo Bay or even … worse … if there is such a place.”

Edney added that Khadr and his lawyers “all feel unhappy, sad—that this process is an absolute sham.”

“International lawyers, international judges, international governments have all said that this Military Commission process … is just designed to make findings of guilt.

“In our view, it is clear that Omar admitted to things he clearly didn’t do.”

Then in a pointed reference to Canadian authorities’ role in the prosecution and persecution of Khadr, Edney said, “You can’t say this is a fair process and a viable outcome … We have got to look at why no one came to his rescue.”

It had been rumored for months that the Obama administration was seeking to end the Khadr case with a plea bargain. For Obama, who during the 2008 presidential campaign had claimed that he would shut down Guantanamo Bay and criticized the Military Commissions, it was something of an embarrassment that the first Military Commission trial involved a child soldier.

As the same time, the Obama administration and the military can now hold up Khadr’s coerced guilty plea, claiming that it legitimizes the ordeal to which he has been subjected over the past eight years.

This was the line taken by the chief prosecutor at Kahdr’s trial. Navy Capt. John F. Murphy told reporters Monday after the plea bargain had been presented in court, “Omar Khadr is not a victim. He’s not a child soldier. He’s not a product of any kind of abuse. He’s convicted on his own words.''

In all of this the Canadian government, its national-security apparatus and political establishment, have played an especially shameful role.

Under Liberal and Conservative governments alike, Canada failed to press for Khadr’s release from the patently illegal Guantanamo Bay concentration camp. Earlier this year Canada’s Supreme Court found that the Canadian government had violated Khadr’s fundamental constitutional rights by having members of its national security forces interrogate Khadr at Guantanamo Bay when they knew he had been “softened up” by sleep-deprivation torture.

Canada’s current Conservative government enthusiastically supported his prosecution by a Military Commission, repeatedly challenging court rulings that it should seek Khadr’s repatriation and publicly declaring its support and confidence in the drumhead courts. Indeed, it effectively signaled that its preference would be for Khadr to be kept in Guantanamo Bay indefinitely.

From all accounts, the Canadian government only agreed to the plea bargain under strong pressure from Washington. Last Friday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called up Canada’s Foreign Affair Minister Lawrence Cannon to insist that Canada facilitate the plea bargain deal by allowing Khadr to complete his sentence in Canada.


The CRH380 train has been clocked at almost 262 mph
Tuesday October 26, 2010

A new high-speed rail line has been opened in China amid boasts from officials over the use of domestic technology to set world records.

Many of the trains plying the new railway between Shanghai's western suburb of Hongqiao and Hangzhou will travel the 126 miles in 45 minutes - about half the time trains usually take to make the trip at their fastest speeds.

The China-made CRH380 train has been clocked at almost 262 mph - a world speed record - though it will usually operate at a maximum speed of 220 mph.

The line was opened as China prepares to have 10,000 miles of high-speed rail in operation by 2012.

The effort to develop China's own ultra high-speed rail technology is a showcase project almost on a par with the country's space programme as a symbol of national pride and importance.

Railway officials recently announced they were working on technology to boost speeds to more than 312 mph.

Railway Ministry spokesman Wang Yongping said all the technology, design and equipment of the CRH380 is China's own. However, he acknowledged the project began in cooperation with Japan and other countries.

He said: "Now other countries are wanting to cooperate with us. They all want our technology."

One of the biggest high-speed rail lines under construction is the 32.5-billion dollar (£20.6 billion) Beijing-to-Shanghai railway. The 824-mile line is scheduled to open in 2012.

That line will reduce the travelling time between China's leading cities to five hours.

High-fructose corn syrup in soda has much more fructose than advertised,0,6294691.story

High-fructose corn syrup in soda has much more fructose than advertised, study finds
Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times
October 26, 2010

High-fructose corn syrup is often singled out as Food Enemy No. 1 because it has become ubiquitous in processed foods over about the last 30 – a period that coincides with a steep rise in obesity. One of the primary sources of HFCS in the American diet is soda – in fact, many public health advocates refer to soda as “liquid candy.”

That nickname is more apt than advocates realized, according to a study published online this month by the journal Obesity.

Researchers from the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine went shopping in East Los Angeles and bought 23 cans and bottles of popular beverages. Then they sent them off to a laboratory in Massachusetts that used a technique called high-performance liquid chromatography to determine how much fructose, glucose and sucrose were in each sample. Each beverage was tested three times, and all samples were unlabeled.

Before we get to the results, let’s pause for a quick review on sugars. Fructose and glucose are simple sugars. Fructose is sweeter than glucose and has been shown to do more damage to your metabolism. Sucrose – better known as table sugar – is a 50-50 combination of fructose and glucose. The HFCS used in soda is supposed to contain no more than 55% fructose and 45% glucose, according to the Corn Refiners Assn. (Another popular formulation is 42% fructose and 58% glucose.) This slight difference is the reason why we here at Booster Shots frequently say that HFCS is just as unhealthy as “natural” sugar.

But it turns out that some of the stuff they put in soda isn’t HFCS, it’s RHFCS – Really High Fructose Corn Syrup.

The Keck researchers found that the sweeteners in Coca-Cola and Pepsi contained as much as 65% fructose (and only 35% glucose), and Sprite registered as much as 64% fructose (and 36% glucose).

“The type of sugar listed on the label is not always consistent with the type of sugar detected,” they wrote. “Considering that the average American drinks 50 gallons of soda and other sweetened beverages each year, it is important that we have more precise information regarding what they contain, including a listing of the fructose content.”

To make sure the high-performance liquid chromatography tests were accurate, the researchers also sent samples of pure fructose, pure glucose and pure sucrose. The test detected 9.9 grams of fructose in a 10-gram sample of fructose, 9.8 grams of glucose in a 10-gram sample of glucose, and 9 grams of sucrose in a 10-gram sample of sucrose.

The study included a few other surprises:

Mountain Dew had 13% less sugar than advertised on the label, and Dr. Pepper had 8% less.

Tested samples of Mexican Coca-Cola – which is supposedly made with cane sugar instead of HFCS – contained no sucrose, only fructose and glucose in a 52%-to-48% ratio.

17% of the sweetener in Red Bull was fructose, even though sucrose and glucose are the only sweeteners listed on the label.

We weren’t the only ones surprised by the findings. Here’s what nutritionist Marion Nestle had to say about the study Tuesday on her blog, Food Politics: "I’ve been saying for ages that the sugar composition of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is no different from that of table sugar (sucrose)."


Nestle continued: "At most, HFCS is supposed to be 55% fructose, as compared to the 50% in table sugar. Most foods and drinks are supposed to be using HFCS that is 42% fructose. A percentage of 55 is not much different biologically than 50, which is why the assumption has been that there is no biologically meaningful difference between HFCS and table sugar. This study, if confirmed, means that this supposition may need some rethinking."

The USC researchers pointed out that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows for some wiggle room on nutrition labels. Sodas are allowed to have as much as 20% more of a nutrient – including sugar and HFCS – than is indicated on the side of the can. Even Cokes and Pepsis with 65% fructose instead of 55% are only 18% higher than advertised.

Is the universe a big hologram? This device could find out.

Cool Astronomy
Is the universe a big hologram? This device could find out.
Scientists at Fermilab are constructing a 'holometer' to get a closer look at the fabric of spacetime.
Spacetime itself seems to become pixelated when you look at it very closely. Some theorize that this happens because the universe is really two dimensional.
Ian O'Neill, / October 25, 2010

During the hunt for the predicted ripples in space-time — known as gravitational waves — physicists stumbled across a rather puzzling phenomenon. Last year, I reported about the findings of scientists using the GEO600 experiment in Germany. Although the hi-tech piece of kit hadn’t turned up evidence for the gravitational waves it was seeking, it did turn up a lot of noise.

Before we can understand what this “noise” is, we need to understand how equipment designed to look for the space-time ripples caused by collisions between black holes and supernova explosions.

Gravitational wave detectors are incredibly sensitive to the tiniest change in distance. For example, the GEO600 experiment can detect a fluctuation of an atomic radius over a distance from the Earth to the Sun. This is achieved by firing a laser down a 600 meter long tube where it is split, reflected and directed into an interferometer. The interferometer can detect the tiny phase shifts in the two beams of light predicted to occur should a gravitational wave pass through our local volume of space. This wave is theorized to slightly change the distance between physical objects. Should GEO600 detect a phase change, it could be indicative of a slight change in distance, thus the passage of a gravitational wave.

While looking out for a gravitational wave signal, scientists at GEO600 noticed something bizarre. There was inexplicable static in the results they were gathering. After canceling out all artificial sources of the noise, they called in the help of Fermilab’s Craig Hogan to see if his expertise of the quantum world help shed light on this anomalous noise. His response was as baffling as it was mind-blowing. “It looks like GEO600 is being buffeted by the microscopic quantum convulsions of space-time,” Hogan said.

Come again?

The signal being detected by GEO600 isn’t a noise source that’s been overlooked, Hogan believes GEO600 is seeing quantum fluctuations in the fabric of space-time itself. This is where things start to get a little freaky.

According to Einstein’s view on the universe, space-time should be smooth and continuous. However, this view may need to be modified as space-time may be composed of quantum “points” if Hogan’s theory is correct. At its finest scale, we should be able to probe down the “Planck length” which measures 10-35 meters. But the GEO600 experiment detected noise at scales of less than 10-15 meters.

As it turns out, Hogan thinks that noise at these scales are caused by a holographic projection from the horizon of our universe. A good analogy is to think about how an image becomes more and more blurry or pixelated the more you zoom in on it. The projection starts off at Planck scale lengths at the Universe’s event horizon, but its projection becomes blurry in our local space-time. This hypothesis comes out of black hole research where the information that falls into a black hole is “encoded” in the black hole’s event horizon. For the holographic universe to hold true, information must be encoded in the outermost reaches of the Universe and it is projected into our 3 dimensional world.

But how can this hypothesis be tested? We need to boost the resolution of a gravitational wave detector-type of kit. Enter the “Holometer.”

Currently under construction in Fermilab, the Holometer (meaning holographic interferometer) will delve deep into this quantum realm at smaller scales than the GEO600 experiment. If Hogan’s idea is correct, the Holometer should detect this quantum noise in the fabric of space-time, throwing our whole perception of the Universe into a spin.

Ian O'Neill blogs at AstroEngine.

Did Four Loko Send Washington Students to the Hospital?

Did Four Loko Send Washington Students to the Hospital?
Megan Gibson

When a group of students from Central Washington University fell ill at a party and nine of them were rushed to the hospital earlier this month, doctors originally suspected the date rape drug, Rohypnol. Now investigators are looking at the alcoholic caffeine drink Four Loko.

Reports emerged that investigators had ruled out the date rape drug and turned their suspicions to the students' consumption of Four Loko as the cause--one 23.5 ounce can is roughly equivalent to drinking five or six beers plus several cups of coffee, reports ABC News.

But the company has been quick to defend their product. Students were reportedly drinking heavily and mixing alcohol the night of the party, which Four Loko spokespeople say caused them to fall ill.

The manufacturers released a statement to ABC where they insist that Four Loko is not dangerous if its warning labels are heeded:

"The unacceptable incident at Central Washington University, which appears to have involved hard liquor ... and possibly illicit substances, is precisely why we go to great lengths to ensure our products are not sold to underage consumers and are not abused."

For a "blackout in a can"--as the drink has been dubbed--which costs around $2.50 with the added bonus of caffeine, it's hardly a surprise this drink appeals to college students. Also unsurprisingly, calls to ban the drink have already started to spread across college campuses. Central Washington University has already banned the drink as well as other campuses in New York and New Jersey. After banning the drink at Ramapo College, President Peter Mercer said that drinking the beverages has, "no redeeming social purpose."

Which actually could describe most of college social life.

Goodbye Walkman, thanks for the iPod

October 25, 2010
Goodbye Walkman, thanks for the iPod
Greg Sandoval

Sony has announced it has finally retired the Walkman cassette tape player, marking the end of one of the most successful consumer gadgets of all time.

Over three decades, Sony sold more than 200 million Walkman tape players.

At least it outlived disco.

By today's standards, the Walkman was clunky. The plastic tape player required frequent replacing of two AA batteries. There was no shuffle. There was no storage to speak of. It could play only the number of songs on the tape. Jumping to a new song tasked an owner with fast-forwarding, an inexact process that meant repeated stops to find the start of the desired tune.

But until July 1, 1979, the day the Walkman went on sale in Japan, people had no concept of portable music--not the kind that Sony offered. Until that day, portable music mostly meant holding a transistor radio up to your ear.

The Walkman dazzled.

Count Steve Jobs among the most impressed, according to John Sculley, Apple's former CEO.

"We used to go visit [Sony founder] Akio Morita and he had really the same kind of high-end standards that Steve did and respect for beautiful products," Sculley said in an excellent interview with Leander Kahney of the Cult of Mac blog. "I remember Akio Morita gave Steve and me each one of the first Sony Walkmans. None of us had ever seen anything like that before because there had never been a product like that...Steve was fascinated by it. The first thing he did with his was take it apart and he looked at every single part. How the fit and finish was done, how it was built."

So, the Walkman's designers likely influenced the eventual concept for the iPod. And what about the Walkman's branding? After the music player became a hit, Sony tried to capitalize by releasing such products as Pressman, Watchman, Scoopman, Discman, and the Walkman MP3 player--which will soldier on. Now, think iPod, iPhone, and iPad.

Of course, Jobs took portable music to a new level, one where even Morita's company couldn't compete. Jobs wrapped his offering around a cohesive and as yet unbeatable combination of hardware, software, and digital retail. Sony knew hardware but was at best so-so in retail and a total disaster at developing software (see Sony Connect).

Some have speculated that Sony's failure to keep up in a segment that the company created was one of the reasons it has given the Walkman such a quiet send off.

Still, the company should be proud. It's unlikely we would have had the iPod without the Walkman and Morita, who helped set music free.

For that, we owe the device and the man a deep and respectful bow.

Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. He is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.

Stuff You Should Know: The Future

Stuff You Should Know: The Future

Just because we’re not flying around on Hoverboard jet cars, ingesting meals in tablet form and still alive despite the Y2K disaster that never happened, doesn’t mean that we’ve completely failed at the future. It only means the future has failed us. Or that we’re really bad at predicting the future. Probably that second one. Here are a few other things you might not know about the future.

1. Newton Got Time Wrong

Isaac Newton saw time as absolute, meaning it flows at the same rate for anyone anywhere in the universe. Einstein disagreed. His theory of special relativity replaced absolute time with spacetime, which is a model that puts time as the 4th dimension of the universe, after length, width and depth. Furthermore, according to Einstein, under the right conditions and with the right tools, time traveling to the future is theoretically possible. Score! Which leads us to…

2. Stephen Hawking Can Totally Build Us a Time Machine!

Kinda. OK, that was misleading. The title should have read, “Stephen Hawking Theoretically Knows What We Need to Do to Build a Time Machine That Will Take Us to the Future.” All we need for time travel, according to Hawking and every other scientist ever, is to go really, really fast. Almost as fast as the speed of light.

Sounds impossible, right? Wrong. Two words: particle accelerator. Over at CERN in Switzerland, physicists are pushing particles to almost the speed of light, and here’s where things get freaky. At that rate of acceleration, time for the particles slooooowwws down, which is why they live 30 times longer than they would in regular time. Apply those principles to a magic train that orbits the earth and boom! Time machine, yo.

3. Ancient People Saw Time as Cyclical

And that’s why they thought they could predict the future; because it’s all happened before. After all, the seasons, the stars, animal migrations and even humans acted in a predictable cycle, why not time itself? The Mayans, the Buddhists, Greek and Romans, Babylonians, Hindus, pretty much everyone, saw time as a wheel with repeating ages. St. Augustine put the kibosh on wheel time for Christians (and therefore the entire Western world) when he asserted that time began at Creation, will end when God says so, and everything and everyone only happens once.

4. But He Didn’t Stop People From Trying Their Darndest to Predict the Future

Not by a long shot. Over the years people have believed they could predict the future using stars, tea leaves, crystal balls, tarot cards, spirit boards, even urine bubbles, cheese shapes and poop.

5. But What People Really Love Doing is Predicting Doomsday

The first Christians believed Jesus was coming back in their lifetime, and that his coming would usher in God’s reign on earth and the end of human time. Over the years, Christians and non-Christians alike have tried to pin a date on when this all will take place. They’re almost always wrong.

New England farmer William Miller thought the Bible pointed to October 22, 1844 as the day Jesus was going to get his return on. Pat Robertson thought 1982 would be the big year. The folks with the Heaven’s Gate cult thought the end of the world was imminent, and that mass suicide would allow them to catch a ride with some aliens trailing the Hale-Bopp comet. In fairness, we’re not entirely sure they were wrong.

Even pop singers who look curiously like Alan Cumming and Steve Zahn have gotten into prognosticating the future act:

"In the Year 2525" by Zager & Evans

6. This Just In: The World Will Not End in 2012

No, really. It turns out this big Mayan Calendar thing that everyone’s been talking about is off by 50 to 100 years. Not only will the world not end in 2012, but no one has any idea where they miscalculated when they converted the Mayan calendar to the modern Gregorian calendar. So, technically the end of the world may have already happened, according to Mayan prophesies.

Hope you didn’t already cash in your insurance policies!

7. Even Scientists Can Be Way Off About the Future

In 1974, Time magazine predicted a coming Ice Age, citing global cooler temperatures, “persistent pack ice” and many other dangerous warning signs as their evidence:

“Man, too, may be somewhat responsible for the cooling trend.”

So close. Change one word in that statement and they would have nailed it.

8. Science Fiction Writers, However, are Excellent Future Predictors

2001: A Space Odyssey totally predicted the iPad in 1968. Arthur C. Clarke called it a “newspad.”

“…he would plug in his foolscap-size newspad into the ship’s information circuit and scan the latest reports from Earth. One by one he would conjure up the world’s major electronic papers… he would hold the front page while he quickly searched the headlines and noted the items that interested him…the postage-stamp-size rectangle would expand until it neatly filled the screen and he could read it with comfort. …”

H.G. Wells called genetic engineering in 1896’s The Island of Dr. Moreau, police are testing out software that predicts crime before it happens, just like in Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report and in 1863 Jules Verne predicted the Internet, gas powered cars, skyscrapers, calculators and the building of the freakin’ Eiffel Tower, 23 years before it was actually built.

9. Futurists are Real World Scientists Who Are Paid to Predict the Future

Not joking, it’s a completely real, not made up job. And the best part of this job is that futurists can just make up whatever they feel like and call it a prediction. I’m going to be a futurist and predict you’ll read on to the the next sentence.

Ha! I did it! Someone get me a turban!

This year, Japanese futurists came up with some pretty cool educated guesses about what our future will look like:

•By 2022, synthetic blood will make blood transfusions unnecessary
•In 2026, we’ll finally have our robot maids.
•In 2031, we should finally be able to orbit the Earth for funsies.
•By 2038, we’ll have aircraft that doesn’t run on fossil fuel.
•And we’ll finally get that moon station we’ve been hoping for since the 1960’s in 2040.
Way to speed things along, science.

10. Other Than the Hoverboard Thing, Back to the Future II is Working Out Nicely, Thank You

Especially in the not-awesome predictions of the movie like constant, highly targeted advertising and surveillance cameras everywhere. But they also got telephone conversations via TV right, and that was just made possible this year. They also nailed hands-free video games, mobile payments and a kind of proto-version of social media. Hellooooo, Facebook.

'Back To The Future' Cast Recall Hoverboards And Kisses

Oct 26 2010
'Back To The Future' Cast Recall Hoverboards And Kisses
Michael J. Fox, Lea Thompson, Christopher Lloyd, more celebrate the 25th anniversary of the time-traveling flick.
Eric Ditzian with reporting by Josh Horowitz

Michael J. Fox was working in England in the summer of 1985 when "Back to the Future" hit theaters. Friends would call to tell him that the time-travel flick was shaping up to be the biggest film of the year, but the actor couldn't really wrap his head around the idea until he returned to the States.

"I came back, and it was a different world," Fox told MTV News.

That different world was on full display Monday night, as media, fans and the film's stars gathered in New York to celebrate both the 25th anniversary of "Back to the Future" and the two sequels the original spawned. All three movies have become part of the pop-culture lexicon, from quotable lines about DeLoreans and Calvin Klein to futuristic doodads like self-lacing Nikes and machines that instantly hydrate pizza.

"The thing that people ask me about more than anything else is the hoverboard," Fox said, referring to a levitating toy he rides in "BTTF II." "People want to know where they can get a hoverboard. I don't know. I wish I had a hoverboard because I was hanging from cranes and swung through the courtyard, dangling like a puppet and a hoverboard stapled to my feet."

Wherever they go, it seems, the stars and filmmakers are asked about the trilogy. Star Christopher Lloyd, who played wild-eyed scientist Doc Brown, finds people quoting back his iconic lines like, "Great Scott!" and, "Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads."

Franchise co-writer Bob Gale gets the "Roads" quote a lot too. Director Bob Zemeckis' favorite line comes from Lea Thompson's character, Lorraine: "When I'm kissing you, it's like I'm kissing my brother."

Thompson, meanwhile, gets this gem, delivered by Lorraine about the kid, Fox's Marty McFly, she doesn't know is actually her son: "He's an absolute dream."

This Fantasy League Gets a Stage in New York, for Real
OCTOBER 25, 2010
This Fantasy League Gets a Stage in New York, for Real
Harry Potter's 'Quidditch' Game Grows Up; Making Do With Brooms That Don't Fly

Like freshman everywhere, Xander Manshel and his Middlebury College classmates found themselves in their first year of college pondering some of life's biggest mysteries—like how to play Quidditch if you can't, like Harry Potter, fly?

The solution: race around in capes and goggles with broomsticks between your legs, while shooting balls through mounted hula hoops. Their version of the game, first played in 2005, was modeled on matches described in J.K. Rowling's novels.

"Quidditch was this bridge between the fantasy world of the books and the more concrete world of college," says Mr. Manshel, who has graduated and now teaches English. "For us [playing] was a way to have both."

But now Harry has grown-up—and so has the sport. There are tournaments, new rules and special brooms for competitive play. The "Quidditch World Cup" is moving this year to the Big Apple from Middlebury's idyllic campus. More than 60 college and high school teams have registered to compete Nov. 13 and 14—up from 20 last year—at a park in Manhattan.

"Our hope is that it will be a real coming out party for the league," says Alex Benepe—one of the sport's founders and president of the newly formed nonprofit International Quidditch Association. It's now played at hundreds of schools, he says.

But just as Harry experienced growing pains, so has the "muggle" version of the game. (Muggle is the books' term for nonmagical people.) Some players want it to become more serious—with coaches, training and cuts to make the team. Others prefer to retain its innocence and inclusiveness, even for the un-athletic.

The game is "organized, but has a free spirit," says Kate Olen, a senior at Middlebury and its Quidditch commissioner. Initially, the game was more popular with Potter fanatics, but now, "more athletes are coming up," she says.

Valerie Fischman, who plays Quidditch at the University of Maryland, would like to see it go much further. She's been finding out what needs to be done to get the sport NCAA status. That, she says, could "be a stepping stone" to becoming an Olympic sport.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association says typically 40 to 50 schools need to sponsor a varsity sport for it to consider sponsoring a national championship. The most recent sport to gain such status: women's bowling.

Calls to Ms. Rowling's literary agent in London weren't returned. The Quidditch group doesn't have a licensing agreement with the author but has invited her to this year's and previous World Cup championships.

Kristen Howarth, 23, who founded a Quidditch team with her twin sister at Texas A&M, says initially there were snide comments from other organizations on campus. But they say it's gaining acceptance. "Some people still think it's a joke, but when they watch it, they're shocked at how physical it is," says Aimee Howarth.

She worries that if it gets too intense, it might lose some of its whimsical roots. "It's good to be competitive, but we need to keep in some of our original values," she says.

The co-ed game isn't for the timid—pushing, tripping and some tackling is allowed. New rules are designed to prevent some of the broken bones that occurred at last year's World Cup.

Ziang Chen, a sophomore at Purdue University, started a team there last year after seeing videos of the sport. "When I saw how brutal the sport is, I thought I would like to try it," says the former high school football player.

Some see a niche business. A company called Alivan's sells brooms including the "Scarlet Falcon" for $59 and the "Sienna Storm" for $79. Its website says the company "is proud to provide the official broomsticks of Intercollegiate Quidditch." It also notes its brooms "do not fly."

With the World Cup moving to Manhattan, says Will Bellaimey, 22, a former Middlebury player, "We're bringing the championship to the biggest stage in the world."

President of the sport's association, Alex Benepe, says he hopes the World Cup will be a 'coming out party' for the league.
Indeed, Brant Herman, waiting recently to play baseball at Manhattan's DeWitt Clinton Park, wondered why the tournament was going to be held there rather than "closer to Times Square"—the theater district.

His teammate John Hamilton didn't mind that the tournament would be taking place there, "as long as there are no broken brooms left on the field."

At this year's event, there will be owls and wizards on the sidelines, as in previous years, but also entertainers, some more used to performing in subways. Teams registered range from Ivy League Yale to football powerhouse Ohio State. Some get school funding, while others are unofficial squads, scrambling to find equipment.

When New York University sophomore Sarah Landis heard the championship was coming to New York, she decided it was time to get a team going. More than 60 students attended the first meeting, she says.

"We all secretly wanted to play this sport since we read about it" in the books, says Ms. Landis, who found $3 brooms at a Halloween store near the campus.

On a recent Sunday, more than 50 students, one in a cape, lined up for Middlebury's weekly Quidditch practice. A few dressed all in yellow because they played the role of the "Golden Snitch"—which in the books is a winged ball that usually needs to be caught to end the game.

There's nostalgia on campus about the World Cup, which drew about 2,000 people last year. "It's like being an empty nester," says Anika James, 21, a Middlebury player. "We've seen it grow beyond our borders, but it's sad too."

Soon, Mr. Benepe, of the Quidditch organization, will get the spray-painted plastic trophy cup out of a Middlebury storage closet. (The winning team gets its name written on the cup with a Sharpie pen.)

The group is selling T-shirts and collecting team-entrance fees and donations to raise the roughly $20,000 it says is needed for the tournament. Long term, Mr. Benepe wants to focus on getting students of all ages to play.

But could popularity make the Quidditch magic disappear? Mr. Benepe doesn't think so.

"A lot of sports" he says, have "become more like work. Quidditch is just about playing a game. It's just about having fun."

Write to Jilian Mincer at

Fallout: New Vegas

Fallout: New Vegas (X360)
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Genre: RPG
Release Date: October 19, 2010
M for Mature: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Drugs

Fallout: New Vegas Review
Will Tuttle | Oct 25, 2010
Yes, it's buggy -- but it's also one of the year's best games.

Pros: Surprisingly strong story; faction system adds replay value; lots of major and minor improvements to the Fallout formula; Hardcore mode lives up to its name.
Cons: So many bugs; would be nice to sort inventory by item weight.

Fallout: New Vegas is buggy. That's not really open for debate, as the Internet is currently abuzz with complaints from players, and videos of weird stuff happening. Over the course of my 80-something hours with the game, I experienced a wide variety of bugs, from the completely innocuous (landscape textures popping into focus late) to the completely infuriating (the game straight-up crashed three or four times, mostly during loading screens), yet I soldiered on. I kept coming back no matter what was thrown at me, and it wasn't because I had to play the game for work (I did) or because I'm a glutton for punishment (I'm not).

No, I fought through the bugs for one simple reason: New Vegas is one of the best games of the year.

It's not like Fallout: New Vegas is a groundbreaking game or anything, as it certainly looks and feels almost identical to its predecessor, the almost-universally-loved Fallout 3. What developer Obsidian succeeds in doing, however, is improving on Bethesda's tried-and-true first-person role-playing in myriad ways, resulting in some of the most purely distilled RPG action in years.

New Vegas kicked off just outside the titular burg with my character's apparent murder by the hands of a Rat Packian tough guy, but I was soon revived by a good ol' doctor out in the sticks. After a quick and painless character creation process in which I chose my base traits, skills, and personality (via an old-timey strength machine and Rorschach tests), I was on my way into the Wasteland. I expected a fairly standard revenge tale, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that New Vegas' story is a sprawling, tightly written epic that some players (including myself) might be inclined to play multiple times. This is no small praise for a game that takes dozens of hours to beat, but the new faction system changes the mission structure so much that it's literally impossible to see everything on a single playthrough.

Fallout: New Vegas' entire world is populated with characters that have some sort of opinion of you, depending on the actions you take for or against them. It's a pretty simple system at first glance, but it wasn't long before I found myself juggling quests in an effort to make everyone happy -- a thoroughly impossible feat (I actually felt bad when I inadvertently let down one of the factions I desperately wanted to like me). The faction system is the biggest reason I wanted to start playing the game again soon after finishing, as the game's numerous endings depended on my choices. That, more than anything, is the biggest change from previous Bethesda games like Fallout 3 or The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: I now have a reason to go back to those key decisions and see where the branching road takes me.

Of course, it's not like you can't keep yourself busy with plenty of great side quests if you want to sink triple-digit hours into a single playthrough. Actually, I don't even think that they can be called side quests, as nearly everything I did affected my standing with one faction or another, sometimes without my even realizing it. Learning that I failed a quest before I'd even received it occasionally gave me the impetus to reload to a previous save just to make different choices -- the video game equivalent of keeping my thumb at a previous choice in a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

While the faction system shakes the game to its very foundation, dozens of smaller changes improve upon Fallout 3 in less-obvious ways. As a huge fan of the alchemy system in Bethesda's own Oblivion, I was happy to see a similar mechanic in New Vegas, allowing me to mix powerful "potions" from the plants I found during my travels. The new crafting system, which let me reload my own bullets or break ammo I didn't need into its composite parts, is sure to interest wannabe survivalists -- especially those that want to see if they've really got what it takes to make a living as a Wasteland wanderer. Thanks to the brutally awesome (or awesomely brutal?) new Hardcore mode, those folks can finally find out.

Hardcore mode lives up to its name in more ways than one, and it's sure to be the reason that some players will come back for a second or third go-round with New Vegas. I've put nearly 20 hours into Hardcore mode so far, and I'm amazed at just how authentic it feels. Having to worry about dehydration or sleep deprivation may not sound like much fun, but it's great fun to immerse yourself so completely in the game's world. My Hardcore character could best be described as a prospector, using his survival and bartering skills to eke out a life in one of gaming's harshest environments.

Ultimately, whether or not you enjoy Fallout: New Vegas depends on your tolerance for handling bugs. Personally, I didn't find them distracting enough to ruin the experience for me, and a few crashes over the course of 80+ hours felt like a small price to pay for one of my favorite games of the year. Some players will get fed up more quickly than others, just as I'm sure some won't care a whit about glitchy A.I. or weird textures problems. If you can see the forest for the buggy trees, you'll quickly see that Fallout: New Vegas is the pinnacle of the first-person RPG genre.

Teabagger Halloween

From Tom Tomorrow of This Modern World, found on and

The Monster Mash

The Monster Mash
Oct 22, 2010

Ask someone to name a Christmas song, and you might get a hundred different answers. Ask them to name a Halloween song, however, and they are almost assured to respond with the “Monster Mash.” For almost half a century, this catchy little ditty has been considered the anthem of the holiday, and has probably been played at just about every Halloween party held since the early 60s. Today, we take a loving look back at this classic composition.

Few had ever heard of Bobby Pickett prior to 1962. A struggling singer and actor, they might never have heard from him, except that Mr. Pickett possessed the ability to do a pretty good Boris Karloff impersonation. And with the help of some famous friends, he wrote a very catchy little tune about a mad scientist whose monstrous creation invents a catchy little dance – the Monster Mash.

Bobby Pickett’s new song didn’t garner much attention at first from record labels, until he met producer Gary S. Paxton, who had already scored a novelty hit with “Alley Oop” a couple of years prior. Paxton assembled a group of musicians, dubbed The Crypt Kickers (that included the legendary Leon Russell on piano), to record the song. Pickett supplied the voice of the mad scientist narrator (in the spirit of Karloff), as well as throwing in an equally impressive Bela Lugosi impression for one of the tune’s later lines.

The song, and its associated dance (based loosely on the “Mashed Potato”, another popular craze), were quickly embraced by the public, with the release rising to the #1 position on the Billboard charts in October of 1962. Its re-releases also charted in 1970 and 1973, and it has since become perhaps the most beloved Halloween song of all time, played at millions of holiday parties and festivities every year. Numerous artists have attempted to cash in on its popularity with their own renditions as well. The Beach Boys did a cover of it in 1964, Vincent Price did his own rendition in 1977, and believe it or not, the real Boris Karloff was so impressed by the song that he performed it himself on the television show, Shindig, in 1965. More recently, the Misfits recorded their own popular rendition in 1997 and Smashing Pumpkins released a live version of the song in 2008.

If you have your own fond memories of doing the “Monster Mash,” we welcome them in our comments section, as we tip our hats to Bobby Pickett. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, he must be mighty flattered. His timeless composition remains beloved by millions, almost fifty years later, and shows no signs of slowing.

The original track (complete with a clever Legos video!):

The Misfits, "Monster Mash":

BabeWatch: Jessica Burcia

Courtesy of

From :

"Pavel's Kettlebell Training System — The Shortcut To Extreme Strength and Elite Conditioning. Guaranteed."
Enter the Kettlebell!
Strength Secret of the Soviet Supermen
Paperback 200 pages

The kettlebell. AK-47 of physical training hardware. Hunk of iron on a handle. Simple, sinister, brutal—and ferociously effective for developing explosive strength, dramatic power and never-say-die conditioning. The man's man's choice for the toughest, most demanding, highest-yield exercise tool on the planet. Guaranteed to forge a rugged, resilient, densely-muscled frame—built to withstand the hardest beating and dish it right back out, 24/7.

Once the prized and jealously-guarded training secret of elite Russian athletes, old-school strongmen and the military, the kettlebell has invaded the West. And taken no prisoners—thanks to former Soviet Special Forces physical training instructor and strength author, Pavel Tsatsouline's 2001 publication of The Russian Kettlebell Challenge and his manufacture of the first traditional Russian kettlebell in modern America.

American hardmen of all stripes were quick to recognize what their Russian counterparts had long known—nothing, nothing beats the kettlebell, when you're looking for a single tool to dramatically impact your strength and conditioning. A storm of success has swept the American Strength and Conditioning landscape, as kettlebell "Comrades" have busted through to new PRs, broken records, thrashed their opponents and elevated their game to new heights of excellence.

With Enter the Kettlebell! Pavel delivers a significant upgrade to his original landmark work, The Russian Kettlebell Challenge. Drawing on five years of developing and leading the world's first and premiere kettlebell instructor certification program, and after spending five years of additional research into what really works for dramatic results with the kettlebell—we have Enter the Kettlebell!

Pavel lays out a foolproof master system that guarantees you success — if you simply follow the commands!

Remember these Titans

Robalini's Note: The Titans were my preseason pick for Super Bowl champion. Let's see if I've nailed the NFL winner two seasons in a row...

Remember these Titans
Monday, 10.25.10
Scott Garbarini, Sports Network

They're physical, nasty and compete right to the whistle, some have even said beyond so. Their methods -- running the football and playing tough, sound defense -- are unconventional in today's wide-open, free-wheeling NFL.

And they're flying completely under the radar.

They're the Tennessee Titans, the one team seemingly no one is talking about when the subject of the league's top contenders is brought up.

The current AFC South front-runners may have finally drawn themselves a little attention, however, with Sunday's convincing performance against a pretty solid Philadelphia Eagles team. The 37-19 victory showed the Titans have a couple more elements to their well-rounded game, ones we may not have realized existed in our casual observations.

Tennessee displayed both resiliency and versatility in vanquishing the surging Eagles, who had entered the Music City off a two-game win streak and a growing confidence. After spotting their opponent a 19-10 lead with under 13 1/2 minutes to go, the Titans ripped off a team-record 27 unanswered fourth- quarter points to deliver a stunning comeback against a foe that had won 22 consecutive times when leading at halftime.

While that belated barrage of points was impressive enough, it was how the Titans did it that really raised more than a few eyebrows. With starting quarterback Vince Young on the sidelines due to a sprained knee and star running back Chris Johnson held to a mortal 66 yards on 28 carries, Tennessee dipped into the savvy experience of wily old vet Kerry Collins and the playmaking skills of emerging young wide receiver Kenny Britt to pull off maybe the most significant -- and clearly the most improbable -- of its five wins this season.

Britt abused the Philadelphia secondary for a startling 225 yards and three touchdowns on seven catches, despite not even taking the field until midway through the second quarter as punishment for his involvement in an altercation at a Nashville nightspot a few days earlier. His second score, an 80-yard deep strike from Collins early in the fourth quarter, ignited the Titans' furious rally and drew some very high praise from his battle-tested quarterback, who proved there's indeed a little juice left in his 37-year-old arm with a 276- yard effort off the bench.

"There is not much better, that I've played with," said Collins of Britt. "He is big, physical; he can run. He is going to do everything he can to get the ball. He is aggressive going after it. The guy loves to play."

Britt's quick coming of age gives the Titans another big-play complement to the dynamic Johnson and a relentless defense that entered this week's play atop the NFL with 22 sacks and has been a stone wall within the red zone. Tennessee has allowed a league-low 24 percent of touchdowns (7-of-29) inside its 20-yard line during the team's 5-2 start, with the Eagles settling for field goals on two of its three trips on Sunday.

Numbers like those are hard to dismiss, and neither should this team in an AFC South race in which its chief two rivals, Indianapolis (injuries) and Houston (pass defense), each have some legitimate questions to answer.

US Drops Out of Twenty Least Corrupt Nations

US Drops Out of Twenty Least Corrupt Nations: NYTimes Ignores, WaPo Dissembles
Jim White
Tuesday October 26, 2010

In a report released today, Transparency International ranks world governments on a corruption scale from least to most corrupt. For the first time, the United States is no longer among the twenty least corrupt nations, dropping to number twenty-two on the list. Despite this important news, the New York Times appears to be ignoring the report entirely, while the Washington Post is reporting on it primarily to point out how far Russia has fallen.

For preparing the report, Transparency International provided this description of corruption and the analysis employed:

Transparency International(TI) defines corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. This definition encompasses corrupt practices in both the public and private sectors. The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) ranks countries according to the perception of corruption in the public sector. The CPI is an aggregate indicator that combines different sources of information about corruption, making it possible to compare countries.

From the report, we have more on how some countries declined in the corruption index:

With governments committing huge sums to tackle the world’s most pressing problems, from the instability of financial markets to climate change and poverty, corruption remains an obstacle to achieving much needed progress.

Notable among decliners over the past year are some of the countries most affected by a financial crisis precipitated by transparency and integrity deficits.

So, despite Reuters pointing out that the US has fallen out of the twenty least corrupt nations for the first time, why is it that the New York Times would ignore the story entirely, and the Washington Post would primarily note the report to point out how far Russia has fallen? [The Post article does finally, in its next to last paragraph, note the US decline out of the top twenty as being due to "financial scandals", which it doesn't describe further.] Would it be because these “papers of record” have been enablers for the process of abusing entrusted power for private gain? Reporting on mortgage fraud and the favoritism to Wall Street and large banks during the financial crisis at both of these newspapers tended to gloss over the enrichment of high level executives even when they had taken the country to the brink of financial ruin.

There is one other reason why these major newspapers should be covering Transparency International’s report. If we go to the bottom of the list, for the most corrupt nations, we see that Afghanistan is tied with Myanmar for the second most corrupt nation on the list. Iraq is next, at fourth most corrupt. By destroying the governments of these two countries and completely botching any “redevelopment” efforts, the United States has been solely responsible for dramatically increasing corruption on the global scale. Don’t look for any coverage of that point in the New York Times or Washington Post, because I guarantee it won’t happen.

It could be worse, however., in Pakistan, carries the very misleading headline that Pakistan ranks 34th in the corruption index. The problem is that Transparency International presents its list with the countries numbered from least corrupt to most corrupt. On the list, Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore tie for number one at least corrupt and Somalia is number 178, the most corrupt (the US is number twenty-two). Pakistan is in a three-way tie for number 143 as the 34th most corrupt nation. Why didn’t Dawn state Pakistan is 143rd instead of 34th?

Carly Fiorina wrong for HP, wrong for California

Carly Fiorina wrong for HP, wrong for California
Jason Burnett, Eric Gimon
San Francisco Chronicle
October 26, 2010

In her run for the U.S. Senate, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is telling California voters she will bring change to Washington. Should she get elected, we believe she will let them down just as she did the employees and shareholders of HP.

As members of the Hewlett and Packard families, we heard Fiorina make this same promise of change when she took over the pioneering Silicon Valley company our grandfathers started in a Palo Alto garage in 1939.

When Fiorina came to Hewlett-Packard in 1999, the company was still hewing closely to the guiding vision that our grandfathers laid out, which put a premium on integrity, respect for employees and a focus on how the company's work would benefit the broader community. It was known simply as the HP Way.

During her brief tenure at HP, Carly Fiorina broke from these core values - and nearly destroyed a great company.

She ruptured the collaborative relationship between employees and management, which for decades had fostered a talented and loyal workforce. In stark contrast to our grandfathers' track record of avoiding layoffs, Fiorina laid off tens of thousands of employees, shipping many of those jobs overseas.

Rather than the team-oriented approach that had characterized HP since its founding, Fiorina instituted a top-down culture. She got herself on the covers of glossy magazines. Most good CEOs put employees, shareholders and customers ahead of themselves. Fiorina appeared to put herself first. While she asked employees to make sacrifices - including giving up their profit-sharing plan - she took more than $100 million in pay and perks.

She pursued a growth-at-all-costs strategy, which culminated in the merger with Compaq that sparked a divisive fight over the legacy of the HP Way.

What were the results? During her time at HP, shareholders were disappointed by the company's poor stock performance. Employee morale plummeted. Independent management experts and multiple publications have dubbed her one of the worst CEOs of all time. Even Wall Street celebrated when Fiorina was fired, sending HP's stock up. What does it say that HP was worth billions of dollars more with Fiorina gone?

While Fiorina's values were wrong for HP, we believe they would be devastating for California and the nation. On the paramount issue of jobs, she has opposed major jobs bills over the last two years, including efforts to help small businesses.

Fiorina has said she's running on her record at HP. We urge California voters to take a closer look.

She was the wrong choice for HP. She is the wrong choice for the U.S. Senate.

Jason Burnett, founder of Burnett EcoEnergy in Carmel, is the grandson of David Packard. Eric Gimon, a physicist living in Berkeley, is the grandson of Bill Hewlett.

This article appeared on page A - 14 of the San Francisco Chronicle