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Thursday, June 12, 2014

World Cup 2014: Hello Long Shots!

World Cup 2014: Hello Long Shots!


World Cup 2014: Hello Long Shots!

Posted: 12 Jun 2014 11:16 AM PDT

The teams, the fans and the press are descending on Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and almost everyone is aware that host country Brazil is a big favorite, as are Spain, Portugal and Germany. Even a turtle can tell you that.

But even with 32 teams contending for the big prize, anything can happen, right? And the one thing a true fan loves more than a guaranteed champion is an underdog.

So take a closer look at some of this Cup’s “least likely to succeed,” because if fate smiles on one of them, World Cup history could be made.

Here’s Mount Rushmore Made Out of Beef Jerky

Posted: 12 Jun 2014 11:04 AM PDT

Today is National Jerky Day, so here’s a 13-foot tall, 17-foot wide Mount Rushmore replica covered in more than 1,600 pounds of beef, pork and turkey jerky.

Because this is America.

Remembering Ruby Dee, 1922-2014

Posted: 12 Jun 2014 10:54 AM PDT

Watch Conan O’Brien Play the New Super Smash Brothers. Horribly

Posted: 12 Jun 2014 10:40 AM PDT

Conan O'Brien tested his fighting skills the latest iteration of his Clueless Gamer series on his late-night show. This time O’Brien tried his hand at Super Smash Bros., an upcoming title for the Wii U. After criticizing Mario's broken English comparing Samus to Daft Punk, and insulting elven creatures everywhere (sorry Link), Conan proceeded to get pummeled by members of his staff as a host of different characters. In the end, the comedian decided Smash was too complicated. He’d rather play a simpler game, perhaps one about a guy taking a walk to find a cookie. Behold the entire spectacle in the video above.

Why America Doesn’t Like Soccer, And How That Can Be Changed

Posted: 12 Jun 2014 10:28 AM PDT

As the FIFA World Cup begins in Brazil, pundits are already dusting off their explanations on why Americans don’t care for soccer. But only the most daring will offer proposals to change the game to make it more appealing to the American public.

First, the problem. Far and away the most common reason cited for the sport’s unpopularity in the United States is that you can spend 90 minutes watching and never see a goal. “Americans love to see scoring,” says Stephen Clark, a news anchor at WXYZ news in Detroit, who wrote a post on the subject ahead of the last World Cup in South Africa. “In soccer it’s too usual to see a game end at 1-0.”

Football — the one with the helmets and pads — may not always have a lot of scoring, but at least each touchdown delivers six points and an opportunity for a couple more. And then, between them, there’s the relentless to-and-fro across the field. “It’s almost military,” says Clark. “We like to march down the field and get rewarded for every victory. You’re rewarded every ten yards. It’s like conquering territory.”

Compare that to soccer, where it’s not unusual to see a team reset the play by kicking the ball back towards their own goal. The play never stops, but nobody gains lasting advantage. “When do you go the bathroom?” says Clark. “When do you get a beer?” More crucially, he points out: When does the broadcaster get a commercial break?

The problem isn’t just infrequent scoring, says Michael Mandelbaum, director of the American Foreign Policy program at John Hopkins University and author of The Meaning of Sports: Why Americans Watch Baseball, Football, and Basketball and What They See If They Do. It’s the frequency with which games end in a “draw” — or a tie, in American parlance.

Ties are impossible in baseball and basketball, he points out, and “as rare as eclipses” in American football. And when they do happen they aren’t settled by something as capricious and peripheral to the game as penalty kick shoot-outs. “This seems absurd to Americans, like deciding the Super Bowl through a field goal kicking contest,” he says.

Mandelbaum also offers a proposal to make the game more popular in the United States. He’d alter the rules to favor the offense, eliminating the offside rule, which forbids players from passing to teammates standing behind enemy lines. Alternatively, he’d use the number of corner kicks awarded to each team as a way to break ties, a method that would reward aggressive play. “For this to happen in the US, however, the rest of the world would have to do the same, which it won’t,” he says.

The close-mindedness of the sport’s establishment shouldn’t stand in the way of a good idea. And so, in that spirit, here’s a modest proposal: soccer should take its cue from boxing and install three field-side judges to secretly score every 15-minute interval. Goals would be like knock-outs. Points would only come into play in the case of a tie.

The scorecards would put greater importance on each moment of the game (Sorry Clark, still no bathroom breaks). Teams would be motivated to play spectacularly or risk losing on points. Squads that felt they had slipped behind would be doubly pressed to get that last minute goal.

Best of all, the change would bring an entirely new aspect to the game, one not unfamiliar to fans of boxing (or for that matter figure stating): judges. After all, it’s one thing to argue about a referee’s call on a set of objective, verifiable rules. Think of all the fun that can be had arguing about the secret decisions of the judges.

Ruby Dee, Oscar Nominated Actress and Civil Rights Activist, Dies at 91

Posted: 12 Jun 2014 10:22 AM PDT

Actress and civil rights activist Ruby Dee died Wednesday at her home in New Rochelle, N.Y, her agent told The Hollywood Reporter. Dee was 91.

Dee was born in Cleveland and raised in Harlem. She began her career on the stage before gaining national recognition for her 1950 role in The Jackie Robinson Story. She went on to a sweeping career in theater, television, and film. She was the winner of an Emmy, Grammy, Screen Actors Guild Award, and was nominated for an Oscar towards the end of her career for the 2007 film American Gangster.

One of her most notable roles was in 1961′s A Raisin in the Son, wherein Dee recreated her stage role.

Dee was also known for her activism during the Civil Rights movement. She and her late husband, Ossie Davis, were friends with Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the pair received the National Civil Rights Museum's Lifetime Achievement Freedom award in 2005. Dee and her husband were also advocates for open marriages, opting for truth over affairs, which they discussed in a co-written 2000 autobiography.

Dee is survived by three children: Nora, Guy, and Hasna.

Obama on Iraq: ‘I Don’t Rule Out Anything’ as Militants Aim for Baghdad

Posted: 12 Jun 2014 10:18 AM PDT

President Barack Obama said he would not rule out military intervention to support Iraq’s government against advancing Sunni militants, two and a half years after the U.S. withdrew its last troops from the country.

"I don’t rule out anything," Obama told reporters at the White House after meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott after being asked a question about the possibility the U.S. would conduct airstrikes in Iraq to support the government there. “We do have a stake in making sure these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria," Obama added.

Obama said that is was “fair to say that in our consultations with the Iraqis there will be some short-term immediate things that need to be done militarily and our national security team is looking into all the options.” However, a senior administration official said Obama is not considering putting U.S. boots on the ground once again in Iraq.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has expressed a willingness to allow the U.S. to conduct airstrikes on the extremists, who have over the past week seized Iraq's second largest city, the country's largest oil refinery and the city of Tikrit, the home of former leader Saddam Hussein. Fighting between Iraqi forces and advancing fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other Islamic fundamentalist groups, who spilled over from neighboring war-torn Syria, has already displaced more than 500,000 Iraqis.

“This should also be a wakeup call for the Iraqi government,” Obama said. “There has to be a political component to this so that Sunni and Shia who care about building a functioning state that can bring about security and prosperity to all people inside of Iraq come together and work diligently against the extremists.”

The U.S. has provided Baghdad with $15 billion worth of equipment and training after spending $1.7 trillion and nearly 4,500 lives in almost nine years of war.

“Over the last year we have been providing them with additional assistance to try to address the problems that they have in Anbar, the northwest portions of the country, as well as the Iraqi and Syrian border," Obama said. "What we've seen over the last couple of days indicates the degree to which Iraq's going to need more help. It's going to need more help from us, and it's going to need more help from the international community.”

5 Things You Need to Know About the Militant Advance on Baghdad

Posted: 12 Jun 2014 10:14 AM PDT

It took five days for an extremist splinter group of al-Qaeda to occupy the city of Mosul, one of the biggest cities in Iraq and 250 miles north of Baghdad. A day later the group, once known as al Qaeda in Iraq, and now known as the Islamic State of Iraq and greater Syria to reflect its broader role in the region, advanced on former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. A 60-vehicle convoy of ISIS units rolled into Baiji on Wednesday to take the country's largest oil refinery. In each instance the Iraqi security forces dropped their weapons and melted away, effectively ceding nearly a third of the country to a militant organization so extreme that even al-Qaeda has repudiated it. Meanwhile ISIS is cementing control over a large swath of eastern Syria. As the militants push towards Baghdad, here are the five things you need to know about ISIS’s advance.

1. Despite the $25 billion spent by the U.S. to train and equip the Iraqi Army, it’s not fit to fight a war

Corruption, fear and divided loyalties have hollowed out the Iraqi army over the past several years. Even before these recent attacks, the Iraqi Army was losing some three hundred soldiers a day due to defections, deaths and injuries, according to a recent investigation by the New York Times. Once ISIS arrived on the scene, soldiers disarmed en masse, an indication that mid-ranking commanders either supported the militants' advance because of tribal connections, or may have been bought off. And American assistance, based on the United States’ experience in Iraq, may have focused too tightly on counterinsurgency training, even as ISIS evolved into a full-fledged paramilitary force capable of fighting a conventional war.

But it's not just a failure by the Iraqi military. ISIS has capitalized on widespread Sunni dissatisfaction with Iraq's Shi'ite-dominated central government. And the group's superior fighting skills, honed in years of fighting against the Americans in the Iraq war, and more recently in Syria, has drawn funding and would-be jihadis from around the globe.

2. The Turkish citizens taken hostage in Mosul are in serious trouble

It’s not looking good for the 49 Turkish citizens taken from the country’s consulate in Mosul, or the 31 Turkish truck drivers who were also kidnapped. Turkish officials are talking to militants in Mosul about freeing their citizens, but Turkish media are also reporting that ISIS has demanded a $5 million ransom for the truck drivers. Kidnappings for ransom are ISIS's bread and butter, and they drive a hard bargain. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a Turkish television network that "any harm to our citizens and staff would be met with the harshest retaliation," but as long as ISIS has control over Mosul, any kind of rescue attempt would be impossible. Even a prisoner exchange is unlikely: When ISIS takes a town, the first thing it does is fling open prison doors in hopes of regaining old recruits or attracting new ones. There is unlikely anyone left ISIS would be willing to trade for, and those officials may have little more to offer than threats that will be hard to back up.

3. ISIS may not be part of al-Qaeda anymore, but it still poses a threat to the United States

The split between ISIS and al-Qaeda is largely philosophical. Both seek to build an Islamic caliphate, but ISIS thinks this is best achieved through hard power, by taking terrain militarily and then enforcing Islamic law. Al-Qaeda's leadership prefers to create a community of like-minded converts first, through displays of power. Either way, both groups seek expansion, and will use ungoverned terrain to train foreign recruits that could eventually turn those battlefield skills on Western targets. It may have already happened: last month Saudi Arabian officials arrested an ISIS cell accused of plotting attacks against the kingdom, and it is thought that the man accused of killing four in a gun attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels fought with ISIS in Syria.

4. ISIS is unlikely to take over all of Iraq

Even if the militants had the manpower, they wouldn't be able to hold that much territory for long. And unlike the Iraqi Army, they don't have an air force. But they could incite a sectarian war, paving the way for success in the long term. "Sectarian civil war is the enabler," says Jessica Lewis, an ISIS expert at the Institute for the Study of War. "They want to set conditions in Iraq that look like Syria so they can set up an Islamic state." It may already be working: Shi'ite leaders have responded to ISIS attacks on Shi'ite targets with calls to form defense militias.

5. This newfound focus on Iraq doesn’t mean Syria is off the hook

ISIS's vision for an Islamic caliphate modeled upon the early days of the Islamic empire straddles the border and erases colonial-era lines in the desert. Even as one ISIS wing took Tikrit, another wing encircled the city of Deir Ezzor across the border in Syria, cementing its control over Syria's oil-rich eastern province of the same name. Lewis' map of ISIS sanctuaries paints a vivid picture of ISIS' future caliphate, and a current stronghold that not only threatens Baghdad, but the region.

No Charges in Fla. for Kaepernick, 2 Other Players

Posted: 12 Jun 2014 10:02 AM PDT

(MIAMI) — Prosecutors in Miami have decided not to file charges against San Francisco 49ers star quarterback Colin Kaepernick and two other NFL players in an incident involving a woman at a downtown hotel.

A memo released Thursday by the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office said there was insufficient evidence that any crime was committed in the hotel room in April. Tests indicated the woman was not sexually assaulted and other evidence backed up the players’ contention that nothing happened.

Kaepernick consistently denied any wrongdoing. Earlier this month the 49ers gave the 26-year-old a $126 million, six-year contract extension that will keep him in San Francisco through 2020.

The other players in the room that night were 49ers wide receiver Quinton Patton, and Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette.

Teen Smoking Is Way Down. But What About E-cigs?

Posted: 12 Jun 2014 10:00 AM PDT

Rates of cigarette smoking among high school students has dropped to lowest level in 22 years, the CDC reports.

In 2013, the smoking rate among high school students hit 15.7%, which means the U.S. government has already reached its goal of lowing the teen smoking rate to 16% of less by 2020. That’s according to the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), which began in 1991. Another important data set on teen smoking and drug use—Monitoring the Future (MTF)—reports the rate is at 16.3%. Regardless, both surveys show fewer kids are smoking.

That’s good news, and it’s likely thanks to a combination of several factors, the most important being the rising costs of cigarettes. Others include the growing stigmatization of smoking, with half of states prohibiting smoking in places like bars and restaurants. The adult smoking rate is dropping too, which means teens have fewer smoking role models.

If teens are passing around fewer packs of cigarettes, does that mean they’re not smoking other things? Past data has shown a 123% increase in the consumption of other smokable tobacco products like cigars and pipes, though the recent numbers from the larger data sets show no change in smokeless tobacco use since 1999, and a drop in cigar use.

CDC

One question you’re likely going to see is whether teens are switching to e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes is a subject the public health community is uncharacteristically split on. On one side of the spectrum, you have critics arguing that it’s possible e-cigarettes serve as a gateway to regular cigarettes. One vocal critic being the head of the CDC himself. “The increased use of e-cigarettes by teens is deeply troubling,” said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden in a statement about teen tobacco use going down. “Nicotine is a highly addictive drug. Many teens who start with e-cigarettes may be condemned to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine and conventional cigarettes.”

Emerging data points to certain trends, but e-cigs are still so new. Earlier this fall, a CDC report showed that e-cig use among teens, while still low, had doubled in a year, from 3.3% in 2011 to 6.8% in 2012.

Dr. Kenneth Warner, a professor of health management and policy at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, looked back through the data and found that among kids who have never smoked a conventional cigarette, only 0.7% have ever tried an e-cigarette within the last 30 days. What this shows is that the same kids who are smoking regular cigarettes are smoking e-cigs.

“Everyone thinks they are right and the logical thing is that nobody knows,” says Warner. “This is a huge-stakes issue, because the proliferation of e-cigs has the potential to either reduce the cigarette problem or increase it over time among kids.”

The reality is we have a long way to go. It took 40 years to get the adult smoking rate down to around 20%, and it won’t be easy to cut it in half again. Warner and his colleague David Mendez have created a smoking-prevalence model that’s been used since the 1990s. Their predictions show that at the rate we are going, we might not be able to hit a 10% adult smoking rate until the middle of the century. But that’s if we don’t try anything radically different.

“I believe we will do better because I don’t think we’ll stick with just status quo tobacco control,” says Warner. “In my judgment, the future lies in how effectively FDA can regulate cigarettes and other [nicotine] products.”

The FDA announced it is expanding its regulatory powers to cover more tobacco products including e-cigs, but anti-smoking advocates are arguing it’s still not enough.

“The data on kids is great, but we have a long way to go before we can pack up and go home and say we solved the problem,” says Warner.

You can read more on the latest CDC numbers here.

 

 

 

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