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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Duke Ellington becomes first African American on U.S. coin

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States Mint launched a new coin Tuesday featuring jazz legend Duke Ellington, making him the first African-American to appear by himself on a circulating U.S. coin.

The District of Columbia coin honoring Duke Ellington was introduced Tuesday in Washington.

The District of Columbia coin honoring Duke Ellington was introduced Tuesday in Washington.

Ellington, the composer of classics including "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing" appears on the "tails" side of the new D.C. quarter. George Washington is on the "heads" side, as is usual with U.S. quarters.

The coin was issued to celebrate Ellington's birthplace, the District of Columbia.

U.S. Mint Director Ed Moy introduced the new coin at a news conference Tuesday at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History.

Members of Ellington's family were present at the ceremony, and the jazz band of Duke Ellington High School performed.

Ellington won the honor by a vote of D.C. residents, beating out abolitionist Frederick Douglass and astronomer Benjamin Banneker.

Also on the coin is the phrase "Justice for all." The Mint rejected the first inscription choice of D.C. voters, which was "taxation without representation," in protest of the district's lack of voting representation in Congress.

Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington received 13 Grammy Awards and a Pulitzer Prize, among numerous other honors. His orchestra's theme song, "Take the A Train," is one of the best-known compositions in jazz.

Ellington was born in the district in 1899 and composed more than 3,000 songs, including "Satin Doll," "Perdido" and "Don't Get Around Much Any More." "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing" helped usher in the swing era of jazz.

Ellington performed with other famous artists, including John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, and he traveled around the world with his orchestras.

He died in 1974 at the age of 75.

The first African-American to appear on a circulating coin was York, a slave who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their "Corps of Discovery" adventures across America at the dawn of the 19th century. The 2003 Missouri quarter features the three men together in a canoe on the obverse.

The U.S. Mint distinguishes between circulating coins, which are intended for daily use, and commemorative ones, which mark special occasions.

African-Americans including Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball's color barrier, have appeared on commemorative coins. Educator Booker T. Washington, botanist George Washington Carver and the first Revolutionary War casualty, Crispus Attucks, all of whom were black, have also appeared on commemorative coins, according to the U.S. Mint.

Get Up, Stand Up: Ammiano Introduces Marijuana Legalization Bill to the Press

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano's press conference this morning announcing his marijuana-legalization bill started punctually and stayed relentlessly on-point -- thereby denying a barb to every journalist present. Ammiano and the assembled speakers at San Francisco's State Building also spoke calmly and methodically, at one point being drowned out by a floor-waxer.

The famously funny lawmaker reined himself in, presenting "The Marijuana Control, regulation and education act (AB 390)" as a simple matter of fiscal common sense. If you believe Ammiano and his straitlaced panel, it is. In a nutshell, here's what the bill would do: "Remove all penalties under California law for the cultivation, transportation, sale, purchase, possession, and use of marijuana, natural THC and paraphernalia by persons over the age of 21," "prohibit local and state law enforcement officials from enforcing federal marijuana laws (more on that later)" and establish a fee of $50 an ounce on marijuana on top of whatever pot will cost in a legal future -- which legalization advocates say is about half what it costs now. This tax rate figures at about a buck a joint.
Ammiano addresses the crowd

Betty Yee, the chairwoman of the Board of Equalization, called Ammiano's proposal "a responsible measure on how to work out the regulatory framework of the legalization of marijuana." Her board's research indicated $1.3 billion in tax dollars could immediately head into the state's coffers from the fee on marijuana and the sales tax on medical pot. She figured the halving of marijuana's street price would cause a consumption increase of 40 percent, but the $50 per ounce levy would cut use by 11 percent.

Steve Gutwillig, the state director of Drug Policy Alliance, noted that regulatory measures like Ammiano's bill can work: Teen smoking is way down, and he claims juveniles report it is easier to obtain marijuana than purchase smokes. "Marijuana arrests actually increased 18 percent in California in 2007 while all other arrests for controlled substances fell," he said. "This costs the state a billion dollars a year and taxpayers are footing the bill. Meanwhile, black marketers are laughing all the way to the bank." But the morning's most forceful speaker was Judge James P. Gray, who retired from his 25-year post on the Orange County Superior Court six weeks ago.

With his gray suit, tasseled loafers, and conservative salt-and-pepper haircut, he looked like central casting's offering for "Republican candidate for higher office." Not surprisingly, Gray did run as a Republican for Congress against Bob Dornan and Loretta Sanchez and Senate vs. Bill Jones and Barbara Boxer. He now says he's "not a politician -- and I have the votes to prove it." "I served 25 years on the bench and I've seen the results of this attempted prohibition. It doesn't make marijuana less available, but it does clog the court system," he said.
"The stronger we get on marijuana, the softer we get with regard to all other prosecutions because we have only so many resources. And we at this moment, have thousands of people in state prison right this minute who did nothing but smoke marijuana." Gray noted that anyone who tokes up while out on parole can immediately be sent right back to prison, at great cost to the taxpayers. "You and I as adults can go home tonight and drink 10 martinis. It's not a healthy thing to do but it's not illegal. Someone who smokes marijuana and goes to bed risks jail," continued the judge. "I don't smoke marijuana and if you legalized it today and gave it away at every street corner I'm still not going to. But the most harmful thing about marijuana today is prison - and also the most expensive.

I take President Obama at his word - he said let's look at what's working and what is not, and jettison those programs that are not working." Obama also wrote in his autobiography that he did "a little blow" and Ammiano is hopeful the new president will look upon this issue differently than his predecessor (it warrants mentioning that those fighting against torture and rendition also hoped that - and were disappointed).
Judge James Gray notes that quaffing 10 martinis is perfectly legal

Ammiano told SF Weekly that he doesn't expect his bill to pass "overnight," but doesn't see it as merely a "placeholder." As far as superseding federal law, he pointed to a similar bill recently introduced in Congress by Rep. Barney Frank; hopefully the law of the land will change. If not, Ammano hoped to exploit "fuzziness" regarding state and federal laws and the low priority this state has given to busting marijuana users entitled by Proposition 215. He predicted that, in these dire economic times, "support will fall all over" for his bill. Perhaps, perhaps not. But this much is certain: If Ammiano pulls this off, there's a place for him reserved on the Mount Rushmore of Pot Gods, right between Cheech, Chong, and Bob Marley.

"Dear President Obama": The President Reads 10 Letters a Day from the Public

Jake Tapper is ABC News' Senior White House Correspondent based in the network's Washington bureau. He writes about politics and popular culture and covers a range of national stories.

February 23, 2009 7:15 AM

The letter to President Obama came from a woman in Arizona whose husband lost his job. He was able to find work, but the new gig came with one-third the pay; the family is struggling to make their mortgage payments.

The letter from the Arizona woman illustrated a policy conundrum, recalled senior adviser David Axelrod. President Obama read it, and absorbed the lesson.

"She said they had made all their mortgage payments, but were running out of money," Axelrod said. "And they were told they could not renegotiate unless they were delinquent in their payments."

Before President Obama's housing speech last week, he'd made copies of his letter and "sent it to his financial team and said, 'This is the kind of person our housing plan should help," Axelrod recalled.

The president had other copies made of that letter. He had it distributed to staff on Air Force One.

"He had been struck by how powerful the story was," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. "He wanted us as we were creating policy to make sure that we were listening and hearing these examples as well."

Ht_letter03_090222_blogEvery day President Barack Obama is handed a special purple folder. The folder contains ten letters, and every day President Obama takes time to read them.

Are they from world leaders? From members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff? Members of the intelligence community?

No, these letters have been culled from the thousands the White House Correspondence Office receives each day from Americans who have taken the time to sit down and write to their president.

"They help him focus on the real problems people are facing," says Axelrod. "He really a absorbs these letters, and often shares then with us."

In his first week in office, President Obama requested that he see 10 letters a day "representative of people's concerns, from people writing into the president," recalls Gibbs, "to help get him outside of the bubble, to get more than just the information you get as an elected official."

Says Axelrod, "he did it because his greatest concern is getting isolated in the White House, away from the experiences of the American people...The letters impact him greatly."

Some recent examples, according to aides, include a letter from a businessman who owns a manufacturing company and says he finds it very difficult to lay off employees who have done nothing wrong. If things don't improve, the correspondent wrote, he'll have to lay off 10% of his workforce.

Another letter came from a divorced senior citizen raising a grandchild on a fixed income, including Social Security. She confessed to being depressed and scared.

A third came from a realtor who urged the president to do something about the large number of foreclosed properties. A fourth was a plea for help from an unemployed truck driver.

Monday through Friday the head of White House Correspondence delivers ten letters to be read by the President, choosing among letters that are broadly representative of the day’s news and issues; ones that are broadly representative of President’s intake of current mail, phone calls to the comment line, and faxes from citizens; and messages that are particularly compelling.

Ht_letter02_090222_blogSome of these, maybe two or three each day, the President responds to in his own hand.

Gibbs says that before two different economic speeches, the President "pulled letters he has gotten and distributed them to staff, to understand what people were going through."

The vast majority of the calls coming into the White House, and over a third of the faxes have been on the stimulus package and the economy, so up to half of the letters the President sees are on that broad subject. Aides say that many of these correspondents also have other complications: bankruptcy due to health care, lost job, lost opportunities for their children.

A smaller number of the letters address other issues, such as the environment, health care, education, foreign affairs, or nuclear proliferation.

And a handful, usually no more than five a week, are from people who have a simple supportive message or inspirational story to tell.

The head of correspondence also includes letters to the President from smaller children who ask questions or give advice.

Ht_letter01_090222_blogSometimes the letters are include in the president's overnight briefing book.

As the President addresses the immense issues the nation and world face -- today the President will announce he's appointing an inspector general to head the transparency and accountability board to supervise the stimulus spending, and will host an fiscal responsibly summit; Tuesday he will address the economy before a joint sessions of Congress; Thursday he will present his budget -- the President's aides say these letters help the president stay in touch with real people and ignore the chatter here inside the DC bubble.

- jpt

(Photos by White House photographer Peter Souza)

New Jersey votes today on bill to legalize medical marijuana

By DEREK HARPER Statehouse Bureau, 609-292-4935

TRENTON - The state Senate is scheduled to vote today on a bill that would decriminalize marijuana use for some medical purposes in New Jersey, and one of the bill's sponsors said he was taken aback by residents' reactions to the proposal.

"I've been pleasantly surprised that the overwhelming response has been positive," said state Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, who is sponsoring the measure with Sen. Nicholas Scutiari, D-Union, Somerset Middlesex.

The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act would require the state Department of Health and Senior Services to issue registration cards to patients who have been diagnosed with debilitating medical conditions. They would then be allowed to keep six marijuana plants and have an ounce of marijuana in their possession.

It would also create "alternative treatment centers" that would provide marijuana to registered patients.

Patients would be banned from smoking marijuana in public or while operating vehicles.

Ken Wolski, executive director of the Coalition for Medicinal Marijuana New Jersey, said the bill was very conservative because no state that has allowed medicinal marijuana has smaller plant or possession limits. But he said it still would benefit people.

But at the same time, the Fraternal Order of Police New Jersey State Lodge warned the centers could become local problems.

"States with marijuana stores have been burdened with nuisance and violent crimes associated with them," Edward R. Brannigan, state FOP president, said in an advertisement with the political news site "Marijuana stores in New Jersey will require local police departments to divert resources to prevent, and respond to, marijuana store-related crime, costing property taxpayers thousands of dollars in extra police services."

Whelan said he has heard from a number of people who oppose the measure, but "it's been a surprise to me but the overwhelming response has been positive. People recognize this is a bill aimed at getting pain relief ... This is not for people who have a headache, but people with diseases like multiple sclerosis and terminally ill cancer patients, and if medicinal marijuana can bring some relief for those folks then I'm for it."

But if it passes today, it remains unclear when the measure would be considered in the Assembly. Gov. Jon S. Corzine has said he would sign the bill.

Whelan said he and Scutari have talked with some lawmakers in the lower house. But that side of the Legislature is up for election in November, and potentially controversial issues typically are delayed until after then.

That schedule would give the bill a narrow window to clear both houses of the Legislature and be signed by the governor by the time the session ends in early January. If not passed by then, it and all other incomplete bills must be reintroduced and begin the process anew.

Whelan said he and others have found the issue to be less controversial than feared, so if it passes on the merits Monday, it could be considered soon there.

"Given the positive response, frankly, that I've gotten and others have gotten on this," Whelan said, "I don't see it being much of an election issue one way or the other."

But he declined to speculate on timing, saying the state's ongoing economic problems have focused much of lawmakers' attention on those issues.

E-mail Derek Harper:

Apple Announces Safari 4 - The World's Fastest & Most Innovative Browser

New Nitro Engine Runs JavaScript More Than Four Times Faster

CUPERTINO, Calif., Feb. 24 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Apple® today announced the public beta of Safari® 4, the world's fastest and most innovative web browser for Mac® and Windows PCs. The Nitro engine in Safari 4 runs JavaScript 4.2 times faster than Safari 3.* Innovative new features that make browsing more intuitive and enjoyable include Top Sites, for a stunning visual preview of frequently visited pages; Full History Search, to search through titles, web addresses and the complete text of recently viewed pages; Cover Flow®, to easily flip through web history or bookmarks; and Tabs on Top, to make tabbed browsing easier and more intuitive.

"Apple created Safari to bring innovation, speed and open standards back into web browsers, and today it takes another big step forward," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. "Safari 4 is the fastest and most efficient browser for Mac and Windows, with great integration of HTML 5 and CSS 3 web standards that enables the next generation of interactive web applications."

Safari 4 is built on the world's most advanced browser technologies including the new Nitro JavaScript engine that executes JavaScript up to 30 times faster than IE 7 and more than three times faster than Firefox 3. Safari quickly loads HTML web pages three times faster than IE 7 and almost three times faster than Firefox 3.*

Apple is leading the industry in defining and implementing innovative web standards such as HTML 5 and CSS 3 for an entirely new class of web applications that feature rich media, graphics and fonts. Safari 4 includes HTML 5 support for offline technologies so web-based applications can store information locally without an Internet connection, and is the first browser to support advanced CSS Effects that enable highly polished web graphics using reflections, gradients and precision masks. Safari 4 is the first browser to pass the Web Standards Project's Acid3 test, which examines how well a browser adheres to CSS, JavaScript, XML and SVG web standards that are specifically designed for dynamic web applications.

Safari for Mac, Windows, iPhone(TM) and iPod® touch are all built on Apple's WebKit, the world's fastest and most advanced browser engine. Apple developed WebKit as an open source project to create the world's best browser engine and to advance the adoption of modern web standards. Most recently, WebKit led the introduction of HTML 5 and CSS 3 web standards and is known for its fast, modern code-base. The industry's newest browsers are based on WebKit including Google Chrome, the Google Android browser, the Nokia Series 60 browser and Palm webOS.

    Innovative new features in Safari 4 include:
-- Top Sites, a display of frequently visited pages in a stunning wall of
previews so users can jump to their favorite sites with a single click;
-- Full History Search, where users search through titles, web addresses
and the complete text of recently viewed pages to easily return to
sites they've seen before;
-- Cover Flow, to make searching web history or bookmarks as fun and easy
as paging through album art in iTunes®;
-- Tabs on Top, for better tabbed browsing with easy drag-and-drop tab
management tools and an intuitive button for opening new ones;
-- Smart Address Field, that automatically completes web addresses by
displaying an easy-to-read list of suggestions from Top Sites,
bookmarks and browsing history;
-- Smart Search Field, where users fine-tune searches with recommendations
from Google Suggest or a list of recent searches;
-- Full Page Zoom, for a closer look at any website without degrading the
quality of the site's layout and text;
-- built-in web developer tools to debug, tweak and optimize a website for
peak performance and compatibility; and
-- a new Windows-native look in Safari for Windows, that uses standard
Windows font rendering and native title bar, borders and toolbars so
Safari fits the look and feel of other Windows XP and Windows Vista

Pricing & Availability

Safari 4 is a public beta for both Mac OS® X and Windows and is available immediately as a free download at

Safari 4 for Mac OS X requires Mac OS X Leopard® version 10.5.6 and Security Update 2009-001 or Mac OS X Tiger® version 10.4.11, a minimum 256MB of memory, and is designed to run on any Intel-based Mac or a Mac with a PowerPC G5, G4 or G3 processor and built-in FireWire®. Safari 4 for Windows requires Windows XP SP2 or Windows Vista, a minimum 256MB of memory and a system with at least a 500 MHz Intel Pentium processor. Full system requirements and more information on Safari 4 can be found at

    * Performance will vary based on system configuration, network connection
and other factors. All testing conducted on an iMac® 2.8 GHz Intel
Core 2 Duo system running Windows Vista, with 2GB of RAM. JavaScript
benchmark based on the SunSpider JavaScript Performance test. HTML
benchmark based on VeriTest's iBench Version 5.0 using default settings.

Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with the Apple II and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Macintosh. Today, Apple continues to lead the industry in innovation with its award- winning computers, OS X operating system and iLife and professional applications. Apple is also spearheading the digital media revolution with its iPod portable music and video players and iTunes online store, and has entered the mobile phone market with its revolutionary iPhone.

© 2009 Apple Inc. All rights reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, Mac, Mac OS, Macintosh, Safari, Cover Flow, iPhone, iPod, iTunes, Leopard, Tiger, FireWire and iMac are trademarks of Apple. Other company and product names may be trademarks of their respective owners.

Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen “Funny People” Judd Apatow Trailer (Video)

Check out the trailer video clip for Judd Apatow’s upcoming movie, Funny People, starring Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen. Funny People hits theaters July 31.

Israel Deploys 'James Bond' Gadgets in War with Hamas

February 23rd 2009
Israel Topics - Israeli Eye Drive

Some gadgets look like they came straight out of a James Bond movie. One is a softball-sized camera that can be thrown into a suspect house and transmit images to soldiers outside. Another is a special door-buster that is connected to an M-16 and can blow open booby-trapped portals.

On February 18, the IDF Ground Forces Command put these weapon systems and others - most of them used during last month's Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip - on display in a military base in the South.

Called the Eyeball, the spherical camera was developed by the Tel Aviv-based company ODF Optronics. An advanced, audio-visual surveillance sensor, the Eyeball was used by IDF troops during the Gaza offensive to survey homes and suspicious areas before entering them.

Each unit is only slightly larger than a baseball and can be simply thrown into the area that needs to be checked out. It can also be mounted on a pole or lowered on a cable into a tunnel.

Another product from the same company is the Eyedrive, a lightweight, four-wheel, remote-controlled, observation and surveillance mini-robot that provides continuous, real-time 360º audio and video surveillance. Due to its durability, the robot can be thrown on the ground, go down stairs, flip over and keep on going.

The IDF also tested the HTR 2000, a new sniper rifle that will be distributed to all infantry battalions. It has a range of more than 1,000 meters and can be used with a special night-vision add-on scope. The adjustable heavy tactical rifle is made by H-S Precision INC in the United States.
Also used for the first time during the offensive was the Matador shoulder-launched anti-structure munition.

Used by infantry to destroy Hamas positions inside homes and other structures, the Matador incorporates an advanced tandem warhead concept that can be operated in two modes: against fortified positions and other structures, and to create a hole in a wall without destroying the inside of a home. The system was acquired by the IDF in light of the Second Lebanon War, when infantry forces had problems hitting Hizbullah positions inside homes in the absence of a tank or attack helicopter. The Ground Forces Command also put the IDF's new armored personnel carrier on display. The Namer (Tiger) is based on the same platform as the Merkava MK4 Battle Tank and has the same high-level of reinforced steel protection.

"The Ground Forces Command is more prepared today than it was in the past decade to deal with the threats and challenges in the North and the Gaza Strip," OC Ground Forces Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrachi said.

Yaakov Katz is a verteran correspondent for the Jerusalem Post. Find the latest news and features on the Mideast at


Scientists discover gene that can grow TEETH

By Fiona Macrae

A breakthrough by scientists could see dentures bite the dust.

Researchers have pinpointed the gene that governs the production of tooth enamel, raising the tantalising possibility of people one day growing extra teeth when needed.

At the very least, it could cut the need for painful fillings.

Fillings could become obsolete in the future

Fillings could become obsolete in the future

Experiments in mice have previously shown that the gene, a 'transcription factor' called Ctip2, is involved in the immune system and in the development of skin and nerves.

The latest research, from Oregon State University in the U.S., adds enamel production to the list.

The researchers made the link by studying mice genetically engineered to lack the gene.

The animals were born with rudimentary teeth which were ready to erupt but lacked a proper covering of enamel, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.

Researcher Dr Chrissa Kioussi said: 'It's not unusual for a gene to have multiple functions, but before this we didn't know what regulated the production of tooth enamel.

'This is the first transcription factor ever found to control the formation and maturation of ameloblasts, which are the cells that secrete enamel.'

The finding could be applied to human health and, if used in conjunction with fledgling stem cell technology, could one day allow people to grow replacement teeth when needed.

Alternatively, the knowledge could be used to strengthen existing enamel and repair damaged enamel, cutting decay and the need for fillings.

Dr Kioussi said: 'Enamel is one of the hardest coatings found in nature.

'A lot of work would still be needed to bring this to human applications, but it should work.

'It could be really cool, a whole new approach to dental health.'

Researchers hope that within ten years we will be able to grow new teeth from stem cells - the so-called master cells which have the potential to be used to grow any part of the body.

Scientists have successfully harvested stem cells from dental pulp - the nerves and tissue inside the teeth - and grown teeth in the lab which have been transplanted into mice.

Other innovations on the horizon include 'drills' that cut and polish teeth using nothing more than a blast of air and a mouthwash that could do away with the need for fillings.

Around 11million Britons wear dentures - more than one million of them in their 30s or younger.

The NHS pays for false teeth for around 12,000 six to 24-year-olds a year.

However, the making of dentures is a dying art.

The British Society for the Study of Prosthetic Dentistry has warned that time spent teaching dental students on the ins and outs of false teeth is now being devoted to lessons on tooth whitening, orthodontics and other techniques behind the much sought-after 'Hollywood smile'.

Eighty-five per cent of people claim to have good oral hygiene, but just two-thirds brush their teeth twice a day and nearly a third of adults have 12 or more fillings.

Man Held Woman Captive In Diaper, Read Bible For Three Days

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) -- A man held a woman captive in handcuffs and an adult diaper for three days while he read Bible passages to her, police said.

Troy Brisport, 34, was charged with kidnapping and felonious assault. Bail was set Tuesday at $400,000.

He picked up the woman Wednesday night in Detroit after she told him she had nowhere to stay, and brought her to his home in Toledo, about 55 miles away, police said.

The woman told police that after she fell asleep Brisport handcuffed her wrists and ankles, gagged her, undressed her and put her in an adult diaper, then read Bible passages, said police Capt. Ray Carroll.

She apparently was not sexually assaulted, Carroll said.

However, court documents alleged that Brisport tried several times to suffocate the woman using a pillow and blanket.

The woman told police she escaped Saturday after Brisport fell asleep. Police found her dressed only in a T-shirt and the adult diaper and still wearing handcuffs.

There was no immediate response Tuesday to a call seeking comment from jail officials, and there was no indication whether Brisport had an attorney to speak for him.


Information from The Blade:

Check Out The Proposed Venues For The Chicago 2016 Games

Chicago's bid book was submitted to the International Olympic Committee Feb. 12, as they made their pitch for the 2016 Summer Games.

click here for the pics | digg story

Bike week through the years in Daytona Beach [LOTS O PICS]

Bike Week comes to Daytona Beach and other parts of Central Florida from Feb. 27 to March 8, so the Orlando Sentinel took a look back at years worth of the event. Including female bartenders dancing on the bars in bikinis. Made you look.

click here for the pics and read more | digg story

The Las Vegas Strip in 1954 (PIC)

The Sand Strip 1950:

Old pics, sideshow here:

And Vegas Now:
click to enlarge

Google Maps:,+Las+Vegas,+NV&fb=1&split=1&gl=us&cid=0,0,5761703095219541905&ei=pSykScmYDNWDtwemlZjYBA&ll=36.115291,-115.170901&spn=0.014907,0.027895&t=h&z=16

Michael Jordan's Effort At Baseball A Marvel 15 years later

NBA legend's foray into baseball was much more than a gimmick

"Every day at 7:30, Michael was there," said White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. "Sometimes his hands were bleeding, that's how hard he worked." (Pat Sullivan/AP)

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- He's been known as 'His Airness' or 'Sir Michael' amongst many other nicknames bestowed upon quite possibly the greatest player to suit up in the NBA.

Michael Jordan's likeness also will forever live outside the United Center, the home of the Chicago Bulls, with his statue serving as a fitting honor to the incredible force who spearheaded six of the past seven major championships in Chicago. The mere mention of his name still draws an excited reaction from people all over the country who appreciate the game's greatest competitor.

spring training
cactus league
grapefruit league

But a time existed where baseball, and not basketball, stood as the driving athletic force for Jordan. It was a somewhat controversial period, with critics pointing out everything from Jordan's star power usurping a spot that belonged to a more deserving young player, to the assumption that he didn't succeed in his attempt to reach the Major Leagues.

Many of those closest to Jordan's diamond gems couldn't disagree more fervently. Jordan was not only a hard-working Minor Leaguer, who fit into any clubhouse, but also an individual who handled a potentially crazy situation with class and dignity.

On the 15th anniversary of Jordan's arrival to Spring Training with the White Sox in Florida, takes a look back at this incredible effort from a man who hadn't played baseball in almost 15 years, exploring Jordan as a baseball player from a few different perspectives.

The Owner

For events that took place involving Jordan from 1993-94, White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf still can recall what happened with seemingly perfect chronological detail.

"Well, the story actually started on a Sunday in July," said Reinsdorf, speaking recently on the deck outside his office at Camelback Ranch. "Michael was at our game, up in a box with me and [then general manager Ron] Schueler. The two of them got me and said Michael has something he wants to talk about.

"He said he wants to go to Kannapolis and just play a couple of games. He had taken batting practice a couple of years before. What we didn't know was that at the moment we were talking, his father was dead. His father was dead -- we didn't know. Shortly thereafter, he found out his father was dead and that took care of the Kannapolis thing."

The next time Reinsdorf saw Jordan was in October, two months after James Jordan was murdered. Reinsdorf attended a charity dinner for Jordan's foundation, and invited Jordan to throw out the first pitch for the first game of the playoffs if the White Sox reached the postseason.

On that same night, David Falk, Jordan's representative, broke some news to Reinsdorf.

"David Falk got me there and said, 'I don't know how to tell you this but Michael wants to retire,'" Reinsdorf said. "We agreed to meet the following week, and we met at David Falk's house in Washington, D.C.

"Michael told me he needed to get away. The death of his father and all of the media attention and people saying it was because of his gambling, it had got to him. He was burned out. This meeting took place on the last Sunday of the baseball season, and the playoffs were going to begin that following Tuesday.

"I didn't try to talk him out of it, but I asked Michael, 'What do you want to do,' and he said, 'I want to play baseball. It was my father's dream that I become a baseball player,'" Reinsdorf said. "I said, 'OK, but, you have to talk to Phil Jackson. You can't just make this decision and walk away.'"

According to Reinsdorf, Jordan didn't want to speak with Jackson for fear that the Bulls coach would talk Jordan out of his decision. But the two men sat down on that following Monday, and the retirement announcement was to be made on that ensuing Wednesday so as not to upstage the White Sox playoffs.

"He didn't keep a secret," said a smiling Reinsdorf of Jordan, who attended the first playoff game and threw out the first pitch. "I think he told Ahmad Rashad and I don't know who else from there. It was all over the place during the game.

"People were trying to get into the box, and it did upstage the playoffs. It was terrible."

When the retirement announcement officially was made on Oct. 6, 1993, Jordan's plan to play baseball already was set in motion, although it wasn't announced. He signed a free-agent contract on Feb. 7, 1994, receiving a non-roster invite, as well, and setting the Spring Training circus in motion.

After Jordan's baseball move became public, Reinsdorf received a call from White Sox hitting coach Walt Hriniak. It's an understatement to say that Hriniak was stunned by the decision.

"Walter said, 'What the [heck] is this all about?' He said, 'We don't need this kind of publicity and what kind of gimmick is this?'" Reinsdorf said. "I said, 'Walter he's serious. Wait until you meet this guy.'

"On the first day of Spring Training, Walter goes up to Michael in the outfield and says, 'Are you serious about this or is it just a game?' He said, 'I'm dead serious.' Walter said to meet him at 7:30 tomorrow morning in the batting cages.

"Every day at 7:30, Michael was there," Reinsdorf said. "Sometimes his hands were bleeding, that's how hard he worked. You talk to Walter today and he'll tell you the hardest working athlete he ever had was Michael Jordan."

Reinsdorf recounted one night in Florida where Jordan and the White Sox chairman simply sat around his office for three hours talking about baseball.

"Michael really enjoyed the clubhouse and the guys," Reinsdorf said. "He liked to sit around, smoke a cigar and [talk]."

Judging by the reaction from a few of his teammates even 15 years later, they enjoyed having Jordan around just as much.

The Teammates

Ozzie Guillen led the 2005 White Sox to the franchise's first World Series title in 88 years. As a colorful manager, he is the face of the organization and one of the most recognizable figures around baseball.

Yet, he's still no Michael Jordan in terms of world-wide popularity. Guillen readily admits that when Jordan was part of Spring Training, he got an autograph from the legend. But one of the most endearing attributes about Jordan the baseball player became that he was just one of the guys.

"You walk into the locker room and you are like, 'Wow, it's Michael Jordan,'" said Guillen with a laugh. "But the next day, he's a normal guy. I love every minute of it, and I think this guy finally has fun in his life besides being on the golf course. He had a real life, were he was treated like just another person.

"Jordan had fun with the other players. To me, it was a privilege to be around one of the best."

Guillen recounted a story of how he regularly kidded Jordan about being the best athlete in the world, but not nearly as good as Guillen on the baseball field. Guillen also told a tale of a young woman who ran on the field during an exhibition game in Miami, trying to get a kiss from Jordan.

"Until that lady was chasing him, I'd never seen a woman on the field in my life," sad Guillen with a laugh.

"I came to realize just how big of a personality he was during that spring," said White Sox radio announcer Darrin Jackson, who also was involved in the 1994 Spring Training as a White Sox outfielder. "When you get off team buses, and the girls start to cry because Michael Jordan is in the vicinity, it was pretty special to see."

Playing with Jordan naturally involved a bit of a media frenzy. As Guillen said, Jordan just wanted to be one of the guys, playing cards and smoking cigars with teammates on the bus.

"When he was there, he never tried to be Michael Jordan with us," Guillen said.

"It was different than any other Spring Training I've ever been a part of as a coach or player," said White Sox bench coach Joey Cora, who was the team's second baseman in 1994. "He was Michael, and Michael is Michael, whether he's playing baseball, ping pong or basketball."

The Coverage

On the day that Jordan held his first press conference at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla., Scott Reifert can remember lining 38 television cameras up and down the first-base line as a White Sox media relations staff member. Jordan and Schueler sat on top of the dugout to have the press conference.

"I didn't try to talk him out of it, but I asked Michael, 'What do you want to do,' and he said, 'I want to play baseball."
-- White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf

"The media just filled in the seats," said Reifert, now the White Sox vice president of communications. "I also remember the range and volume of media in attendance, and this is before the media explosion. It wasn't just sports guys.

"It was entertainment, everything you can imagine. And it was global. Japan, France, Europe, any place where the Bulls, Michael or the NBA were world-wide brands at that time."

Reifert remembers the bright red car driven at the time by Jordan, and how the kids "would stream down the street" after Jordan when he left the facility and how Jordan would stop to sign autographs. Of course, Reifert also remembers Jordan's famous competitive streak.

Not just from baseball or basketball, mind you, but even with ping pong.

"Someone bought a ping-pong table, and they had a big, clubhouse tournament, where they had pairings," Reifert said. "I think it ended up being Michael and Kirk McCaskill as the finalists, and I think Kirk beat him.

"I'll never forget watching Michael Jordan play ping pong. If you think about his wing span from left to right, it was stunning to watch this guy cover a table. The other thing was competitiveness. Baseball players are competitive, every single one of them, but Michael took it to another level over a ping-pong game."

The Player, The End

Jordan was sent to Double-A Birmingham out of Spring Training on March 31, 1994, and hit .202 with 51 RBIs, 30 stolen bases and 114 strikeouts in 127 games. He also took part in the 1994 Arizona Fall League, where he posted a .252 average for the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Reinsdorf believes that if not for the ongoing Major League Baseball strike in 1995, which sort of "soured him on the whole thing," Jordan might have made it to the big leagues as a fourth or fifth outfielder. One thing was certain: when Jordan retired from basketball, Reinsdorf never envisioned him coming back to the hardwoods on March 19, 1995, first wearing jersey No. 45 as he did on the baseball fields, and then switching back to the familiar No. 23 and leading the Bulls to their second NBA title three-peat.

Numerous pundits consider Jordan's run at baseball a mistake, nothing more than a side show involving one of the world's most recognizable figures, who couldn't consistently hit the curve like many other struggling Minor Leaguers. Those who witnessed Jordan's intense work on a daily basis, along with his amazing talent, know this period was anything but a joke for Jordan. They also realize what might have been if he continued the pursuit of this dream.

After all, even the top prospects out of the First-Year Player Draft don't get sent to the talent-rich Southern League, as Reinsdorf mentioned. And Jordan more-than-survived in Birmingham, playing to sold-out crowds every night.

"I thought he needed another two full seasons of at-bats to be fair to him," said Boston manager Terry Francona, who managed Jordan at Birmingham and praised Jordan for how he handled a situation where the Barons 'were covered like a Major League team with all the media.' "But the first time you tell him no, the answer is going to be yes."

"If he would have started earlier, maybe he had a shot," Cora said. "He was a great athlete, but you don't pick up baseball at 30. It was tough, but he accomplished a lot in a little period of time, which shows how great of an athlete he was."

"This is a guy who with more time, he had a chance," Jackson said. "Because of his determination, he would have probably made it. I've never seen anyone work harder than him."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Alpine Beer Spa - Mans Greatest Invention To Date — All it needs is a bacon grill and internet and there is no need for any more science.

Only on the Czech Republic

Freida Pinto Teams Up With Woody Allen

By Katey Rich:
Freida Pinto may have only had to stand around and look pretty in Slumdog Millionaire, but she's taking that questionable talent to the bank. She's now signed on for her post-Slumdog role, playing the ingenue in Woody Allen's untitled new project, which shoots in London this spring.

She's signing on along with Naomi Watts, according to Variety, and they'll both be joining Anthony Hopkins and Josh Brolin in the film. As usual with Woody Allen, we have no idea what the movie is about yet. But you have to wonder if Scarlett Johansson is pissed having been replaced by Pinto, the next next big thing to get her start with Allen.

Top 10 Alcohol & Boobie Related Gadgets

For those unaware, this week is Mardi Gras and tuesday was Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day or whatever the hell you want to call it. Let me put on my spectacles and give a little history lesson.

Fat Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday and the last hurrah before the start of Lent. This day has a lot of significance throughout the world, but for us in the United States, it is just another day where we can get absolutely plastered.

Fat Tuesday is also synonymous with the viewing of breasts in exchange for reward, in most cases, beads. So, what is a better way to ring in Fat Tuesday than a grand ol' list of some of our favorite alcohol- and breast-related gear. Jump to see the entire, possibly NSFW, list.

10. Godzilla Beer Dispenser
I wouldn't suggest drinking directly from this beer-dispensing Godzilla, because then it would appear that you and Godzilla's relationship was more than professional. This little dino lets out a mighty roar upon pouring of a beverage (although, like most dinosaurs, Godzilla prefers beer).

9. Bikini Babe Case Mod
Nothing gets my blood boiling more than a bikini babe and powerhouse computer combined into one sick project. This guy hand-crafted a computer to look like a female of an anime variety.

8. Breast Shaper
Ladies, or well-endowed guys: You may want to get those breasts in shape before flaunting them around the town for beads, and this strange contraption may be able to do so. The Bust Doctor can reshape breasts. Maybe it can reshape the breasts into animal and other cool figures.

7. Beer Tap Backpack
I know it differs from town to town, but in my neck of the woods the general bar district comes together for one giant celebration, so traveling from bar to bar is generally encouraged. The Beer Tap Backpack will ease those painful 20-foot drinkless walks to the next bar.

6. iBreath iPod Breathalyzer Accessory
What kind of a Gizmodo list would this be without some sort of an iPod accessory? The iBreath attaches to the bottom of the iPod and can give a BAC quicker than your 80s rock playlist can load.

5. Boobie Mouse Pad
Always a classic is the boobie mouse pad. No further explanation needed.

4. Boob Radio
Tweaking the left nipple adjusts volume and tweaking the right nipple selects a station. Now that is a useful pair of breasts.

3. Breast-Shaped Shampoo Dispenser
Not to be outdone by the boob radio is this boob shampoo dispenser for the shower.

2. Asahi Beer Robot
I'm pretty confident there is not a single person on this planet who would not want to own a beer-pouring robot like this one. The robot doesn't do the greatest job pouring, but we aren't picky.

1. Boobkini
The Japanese are the reigning kings of boobs and this invention further proves it. Just watch the video.

And with that... Happy Fat Tuesday, all. However you feel like celebrating (whether it be drinking yourself stupid, staying in, or treating it like any other Tuesday) may it be enjoyable. And if you do decide to go out drinking, do it safely. Hand off the keys and do as my mother always tells me: look, but don't touch.

Jury Clears Photographer Who Refused to Stop Photographing an Arrest

from: Jury clears former Galveston photographer | - Houston Chronicle

by: Thomas Hawk

I was pleased today to see an article about photographer Nick Adams being cleared by a Galveston jury of misdemeanor charges of interfering with police while photographing an arrest at a Mardi Gras celebration in 2007.

While I’m amazed that any prosecutor would actually take this kind of a case to trial (in this case prosecutor April Powers), I’m pleased that a jury had the common sense to dismiss the charges.

In this case Galveston police charged that Adams had entered their roped off perimeter in order to get his shots which resulted in the arrest and charges.

Conveniently, and not surprising to me, police deleted some of Adam’s photos while they had him in custody which would have proved he was outside the perimeter established by the police. According to Adams’ defense attorney, the digital index from his camera showed that these photos were deleted.

Personally I’d like to see these cops punished for deleting someone’s digital camera photos while he was in custody and for arresting him in the first place.

Police brutality is a fact of life. While I believe the overwhelming majority of cops are good cops and have many friends and family who are cops, history has shown that there are still plenty of bad apples out there.

In a world where Rodney King can be half beaten to death by police officers, our right to be able to document police activity is a fundamental protection against police brutality.

When cops, who are trusted with extraordinary powers of authority, try to silence photographers this is a terrible affront on a free press and a free society.

I hope at minimum that Adams files a civil suit against the Galveston Police Department and that they end up paying monetarily for the bad behavior of the officers in question. Police need to be sent a message that they cannot abuse photographers and get away with it.

Last month two brothers who sued Harris County were awarded almost $2 million after they were wrongfully arrested for videotaping a drug raid on a neighbors home. Their case also resulted in the resignation of former Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal when their suit brought forward racist and pornographic emails on his computer.

More from here.

Thanks to Superchou for bringing this story to my attention.

Mumbai slum hails Millionaire stars

By Prachi Pinglay
BBC News, Mumbai

Slumdog celebrations in Mumbai
Friends of child actors Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Ismail celebrate in Mumbai

"Jai ho!" (Victory!) was the refrain in the congested by-lanes of Garibnagar, the colony where Slumdog Millionaire child actors Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Ismail live.

Neighbours and relatives in the colony, which runs parallel to railway tracks in a western suburb of Mumbai (Bombay), had been wide awake and buzzing from 0400 local time (2330 GMT Sunday) for the Oscar awards ceremony.

Munni Qureshi, Rubina's mother, said she was waiting for her daughter to return from Los Angeles. "I will go to the airport with a band of musicians and greet her. We are so happy for the children."

Farha and Dilshaad, her neighbours, had not eaten since last night - part of a fast in hope of success at the Academy Awards.

"We decided we'd eat only after all the awards are announced. Now we will celebrate and have breakfast. We prayed that Rubina would get success," beamed Dilshaad as she welcomed reporters into her house.

Rubina's friends have learned to dance to numbers like Jai Ho (AR Rahman's Oscar-winning song) and Ringa Ringa, and were happy to repeat their moves for the cameras.

"I can also dance, Rubina is my friend," repeated Muskaan.

Good and lucky

In a tiny 3m by 3m (10-foot by 10-foot) room belonging to her uncle, a large flat TV screen is the only reminder of the recent success tasted by Rubina's family.

Rubina's parents' house is at the end of the lane, where people stream in and out to congratulate them.

We feel happy that two little children who live such difficult lives in Garibnagar have been given such an honour
Muzammil, colony dweller

Mohsin, her cousin, watches the grainy screen intently and looks downward as every nomination with a kissing scene is shown. The women animatedly discuss new clothes for Azhar and Rubina.

Pervez Ahmed, who took Rubina and Azhar to the auditions of Slumdog Millionaire, said the children were very good as well as lucky.

"I have been taking children from these areas for shooting for nearly 20 years and have even worked for big commercial films but this is extraordinary. Even some of the biggest stars have not been able to go to the Oscars."

People went about their morning chores, washing and cleaning outside their hutments, but most still had their televisions tuned to the Oscars. Neighbours insisted the children should pursue their success and continue to act.

Slumdog celebrations in Mumbai
The colony in Mumbai was up very early for the Oscar ceremony

There were conversations about the story of the film (many are yet to watch it), the actual meaning of the word Slumdog (there have been some protests in India that the term is derogatory) and the possibility of improving their lives.

And the media had amassed to hear the tales.

Reporters were everywhere where any details of the children and their families could be taken down.

Some residents complained about the chaotic scenes as journalists ran from house to house, and the odd scuffle ensued.

But still the celebrations continued, as the noise of the rush hour, of trains passing by and of traffic snarls cranked up.

Muzammil, one youngster who works in a nearby textile unit, mused on the rags-to-riches tale.

"Even if all of us worked for 20 years we would not be able to achieve this. We feel happy that two little children who live such difficult lives in Garibnagar have been given such an honour.

"That is why so many people stopped work today - to watch our stars on TV."

AmEx paying card holders to close their accounts


NEW YORK (Reuters) - American Express Co, battered by mounting credit card losses, is offering $300 to a limited number of U.S. card holders who pay off their balances and close their accounts, the company said on Monday.

"We sent the offer out to a select number of card members," said Molly Faust, a company spokeswoman. "We are looking at different ways that we can manage credit risk based on the costumers overall credit profile."

The company did not say how many card holders would receive the offer and did not disclose the total of their card balances.

Card holders have until the end of February to accept the offer and must close their accounts in March or April. Each card holder will receive a $300 pre-paid American Express card.

American Express, often seen as catering to relatively wealthy customers and companies, has been expanding its credit card business in recent years by reaching out to a wider range of clients.

But that strategy has backfired. The company's earnings tumbled in the fourth quarter as credit losses jumped and debt-burdened consumers slashed spending.

In addition, American Express reported last week that credit card delinquencies rose in January more than analysts expected, as U.S. unemployment increased and the global economy deteriorated.

Like its credit card rivals such as Discover Financial Services, Capital One Financial Corp, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Citigroup Inc, American Express is selectively scaling back the credit lines of some U.S. customers and reducing efforts to gain new customers domestically.

The firm is cutting expenses, aiming to save $1.8 billion in 2009.

American Express shares fell 3 percent to $12.58 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares have lost a third of their value this year.

(Reporting by Juan Lagorio, editing by John Wallace)

The amazing 3D pavement art that has pedestrians on edge

Mind the crevasse:

By Tom Kelly

After a sudden shift in the Earth's crust, the ground has cracked open.

What was terra firma is now a gaping crevasse.

And into it - his arms raised in terror - plunges a hapless pedestrian on a shard of rock.

street art

The Crevasse: The giant fissure, in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland, spans over 250 square metres and appears to show an Ice Age fault. The image only makes sense from one point of perspective

In another apocalyptic scenario, a family desperately struggle to cross what remains of a street. They hold hands while balancing on islands of tarmac.

Below them a rushing urban river laps against rocks that glow with volcanic intensity.

But, of course, neither of these scenes is what they appear. They are giant optical illusions conceived by German artist Edgar Mueller.

Edgar Mueller street art

This giant fissure was created in the German town of Geldern to celebrate the 30th anniversary of a street art competition. It took a team of artists working 12 hours a day, five days to complete

He spent five days, working 12 hours a day, to create the 250 square metre image of the crevasse, which, viewed from the correct angle, appears to be 3D. He then persuaded passers-by to complete the illusion by pretending the gaping hole was real.

'I wanted to play with positives and negatives to encourage people to think twice about everything they see,' he said.

'It was a very scary scene, but when people saw it they had great fun playing on it and pretending to fall into the earth.

'I like to think that later, when they returned home, they might reflect more on what a frightening scenario it was and say, "Wow, that was actually pretty scary".'

Hard work: Together with up to five assistants, Mueller painted all day long from sunrise to sunset

Hard work: Together with up to five assistants, Mueller painted all day long from sunrise to sunset. The picture appeared on the East Pier in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland, as part of the town's Festival of World Cultures

Mueller, 40, used acrylic wall paint to create the scene. He trained a camera lens on his work surface to help him fully visualise the idea before painting in the incredible detail to give an impression of depth on the flat surface.

He added: 'The conditions were difficult because if it started raining before a section had dried it could all wash it all away.

'I was very lucky that I managed to get each part done before the heavens opened.'

Scroll down to watch a video of the making of the The Crevasse...

The picture appeared on the East Pier in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland, as part of the town's Festival of World Cultures.

The artist used the same technique to create the street-turned-river scene in the western German city of Geldern.


Mueller, who has previously painted a giant waterfall in Canada, said he was inspired by the British 'Pavement Picasso' Julian Beever, whose dramatic but more gentle 3D street images have featured in the Daily Mail

Another amazing 3D street painting 'Turning Riverstreet into a river', completed in the colourfully named town of Moosejaw, Canada

It commemorated the 30th anniversary of an international competition of street painters, which takes place in the city every summer.

Mueller, who has previously painted a giant waterfall in Canada, said he was inspired by the British 'Pavement Picasso' Julian Beever, whose dramatic but more gentle 3D street images have featured in the Daily Mail.

They include a swimming pool chalked on the street so realistically that shoppers swerved to avoid it.

Watch the video here