Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mixed messages from Gary Bettman

As I watched today's announcement of the NHL's return to Winnipeg (scroll down from the top of that page for the embedded video), I couldn't help but pick up on the mixed messages spoken by commissioner Gary Bettman.

On one hand, he said the right thing:

"It's nice to be back in Winnipeg after all these years... We get to be back in a place we wish we had never left in 1996."

But on the other and with the ever-present I'm-never-quite-sure-of-what-demeanor-is-appropriate body language, Bettman issued a challenge to the good people of Winnipeg:


"To be candid, this isn’t going to work very well unless this building is sold out every night."

For those unaware of NHL history, in 1996 the former Winnipeg Jets were sold and then relocated to Arizona. With that, the Phoenix Coyotes were born. Though he might have shown it then, Bettman had to be pleased -- a cold, not very populous Canadian city was losing a franchise and a warm, populous American city was gaining one.

The Coyotes were one in a string of teams joining the league, based in the U.S. and located in the so-called sun belt. Although sarcastic to say, it was true -- "Loseipeg" could cry in its ice cold Canadian brew; Bettman was basking in the warmth.

Bettman didn't warn Arizonans on day one that they had to buy every seat in the building, or else. Why would he? With all those people (and a sizable number of them transplants from cold U.S. cities and therefore predisposed to hockey), there was NO WAY hockey couldn't succeed there...and in Tampa, Miami, Nashville, Dallas and Atlanta.

The fans in Winnipeg never forgot the snub. In fact, even today as Bettman strode to the podium to discuss the new Winnipeg franchise, hockey fans stood outside the arena and booed him. Loudly (go to 8:40 on the YouTube link).


In much the same way that in 1996 Bettman was a villain in Winnipeg, today he is the bad guy in Atlanta. The Thrashers franchise is no more, and despite a messy ownership situation that wrecked any chance of keeping the team in Georgia it is Bettman who is taking the heat.


Bettman could have been the good guy in Winnipeg on this spring day. He could have said the right things: "great to be here," "wish we hadn't left," "looking forward to coming back here in October for the first home game" and "your long wait is over" are some of the (pithy) things he should have told the assembled crowd and media inside, and the fans outside.


Instead he all but said: "You wanted a team...well, you'd better prove you deserve one. Or else."

Winnipeg offers some legitimate reasons for concern and for optimism, though that could be said about many sports franchises that relocate. However, Bettman raised the stakes for Winnipeg while the party was just starting.

Imagine someone approaching a groom at the wedding reception and telling him that he'd better be ever-faithful to his bride or else, and you, too, might turn your head and wonder who invited grumpy to this party.

Today, Grumpy was Gary Bettman.

It's not all Greek to me

Greece might indeed get a second financial bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, and it might have to come quickly as the country could run out of money in a few weeks.

As Bloomberg notes, a decision about a second aid package needs to be completed by the end of June.
European Union leaders will decide on a new aid package for Greece by the end of next month, Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Juncker, who leads the group of euro-area finance ministers, said yesterday in Paris. More than $1.8 trillion has been erased from the value of stocks worldwide this month as evidence mounted that the U.S. economic recovery is slowing and EU officials struggled to contain the region’s debt crisis.
“There’s a degree of confidence that cooler heads will prevail and the next round of assistance will be forthcoming” for Greece, said Robert Rennie, chief currency strategist in Sydney at Westpac Banking Corp.
Nevertheless, there doesn't appear to be optimism associated with saving Greece from financial ruin. Just two days ago, the Financial Times reported that any new bailout agreement would include the Greek government surrendering some authority over its finances. And that might not even be enough to avert catastrophe, as the Independent notes:
One way out for Greece is apparently to grant the IMF, the EU Commission and the ECB unprecedented powers over the nation's economy. Such a loss of sovereignty would be difficult for any nation to bear. Yet even that may not be enough to stabilise the situation, with Greek debt predicted to reach 160 per cent of GDP over the next few years, even with the current austerity regime. Crucially, however, the plan would also require private bond holders to accept a "rescheduling" of the bonds they hold, arguably a technical default as it would impose a cost on the holders of Greek debt. Such a "credit event" is also unprecedented in the history of the European Union and the single currency area, but seen as necessary in order to carry increasingly hostile public opinion in the nations that usually have to foot the bill – Germany, Finland and the Netherlands. Chancellor Angela Merkel has made little secret of her desire that private investors should "share the pain" in any restructuring or "reprofiling". 
The Financial Times returned to its reporting of Greece today, noting that its financial struggles are not unique to Europe and raise questions about the viability of the Euro and border-free travel between many European nations.

Ladies and gentlemen, your Winnipeg...

...Jets?

...Moose?

...Phoenix?

No one is quite sure what the "new" NHL team in Winnipeg will be called, and there's no guarantee that at today's relocation announcement that the nickname will be revealed. Nevertheless, the sale of the soon-to-be-extinct Atlanta Thrashers is complete, setting the stage for the team's move to Canada.

Multiple media reports indicate that the team will play one season in its current Southeast Division (oh, the travel headaches!) before the NHL completes a necessary divisional realignment.

Among the possibilities, and all of them are predicated on the team moving to the Western Conference:

1. Shift Columbus to the East
2. Shift Detroit to the East
3. Shift Nashville to the East

I won't dive into the ramifications of these suggestions, except to say that one of the three is certain to be completed. Perhaps the only wild card is if the currently skating on thin ice Phoenix Coyotes end up being sold and moved sometime in the next 12 months. Should that franchise go to an "East" location, then a one-for-one swap is reasonable.

But for now, let's celebrate the return of the NHL to Winnipeg!

The power of television

If you are a "rebel" and trying to take down a dictator, then you recognize you need access to television in order to get your message to as many people as possible.

So, as the Associated Press notes, the Libyan rebels have created a satellite television channel.
Libya Alhurra, or “Free Libya,” began broadcasting Monday night, a major step in the rebels’ attempts to get its message to the Libyan public, whose main source of information on the crisis roiling their country has been Gadhafi’s TV and radio.
Thousands of Libyans waving flags gathered in a public square in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi to watch the first broadcasts on a large screen, celebrating a newfound freedom from 40 years of media oppression.
“This is freedom. I hope this shows the true color of Libyan people and their real faith in a new, free Libya,” station co-founder Zuhair Albarasi told The Associated Press from the square, which has become a rallying point for the revolt against Gadhafi.
On the other hand, if you are a Communist government engaged in a love/hate relationship with television, then you will find it useful from time to time to restrict the power of that medium. Right now, as the Financial Times reports, that's taking place in China.
Hunan Broadcasting System, the most commercially successful state broadcaster which also has ambitions to expand overseas, told the Financial Times that it was overhauling its programming to comply with new government censorship demands.
“We must raise the quality of our programmes and make them in a way that they’re acceptable to the government, the market and the audience,” Ouyang Changlin, the director of the HBS, said in a rare interview.
The Chinese broadcasting regulator recently warned TV stations not to focus exclusively on “entertainment”. While the order was vague, it was seen as a crackdown as Chinese censors often mix campaigns against political dissent with those against vulgar content.

C'est un complot, je dis! Un complot!

It's a conspiracy, I say! A conspiracy!

No, I'm not saying there's a conspiracy at work, but some people are.

I enjoyed reading this New York Times editorial which indicates that a majority of French citizens believe a conspiracy could be behind the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, accused of sexually assaulting a hotel maid in New York.

The editorial notes:
And now we have the Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexual assault case, viewed, it seems, by close to 60 percent of French society as a conspiracy against the putative Socialist presidential candidate — a sting operation that somehow placed a West African immigrant maid in a $3,000 a night Sofitel suite whose number, 2806, corresponds to the date of the opening of the Socialist party primaries in France (06-28).
Oh, s’il vous please!
A rough rule goes like this: The freer a society the less inclined it is to conspiracy theories, while the greater its culture of dependency the more it will tend to see hidden hands at work everywhere.
France remains a nation of Napoleonic centralism where the functionary’s mentality holds sway. The ingrained reflex of that mind-set is to look to the state for salvation, to believe in some all-orchestrating higher power.
I suppose the next conspiracy theory is that French president Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife became pregnant now so as to aid his re-election campaign next year? You know, those cute baby pictures are sure to sway the electorate!

People are going to believe what they want to believe, and they are going to use whatever information they can to validate their opinions. But I cannot see a conspiracy at work -- Mr. Strauss-Kahn remains innocent in the eyes of the law, though I cannot say the same for the court of public opinion.

If he did indeed sexually assault the hotel maid, then the prosecution will have the evidence to support the claim. If the prosecution cannot, then Mr. Strauss-Kahn deserves to walk out of a New York courtroom as a free man.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Reporting at its best...

...a disgraced college football coach at his worst.

This Sports Illustrated story goes deeper than any I've seen in identifying the depth of the problems within the Ohio State football team. After reading it I'm sure you'll come to the conclusion -- if you hadn't already -- that Jim Tressel is a scoundrel.

For now, we leave open the question of whether others in the academic or athletic administration were aware of what was taking place.

Meanwhile, ESPN is reporting that the Buckeyes' quarterback -- Terrelle Pryor -- is the subject of intense scrutiny from the NCAA and Ohio State about any special benefits he might have received.

The report notes:
On the same day coach Jim Tressel resigned in the wake of an NCAA investigation, The Columbus Dispatch is reporting that the NCAA and Ohio State are looking into whether star quarterback Terrelle Pryor received cars and other extra benefits.
Pryor, who will be a senior this fall, has already been interviewed at least once by investigators, the paper reported.
The newspaper cited unnamed sources who said this is the most significant inquiry of Pryor. The NCAA and Ohio State are also probing more than 50 car purchases by Buckeyes players, their families and friends.
It's not too early to ask just how hard the NCAA might come down on Ohio State. Yes, the ouster of Tressel (too late if you ask me) might serve as a mitigating circumstance when any sanctions are considered, but the larger problem for Ohio State is the apparent depth, number and severity of the rules various players broke. It becomes hard in such a circumstance to simply pin everything on one disgraced coach.

It's been a "great" 24 hours for the sports world

On Sunday, the governing body for international soccer -- FIFA -- completed an ethics inquiry, suspended two of its leading officials, cleared its of-questionable-character president of any wrongdoing and promised to continue examining what might be wrong within its ranks.

It's not a stretch to come to the conclusion that FIFA engaged in whitewashing, despite the aforementioned president saying FIFA's leaders have damaged soccer.

Then on Monday, one of the premiere college football programs -- Ohio State -- accepted the resignation (wink, wink) of its coach, after an NCAA and university investigation provided evidence that the coach was covering up rules violations by his players.

It's not a stretch to come to the conclusion that Ohio State engaged in whitewashing, acknowledging the sins of Jim Tressel while failing -- at least for now -- to fully examine just how endemic the culture of corruption is within its athletic department.

FIFA and Ohio State are the latest sports entities to bring shame to the sports community. The list of offenders includes the International Olympic Committee (bribery), USC (where to begin?), Major League Baseball (steroids), multiple schools of the Southeastern Conference (where to begin?) and individual athletes engaged in point shaving.

The list doesn't end there, but I'm ending it there.

Look, no international institution is pristine and blameless, and, yes, because sports organizations and teams are so engaged with the media that anything they do with receive attention, but let's admit that international and domestic sports groups need to evaluate their policies and procedures. Relying solely on running teams out there to entertain fans and crown champions is not the way to do business.

What brought down Jim Tressel?

Ohio State's head football coach Jim Tressel resigned today, ending a remarkably successful but tarnished tenure.

What brought him down is a question that might not immediately be able to be answered, but there certainly are some preliminary signs.

One is obvious: Tressel took one for the team (or was told to take one for the team?), allowing his resignation (wink, wink by the way on the use of that term) to perhaps prevent a significant penalty from the NCAA. Sports Illustrated picks up on that angle, noting:
Ohio State officials could argue that some of the transgressions described were beyond the coach's control, and they would be correct. But Ohio State has shifted the narrative in recent months. They want you to think this is all a Jim Tressel problem and not an Ohio State problem. A Jim Tressel problem means Ohio State needs a new coach. An Ohio State problem means brutal NCAA sanctions that could cripple the program for years. 
Tressel was packaged and sold as a paragon of virtue in a college football universe teeming with schemers and bloodsuckers. As long as he beat Michigan and won the Big Ten, most people seemed more than happy to swallow that narrative. Does it make Tressel a bad person because he didn't live up to the impossibly lofty image created for him? Absolutely not. Tressel gives more to charity in a month than most will give in their lives. He has helped hundreds of players navigate the gap between childhood and adulthood. He has violated no state or federal laws.
Tressel did, however, make a poor choice of NCAA rules to break. An accomplished former coach once told me that the NCAA only considers two violations unforgivable: Getting caught buying a player and getting caught lying to the NCAA. Tressel is guilty of the second, and coaches who get caught lying to the NCAA rarely keep their jobs.
Next was that Tressel's (lack of) character finally caught up to him. As ESPN reports
The fans rejoicing around the Big Ten on Monday makes clear how thoroughly Tressel had dominated the league. His tenure was a spectacular success on the field.
But there will be an enduring and justifiable taint to Tressel. This is a guy who has always talked skillfully about doing all the right things, but hasn't walked it very well.
He won big and was dogged by NCAA violations at Youngstown State in the 1990s. Now the same is true at Ohio State.
And now Tressel has been forced out of his dream job, one of the top five in America. If he's honest with himself, Tressel must wonder today how much easier life would have been if he'd just done the right thing when he got that first email warning him that his players were breaking the rules.
But this has been a lie-and-deny operation from the beginning....
Third was the Ohio State's president and athletic director finally realized they couldn't erase the handwriting that had been on the wall for months. The Associated Press reports that deny, deny, deny was a strategy Ohio State could no longer use.
Clearly, the turmoil had been building. The resignation comes nearly three months after Ohio State called a news conference to announce it has suspended Tressel for two games - later increasing the ban to five games to coincide with the players' punishment - and fined him $250,000 for knowing his players had received improper benefits from a local tattoo-parlor owner. The school said at the time it was "very surprised and disappointed" in Tressel. Yet, the school still managed to crack jokes.
Asked if he considered firing Tressel, Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee said then: "No, are you kidding? Let me just be very clear: I'm just hopeful the coach doesn't dismiss me."
Gee was not joking about the Tressel situation over the weekend. Ohio State released a letter from Gee to the university's board of trustees which said, "As you all know, I appointed a special committee to analyze and provide advice to me regarding issues attendant to our football program. In consultation with the senior leadership of the university and the senior leadership of the board, I have been actively reviewing the matter and have accepted coach Tressel's resignation."
Let's acknowledge that university president E. Gordon Gee and athletic director Gene Smith have allowed for the lowest man on the totem pole to take the fall for the shameful off-the-field product that is Ohio State football. Both men, if they are serious about caring for college athletics, need to take a hard look at themselves and determine how they might have contributed to this culture of corruption.

Somehow I doubt that will happen. That's not the way things are done in Columbus.

Jim Tressel is out at Ohio State

Hallelujah! Whether he was forced to resign or did it on his of his own accord, the correct decision has been made.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, which I believe has broken the story,
Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel has resigned, university sources told The Dispatch today.

Less than three months after President E. Gordon Gee and Athletic Director Gene Smith said they fully supported their embattled coach, mounting pressure, a pending NCAA disciplinary hearing and new revelations about the culture of the program forced the university to act on their once-revered coach, sources said.


Neither Gee, Smith nor Tressel could be reached immediately for comment.
An official announcement appears to be coming later today.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

West Virginia athletic officials had better act...

...before they are forced to react.

The university hired Dana Holgersen as the football team's offensive coordinator for the upcoming season with the promise that he would become head coach in 2012. But Mr. Holgersen is doing all he can to waste his opportunity.

The Herald-Dispatch reports that he has been involved in three and perhaps as many as six alcohol-related incidents in the past six months. Needless to say, the university's president wants some answers. Now.
WVU athletic director Oliver Luck was summoned back to Morgantown from a Big East Conference athletic directors meeting by school president James Clements, according to sources. WVU's president reportedly told Luck that if he read one more article about the coach-in-waiting, it would cost Luck his job.
A predictable mea culpa statement from Holgorsen followed, saying, "I will not put myself in that situation again."
But, is he ready to turn over a new leaf?
In the short term, Mr. Holgersen needs to get help for an apparent problem. And he'd better hope that he still has an opportunity to become a head coach at West Virginia as he does.

Meanwhile, the university leadership needs to examine the vetting process that went into hiring Mr. Holgersen. Yes, dumping the athletic director would allow for the ever-convenient fall guy scenario to play out, but that wouldn't completely address the problem.

Greece right now is not a happy place to be

Greece is in a financial mess and the need for a financial bailout looms. But there are internal and external pressures straining at such a deal.

Late today, the Financial Times sent this breaking news alert:
European leaders are negotiating a deal that would lead to unprecedented outside intervention in the Greek economy, including international involvement in tax collection and privatisation of state assets, in exchange for new bail-out loans for Athens. 
But Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, ECB executive board member, said talk about Greece reneging on debt commitments “has been very damaging” and suggests “that investing in the euro area is unsafe.”
Meanwhile, the Greek people also are angry, and they took to the streets again on Sunday to voice their criticism at the government and almost everyone else. Reuters reports that
The huge crowd packed Syntagma Square in front of the Greek parliament, booing, whistling and chanting "Thieves! Thieves" as they pointed at the assembly building.
"We've had enough. Politicians are making fools of us. If things stay as they are, our future will be very bleak," said a 22-year-old student who gave his name as Nikos.
Unlike the violent protests last year when radicals clashed with police, the peaceful crowds on Sunday were made up of ordinary Greeks, some of whom brought along their children.
Greeks are angry no politicians have been punished for the corruption they blame for the crisis, as well as the dire state of the economy and waves of austerity demanded under the terms of a 110 billion euro ($157.5 billion) bailout from the European Union and IMF last year.
In other words, the European Union and the Greek people are angry. And according to AFP, the EU is not mincing words in its response to the economic miseries throughout Greece.
The EU will follow the IMF in blocking the June transfer of more Greek aid unless Athens does more to fix its public finances, economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn was quoted as saying Sunday.

"We Europeans are setting the same conditions as the International Monetary Fund," Germany's Spiegel weekly quoted Rehn as saying in comments published in German. "The situation is very serious."
He said the European Union would decide after examining the latest quarterly audit of Greek public finances by experts from the European Central Bank, the EU and IMF -- which Spiegel said would include some "alarming" findings.
Greece could ignore the EU and the IMF, and go into default; if you want to know what that might mean, then consider this story from The Telegraph
Here are a few things:

- Every bank in Greece will instantly go insolvent.
- The Greek government will nationalise every bank in Greece.
- The Greek government will forbid withdrawals from Greek banks.
- To prevent Greek depositors from rioting on the streets, Argentina-2002-style (when the Argentinian president had to flee by helicopter from the roof of the presidential palace to evade a mob of such depositors), the Greek government will declare a curfew, perhaps even general martial law.
Mind you, the list is about 15 deep and involves Portugal, Ireland and Britain feeling the effects.

What a mess.

A violation of free expression?

Let me see if I've got this straight.

A judge ruled that dancing at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C. is illegal, so a group of people chose to do it anyway, were arrested and are claiming their right to free expression has been violated.

Seriously?

What has really turned our "friends" at Russia Today onto this story is that one of its own was among those arrested. You can watch the altercation unfold on this YourTube video.

I am a passionate supporter of the First Amendment, but I believe that while the First Amendment gives us various rights, we have to use them responsibly. Needless to say, I don't think those who were arrested were being responsible.

Let's move on to more important issues.

Shameful soccer shenanigans (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 1:56 p.m. EDT: FIFA has suspended two of its executives accused of corruption; one of them was one of the candidates to become the organization's president. As the Associated Press reports,
FIFA suspended two executive committee members Sunday amid allegations they bribed voters in the presidential election campaign. Soccer's governing body also cleared FIFA President Sepp Blatter of ignoring the alleged bribes.
The decisions pave the way for Blatter to be re-elected unopposed to a fourth term Wednesday despite the gravest corruption crisis in FIFA history.
Mohamed bin Hammam, a Qatari who leads Asia's soccer confederation, and Jack Warner, a FIFA vice president from Trinidad, will now face a full FIFA inquiry, the soccer body said. If found guilty, they could be expelled from FIFA and banned from all soccer activity. Bin Hammam withdrew as a candidate earlier Sunday.
The ethics commission said there was sufficient evidence to further investigate allegations that bin Hammam and Warner offered $40,000 bribes to delegates at a Caribbean soccer association meeting May 10-11 in Trinidad.
The payments were allegedly made to secure votes for bin Hammam in his campaign to unseat Blatter as the head of FIFA. The evidence was submitted to the governing body by American executive committee member Chuck Blazer.
"We are satisfied that there is a case to be answered," Petrus Damaseb, deputy chairman of the ethics committee, said at a news conference.
I'm not sure who "we" are, but it would appear to this outsider that a single hearing does not satisfy the questions that must be answered. Granted, there will be a deeper investigation into what bin Hammam and Warner did, but to identify two people and suspend them after a day-long hearing smells like a pre-determined decision already had been made.

And recognizing that FIFA will go ahead with the coronation -- oops, I mean re-election -- of Sepp Blatter later this week only adds to the sense that FIFA's leadership is not interested in fully examining its practices.

ORIGINAL POST: If you appreciate international sports on the grandest possible stages, then you follow the Olympics. You therefore are aware of the disgraceful conduct over a perhaps 20-year stretch of multiple members of the International Olympic Committee -- they used their power to decide Olympic host cities as a means to line their own pockets and ensuring various benefits for family members.

Put more bluntly, their vote was for sale.

Now it appears another international sports governing body is facing a similar potential scandal. This time, it's FIFA, which oversees international soccer. An ethics hearing is being held today, and the current head of the organization is one of the people facing accusations of corruption.

The Associated Press reports,
Days before FIFA’s presidential election, the group’s longtime leader and his only challenger will go before an ethics hearing on Sunday. The president, Sepp Blatter, and his rival, Mohamed bin Hammam, are both under investigation for corruption.
Mr. bin Hammam today removed himself from the election, claiming that he was doing what was best for FIFA. Reuters reports,
In his statement, Bin Hammam said: "I made the decision to run for the FIFA presidency because I was and remain committed to change within FIFA.
"I set out my goals and ambitions clearly -- to further the cause of democracy within FIFA -- through a commitment to transparency and accountability; through a commitment to expand the number of officials and nations involved in decision-making processes.
"In addition to this, I wanted to spark a debate about change in FIFA. For the good of football, I wanted the future to be bright for our world's governing body and for it to adapt to the ever-changing world we live in today.
"However, recent events have left me hurt and disappointed -- on a professional and personal level.
"It saddens me that standing up for the causes that I believed in has come at a great price -- the degradation of FIFA's reputation. This is not what I had in mind for FIFA and this is unacceptable.
"I cannot allow the name that I loved to be dragged more and more in the mud because of competition between two individuals.
"The game itself and the people who love it around the world must come first.
"It is for this reason that I announce my withdrawal from the presidential election. 
If the accusations against Mr. bin Hammam are true, then acting in the best interests of FIFA would apparently be a novel concept to him. Perhaps he should have thought more about FIFA and less about himself in past years.

Of course, it was just yesterday that soccer celebrated one of its grand events -- the UEFA championship. Barcelona's stirring 3-1 win over Manchester United allowed for the spirit of the game to overshadow the selfishness of men who claim to represent the sport, if only for one day.

Nevertheless, the shame of corruption casts a dark and ominous shadow over FIFA and international soccer. Even in the U.S., hardly a soccer hotbed (no offense to my many soccer friends who know I also appreciate the sport), the shameful shenanigans are evident.

The issue that soccer's leaders -- regardless of whether they are implicated in this scandal -- need to determine is whether FIFA will take a timid or forceful approach to fixing the problems. Call me cynical, but I expect the timid approach will be taken. One or two people will take the fall, but in the end the ingrained culture of nonsense will be allowed to remain.

I hope I'm wrong.

Passionate about public radio in Pittsburgh

I've mentioned a couple times on this blog that WDUQ, the primary NPR-affiliated station in Pittsburgh, is about to be sold, and just the other day I noted that the new ownership group plans to significantly change the current format to allow for more news programming.

Many long-time WDUQ listeners are not happy, suggesting that they were left out of the loop as the conversations about the radio station were taking place. Moreover, they are upset that the jazz programming they've come to cherish is being taken from them. In a successful effort to cut through the debate, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette examines the process that led to the sale and the planned changes in programming.

Radio World also takes a look at the changes. It suggests:
Why tilt the mixture toward more news? “Current business models for journalism are eroding as the traditional media landscape continues to be disrupted by the Internet, digital technologies and changing consumer behavior,” said EPM chair Marco Cardamone. “Yet a significant need remains to provide listeners with in-depth coverage of local, national and global issues impacting their lives.” He said WDUQ wants to fill that void.
The station also airs programming from Public Radio International, American Public Media and the BBC World Service.
Those opposed to the format changes and/or the sale have made their voices heard. One can expect that their opposition will gain in strength as the final days of the current WDUQ wind down. But what appears to be missing from media coverage are people who will appreciate hearing more news. Yes, Pittsburgh has an all-news radio station and a news-talk station, both on the AM dial. Nevertheless, that reporting is overwhelmingly local -- as it should be.

The new format (and remember the changes include dropping the WDUQ call letters) means a significant upgrade in coverage of national and international events. While I recognize that people who appreciate such information can get it online through the BBC's Website and others like it, so, too, can people find music formats that appeal to them through the Internet.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Social media run amok?

It's no secret that I use social media. A lot.

But sometimes, I think the tools we have at our disposal are too many, too impersonal and perhaps used too frequently. And so, I've penned a short ode to Foursquare, something I steadfastly refuse to use.

And so, I wonder what Abraham Lincoln would think about this:
"Four Square and seven minutes ago...
"100 people checked in at some sports event...
"Seeking reward, caring not for privacy...
"And dedicated to the proposition that where they are is somehow a big deal."

The view from India looks good...

...but storm clouds remain on the horizon.

He's often too preachy for my tastes, but New York Times' columnist Nicholas Kristof has written an op-ed piece about India that warrants your attention. In it, he suggests there are signs that India appears to have finally turned the corner toward full democratization.

He writes:
...change is in the air in India. Infant mortality is dropping, voters are pushing for better governance, and I think India has three advantages over China in their economic rivalry in the coming decades. 


First, India’s independent news media and grass-roots civic organizations — sectors that barely exist in China — are becoming watchdogs against corruption and inefficiency. My hunch is that kleptocracy reached its apogee and is now waning in India, while in China it continues to get worse. I’ve written scathingly about India’s human trafficking and oppression of women, but it’s also true that civil society is addressing these issues.
Second, China’s economy may be slowed by the aging of its population, while India’s younger population will lead to a “demographic dividend” in coming decades. (Indian overpopulation is still a problem, but the average woman now has 2.6 children, and the figure is dropping.) Likewise, China already reaped the economic advantages of empowering its women, while India is just beginning to usher the female half of its population into the formal labor force.
Third, India has managed religious and ethnic tensions pretty well, aside from the disgraceful anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat in 2002. The Sikh challenge in the Punjab has dissipated. Muslims have been president of India three times, and are prominent in business and the movie industry; perhaps as a result, India has the world’s third-largest Muslim population (after Indonesia and Pakistan) but few jihadis. And while India has sometimes behaved brutally in Kashmir, civil society watchdogs are pressing for better behavior there. In China, by contrast, tensions with ethnic Tibetans and Uighurs are worsening.
I'll let those who study India take a stab at the rosy picture Mr. Kristof paints; but while there are reasons to be hopeful about India, there also remain stubborn problems that deflect attention and raise cause for concern.

Of course, Pakistan heads that list. The Times of India reports that India needs to be ever vigilant for the collapse of Pakistani society and the immediate dangers that would pose for India. It suggests the nightmare scenario.
The worst case scenario for Pakistan over the next two to three years is a jihadi-led coup from within the army. Radicalized officers owing allegiance to the TTP variety of Taliban, would come to power. The probability of this is low but the steady deterioration in the security situation and the army's unwillingness and inability to fight the scourge of Talibanization means it cannot be ruled out. In such a nightmarish scenario, with near civil war conditions prevailing, nuclear weapons may actually be used against US and coalition forces in Afghanistan and targets in India. This would mean a holocaust on the Indian subcontinent.

Is it time the international community seriously considered neutralizing Pakistan's nuclear warhead storage sites and the delivery systems? It would be in India's interests to join such an initiative. 
The historical tension between India and Pakistan guarantees that it is the preeminent international issue within Indian society. It is easy to understand, for example, why the Indian government would react negatively to any U.S. military aid sent to Pakistan. And how India and the world should deal with Pakistan in its current dysfunctional state is a recurring theme of Indian media reporting. (Here's just one example.)

But from inside, as Mr. Kristof noted (and others have reported), India faces multiple challenges. One of them is environmental.

It's understandable why Western journalists and authors would write about India in a positive way, suggesting that its economic development ought not be feared the way China's growth is. But the implication of such a message is that India will develop in lock step with Western values. That fails to account for the unique characteristics of Indian society and its amazing people.

Yes, let's celebrate what India is doing right. But let's also appreciate what India has been, is and will become. Perhaps that makes me as preachy as I accuse Mr. Kristof of being.

Lorsqu'il s'agit de Christine Lagarde... il y a beaucoup à dire

When it comes to Christine Lagarde...there's a lot to like.

And that's why she's the solid frontrunner to take over as the head of the International Monetary Fund. France 24 takes a look at Ms. Lagarde and notes,
With her blend of what is often portrayed as quintessentially French sophistication and an American pedigree (she speaks fluent English, having lived in the US for 25 years), Lagarde has emerged over recent years as a popular politician both in France and abroad: the French ranked her second (behind only rocker Johnny Hallyday) in a 2009 poll of favourite public figures carried out by paper Le Parisien and radio station RTL, and British daily the Financial Times named her best European finance minister that same year.
One British newspaper reports that Ms. Lagarde picked up another endorsement -- from an influential Brit.
Former chancellor Alistair Darling has endorsed France's Christine Lagarde as his first choice to head the International Monetary Fund, in a further sign of his former boss Gordon Brown's failure to rally support.
Talking to the Observer, Darling said that France's finance minister was the best candidate to succeed Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
"In the field of those who have declared so far, I think she is the best," said Darling, who as chancellor had tense relations with Brown. "I knew her throughout my three years as chancellor. One of the advantages she has is that having worked in the United States as a lawyer for many years she is able to see the world through American eyes in a way someone based in continental Europe cannot do. At the same time she is from the eurozone.
Another admirer is one Washington Post columnist who suggests that the glass ceiling that has existed at the IMF needs to be shattered and that Ms. Lagarde is the perfect person to do it.

Recognizing that influential politicians, economists and others are rallying around Ms. Lagarde, her appointment to the IMF seems inevitable. Her character appears to be the absolute contrast of the man she would succeed -- Dominique Strauss-Kahn's womanizing has been discussed in multiple quarters, and it likely will be an issue in his upcoming sexual assault trial. 

3 families share an important anniversary...

...and we didn't know it until today.

My wife and I found out today that our older son's former baseball coach and his wife, and my younger son's current baseball coach and his wife were married on the same day.

And it's the same day my wife and I were married.

Making the scenario all the more unbelievable is that all three families have sons on the same team. So, that makes 3 kids on a 12-person team whose parents were married on the same day.

For what it's worth, the other couples celebrated their 14th wedding anniversary on a Little League baseball field while my wife and I celebrated it as I returned from my overseas trip.

Vancouver against Boston

Let's flash back to April 10, 2011, and your favorite blogger made this prediction: Vancouver would play Boston for the Stanley Cup.

With that prediction having been realized, the question is whether the Canucks will beat the Bruins, as I also suggested would happen.

The many hockey experts are better suited to answer that, but that doesn't mean there aren't other things to examine about the finals.

First, did you notice that the 62 "Boston Pizza" franchises in British Columbia have (temporarily) changed their names to -- you got it, "Vancouver Pizza".

Then, there will be the inevitable "here's how history might help us figure out who will win the series" stories. As NHL.com reports, the Canucks have beaten the Bruins only 25 times, the fewest number of wins against any NHL team.
The Bruins' domination of the Canucks began early.

The teams met for the first time on Oct. 18, 1970, when the Bruins came to the Pacific Coliseum for the sixth game in franchise history for the newly-formed Canucks. The Bruins, on their way to one of the great regular seasons in NHL history, left town with a 5-3 victory.
Finally, remember the gem that the NHL came up with a few days ago -- Montreal hosted the Olympics in 1976 and won the Cup in 1977; Calgary hosted the Olympics in 1988 and won the Cup in 1989; and now Vancouver can complete the trifecta. It hosted the Olympics in 2010, setting up a Cup win in 2011.

Right?

$90.64 million

That's a lot of money!

It represents the financial penalty an Egyptian judge handed down today against former president Hosni Mubarak. For what? The Associated Press has the answer.
An Egyptian judge has fined Hosni Mubarak and two other former officials $90 million for government-imposed telecommunication disruptions during the popular uprising earlier this year.
Internet and mobile phone services were cut for days when hundreds of thousands took to the streets in January to demand the president's ouster.
As Reuters reports, the ruling could have implications that go far beyond an indictment against a former leader.

Political analyst Nabil Abdel Fattah called the ruling "extremely important," saying it would change the way the Egyptian government deals with the communication revolution.

"This ruling will be a turning point for the standing and decisions of some Egyptian entities still living in an authoritarian culture regarding how to deal with communication services and the freedoms they offer," Abdel Fattah said.
Meanwhile, Egypt's decision to open its border with Gaza is sure to rankle leaders in Israel and elsewhere. As the New York Times reports,
The reopening of the Rafah border crossing eases an Egyptian blockade that has prevented most of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents from being able to travel abroad. The closure, along with an Israeli blockade of its borders with Gaza, has fueled an economic crisis in the densely populated territory.
But Saturday’s move also raises Israeli fears that militants will be able to move freely in and out of Gaza. Highlighting those fears, the Israeli army said militants from inside Gaza fired a mortar shell into an open field in southern Israel overnight. There were no injuries, and Israel did not respond.
Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after Hamas seized control of Gaza in June 2007. The closure, which included tight Israeli restrictions at its cargo crossings with Gaza and a naval blockade, was meant to weaken Hamas, an Islamic militant group that opposes peace with Israel.
Since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in February, Cairo’s new leadership has vowed to ease the blockade and improve relations with Hamas.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mt. Lebanon wins...

...the boys' WPIAL lacrosse championship.

The Blue Devils won 10-8, beating Sewickley Academy and wrapping up the WPIAL title. And when the game was over, the Moretti boys made their way onto the field to enjoy the celebration.

They moved as quickly as possible to their favorite player, senior attack Bijan Firouzan, who was my older son's camp coach last summer.

Soon after, my younger son decided he wanted to find one of his favorite players, senior goalie Riley Kirkland. 
The tradition of cutting the nets was quickly picked up by the players. And once they got their snippets of memories, there was more than enough for the younger crowd to have their piece of the fun. My boys made sure they didn't leave empty-handed.
Next up, the PIAA playoffs.

Děkuji, Praha!!

Thank you, Prague!!

I've been home about 72 hours and in that time countless people have asked me about the 12 days I spent there with 11 Point Park University students and three of my faculty colleagues.

The most difficult part of the conversation is figuring out where to begin.

Do I mention the multiple fantastic professional visits our group enjoyed? Whether it was to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, PLEON/Impact, The Prague Post, Leaders Magazine, Czech Radio, McCann Erickson or Czech Television, we learned about how various Czech-based media organizations operate. In some areas, they're much like their counterparts in the U.S., while in other ways they demonstrate the unique aspects of working in the Czech Republic.

Or, perhaps I should start with the educational opportunities? Our group visited Charles University, Cesky Krumlov and met with long-time Prague journalist David Shorf. In each case, our appreciation for Czech history, contemporary issues and society was enhanced.

Or, would it be best to begin with the "follow your nose" moments during which students and faculty had the chance to explore the places that were of special interest to them? I glanced again at the photos I took in Dresden and again appreciated my short trip there. Toward the end of my visit, I spent about three hours at the National Museum and came away dazzled by the grandeur of the building and the multiple historical and educational exhibits in it.

My only disappointment was that the 12-day visit couldn't be shared with my wife and our boys. Yes, they were able to understand why I had such a great time, and because of that they are looking forward to the day we can see the Czech capital together.

Dekuji, Praha!!

Keeping your cool

The other night as my older son and I were watching a high school lacrosse playoff game, there came a moment to highlight the importance of sportsmanship.

About midway through the fourth quarter, Mt. Lebanon led 6-5, and was in the sports parlance "clinging to the lead." And then it happened. Two players -- one from each team -- got tangled up, and the official called a minor penalty on the Seneca Valley player. That player for some inexplicable reason then got in the face of his Mt. Lebanon opponent and headbutted him. (Lacrosse players were helmets, so technically he face masked him, but you get the idea.)

In short, two penalties and a fantastic opportunity for Mt. Lebanon to regain the momentum.

It did, scoring two goals in 29 seconds. The Blue Devils went on to win the game, 9-7. And when the game ended, the Seneca Valley player whose moment of anger cost his team so much was left alone on the field, crouched as a catcher might be in a baseball game and staring at the turf.

One could only imagine what his coach later said to him and what his teammates were thinking as they rode the bus home.

We'll never know if Seneca Valley would have won the game had that one player not done what he did. But a realistic argument can be made that it definitely lost because of his actions.

My older son -- like many people around him -- were calling for the official to kick the player out of the game. I don't know enough about the rules of high school lacrosse to state with any certainty whether he should have been. But in the end it didn't matter -- he learned more about patience and sportsmanship than he could have had he sat on the bench.

And I think my son did as well.

Le G8 fait certaines annonces importantes...

The G8 makes some important announcements...

...but as always the issues are more complex than can be covered in a declaration.

Nevertheless, on the final full day of the summit, the political leaders made clear their support for the so-called "Arab Spring" -- the push for meaningful governmental reform in multiple North African and Middle Eastern countries.As the Globe and Mail notes,
The world’s big wealthy democracies have endorsed a $20-billion-plus package of assistance to Egypt and Tunisia, asserting a willingness to support transitions to democracy in North Africa and the Middle East.
Leaders of many of the Group of Eight countries meeting in Deauville, France, had raised fears that the pro-Democracy movements dubbed the Arab spring could be derailed by economic hardship which could lead to a rise of extremism.
At the same time, the G8 leaders affirmed that Libya needs new leadership, though they didn't make clear how they intended to oust Moammar Qaddafi. French president Nicolas Sarkozy said he is still planning to visit Benghazi, Libya, where the rebels fighting Qaddafi are entrenched. The symbolism of his visit would be this -- the rebels have formed an alternative government; Mr. Sarkozy's trip would be a visible endorsement of that leadership.

In France, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin voiced his support for France's finance minister to be the next head of the International Monetary Fund. Putin's endorsement is important because Russia had been seen as one of the nation's that might attempt to scuttle Christine Lagarde's portfolio because she is from a European nation.

The leaders wrapped up their meetings with a declaration, summarized here by Reuters.

When you are in charge...

...the past and the present (not to mention the future) provide interesting conundrums.

An interesting report from the Washington Post on the challenges confronting the Chinese Communist Party as it reviews its initial 60 years of power. It notes:
“I never thought it would take so long,” said Shi Zhongquan, who helped craft what the party hopes will be the final word on some of the most politically sensitive and also bloodiest episodes of China’s recent history — a new 1,074-page account of the party’s early decades in power.
As China races into the future, the Communist Party — which marks its 90th birthday this July — still takes the past, especially its own, very seriously. “Writing history is not easy,” said Shi, a veteran party historian.
It gets particularly hard when it includes not only two of the past century’s most lethal man-made catastrophes — the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution — but also a modest but now ticklish upset back in 1962 — the disgrace of Xi Zhongxun, the father of Xi Jinping, China’s current vice president and leader-in-waiting.
Meanwhile, China is hosting Myanmar's president, who is in Beijing on a state visit. The Associated Press reports that:
China bestowed a pomp-filled welcome on Myanmar's president Friday, conferring legitimacy on the country's new, nominally civilian government and ensuring continued Chinese access to its neighbor's natural resources.
Earlier this week, Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer was in China. He used his visit to highlight the continuing concerns Microsoft and other Western companies have about piracy. As the Wall Street Journal reports
Mr. Ballmer's candid remarks provided a glimpse at the software giant's struggle with piracy in what will soon be the world's largest PC market. In China, copies of Microsoft's core Office and Windows programs are still available on street corners for $2 or $3 each, a fraction of their retail price, despite efforts by the company to curb theft.
In his address to employees at the company's new Beijing offices, Mr. Ballmer said Microsoft's revenue per personal computer sold in China is only about a sixth of the amount it gets in India. He noted that Microsoft's total revenue in China, population 1.3 billion, is less than what it gets in the Netherlands, a country of fewer than 17 million.
China remains one of the most intriguing countries in the world, and not just because of its immense current and future economic power. Instead, one should remember the amazing history of its lands and its people, and, yes, the promise and potential peril that its future holds.

China watchers -- and I do not profess to be one -- will continue to help us understand China's past, present and future. We would be wise to read what they say.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A été le président Sarkozy espionnage sur Dominique Strauss-Kahn ?

Was President Sarkozy spying on Dominique Strauss-Kahn?

If the French newspaper LeMonde is to be believed, it appears that Nicolas Sarkozy was interested in learning as much as he could about his potential presidential rival. According to France 24,
The newspaper reported on Wednesday that thanks to a newly reinforced internal intelligence agency, the Sarkozy administration is privy to “intimate secrets” of rival politicians. In the case of Strauss-Kahn, Sarkozy’s aides recently alerted the press to the existence of a document they said would be damaging to the Socialist and former IMF chief at a moment when as he was polling strongly and therefore posing a threat to the sitting president’s re-election prospects.


The document mentioned in the Le Monde article is a police report -- written before the 2007 presidential election -- which alleged that Strauss-Kahn was found in “a compromising position” in a car in a part of western Paris known as a pick-up spot for prostitutes.
Meanwhile, the Chinese media are reporting that the European push for France's finance minister to become the new head of the International Monetary Fund is being met with resistance from non-European nations. Christine Lagarde has gathered the support of Europe, and if selected she would become the first woman to head the IMF, the position Strauss-Kahn held before his arrest on charges of sexually assaulting a hotel maid. Nevertheless, there's never been a non-European at the top of the IMF and countries such as Brazil, Russia and others believe the time has come.

Whether Sarkozy was gathering dirt on Strauss-Kahn is worth watching, principally because it would seem to run counter to the French tradition of ignoring the private lives of public officials. It would validate the idea that Sarkozy is aware he's trailing in the polls and in need of a spark to rally his supporters and the voters.

Sarah Palin has no chance to get the GOP nomination!

Neither does Tim Pawlenty.

Same song, next verse when it comes to Ron Paul.

The problem with such pronouncements is that they're often based on what the person making the statement thinks about the candidate.

Sarah Palin has become America's political joke machine -- she seemingly cannot get out of bed in the morning without some comedian or liberal bloviator making fun of her. (Oh, and let's be honest -- President Obama cannot get out of bed without some comedian or conservative gasbag just waiting to jump all over him, metaphorically speaking.)

But the problem right now with determining that Palin has no chance -- for a job she's not actually indicated she intends to run for! -- is that not a single vote has been cast by any Republican for any of the presidential candidates.

You might recall that it was just four years ago that the pundits were telling you, me and anyone else you might be listening that Hillary Clinton was going to be the Democrats choice for the White House. Sure, there would be other nominees, but none of them had a chance!

Something funny happened on the way to that nomination.

Now, it is the Republicans' turn to sift through perhaps 10 candidates and determine which one they would like to challenge Mr. Obama for the presidency. Of course there are those with name recognition (Gingrich, Palin and Romney immediately come to mind), those with "outsider" status (Pawlenty fits that bill), those with a groundswell of excitement that might carry over to votes (Huntsman) and those that enjoy being thorns in anyone's side (Paul).

But until the good people of Iowa and New Hampshire begin the vetting process -- by voting -- none of us will really know who has a chance to be the GOP's standard bearer in 2012.

Sure, we picked up the right guy...

...there's no question about it.

Really.

We mean it.

The Los Angeles Police Department remains adamant that the man arrested over the weekend was involved in the beating of a San Francisco Giants fan on March 31st at Dodger Stadium. As the Associated Press notes,
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck says he's confident the right person has been arrested in the beating of a San Francisco Giants fan at Dodger Stadium on Opening Day.
No charges have been filed yet against 31-year-old Giovanni Ramirez, who was taken into custody last weekend.
But Beck told a news conference Thursday that his investigators exceeded standards for making an arrest.
However, at least one Los Angeles media outlet is reporting that Ramirez is the second or third person arrested in connection with Bryan Stow's beating. As San Francisco television station KNTV reports,
...Giovanni Ramirez, the suspect arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department in the Bryan Stow attack is currently claiming to have an alibi that places him somewhere other than Dodger Stadium on Opening Day.
That's what makes a report from Eric Leonard, the crime reporter for KFI AM-640 a touch unnerving.
Leonard reports, according to SportsByBrooks, that it was "highly premature for the mayor and police chief and other officials to come out on Sunday and declare Giovanni Ramirez the primary suspect in this case."
Leonard also adds that Ramirez isn't the first person to be arrested in connection with the attack on Bryan Stow.
“It turns out that Ramirez is the second or third person that’s been detained, arrested and questioned in this case," Leonard said. "The other times it happened, nobody heard about it because the detectives were given the time to go out and do the investigation and as it turned out in the other cases, those people were cleared after they had been detained, questioned, had their homes searched and all of that.”
Of course, there are those making the case that the Ramirez's mugshot bears a strong resemblance to a police sketch and that information alone validates the arrest. That might make for a good blog post, but it offers little in the way of concrete evidence that Ramirez was at Dodger Stadium that night and that he took part in Stow's beating.

The LAPD is under intense scrutiny; and while that's not fair to a department that does an admirable job on a daily basis, it does indicate that there is consistent media and public attention connected to the Stow beating. Public officials also are eager to get in front of a television camera and acknowledge that justice is moving forward.

But as is the case with the media -- being the first to report something doesn't necessarily mean you are the first to report it correctly. I'm not implying that Ramirez is not involved in the case, but I am saying that we need to be careful about rushing to judge his guilt. 

A trifecta?

The following comes from a Facebook post from the Hockey Hall of Fame:
How about this for an Olympic/Stanley Cup trend? Montreal hosted the games in 1976, won the cup in 1977. Calgary hosted in 1988, won the cup in 1989. Vancouver hosted in 2010, are they destined to win the cup this year?

Jim Tressel is either an idiot or a narcissist

At some point the Board of Trustees, president and athletic director at Ohio State are going to have to accept reality -- their head football coach is an idiot or a narcissist.

The latest indication that coach Jim Tressel is supervising a program that is out of control comes from one of his former players, who has spoken to the university's student-run newspaper, The Lantern.

In the story, Ray Small suggests that multiple players violated NCAA rules and did so with little regard as to whether they would run afoul of their coach or anyone else.
"I had sold my things but it was just for the money," Small said. "At that time in college, you're kind of struggling."
Small, who played receiver at OSU from 2006-2010, capitalized on the Buckeyes' success during his college career.
"We had four Big Ten rings," he said. "There was enough to go around."
Small said he sold the rings to cover typical costs of living.
"We have apartments, car notes," he said. "So you got things like that and you look around and you're like, ‘Well I got (four) of them, I can sell one or two and get some money to pay this rent."
The wheeling and dealing didn't stop with rings. The best deals came from car dealerships, Small said.
Before we move on, let's acknowledge that Small is not exempt from criticism; it appears he was not a responsible student-athlete and often butted heads with the same man he is now criticizing.
 
It was just last week that athletic director Gene Smith reaffirmed that he's in Tressel's corner as the NCAA and the university continue to explore how many players sold their personal memorabilia. One has to wonder how the latest drip-drip-drip of bad news chances his thinking.

The Columbus Dispatch late last month noted that the NCAA's investigation could lead to the most severe penalties the football program has ever faced.
In a "notice of allegations" given to Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee on Friday and obtained by The Dispatch, the NCAA accused Tressel of dishonesty for hiding violations by seven current and former players who sold awards and equipment to a tattoo-parlor owner.
Ohio State, however, was not cited for "failure to monitor" or "failure of institutional control" violations, which would likely lead to the harshest of penalties. Such penalties are typically imposed when a university's compliance program is weak.
"That was very significant," a source close to the investigation told The Dispatch today.
Ohio State released this statement today: "The allegations are largely consistent with what the university self-reported to the NCAA on March 8. ... The university will continue to work cooperatively with the NCAA during the response phase to the NCAA that now begins, and will have no further comment until the process is completed."
The best-case scenario for Ohio State is the NCAA accepting the university's self-imposed sanctions on Tressel, which include a $250,000 fine and five-game suspension. The worst-case scenario is a range of sanctions that could prevent the Buckeyes from playing in the Big Ten Championship and a bowl game next season and strip OSU of last year's victories and Big Ten title.
The issue of "lack of institutional control" is critical; if the NCAA indicates it has taken place, then the organization is essentially saying multiple people knew about and condoned improper actions. And as Tressel defends himself, he will do so out of his own pocket -- the university is not covering a penny of his legal fees.

Let's cut through the legal complexities, the back patting (or backstabbing) and the spin, and acknowledge reality -- Tressel has to go. At best, he comes out of any NCAA investigation looking like someone who was aware of some but not all the problems, and then tried to cover them up. At worst, he appears to be a poker-faced liar, determined to run a rogue program that he concluded would protect him from anything and anyone because he delivered wins and championships.

He's therefore either an idiot or a narcissist.

Il n'est pas juste le président Nicolas Sarkozy avec quelque chose de prouver

It's not just President Nicolas Sarkozy who has something to prove...

...as the G8 summit gets underway in France.

Of course, the French president will be in the spotlight, principally because he is the host and trailing in his re-election bid. Mr. Sarkozy also raised eyebrows by suggesting regulation of the Internet might be necessary.

But it's not just President Sarkozy who is hoping for some tangible results from the summit.

The Financial Times reports that Italian president Silvio Berlusconi is in even deeper political trouble than his French counterpart, and local elections this weekend could prove especially embarrassing for him.
For an administration over halfway through its five-year mandate, such a loss in local elections with an economy struggling to emerge from recession might be tolerable – except that Mr Berlusconi has turned the vote into a referendum on his coalition government, even putting his name on the Milan ballot paper next to the right’s mayoral candidate.
“It was a colossal misjudgment,” admits a government official. “He has lost his magic touch.”
Back-pedalling furiously, aides to Mr Berlusconi now insist that these are simply local elections and that the government is not about to implode. “Life goes on,” one insisted.
There is even the hope that defeat in Milan could be compensated by capturing Naples, which also faces a run-off vote this weekend.
Then there is Canada's Stephen Harper. The Globe and Mail notes the prime minister needs to make clear where he and his nation stands on the so-called "Arab Spring" -- the push for government reform across many North African and Middle Eastern nations.
Mr. Harper’s previous minority government was slow to respond to the protests in Cairo out of concerns for the security of Israel. Now the leader of a more secure majority government and a veteran among G8 leaders, he can choose between tepid or ardent support.
And of course there is President Obama, who, like President Sarkozy, will answer to voters next year. According to the Washington Post,
President Obama and a group of other world leaders are expected Thursday to discuss how they will offer financial assistance to Tunisia and Egypt as those two nations seek to transition to more democratic governments. 
The president's efforts could be flummoxed as he attempts to counter the growing criticism at home that his "1967 borders" speech about Israel, the Palestinians and peace is too critical of Israel and too easy on the Palestinians. 

Si vous êtes en résidence surveillée...

If you are under house arrest...

...then the conditions that the former head of the International Monetary Fund is finds himself aren't that bad.

As the Associated Press reports,
The stately red brick town home in Tribeca rents for a cool $50,000 a month or, for those looking to buy, is on the market for $13,995,000.
But, despite the home theatre, gym, waterfall showers, Japanese paper walls, fireplace and renovations featuring the “finest materials and craftsmanship,” Mr. Strauss-Kahn is a prisoner, his every movement monitored electronically, armed guards and cameras watching him around the clock. He will be allowed out for court, doctor’s visits and religious services. Prosecutors must be notified at least six hours before he goes anywhere, and he can’t be out between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Under his terms of house arrest, he can receive up to four visitors at a time besides family.
The woman who says Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted her is considering a civil suit. Reuters notes that the woman met with her attorneys to weigh her options.
Kenneth Thompson, a former assistant U.S. attorney in New York, and Norman Siegel, a former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, took part in a meeting with the woman and her family on Wednesday afternoon.
"They decided that they should have enhanced representation," Jeffrey Shapiro, who had been the woman's sole attorney until now, told Reuters late on Wednesday. One reason for adding the attorneys was to decide "whether there is a civil case going forward," he said.
Strauss-Kahn has been charged with sexually assaulting and attempting to rape the maid at the upscale Sofitel Hotel in New York on May 14. He was head of the International Monetary Fund and had been considered a contender in France's presidential race until the incident took place.
Shapiro said any civil action against Strauss-Kahn or any other party would need to be filed within one year of the incident. If filed while the criminal case against Strauss-Kahn is pending, it would likely be stayed until the criminal case is concluded, he said.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

More news on the radio

Kudos to the new group that is taking over ownership of WDUQ, the primary NPR-affiliated station in Pittsburgh.

It will reduce the number of hours devoted to jazz and increase the number devoted to news. As the Tribune-Review reports:
The regular 90.5-FM signal most listeners hear will broadcast all news programming, except for a six-hour jazz show on Saturday nights. A high-definition channel – which can be heard only with a high-definition receiver – will be all jazz. The station`s website will feature both news and jazz in streaming formats
Essential Public Media, a joint venture between WYEP-FM and Colorado-based Public Media Co., announced today that primary programming for 90.5-FM – with so far unknown call letters to replace WDUQ – will feature both in-depth local reporting and National Public Radio programs.
"The all-NPR news format has been incredibly successful where it exists in most markets across the country," said Lee Ferraro, general manager of WYEP, who has helped with plans for the new station. "We're excited about launching a new service that will be great for the region."
I have two colleagues who I know will be disappointed with today's announcement -- they both love jazz. But for a news junkie such as me, the decision ensures that I will spend more time with the station than I have before.

Pittsburgh doesn't lack for news on the radio. There is, for example, an all-news station on the AM dial (or is "dial" an antiquated term?) and another AM station that delivers consistent news/talk programming. But the power of the NPR brand will allow this new format to gain an immediate presence in the city.

Sustainability is more important, however.

Incompetent to stand trial

Americans are quick to use the word "incompetent" to describe the acumen of various professional people. As a term of derision, it often suggests that the individual making the critical comments could, in fact, do a much better job.

However, "incompetent" in a legal situation is neither derisive nor suggestive of another person being better suited to handle a job. Instead, it suggests lacking a level of intelligence or skill to understand what is happening. Today, an Arizona judge ruled that the man accused of shooting Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others, some fatally, is incompetent.

The New York Times sent this news alert at 3:45 p.m. EDT:
Jared L. Loughner, accused in the Jan. 8 shooting spree that seriously injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and left six others dead, was ruled incompetent to stand trial by Federal Judge Larry A. Burns on Wednesday.

Before the ruling, Mr. Loughner was dragged screaming from the courtroom in Tucson after disrupting the hearing; he watched the rest of the proceedings on a monitor in a holding cell. The court heard testimony from two expert witnesses that Mr. Loughner suffered from schizophrenia.
The Los Angeles Times filed its own news alert about 20 minutes earlier. It noted:
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Jared Lee Loughner was incompetent to stand trial, all but ending, for now, legal proceedings in the January shooting spree that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Reuters notes that Loughner's attorneys believe their client is "gravely mentally ill." The Telegraph adds an important note -- incompetence does not equate to insanity:
Wednesday's decision was based on the assessments of a psychiatrist and a psychologist who evaluated that Mr Loughner was schizophrenic, and submitted sealed opinions to the court.
It does not mean that Mr Loughner, a college dropout, is necessarily judged to be insane, and it is not a verdict on his mental state at the time of the shootings.
He is now likely to be sent back to the Bureau of Prisons' Medical Centre in Springfield, Missouri, where he spent five weeks undergoing mental examinations.

The collapse of John Edwards...

...is almost complete.

As CNN reports,
The Justice Department has authorized prosecutors to bring criminal charges against former presidential candidate and Senator John Edwards, sources with knowledge of the investigation confirm to CNN. An indictment could be averted if prosecutors and lawyers for Edwards reach a plea deal.
The man who was a senator, wanted to be president and could have been vice-president already has seen his personal reputation shattered because of his denial of an affair with a woman who gave birth to his child. That happened while his wife was battling cancer, a disease that would take her life.

Now he's thisclose to seeing his professional reputation also disintegrate.

The Associated Press adds,
Federal investigators have been probing Edwards for two more than years. Their interest has spanned much of Edwards' political career, looking into issues such as whether he did anything improper during his time in the U.S. Senate. And it looked into a network of organizations connected to Edwards, including a nonprofit, political action committees and a so-called 527 political group.
Much of the investigation, however, focused on money that eventually went to keep mistress Rielle Hunter in hiding along with former campaign aide Andrew Young, who claimed paternity of Hunter's child in 2007 so that Edwards could continue his White House campaign without the affair tarnishing his reputation. Investigators have been looking at whether those funds should have been considered campaign donations since they arguably aided his presidential bid.
Mind you, a plea deal might allow him to keep his law license and out of prison, but it will indicate that the man who could have had so much will continue down a road which has him left with so little.


 

They did pick up the right guy, right?

Um, yeah. Maybe.

You can imagine the pressure on the Los Angeles Police Department to find and arrest the two thugs responsible for beating a San Francisco Giants fan during this season's opening game at Dodger Stadium. Now imagine the scrutiny the department must be feeling knowing that no charges have yet been filed against one man who was arrested over the weekend.

As ESPN reports,
Los Angeles prosecutors have yet to charge Giovanni Ramirez, the suspect in the beating of San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow at Dodger Stadium on Opening Day, despite meeting with detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department Tuesday afternoon.
The police generally have 48 hours after an arrest to bring information related to the case to the D.A.'s office, which then reviews the information and decides whether to file charges.
However, Ramirez will remain in custody on a parole hold, pending the outcome of a parole revocation hearing, while detectives continue their investigation, the LAPD said in a statement on Tuesday.
Chip Matthews, who is representing members of Ramirez's family, told The Associated Press Tuesday that his client is willing to take a polygraph test to show he was not at the stadium when Stow was viciously attacked.
Matthews says Ramirez spent the day at his aunt's house with several family members who are willing to testify he was with them.
The attorney also discussed his client's alibi with a Los Angeles television station, which reports:

"It's mistaken identity," said Chip Matthews, an attorney who says he was hired by the mother of Ramirez's 10-year-old daughter.
Matthews said the little girl was with her father all of opening day, nowhere near Dodger Stadium.
"She is adamant that on opening day at Dodger Stadium, which she remembers very clearly, she was with her dad all that day," said Matthews.
The attorney said he spent several hours on Tuesday talking to Ramirez and his daughter. He said there are several friends and relatives who can corroborate the story and that Ramirez is willing to take a polygraph test to prove he's telling the truth.
Now, let's make clear here that Ramirez's prior legal record makes it obvious that he's no saint. But if he's not involved in the beating, then he needs to be cut loose and cleared.

The Dodgers organization also could bear legal responsibility for what took place on March 31st. As CNN notes,
The family of Bryan Stow, the San Francisco Giants fan who was severely beaten at Dodger Stadium, filed a civil lawsuit Tuesday claiming faulty security measures and defective facilities contributed to his attack, court officials said.
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, names the Los Angeles Dodgers Corporation and its owner, Frank McCourt, as defendants. The suit lists Stow's parents, Elizabeth Ann Stow and David Edward Stow, as plaintiffs on behalf of his two minor children, Tyler and Tabitha Stow, according to court spokeswoman Elizabeth Diaz. 
"It is unfortunate that such a storied and well respected baseball club such as the Los Angeles Dodgers has been made to suffer due to the cutbacks and mismanagement by its owner Frank McCourt and his various corporate entities," the lawsuit says. 
The complaint alleges that cutbacks led to a major downsizing of security as a cost-saving measure due to McCourt's personal family problems and to" fund his lavish lifestyle." McCourt and his wife, Jamie, are in the middle of a contentious divorce proceeding. His divorce attorney, Steve Susman, declined to comment on the suit.
Meanwhile, former Giants' slugger Barry Bonds will pay for Stow's two children to attend college.

Lagarde sera Le Grande Dame?

Will Lagarde be Le Grand Dame?

We'll know soon, but for now French finance minister Christine Lagarde has indicated she's interested in taking over as head of the International Monetary Fund.

As the Washington Post reports,
If successful, the 55-year-old, blunt-talking Frenchwoman with deep roots in the United States would become the first female managing director of the IMF, filling a role vacated by her countryman Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Strauss-Kahn resigned last week in the face of sexual assault charges filed against him by a New York City maid.
Lagarde, a snappy dresser and childhood synchronized swimmer who cracked the glass ceiling in law and financial diplomacy with the force of a power drill, would bring a decidedly new mood to the male-dominated halls of economic power on 19th Street NW.
The first woman to serve as financial chief of a major world economy, Lagarde is known as a formidable negotiator, with insiders describing her as a key to uniting a bickering Europe in the quest to save the euro and manage the debt crisis that has rocked the region over the past 18 months.
Those who are likely to oppose her candidacy will not do so because of a dislike of her; rather, they will argue that the time has come for a non-European to head the agency. But unless nations such as Brazil, China, India and Russia can rally around a non-European option, their calls are expected to fall flat.