Thursday, March 19, 2009
LOS ANGELES, March 19 (UPI) -- California prison officials say the release of a new photo of Charles Manson was part of a program that routinely updates images of its inmates.
Manson, 74, is serving a life sentence for the killings of actress Sharon Tate and six other victims in a brief but sensational crime spree that terrified the Los Angeles area 40 years ago this August.
The Los Angeles Times said Thursday that the new image taken at Corcoran State Prison shows Manson's gray beard and a receding hairline. The trademark swastika carved in his forehead is still visible but fading
Officials say Manson will be up for parole for the 12th time in 2012.
Dirk Fuchs / LiveScience.com
Rare fossil octopuses found
It's hard enough to find fossils of hard things like dinosaur bones. Now scientists have found evidence of 95 million-year-old octopuses, among the rarest and unlikeliest of fossils, complete with ink and suckers.
The body of an octopus is composed almost entirely of muscle and skin. When an octopus dies, it quickly decays and liquefies into a slimy blob. After just a few days there will be nothing left at all. And that assumes that the fresh carcass is not consumed almost immediately by scavengers.
The result is that preservation of an octopus as a fossil is about as unlikely as finding a fossil sneeze, and none of the 200 to 300 species of octopus known today had ever been found in fossilized form, said Dirk Fuchs of the Freie University Berlin, lead author of the report.
Fuchs and his colleagues now have identified three new species of octopuses (Styletoctopus annae, Keuppia hyperbolaris and Keuppia levante) based on five specimens discovered in Cretaceous Period rocks in Lebanon. The specimens, described in the January 2009 issue of the journal Palaeontology, preserve the octopuses' eight arms with traces of muscles and rows of suckers. Even traces of the ink and internal gills are present in some specimens.
"The luck was that the corpse landed untouched on the sea floor," Fuchs told LiveScience. "The sea floor was free of oxygen and therefore free of scavengers. Both the anoxy [absence of oxygen] and a rapid sedimentation rate prevented decay."
Prior to this discovery only a single fossil species was known, and from fewer specimens than octopuses have legs, Fuchs said.
What most surprised Fuchs and his colleagues Giacomo Bracchi and Robert Weis was how similar the specimens are to modern octopus. "These things are 95 million years old, yet one of the fossils is almost indistinguishable from living species," Fuchs said.
This provides important evolutionary information, revealing much earlier origins of modern octopuses and their characteristic eight-legged body-plan, Fuchs said.
Unlike vertebrate animals, octopuses lack a well-developed skeleton, which allows them to squeeze into spaces that a more robust animal could not.
"The more primitive relatives of octopuses had fleshy fins along their bodies. The new fossils are so well preserved that they show, like living octopus, that they didn't have these structures," Fuchs said.
This insight pushes back the origins of the modern octopus by tens of millions of years, he said.
In the face of recession, MLB.com upgrades its video service to hang on to customers.
As the sour economy whacks the sports world, Major League Baseball's Internet arm is scrambling to make sure subscription-paying fans stick around.
Coming for the 2009 season: Live game streams in high definition and a $10 price break for subscribers. A season package of live games will cost fans $109.95 this year, down from $119.95 in 2008. Other goodies being added this year: DVR functionality, multi-game viewing (up to four at a time) and a fantasy league-driven player tracker service.
"If there was ever a time to make sure we're on the side of the fan, this is it," says Bob Bowman, chief executive of MLB Advanced Media, which runs the league's Web operation. Of the 1 million-plus audio and video subscribers the site has signed up since 2002, roughly 100,000 will opt for the premium service of online games in HD this year, he estimates. The company's non-premium video product, with fewer bells and whistles, costs $79.95 for the season. The HD capability, three years in the making, costs about 15 times what standard picture does to produce, he says.
MLB.com is jointly owned by the league's 30 clubs, though it essentially operates as a separate entity. The company's $450 million revenue in 2007 was nearly double what it was in 2005, and accounted for some 10% of overall MLB revenue, according to Shawn McBride, a VP with Ketchum Sports Marketing. "The Web site should continue to be a significant revenue driver for MLB," says McBride.
From his modest office in a onetime Nabisco factory on New York City's west side, Bowman says business is the toughest it has been since 2001, MLB.com's inaugural year. Then he was trying to ramp up an online business in the wake of a busted Internet bubble. Now, it's keeping subscribers on board without skimping on the technology investments necessary to keep the site moving into a future dominated by mobile devices. He plans to plow some $20 million annually--roughly 4% to 5% of the company's revenues--into technology.
Bowman was one of the sports industry's early believers in the subscription model on the Web, one that the NFL, NHL and NBA are now employing in one form or another. Free content built around advertising alone just doesn't hold up, as newspaper executives have learned the hard way. His plan is a mix of ad-supported content and paid subscriptions A cable TV model, as opposed to the broadcast TV model. "You've got two revenue sources, with one supporting the other," he says.
The next hurdle: offering live games in fans' home markets. With lucrative local cable deals driving so much team revenue, MLB has restricted web viewing to out-of-market games, targeting the displaced fan looking to see his favorite team from another city. But Bowman figures fans are just about at the point of expecting content on the web and television alike. The plan is to make in-market games available only to area cable subscribers. For example, only the Yankee fan subscribing to the YES Network would be able to see a game from his laptop on MLB.com while commuting or traveling. He hopes to unveil the service in some cities before the 2009 season ends.
The biggest potential beneficiaries of MLB's growing reliance on Web dollars: Baseball's small market clubs. Unlike local cable television, which creates revenue disparities as each club makes its own deal, all online revenue is shared equally. So far, the dollars aren't big enough to teams like Pittsburgh and Kansas City. But if continued growth brings it to 20% or more of total league revenue, which sports business experts think is possible, those small market clubs will be rejoicing.
A 3D art exhibition by Patrick Hughes in Dubai.
Pretty cool stuff.
Days before President Bush left office in January, his administration fired a parting shot at Professor Lyle Craker's eight-year quest to cultivate marijuana for medical research by abruptly denying him a federal license despite a nearly two-year old Drug Enforcement Administration law judge's recommendation that he receive one.
But the new administration led by President Obama, who has publicly backed the use of marijuana for medical purposes to stave off pain, might reverse the decision and keep Craker's license application from going up in smoke.
A source familiar with the case said the White House will likely demand that the decision be reviewed.
"Basically they want to do an autopsy of what occurred and have it go through a proper review," the source said.
Craker, who is based at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, is cautiously optimistic Obama will do to the denial of the marijuana license what he has done to other Bush administration decisions on such hot-button cultural issues as embryonic stem-cell research and the abortion "gag rule" affecting overseas family planning groups.
"Obama has indicated that he's for science over politics," Craker said in an interview. "And I certainly feel the situation we have currently is politics over science."
Just last week, Obama called for the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to "develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision making."
"The public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions," Obama wrote. "Public officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions."
On the issue of medicinal marijuana, Obama said at a November 2007 campaign stop in Iowa that he was open to allowing its use if it is what science and physicians suggest would be the best way to ease suffering.
"There's no difference between that and morphine when it comes to just giving people relief to pain," Obama said then.
Administration officials familiar with Craker's application for a DEA license to grow the plant would not comment on the case.
Last month, 16 House members wrote Attorney General Holder asking him to amend or withdraw the DEA's final order on Craker's application so the president's new head of DEA could review the application. They wrote that the administrative law judge's decision "left no doubt" that Craker is qualified to cultivate marijuana for research purposes.
The members, led by Rep. John Olver, D-Mass., said they were concerned the Bush administration's ruling violated the "spirit" of a Jan. 20 memorandum from White House Chief of Staff Emanuel that essentially froze all "11th hour" final orders. The memo distributed shortly after the inauguration asked agency officials to reconsider final rules and regulations that have been published in the Federal Register, but have yet to take effect.
Craker's battle with the Bush administration began in 2001, when he applied for a federal license to become a bulk manufacturer of marijuana and establish a privately funded facility at his university for DEA- and FDA-approved marijuana research.
His application posed a challenge to a decades-long monopoly enjoyed by the University of Mississippi as the country's only legal producer of marijuana for medical research, a program started in 1968 and overseen by the National Institute on Drug Abuse since 1974.
A longtime backer, Senate Appropriations ranking member Thad Cochran, funneled $3.5 million in earmarked funds to the university's National Center for Natural Products Research, which is housed in a building that bears his name, in the FY09 omnibus spending bill.
His press secretary said this week that, as an Ole Miss alumnus, Cochran is proud to have the center in his state, and that the decision on any other license is "up to DEA."
In 2007, a DEA administrative law judge issued a non-binding recommendation in favor of granting Craker a license, saying NIDA's Mississippi-grown supply provided to approved scientists was insufficient for the research marijuana merits. Despite letters of support from 45 House members and Massachusetts Democratic Sens. Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, then-DEA Administrator Karen Tandy and her successor, acting Administrator Michele Leonhart, made no decision on the license application for more than a year.
But less than a week before Bush left the Oval Office, Leonhart issued a final order denying Craker's application, aiming to close the books on a case that lasted nearly as long as Bush's tenure in office. She set Feb. 13 as the final order's effective date.
The timing led Craker and Allen Hopper, who heads a legal team provided by the American Civil Liberties Union, to assume the decision was politically motivated. Administrative law judges usually are nonpartisan "technocrats" who examine cases from legal and rational points of view, Hopper said.
"But when you get to [the] level of DEA administrator, that's a political appointment," he said.
The source familiar with the case agreed the decision was "entirely political."
"It just seems it was rushed on ideological grounds," this source said.
Craker said one reason Leonhart did not favor granting him a license was concern it would set off a rush of license applications from researchers seeking to grow their own.
"I think our case is dynamite in a logjam," Craker said. "Once something like this is broken, it's kind of hard to put it back together."
Since the final order, Hopper has filed a motion to reconsider and has asked for a hearing to present witnesses and evidence that can refute Leonhart's arguments.
Meanwhile, four days before the Feb. 13 effective date of the order denying a license to Craker, Leonhart, who is still DEA's acting chief but now reports to Obama, extended the date to April 1.
Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney, who fielded questions about marijuana licensing, said the date was pushed back because Craker's legal team asked for an extension to file supplemental evidence. She said it was not in response to Emanuel's Jan. 20 memo.
Much of the outcome hinges on the fact that Obama has not yet nominated someone to lead the DEA. Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., who co-signed the letter to Holder, remarked that the Obama administration has moved "incredibly slow" at filling this position.
But with a plunging economy and two wars, who can blame Obama for the lack of immediate attention to the drug issue? "I hate to tell you this -- it's not the most important issue that I'm concerned about," Farr said.
by Katie Sanders
Troubled slugger Alex Rodriguez gets up close and personal - with himself - in a one-man love affair photographed and published in the upcoming Details magazine.
The mag captures A-Rod's essence, with pictures of him smooching his own reflection, stretching his toned muscles on a bare mattress and brooding seductively for the camera.
Rodriguez wore Calvin Klein T-shirts and tank tops for the spread, evocative of the designer's sexy, envelope-pushing ads.
Despite being one of the most recognizable men in the city, A-Rod told Details - in an issue that hits newsstands a week from today - that he enjoys taking the subway to Yankee Stadium, usually on Fridays.
"For night games ... the day to do it is a Friday, because traffic is horrible," he said.
The $27-million-a-year slugger, who's sidelined for two months after having a cyst removed and undergoing labrum surgery on a bum hip, says he wears a hooded sweatshirt on the train.
Yet he's usually discovered by eagle-eyed fans who pummel him with questions.
"I get a kick out of it," he said. "We talk about who's pitching tonight, and what we need to do. It's like being on sports radio."
The flawed superstar was all over the headlines last summer for his alleged extra-inning play with Madonna, who, at 50, is 17 years his senior.
Rodriguez said he's "friends" with the pop princess, but Details didn't press him to address allegations by ex-wife Cynthia Rodriguez that the Material Mom is a homewrecker.
"Well, we're friends. She's an amazing entertainer," A-Rod said of Madonna. "And it's been amazing how she's been able to stay on top for three decades. I have a lot of respect for her."
Details writer Jason Gay noted that A-Rod frantically reached out to him after the interview to retract the revelation of his favorite Madonna song.
The meltdown seemed like an odd concern of A-Rod's, according to Gay, considering that the Bomber's chat with Details came after Sports Illustrated reported he had used banned substances, and days before he faced teammates and media in Tampa.
A-Rod told the writer he didn't want that particular Madonna song blaring at rival American League parks at every road game.
Rodriguez recounted how he quit baseball as a 12 year old, convinced he was going to be a basketball star.
The slugger's mom whipped out NBA rosters and challenged him to find one hoopster of Dominican heritage.
"I looked for 15 minutes and couldn't find one," he said. "Two weeks later, I was back at baseball."
More casting buzz and a new release date.
March 16, 2009 - Star Wars veteran Natalie Portman is reportedly the front runner to play the female lead in Paramount-Marvel's Thor movie, to be directed by Kenneth Branagh. Thor has shifted release dates again -- from June 16, 2011 to May 20, 2011 -- in order to make room for Paramount's newly announced Transformers 3.
Deadline Hollywood Daily doesn't state which female character from the Thor/Marvel universe she'd play. The site also claims that Marvel is considering Josh Hartnett to play either Thor or his half-brother and archenemy Loki; earlier reports claimed that Hartnett was only in the running for the villain role.
DHD adds that there is a "powerful lobby" seeking to cast unknowns for the roles of Thor and Loki, claiming that "the following actors are being tested: Charlie Hunnam (the British co-star of the F/X series Sons of Anarchy); Tom Hiddleston (award-winning British actor and RADA graduate who played Winston Churchill's son in HBO's The Gathering Storm), Alexander Skarsgård (Stellan's son who has appeared in the HBO Iraq War miniseries Generation Kill and vampire drama True Blood, and who's definitely visually right for the role), Liam Hemsworth (offered a significant role in The Expendables after Sly Stallone saw his tape), and Joel Kinnaman (some Danish dude)."
English actor Tom Hiddleston, 28, starred opposite Branagh in the Masterpiece Mystery! series Wallander and the HBO telepic Conspiracy, as well as on-stage in last fall's production of Chekhov's Ivanov. Hiddleston's bio at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art says he stands 6'2" and is certified in stage combat. He won the Laurence Olivier Award last year as Best Newcomer in a Play for his performance in Cymbeline.
In addition to his lead role as Jackson 'Jax' Teller in Sons of Anarchy, English actor Charlie Hunnam, 29, has appeared in Abandon, Nicholas Nickleby, Children of Men, Green Street Hooligans, and Cold Mountain.
Aussie actor Liam Hemsworth, soon to be seen opposite Nicolas Cage in Knowing, starred in the Aussie TV series Neighbours and The Elephant Princess. He's the younger brother of actor Chris Hemsworth, who plays James T. Kirk's dad in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek movie.
Danish actor Joel Kinnaman, 29, has starred in a number of films overseas (such as Storm and The Invisible), and shares the same agency as Stellan Skarsgård, who has been rumored for the role of Thor's father Odin. Based on his look, Kinnaman seems far more appropriate for Loki than for Thor.
A week before tickets for Phish’s four-night stand at Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre were supposed to go on sale, a Ticketmaster glitch allowed Phish fans to scoop up four-day passes to the event last night, Glide Magazine reports. However, the feeding frenzy was short-lived as Ticketmaster quickly halted the sale and canceled all orders, further angering fans who were already frustrated over Live Nation’s failed Phish ticket release last month.
Tickets to the Red Rocks shows weren’t supposed to go on sale until March 26th, but eagle-eyed Phans noticed that Ticketmaster had apparently begun selling its allotment of four-day passes early. Rumors quickly swirled that Phish may have been trying to sidestep scalpers and reward the true fans with a surprise presale. However, it became apparent that the Ticketmaster mistake was a routine glitch.
One Glide commenter points out that the Ticketmaster Contract of Service reads “If… you are able to order a ticket before its scheduled on-sale or presale date or you are able to order a ticket that was not supposed to have been released for sale, then: Ticketmaster will have the right to cancel that ticket” — which is precisely what happened. When the error was recognized by Ticketmaster, Phans began receiving e-mails saying their orders had been canceled. (Some of them may not have gotten the message yet: eBay is awash with sellers offering the four-night pass at roughly $2800-$4000 per ticket.)
Fans will now have to try again on March 26th to score tickets to the Red Rocks shows, the band’s first at the venue in nearly 13 years. While you wait for the proper on-sale date, check out our full coverage of the band’s return to the stage at the Hampton Coliseum:
This post comes from partner blog The Dough Roller.
While we don't have any credit card debt now, except for 0% APR balance transfers, there was a time when we did. While we never let our credit cards get completely out of control, we did build up several thousand dollars on our credit cards when I first got out of college.
So having gotten into card debt and then climbed out of it, we've learned many of the causes of this financial pain. The fact is, we can talk ourselves into using our credit cards in ways that will hurt our finances down the road.
So here are 10 lies we tell ourselves that get us in credit card debt and keep us there.
It's an emergency. Often we go into debt by convincing ourselves that we have an emergency. Certainly there are times when a true emergency arises. Medical expenses are a good example of a real crisis. But many times what we call an emergency isn't really an emergency. Whether it's a second car that needs repair, or even our child's college education, we can often go without addressing what at first seems like an urgent expense. If life or liberty isn't at stake, it's probably not a true emergency.
We deserve it. This one has snagged us more than once. After working so hard to save money and spend wisely, sometimes we let our guard down under the guise of a reward. Perhaps you've had a hard week at work, and spending $150 on a fancy dinner that you can't really afford seems like a good idea and something you've earned. The problem is that it's like taking one step forward, two steps back. The "reward" just digs you deeper and deeper into debt.
We all need a break now and again. But if you are fighting credit card debt, don't go into more debt as a reward. Find some other way to reward yourself that doesn't make your financial problems more severe.
It's a bargain. Bargains are great, but they shouldn't be used as an excuse to spend more than we have. Great deals also shouldn't be used to buy more than we need. The one thing I've learned is that great deals generally come and go pretty regularly. Regardless, it's not a great deal if you spend a ton of money on credit card interest paying off the debt over months or even years.
It's not much money. It's so easy to spend money we don't have if we spend it in small amounts. Here's a factoid: Last year the Bush stimulus bill sent out stimulus payments to those taxpayers who qualified. Under the 2009 stimulus plan, payments will not be sent in lump-sum checks. Instead, those taxpayers who qualify for a stimulus payment will see their take-home pay increased each month by about $7 to $13. Why? Because we are more likely to spend an extra $10 or so each month than we are a lump-sum $400 to $800.
The same is true with "small" credit card debt. Enough small charges on the card over time can grow into a mountain of debt. If you are fighting your way out of credit card debt, there is no such thing as a small credit card charge.
The payment is small. Let's be honest. How many have justified a purchase based on the monthly finance cost? We all do that when we buy a home, asking ourselves if we can afford the payments. But with credit cards, it can be a real problem. Because most cards calculate the monthly payment at about 2% of the outstanding balance, payments are extremely small compared with the amount owed.
For example, you can nab a $1,000 TV and pay "only" about $20 to $30 a month for it. The small credit card payments have probably caused more financial turmoil for many consumers than any other factor. Remember, the payment may be small and manageable at first, but buy enough on credit and the payments grow substantially. On top of that, you still have to pay back the borrowed amount with interest.
The card rewards make it worth it. We take advantage of many travel reward credit card offers and cash-back rewards. But if the allure of these awards is putting you deeper and deeper into debt, they just aren't worth it. If you pay off your card each month, the rewards are great. But if you don't, stay away from them. In fact, if the rewards are tempting you into credit card debt, get a card without rewards or just use your debit card.
Offers of 0% APR on purchases. The 0% APR and low-interest credit cards can be like a drug dealer giving away his product for free -- at first. Once you're hooked, prices go up, way up. In the case of credit cards, once the 0% APR introductory rate expires, interest rates can easily soar into the double digits. To avoid this, I've often turned down 0% APR deals, particularly those offered by furniture stores and other retailers. If you are going to use a 0% APR deal on purchases, make sure you can pay off the balance in full before the offer expires.
Offers of 0% APR on balance transfers. We've saved a ton of money with balance-transfer credit cards. We transferred home-equity debt from a home remodeling to 0% APR cards and have saved literally thousands of dollars in interest. But we also make sure to pay off the balance transfer before the 0% APR rate expires. We also make sure not to use the card for anything else while we still have a balance on the transfer deal.
Balance-transfer offers can be great, but just like 0% APR purchase offers, make sure you can pay off the debt before the 0% APR offer expires.
It's for my business. A business credit card, particularly for small companies, can serve many important roles. Business cards can be used by employees to easily track their expenses. They can also help keep your business expenses separate from personal expenses, which is particularly important at tax time. But like all credit cards, business cards can also cause you to spend more than you should. It's easy to justify the expense as necessary when you may be able to do without. All small-business owners have to decide for themselves, of course, just how necessary an expense is, but with business credit cards, it can be easy to spend more than you should.
I'll pay it off after graduation. This is perhaps the most insidious credit card lie of all. Study after study shows that the outstanding credit card balance for college students increases as they near graduation. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one reason is that they convince themselves that they can handle the debt once they graduate and get a job. The problem is that they start out in the workforce already in the hole. Credit card debt of $10,000 or more is not uncommon for college graduates. Add to that school loans, and debt can be overwhelming even before they get started.
So if you are a high school or college student, avoid revolving credit card debt like the plague.
Posted by gjblass at 3:58 PM
By Eddie Wrenn
Since man first found himself trapped in traffic jams, we have dreamed of finding a way to leave the gridlock behind.
Well dream no longer, for the world's 'first flying car' has made its debut flight, soaring over the skies of the U.S.A. before touching down and - at the touch of a button - folds its wings away and hits the highway.
The Terrafugia Transition can cruise at 115mph before driving 'at highway speeds' on the roads - and it can be safely stored in the garage.
Scroll down to see video of the Terrafugia's debut flight
Takeoff! The Terrafugia flying car takes off from the New York airstrip
Carl Dietrich, creator of the Terrafugia, said: 'This breakthrough changes the world of personal mobility - it’s what aviation enthusiasts have been striving for since 1918.'
The company claims its flying vehicle can soar 400 miles through the air on a single tank of gas.
Meanwhile refueling involves no more than driving into the nearest forecourt and filling up with unleaded petrol.Enlarge
Time for a refuel: The flying car takes unleaded petrol and its foldable wings allow it to be used at petrol stations and parked in garages
Touchdown: The Transition heads back down to land, where at the touch of a button it can fold its wings and go for a drive
Other flying cars have been demonstrated before, but this is the first proven model with foldable wings which allows it to seamlessly transfer from air to road.
However there's a few barriers to entry - the car/plane will cost about £139,000 at launch, although car enthusiasts may note this is no more than a top-end Bentley.
Drivers will also need to provide full driver's or pilot's license if they get pulled over mid-flight.
As a light aircraft, it will struggle to fly in poor weather, bad visibility or restricted airspace, but it does have the added advantage of continuing the journey by road if conditions turn for the worse.Enlarge
In tandem: The Terrafugia Transition flies in formation with another light aircraft
Ready to fly: The Terrafugia parked on the runway
Pilot Phil Meteer in the cockpit during the test flight
Company test pilot Phil Meteer - a former air force colonel - piloted the maiden flight earlier this month.
He told AVWeb: 'The first flight was remarkably unremarkable.
'I've flown several thousand hours in everything from Piper Cubs to F-16s, and the Transition flew like a really nice airplane.'
The Transition is classed as a light aircraft, fitting into the U.S.'s 'light sport' category and making it easier to gain a licence.
The company is still waiting for certification from the National Highways and Transportation Safety Administration.
However Transition are 'confident' the vehicle will soon be taking to the roads and skies.
See video of the Terrafugia's first debut flight here:
The biggest point to get out of this video is that the copy part of copy and paste works fine, but the paste part is tricky. It's not incredibly clear (right now, in the beta) where you should double tap to enable it. It seems like you need to be doing this inside existing text. The phone refused to paste into a blank spot below actual text. You'll see what I mean when you watch the video.
Other than that, the beta is pretty sluggish overall. That comes off most inside the iPod app, but it shows up as random stalls and hangs in apps all over the place.
Oh and if you like the music, buy the CD!. They're The Lonely Island, the guys behind the SNL digital shorts and the movie Hot Rod.
The only way to stop drug gangs is to end their monopoly on production.
By Aaron Houston
Violence in Mexico is getting worse by the day. There are reports of beheadings, killings in the several thousands, and an environment of fear that makes it impossible for Mexican officials to do their work. The country's very stability may be threatened.
It's time to put an end to U.S. policies that subsidize these murderous drug gangs. The first step, as a growing chorus of voices is arguing, is to end the quixotic policy of prohibition, a proven failure. But the United States can do even better; by empowering a domestic marijuana industry, the United States would squeeze Mexican cartels' profits, cutting off the financial lifeline that sustains organized narcocrime.
According to U.S. and Mexican officials, some 60 percent of the profits that fuel Mexican narcotrafficking come from just one drug: marijuana. Although such estimates are inherently imprecise, there is no doubt that marijuana is the cash cow that makes these gangs the powerful, dangerous force they are -- both in Mexico and in the 230 U.S. cities where cartels are thought to operate. The chief of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Mexico and Central America Section recently told the New York Times that marijuana is the "king crop" for Mexican cartels, because it "consistently sustains its marketability and profitability."
Last November, the U.S. Joint Forces Command warned in its "Joint Operating Environment" report that Mexico "bear[s] consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse" due to drug cartel violence. Some critics saw the report as unduly dire, but at a minimum, as outgoing CIA Director Michael Hayden warned, drug cartels "threaten ... the well-being of the Mexican people and the Mexican state." A further increase in instability would constitute a national security and humanitarian crisis on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. For now, there is no end in sight to the worsening violence and no adequate plan to address it.
This appalling situation is not just happenstance. It is the direct result of prohibitionist U.S. policies.
Like it or not, marijuana is a massive industry. One hundred million Americans admit to government survey-takers that they've used it, with nearly 15 million acknowledging use in the past month. That's a huge market -- exceeding the number of Americans who will buy a new car or truck this year, or who bought one last year. Estimates based on U.S. government figures have pegged marijuana as the No. 1 cash crop in the United States, with a value exceeding corn and wheat combined.
Current U.S. policies are based on the fantasy that Americans can somehow make this massive industry go away. But prohibition hasn't stopped marijuana use. Although marijuana use hits peaks and troughs over time, overall consumption of the drug in the United States has risen roughly 4,000 percent rise since the first national ban took effect in 1937. In other words, for 72 years, the U.S. government has in effect granted criminals, including those brutal Mexican gangs, a monopoly on production, distribution, and profits.
The solution is already apparent: Make marijuana a legal, regulated product like alcohol and tobacco are. After all, there's a reason these gangs aren't smuggling wine grapes. When you have a legal, regulated market for a product, the underground market disappears. Indeed, the United States already has an illustrative example from its own history. During the 13 dark years of alcohol prohibition, drinking didn't stop, but gangsters such as Al Capone got rich. When Prohibition ended, the bootleggers -- and the orgy of violence that accompanied them -- went away. By taking marijuana out of the criminal underground and regulating it, Americans can cut the lifeline that gives Mexican drug gangs their power.
There are benefits for the United States, too. For the first time, regulators would have a level of control over marijuana production and distribution, both of which are impossible under today's system. Over time, the domestic marijuana industry would start to look like California's wine business: a responsible industry that adds to the state's prestige, tourism, and tax coffers, rather than a source of violence and instability.
Critics have already started to object, claiming that such a move would set off a surge of marijuana use. But in the Netherlands -- where adults have been permitted to possess and purchase small amounts of marijuana from regulated businesses since the mid-1970s -- the rate of marijuana use is less than half that of the United States, according to a recent World Health Organization study. More importantly, the percentage of teens trying marijuana by age 15 in the Netherlands is roughly one third the U.S. rate. Indeed, a 2001 National Research Council report commissioned by the White House found "little apparent relationship" between criminal penalties for drug use and the prevalence or frequency of use.
Most everyone can agree on one thing: The situation today is intolerable. Three former presidents of Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil have recently joined the call for the decriminalization of marijuana in its largest market, the United States. Mainstream commentators, editorial boards, and members of U.S. Congress have begun to join in. The momentum has shifted, and a solution is at the world's fingertips.
What's needed is the political courage to grasp it.
Aaron Houston is director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project.
In 1759 Arthur Guinness first began to brew his eponymous Irish stout, and probably sometime in 1760, people started making crap up about it.
Like shamrocks, freckles and bar fights, Guinness has become an icon of the Emerald Isle, known around the world for its impenetrable color, its complex pouring ritual, and its ability to balance well on a toucan's beak. It's also known for the wild rumors associated with it, from the common barfly's claim of better-tasting pints in the old country to conspiracy theories of macabre secret ingredients. Just in time for St. Patrick's Day, Asylum goes MythBusters on your favorite draught. Boston, we're looking at you.
Myth Number 1: Guinness is heavy in calories ... False
Guinness weighs in at 125 calories per 12-oz. serving. But wait, who drinks a 12-oz. Guinness? Nobody, since a pint is 16 oz. (20 for the lucky stiffs in the motherland). Do the math and you get about 170 calories per 16-oz. serving. Guess how many are in a 16-oz. Strawberry Surf Rider smoothie from Jamba Juice? 330. Thank us later, ladies.
Myth Number 2: Guinness is supposed to be warm ... False
Guinness reports its draught is best stored at 42.8 degrees. Your average fridge is between 35 and 38, which is a bit on the chilly side. Unfortunately, most beer coolers in bars are even colder to accommodate our thirst for "ice cold" beer. Regardless, 43 degrees is neither warm nor room temperature. The obvious solution is to order two at a time, so one is always warming up!
Learn the truth about what's inside of it, who pours the best pint of Guinness and plenty more, all after the jump.
Myth Number 3: 'Guinness for strength' ... Undetermined
The famous 'Guinness is good for you' and similar advertisements from the 1930s -- great marketing ploy, but just keep in mind it came about in the 1930s, when you could still claim your product did anything and not get in trouble with the law. We happen to think a pint of Guinness is the most important meal of the day, but we have no scientific evidence to back that up. Your mileage may vary. If Guinness does give you a boost, it's probably more in the "liquid courage" category.
Myth Number 4: The flavor of Guinness stems from nefarious sources ... False
The more outrageous stories about Guinness include the ones about how dead rats were found at the bottom of the vats in the St James's Gate brewery in Ireland, thus explaining the unique taste of stout. Other stories have circulated that Guinness is actually filtered through lamb's blood to get its taste. This one is classic barroom BS at its finest. Guinness has been the victim of more Snopes-worthy urban legends than any other libation, except maybe Corona. The basics of Guinness are barley, hops, yeast and water ... from the Skull and Bones Society. Guinness derives its toasted flavor, which tastes anywhere from coffee to chocolate, and bitter hint from the manner in which its malted barley is roasted and the amount of hops used. The creamy taste of the head is a result of nitrogen bubbles released during the pouring process.
Myth Number 5: The St. James's Gate brewery produces different kinds of Guinness for various markets ... Kinda
Guinness is available in 100 countries and is brewed in nearly 50 of them, using locally sourced ingredients like water. Therefore, one could argue (and we know you will) that any Guinness brewed outside Dublin is materially different. The top five selling markets? (In order) Great Britain, Ireland, Nigeria, the U.S. and Cameroon. We were surprised by those two, too.
Myth Number 6: Water from the River Liffey in Dublin goes into Guinness ... False
While the St. James's Gate brewery sits next to the river, the water used to make Guinness comes from the Wicklow mountains to the south.
Myth Number 7: Guinness in a can is different from draught Guinness ... Confusing
Guinness is available in draught, Extra Stout, and Foreign Extra. Draught comes in cans, bottles and, well, draught. Extra Stout comes only in bottles and Foreign Extra comes in bottles, cans and an Extra Smooth variety. Got all that? Good.
Myth Number 8: Strict vegetarians can't drink Guinness ... True
The production of the stout involves the use of isinglass, a byproduct of the fishing industry derived from dead fish. Isinglass is used as a fining agent for settling out suspended matter in the beer vat, and while it's kept at the bottom of the tank, some isinglass may end up in the final product. So if you're the type who avoids gelatin and whey in your diet, you're out of luck. We can only imagine the histrionics this revelation might spark from PETA.
Myth Number 9: Guinness is black ... False
Look closer and you'll see that Guinness actually has a ruby red color, due to how the malted barley is roasted. Hint: This one is an easy way to win $5 from your friends.
Myth Number 10: The Guinness in Ireland is much better than the Guinness served in the United States ... Up to you
While we would never judge a fellow tippler for his esteemed critique of the palate (especially after 2-for-1 atomic-wing night), this granddaddy of Guinness myths is usually spouted from the condescending lips of a recently returned study-abroad student, suddenly eminently more cultured than we are for spending three months puking outside the American-themed bar in some foreign city. Whether a pint is better in the Old Sod than it is here really has to do with a lot of factors -- mainly, how many you've had.
By Brandon Guarneri
"Now we get into the issue of secondary markets for tickets, which is the hot issue here. The ticketing marketplace for rock concerts shows a real lack of sophistication, meaning this: the true market value of some tickets for some concerts is much higher than what the act wants to be perceived as charging. For example, there are some people who would be willing to pay $1,000 and up to be in the best seats for various shows, but MOST acts in the rock / pop world don't want to come off as greedy pricks asking that much, even though the market says its value is that high. The acts know this, the venue knows this, the promoters know this, the ticketing company knows this and the scalpers really know this. So... " - Trent
"NIN gets 10% of the available seats for our own pre-sale. We won a tough (and I mean TOUGH) battle to get the best seats. We require you to sign up at our site (for free) to get tickets. We limit the amount you can buy, we print your name on the tickets and we have our own person let you in a separate entrance where we check your ID to match the ticket. We charge you a surcharge that has been less than TicketMaster's or Live Nation's in all cases so far to pay for the costs of doing this - it's not a profit center for us. We have essentially stopped scalping by doing these things - because we want true fans to be able to get great seats and not get ripped off by these parasites.
I assure you nobody in the NIN camp supplies or supports the practice of supplying tickets to these re-sellers because it's not something we morally feel is the right thing to do. We are leaving money on the table here but it's not always about money. Being completely honest, it IS something I've had to consider. If people are willing to pay a lot of money to sit up front AND ARE GOING TO ANYWAY thanks to the rigged system, why let that money go into the hands of the scalpers? I'm the one busting my ass up there every night. The conclusion really came down to it not feeling like the right thing to do - simple as that." - Trent (emphasis mine not Trents)
It is understandable why other artist are not explaining to their fans how this works if they have decided to embrace this new scalping system, like the acts we mentioned before, it can be hard to come out and say that to the people who will never be able to buy the good seats. But there should be more transparency in the system. More acts should be honest like Trent with their fans.
It is also noteworthy that Trent didn't issue this explanation through the press, through a publicist, he gave it straight to the fans on the bands own message board where all the fans could see it and comment on it directly. (As always we at Up On The Sun would love to hear your comments as well).