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James Franklin: The Man in the Middle for the Nittany Lions

The Man in the Middle for the Nittany Lions

Penn State Coach James Franklin May Face More Tests Off the Field Than on It

 

At 6 a.m., Penn State’s campus is quiet, other than sleepy students staggering out of the library and a few joggers. The stoplights are not activated yet, so James Franklin can drive from his house to the Lasch Football Building in about four minutes.

Through floor-to-ceiling windows in his office, he can see the sun rise over Mount Nittany to the east, the dim lights of Beaver Stadium to the north. He can see the farms and the highway.

Outside the office is an expansive patio that overlooks one of the practice fields, but it is empty.

“You believe that?” he said. “This has been here for 15 years, and there’s never been a piece of furniture out here.”

That is expected to change, another modification on a list of personal touches from the man settling in as the Nittany Lions’ football coach.

Franklin’s mother was a janitor; his father worked the tool and die line at the General Motors plant in Ewing, N.J. Neither went to college. Now Franklin, 42, is paid more than any state employee in Pennsylvania, more than $4 million per year.

That alone would be enough to heap expectations on his shoulders and rankle those uncomfortable with the outsize role of athletics on college campuses. But this is Penn State, which is still confronting the ripple effects of the child sexual abuse scandal involving the former assistant Jerry Sandusky in the fall of 2011. Franklin’s salary is but one note in a discordant cacophony that includes the voices of faculty members, alumni, others with ties to the university and loyalists of the old regime, which was led by Coach Joe Paterno.

This is Franklin’s community now, and how he handles being the most visible face of the program will probably test him far more than the football field.

 
UCLA med student 'stole iPad from a dying cancer patient and re-registered it'

stolen ipad

UCLA med student 'stole iPad from a dying cancer patient and re-registered it as her own'

Police have charged med student Virginia Nguyen with petty theft, grand theft of lost property, and computer access and fraud

Family of cancer victim Natalie Packer found the deceased's iPad re-registered to Nguyen after Packer passed away

Device went missing when Packer went into cardiac arrest and Code Blue response attempted to revive her

A felony conviction in the case could severely damage Nguyen's future in medicine said Cassandra Hockenson, a spokesperson for the California Medical Board. The accused has declined to respond to interview requests.

As NBC Los Angeles notes, Nguyen's LinkedIn profile lists her summary as 'committed to providing social justice and healthcare for diverse populations.' However the University has issued a statement that she is: 'not currently employed at UCLA.'

UCLA would not comment on her current status as a student, only that the university enforces an honor code.

'In those instances when a student's conduct does not meet those standards, we have administrative procedures that ensure appropriate due process is afforded to the student while also moving swiftly yet fairly to ensure accountability to these standards,' read a UCLA statement.

 
The Psychology of Ray Rice Supporters

The Psychology of Ray Rice Supporters

By Jesse Singal

 Over at Time, Megan Gibson argues that the ongoing existence of Ray Rice supporters can be explained, at least in part, by "the kind of God-like status our society gives to professional athletes." I actually don't think that's a primary cause of this weird behavior. A simpler, more convincing explanation is "motivated reasoning," and you'd be just as likely to see it show up, in a similar form, in a case involving an abuser who wasn't famous at all.

Those few Ravens fans still sporting Rice jerseys are engaging in a potent strain of motivated reasoning. Many of them have spent years admiring Rice and feeling a sense of connection to him, and now, all of a sudden, a horrifying video and subsequent wave of national outrage are calling into question a small but rather well-cemented aspect of who they are. 

 
"Support the Player and Be Quiet": What It's Like to Be an NFL Wife

"Support the Player and Be Quiet": What It's Like to Be an NFL Wife

 By Tracy Treu, as told to Ian Gordon

A former Oakland Raiders spouse on the Rice scandal and the league’s culture of secrecy.

"The NFL is a culture that values secrecy. When you're with an NFL team, the message to you is clear: Don't fuck anything up for your partner, and don't fuck anything up for the team. Don't be controversial. Don't talk to the media. Stay out of the way. Support the player and be quiet."

The Raiders didn't formally sit us down—they're not structured like that as an organization to sit the wives down and school them, and say, "This is what we ask of you." But it is definitely passed down by the veteran wives in the league. The veteran wives will talk to the rookie wives. So will the administrative or coaching wives. It's made very clear to you, and not in a hateful way, by any means: "Let's work together for this one common goal: to win the Super Bowl." That will mean, for the coaches' families, that you're not going to get fired and you'll get to stay here for another year. And that might mean, for some of the marquee players, that they're going to get a better contract.

They really don't want anything to be a distraction from that goal. I remember getting a lot of grief for planning my first pregnancy poorly because I had our daughter during the season. You only have babies in the offseason. There are lots of informal rules like that.

And the media is the devil—the enemy. I had my husband come home and tell me, "Don't ever talk to the media." Guys would get teased; they'd rib each other if they were in the news, or if the wife got mentioned. There was a sportswriter for the Oakland Tribune whom I'd sometimes see at games, and Adam would be like, "What'd you say to him? Were you talking to him? Don't talk to him." And that's not just Adam's personal preference; that's what he'd been told. I don't know everything that was said in meetings, but that's how it came down to me: "Did he call you? What did he say to you? What did he ask you? Don't tell him anything."

Janay met Ray in high school. They have a daughter together. So we're asking her to walk away from this, and it's like, "How?" This is all she's ever known. A lot of these wives don't work. They can't. They're only living in a place for six months. Maybe the guy is playing on a new team every two or three years. He wants her home. You know, he's not coming home and cooking himself dinner. When Adam played, I don't think any of the wives worked. So what's she going to leave and go do?

"Be seen and not heard." That's the assumption. Well, that and, "You're just lucky to be here, so shut up." He's making great money, so you support him and shut your mouth. You're put in a subservient position financially. He's the star. Keep him happy.

 
Personifying information to aid memorization.

Memory Characters

By Neel Burton, M.D.

Personifying information to aid memorization.

Personification is a strong human tendency that can be applied to all sorts of areas and subjects. A chemistry student might personify the elements, and a law student might picture bills of law as various dictators. I myself have extended the method from diseases to drugs, which I usually picture as little beasties which I can then group like animals (family, genus, species) and immerse into ridiculous situations. Potassium channel blockers are little purple fish, purple because potassium burns with a purple glow, and fish because they swim around in the heart.
 
Michael Brown's hands were raised, witness says.

Michael Brown's hands were raised, witness says.

David Batty

Benjamin Crump, Michael Brown family lawyer

Footage of two construction workers moments after black teenager's fatal shooting appears to support other accounts

The video shows one of the men raising his hands immediately after the fatal shooting and shouting, "He had his fuckin' hands up."

The man told CNN he heard a gunshot, then another about 30 seconds later. "The cop didn't say get on the ground. He just kept shooting," said the unnamed contractor. He added that he saw Brown's fatal head wound and repeated that the teenager's "hands were up".

The men told CNN they were 50ft (15m) away when Wilson opened fire. The second man said he saw Brown running away from a police car. The teenager "put his hands up", and "the officer was chasing him". Wilson then fired a shot at Brown while his back was turned.

 
The Moral Downfall of an NFL Commissioner

The Moral Downfall of an NFL Commissioner

 Patrick Hruby

The questionable choices made by Roger Goodell in running America's favorite league.

The NFL commissioner portrays himself as a guy who takes after his father, a principled senator who opposed Nixon. His actions reveal just the opposite.

Like many sports stories, this one is about fathers and sons. Before Roger Goodell was National Football League commissioner—before fans and pundits alike began calling for his ouster in the wake of the ongoing Ray Rice domestic-violence scandal; before members of Congress began sending angry letters and demanding answers—Goodell was an 11-year-old boy, watching the Nixon White House crush his dad’s political career.

The year was 1970. Charles E. Goodell, then a moderate Republican senator from New York, was running for reelection. The previous summer, he had sponsored a high-profile bill that would have ended funding for the Vietnam War. He subsequently led a Washington march against the war—right down Pennsylvania Avenue, alongside Jane Fonda, arm-in-arm with Coretta Scott King. Before going to the New York Times, Daniel Ellsberg even asked Goodell to leak the Pentagon Papers.

Unsurprisingly, President Nixon was furious. He ordered his staff to give the senator a “going over,” turning the Republican Party against the incumbent candidate in favor of a conservative challenger. Meanwhile, Vice President Spiro Agnew savaged Goodell’s GOP bona fides in a series of speeches.

In response, Goodell’s campaign deployed the candidate’s five sons, including Roger, on busy Manhattan street corners, where they would stump for their dad. I’m Senator Goodell’s son. Please vote for my father. No luck: The elder Goodell split the liberal vote with his Democratic opponent, allowing third candidate and Nixon loyalist James Buckley to win the election.

 
Buffett's No. 2 on Berkshire's Success

Buffett's No. 2 on Berkshire's Success

The Intelligent Investor: Fifty years ago next year, Warren Buffett took control at Berkshire Hathaway. For that anniversary, Mr. Buffett is asking Vice Chairman Charles T. Munger to answer two questions: "Why did it work? And will it continue?"

Why did nearly 250 investors converge on Los Angeles this past week to listen to a 90-year-old man address the annual meeting of a tiny legal-publishing and software company? To hear Charles T. Munger—better known as Warren Buffett’s right-hand man—expound on one of his least-known holdings and just about everything else.

Since 1977, Mr. Munger, the vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, has also been the chairman of Daily Journal, a peculiar combination of a venture-capital firm and a mutual fund. His public appearances are so rare and his remarks so entertaining and illuminating that investors came from as far away as Alabama, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Ontario to hear him speak.

They weren’t disappointed. Mr. Munger talked almost nonstop for two hours, lambasting the banking and money-management industries, hailing the economic potential of China and, above all, dispensing common-sense advice that anyone can benefit from. His central message: Investors can reach their fullest potential only by thinking for themselves. “If you stay rational yourself,” he told the crowd, “the stupidity of the world helps you.”

...................................................

Fifty years ago next year, Mr. Buffett took control at Berkshire. For that anniversary, Mr. Buffett is asking Mr. Munger to answer two questions: “Why did it work? And will it continue?”

The questions are “very interesting,” said Mr. Munger, “because the actual result at Berkshire is really preposterous.” Even he is a bit puzzled by how two men could take a jumble of dying textile mills, stagnant department stores and a trading-stamp company and turn it into the fifth-biggest firm in America, with a stock-market value of $337 billion.

“How the hell does this thing end up blowing past GE?” asked Mr. Munger, a sense of wonder in his voice. (General Electric’s stock is valued at $260 billion.)

First, he said, other companies like GE “long had a history of moving [division leaders] around internally, and that’s like asking an oboe player in the symphony to perform on the piano and expecting the quality of the music not to suffer.” At Berkshire, Messrs. Buffett and Munger let great managers stay put.

Second, he added, “I think we have had a temperamental advantage: Warren and I know better than most people what we know and what we don’t know. That’s even better than having a lot of extra IQ points.”

Mr. Munger continued: “People chronically misappraise the limits of their own knowledge; that’s one of the most basic parts of human nature. Knowing the edge of your circle of competence is one of the most difficult things for a human being to do. Knowing what you don’t know is much more useful in life and business than being brilliant.”

Mr. Munger had mentioned during the annual meeting that some $120,000, apparently from a retirement-account distribution, had “floated” into his account earlier in the week. He sees nothing worth investing it in right now and hasn’t bought an investment in his personal accounts in at least two years, because he is waiting for an irresistible bargain.

....................................................

Successful investing, Mr. Munger told me, requires “this crazy combination of gumption and patience, and then being ready to pounce when the opportunity presents itself, because in this world opportunities just don’t last very long.” Mr. Munger showed that in March 2009, when he bought 1.6 million shares of Wells Fargo for Daily Journal at an average cost he estimates at $8.58 per share. The stock was trading at around $51.50 this week.

“It’s waiting that helps you as an investor, and a lot of people just can’t stand to wait,” he said. “If you didn’t get the deferred-gratification gene, you’ve got to work very hard to overcome that.”

 
Clinton’s New Workouts Speak Volumes

Clinton’s New Workouts Speak Volumes

By AMY CHOZICK

Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has said she will decide next year whether to run for president, is getting in shape, a necessity for any candidate who faces the rigors of the campaign trail.

She is building stamina through tough new workouts with a personal trainer and yoga. She is talking about how to address income inequality without alienating corporate America. And she is reviewing who’s who in the Democratic Party in Iowa, a crucial early voting state in the presidential cycle.

Hillary Rodham Clinton has said publicly that she will decide early next year whether she will undertake a second campaign for the presidency. But inside the Clinton operation, the groundwork is already quietly being laid for a candidacy.

On Sunday, Mrs. Clinton will appear at the 37th annual Iowa steak fry hosted by Senator Tom Harkin; it will be her most overtly political appearance since resigning as secretary of state in February of last year.

Meanwhile, the largest Democratic fund-raising group, Priorities USA, which helped get President Obama elected, recently rebranded itself as a vehicle to help Mrs. Clinton. Publicly, the group says it is focused on raising money for Democrats for this fall’s congressional elections, but privately, Priorities has already started reaching out to donors to secure 2016 commitments for Mrs. Clinton.

 
George Will: Scotland’s epic vote on independence from the United Kingdom

Scotland’s epic vote on independence from the United Kingdom

In “The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century,” Cambridge University historian David Reynolds notes that World War I, a breaker of empires and maker of nations, quickened interest in nationalism and the nature of nationhood, especially the distinction between a civic nation and an ethnic nation: The former is “a community of laws, institutions, and citizenship,” whereas an ethnic nation is “a community of shared descent, rooted in language, ethnicity, and culture.” France embodied civic nationalism, forged by its revolution; Germany, “steeped in Romantic conceptions of the Volk ,” exemplified ethnic nationalism.

The United States is a civic nation because it is a creedal nation — founded, as Jefferson said, on “truths” deemed “self-evident,” and dedicated, as Lincoln said, to a “proposition” (that all are created equal). Scotland is largely an ethnic nation, and whether Scots opt for or against independence, the continued vitality of their national sentiments testifies to the ability of differences to resist homogenization by the commercial and cultural forces of modernity.

 
Gillibrand rips Rush's 'chickifying'

Gillibrand rips Rush's 'chickifying'

By LUCY MCCALMONT

Kirsten Gillibrand (left) and Rush Limbaugh are pictured in this composite image. | AP Photos

Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ripped Rush Limbaugh on Friday, after the conservative radio host said the uproar over Ray Rice and domestic abuse is just liberals “feminizing” and ‘chickifying’ the NFL.

“Well if he believes criminals should be playing in the National Football League, he’s got a serious issue. These are criminal cases of assault and battery and sexual violence. Our players are role models, we don’t young kids looking up to these folks who are beating their wives. It’s not right. And so we should have a zero tolerance policy. And he’s wrong,” Gillibrand said Friday on CNN in response to Limbaugh’s comments.

On his show earlier Friday, Limbaugh slammed a letter sent by 16 female senators—including Gillibrand—to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell calling for a zero tolerance policy toward domestic abuse.

“We’re feminizing this game. It’s a man’s game and if we keep feminizing this game we’re gonna ruin it. If we keep chickifying this game we’re gonna ruin it,” Limbaugh said, according to a transcript.

Echoing comments he made earlier this week, Limbaugh added that politics have gotten too embroiled with sports—specifically with the NFL, which he said has “become nothing more than the latest extension of the Democrat Party leftist agenda.”

“Of course I’m against wife beating. I’m also against mixing social issues with broadcast of sporting events, too. But that line has been blurred now,” the radio host said.

“Sorry, this is not why I watch football. This is going to be the death of this sport. It is no longer an escape. It’s no longer about great athletes. It’s no longer about amazing athletic achievement and drama,” Limbaugh said. “The never-ending refrain on the Washington Redskins name, and now this? Guns, gays, domestic violence, these are topics that I frankly don’t be need to be preached to about. I don’t need to be lectured, and I certainly don’t want to turn on a football game and end up being accused of all kinds of social misbehavior.”

 
On the Road With Tim McGraw

On the Road With Tim McGraw

The country singer on his new album, his family and why he doesn't like making music videos

Country singer Tim McGraw and his bandmates are sprinting across the tarmac outside the Dallas arena where he's scheduled to perform that evening. Soon, they'll drop down on the ground for push-ups and lunges—all part of Mr. McGraw's sometimes twice-daily CrossFit exercise routine.

Known for chart-topping songs such as "Live Like You Were Dying" and "Just to See You Smile," Mr. McGraw is on tour before the release of his 13th studio album, "Sundown Heaven Town," on Sept. 16. Later, seated in a dressing room, the 47-year-old singer is wearing his trademark black cowboy hat and a form-fitting black T-shirt. At one point, he pulls up his shirt to reveal the chiseled six-pack he had been perfecting in the 111-degree Dallas heat.

He has been performing all summer, and has made $10.8 million in ticket sales for the first half of 2014, according to Pollstar. (His concerts brought in $27.2 million in 2013.) Since his first album came out in 1993, 35 of his songs have hit No. 1 on the country radio charts. While he's on the road, he says that he has to keep moving. "I quit drinking coming on seven years," he says, "so you just gotta keep busy, and the problem on the road is there's a lot of time waiting." Working out "kills two birds with one stone. It keeps my mind occupied, but it also gets me into shape."

Mr. McGraw hopes that each of the new album's songs serves as a sort of three-minute movie in which the listener can imagine himself as a character. It's the reason he doesn't like making music videos. When you hear a song, "you superimpose the events in your life or something you feel or something in your childhood onto the song, and you create your own movie," he says. "So when you do a video you might take a little bit of somebody else's movie away from them." He wants the experience to feel like he's "sitting in a bar, talking across the table from somebody and telling them a story."

When he's recording a new album, Mr. McGraw tries not to think about what his label or his manager or radio stations might like. "If you start doing that then you're just going to lose yourself," he says. "I think, 'What do I want to say as an artist? How do I want to make my records?' " Mr. McGraw says that he only worries about what other people think later. "You do have all those feelings, but they usually come after you've made the record and put it out in the world, and then the anxiety of all that comes in," he says.

He also wants people to listen to his albums in their entirety—something fewer listeners do today. "You want to be heard all in context and you want people to…dig deeper into what you do." But he knows that he can't control how his music is consumed, especially at a time when songs increasingly reach listeners through streaming services. "As a musician you can't get caught up in iTunes and Spotify and—what's it? Pandora? I don't know the names of all these things," he adds, shaking his head.

 
John Travolta Doesn’t Regret a Thing

By Marlow Stern

 The iconic actor of films like Saturday Night Fever and Pulp Fiction discusses his new film, The Forger, the media, and those allegations.

John Travolta is an enigma. To cineastes and pop culture enthusiasts, the 60-year-old actor is an intriguing mélange of iconic film performances, bizarre sexual allegations, and that whole Scientology thing. His latest legal entanglement concerns an alleged former pilot who claims the two engaged in a six-year affair and is threatening to unleash a tell-all. And the media silence on the part of the notoriously tight-lipped Travolta, who doesn’t grant too many interviews, only adds to the actor’s overall mystique. One thing that’s undeniable is the man’s resume, including film classics like Carrie, Saturday Night Fever, Blow Out, Pulp Fiction, the list goes on.

 "Everyone has their life that they’ve lived, and I can’t help it. I wear whatever I’ve lived. But I’m an actor that lives in the moment, too. When I looked at Tye, I was pretending that he was my son, and I looked for his organic reaction to me, and vice versa. You can glance at your personal experiences, and it can make you go to a deep level. When I did Saturday Night Fever, my girlfriend had just passed away and I wasn’t aware that I was wearing the grief of her. But in the scene where the girl kisses me in the cheek, I start to cry. Her tenderness made me cry. How much of that had to do with my personal life or not, I don’t know, but there’s always a mix of what you’re wearing as a human being and the literalness of the script."

 
Golfing in British Columbia

 
California breaks heat record since measurements began in 1895

California average temperatures

California breaks heat record since measurements began in 1895

 The average temperature was 62.6 degrees in California over the time period, coming in at 1.1 degrees hotter than the previous high and more than 4 degrees warmer than the 20th century average, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported.

Meanwhile, the state continues to suffer through one of its worst droughts ever and a record-breaking heat wave is forecast for the weekend.

Temperatures across Los Angeles are expected to top out at 100 degrees through Monday.

 
Malibu homes are mercilessly battered by huge waves

water

Malibu homes are mercilessly battered by huge waves

By Jill Reilly

The rich and famous are well-seasoned in dodging the lurking paparazzi in their Malibu haven.

But as these pictures prove, they are currently contending with a bigger threat in their exclusive gated community - their multimillion-dollar homes are getting battered by huge waves which are spilling over into their seaside showplaces.

The erosion of the beach means the celebrities and billionaires who live along the exclusive beach stretch of Malibu Colony are powerless to protect their guarded houses from the forces of nature.

As these photos powerful waves have smashed through glass panels, pulled down fences and destroyed many beach side balconies which are owned by some of the most wealthy and powerful people in the United States.

In recent years, winter storms and rising high tides have reduced the size of the famously long and impressive beach and now the high tides threaten to erode the foundations of the homes along the coast - despite millions already having been spent on a sea wall further along the coast and sand bag defenses. 

Steve Levitan, co-creator of the TV series 'Modern Family,' recalled taking family strolls on the beach when it was 140-foot wide, but said he now plans walks to avoid high tide

 'The homes are certainly in danger. ...There's no beach right now that anyone can enjoy.' 

Steve Levitan, co-creator of the TV series 'Modern Family,' recalled taking family strolls on the beach when it was 140-foot wide, but said he now plans walks to avoid high tide.

With the reduced footage, 'surfers can't get out to the good surf spots, and the homeowners can't get there, either,' he said. 

Residents are proposing a $20 million project to dredge tons of sand and transplant it to restore the dunes and shoreline, both public and private. 

Manhattan Beach blocked plans to use its sand, and residents now are considering using sea-bottom sand from Dockweiler Beach in Los Angeles.

However, the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors has objected, saying the sand might be needed to restore other public beaches as sea levels rise. 

For years, Broad Beach was the subject of feuding between homeowners and the public over access. 

At one point, security guards were hired to patrol the beach, and sunbathers contended they were harassed.

In 2005, 108 property owners took tons of sand from the public beach and packed it up into a berm on their property. 

 
WSJ Opinion: The Secret of Bill Cosby's Success

WSJ Opinion: The Secret of Bill Cosby's Success

Assistant Books Editor Jessica Kasmer-Jacobs on the man who revolutionized American comedy and communicated a powerful social message in the process. 

 
Is Floyd Mayweather Jr. Losing His Touch?

Is Floyd Mayweather Jr. Losing His Touch?

Floyd Mayweather Jr. is still undefeated, but the statistics say that boxing's biggest star—who faces Marcos Maidana in a rematch on Saturday—has been getting hit more in his recent fights.

Although Floyd Mayweather Jr. won his last fight, a majority decision over Marcos Maidana in May, anyone who watched had to notice that the undefeated champion was getting hit—a lot.

Ahead of Saturday night's rematch in Las Vegas, the Count looked at the results of Mayweather's last 11 fights going back to 2006 to determine whether Maidana's success points to an opening in the 37-year-old champion's legendary armor and a sign, perhaps, of growing vulnerability.

In their first bout, Maidana was busy, throwing 858 punches and landing 221, according to CompuBox. Maidana's 221 connections—his overhand hooks at times pummeled Mayweather against the ropes—were nearly 100 more than any of Mayweather's recent opponents since 2006, and the most since Oscar De La Hoya struck him with 122 in their split-decision megabout in 2007.

In fact, in each of his last four fights, Mayweather has been hit increasingly, with opponents landing more than 100 punches each time.

 
Robert Downey Jr.'s son Indio pleads guilty to coke possession - no jail.
 
New Twist in NFL's Ray Rice Probe

New Twist in NFL's Ray Rice Probe

Roger Goodell Was Concerned It Would Be Insensitive to Question Player's Wife's Story, Owner Says

By Kevin Clark

National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell didn't pursue the Ray Rice domestic-violence incident as vigorously as he might have out of respect for Rice's now-wife, Janay, according to one NFL owner.

In conversations about the Rice case over the summer, the owner said, Goodell privately told other owners that during his investigation, in a meeting with the Rices in June, Janay Rice said she had struck her then-fiancée and that she believed she was partly at fault for the incident. Goodell also said he left the meeting believing that Janay Rice had become unconscious because she had fallen during the scuffle.

 
What makes a musical leading lady?

Eva-Maria Westbroek in the lead role in Anna Nicole at the Royal Opera House.

What makes a musical leading lady?

Imelda Marcos, Anna Nicole Smith and Eva Perón are all the subjects of musicals or operas this autumn. Mark Lawson considers what makes a life to sing about.

Mark Lawson

 The word "diva" was co‑opted from opera to refer to powerful women in other fields. But, in three shows being staged this autumn, the metaphor is reversed by turning non-singing high-achieving controversial figures into musical leading ladies.

The story of Imelda Marcos, the 85‑year old former first lady of the Philippines, is told in Here Lies Love, a disco-inspired piece by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, which has its UK premiere at the National Theatre next month; the short and scandalous life of model and actor Anna Nicole Smith (1967-2007) has returned to the Royal Opera House stage in a revival of Mark-Anthony Turnage and Richard Thomas's opera Anna Nicole; and Eva Perón (1919-52), the matriarch of an Argentinian political dynasty, sings and dances with Che Guevara in a new production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita.

Imelda Marcos in 1992

This coincidence raises the question which historical women are worth singing about. It is little surprise that, statistically, Joan of Arc has kindled most creativity in composers, with at least two dozen operas, musicals or song-cycles from talents including Verdi, Tchaikovsky and Bernstein. Fewer, though, would have predicted that so close behind Joan would be Francesca da Rimini, an aristocratic friend of Dante and character in his Divine Comedy, who has subsequently sparked 21 substantial pieces of music, among them works by Rachmaninoff, Rossini and Ambroise Thomas. The 14th-century Galician noblewoman Inês de Castro has also inspired numerous musicians, from Zingarelli to the contemporary James MacMillan.

Marcos, Smith and Perón all improbably reinvented themselves from unpromising starts. Born into poor families, they achieved astonishing – and, in each case, legally contested – wealth by marrying powerful or rich men. The three women had all at some point made their living as actors and models and, in their public lives, went beyond even the status of supermodel to become a sort of hypermodel.

Eva Peron

Most curiously, this trio of divas have all been involved in corpse-related oddities. Perón's body was embalmed and, following a trend set by Lenin, kept on public display. However, following the removal of her widower in a military coup, the remains were spirited away by the army and buried in Milan under a pseudonymous gravestone. When the Perónistas returned to power, Eva was exhumed and displayed for some time on a platform in the home of her husband.

A similar posthumous constancy was shown by Marcos, who kept her stuffed hubby in the basement of the family house in a refrigerated glass casket which, in a photo-op ghoulish even by political standards, she was pictured kissing when announcing one of her bids to run for office. The title of Here Lies Love is taken from a remark Imelda made when contemplating her husband's dead body.

Smith, found dead in a hotel room at 39, was less lucky with her after-death, reportedly decomposing with such unusual rapidity – possibly due to the volume of drugs that the autopsy discovered in her body – that, unusually for an American Protestant funeral, she was displayed in a closed casket. These obsequies are routine, however, in comparison with those of that frequent musical heroine Inês de Castro, whose body was exhumed and crowned queen by her grief-stricken royal lover, with the court reputedly ordered to kiss her decaying hand.

 
Did the CIA Support the Overthrow of Chile's Government 40 Years Ago?

Reuters

Did the CIA Support the Overthrow of Chile's Government 40 Years Ago?

Uri Friedman

An interview with a retired agent reveals details about the death of Salvador Allende in September of 1973.

Forty-one years ago—on September 11, 1973—Chile's socialist president, Salvador Allende, was overthrown in a coup. He committed suicide under mysterious circumstances as troops surrounded his palace, ushering in more than 15 years of military dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet. Since that time, the CIA has acknowledged knowledge of—but not involvement in—the plot. The agency "was aware of coup-plotting by the military, had ongoing intelligence collection relationships with some plotters, and—because CIA did not discourage the takeover and had sought to instigate a coup in 1970—probably appeared to condone it," the CIA writes in a history of its operations in the South American country. (Declassified documents reveal how the Nixon administration instructed the agency to undermine Allende's government and "make the economy scream.")

Jack Devine was a CIA agent in Chile at the time of the coup. In an interview with Atlantic contributing editor and Efecto Naim host Moisés Naím, he discusses the CIA's role in the insurrection and in supporting the opposition to Allende. Of the decision not to stop the coup, Devine claims the agency's instructions came from the White House, which was occupied at the time by Richard Nixon. "That is a Washington policy decision, that is not a CIA decision," he says.

 
Adam Sandler Talks

The comedy star flexes his dramatic muscle in The Cobbler. He sits down with Marlow Stern in Toronto to discuss why the critics hate him, Chris Farley’s brilliance, and more

Sandler: 'I'm Filled with Hate'

By Marlow Stern

In person, the comedy megastar is pretty much how you’d expect him to be—affable, soft-spoken, and a tad reticent, perhaps even shy judging by his shaky legs. He’s dressed in his de facto uniform of an oversized T-shirt, shorts, and sneakers. It’s this wardrobe, coupled with his easygoing nature, that’s made him the blue-collar king of comedy. “I grew up knowing that [blue-collar] world, and I’m not the best-looking human on the planet, but I can get by,” says Sandler with a chuckle.

 
Mitt Romney: Third time's the charm?

Third time's the charm

By ROBERT C. O'BRIEN and HUGH HEWITT

In early June 1964, a group of Republican governors sought to wrestle control of their party from Barry Goldwater, the Arizona conservative who was about to lead the GOP to one of the most crushing defeats in its history. The governors saw a disaster in the making, and sought a moderate candidate who could capture the imaginations of grassroots Republicans—but also beat President Lyndon Johnson in the general election. Led by Ohio’s James Rhodes—the Republican Governors Association was meeting in Cleveland, and Rhodes was a legendary vote counter—the group included Pennsylvania’s William Scranton and later New York’s Nelson Rockefeller.

When Richard Nixon spurned their advances—after losing to John F. Kennedy in 1960, he had gone on to lose the California governor’s race in 1962 and was licking his wounds and perhaps already setting his sights on 1968—the group turned to Michigan’s George Romney, who considered the overture and then rejected it. Former President Dwight Eisenhower was on the fringes of the group—pushing but not dictating, afraid that Goldwater’s nomination would lead to the electoral doom, which it did.

Fast forward 50 years, and the two of us—both Romney supporters in 2012, with Hewitt openly supporting his election on the air and O’Brien as part of the campaign team—repeatedly, indeed inevitably, receive the same question when sitting down with politically active center-right conservatives, especially contributors who drive a lot of the early positioning of the GOP field: “Is Mitt running?”

.............................................

As with all things Romney, he meant what he said—that he thinks there are stronger candidates out there right now, but that circumstances can change. Pundits are left to speculate: What constitutes changed circumstances, and what would Romney do if confronted with the same choice his father faced in 1964? George Romney was a man whose word was his bond. He had committed to Michigan voters that he would finish his term, and that pledge held him back in 1964. No such chain binds Mitt Romney, and a close reading of his remarks on Aug. 26 suggest the 2012 nominee knows his father’s history and the consequences of a refusal by a strong nominee to step up when called upon for the good of the party and the country.

 
U.S. threatened massive fine to force Yahoo to release data

U.S. threatened massive fine to force Yahoo to release data

The U.S. government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day in 2008 if it failed to comply with a broad demand to hand over user communications — a request the company believed was unconstitutional — according to court documents unsealed Thursday that illuminate how federal officials forced American tech companies to participate in the National Security Agency’s controversial PRISM program.

The documents, roughly 1,500 pages worth, outline a secret and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle by Yahoo to resist the government’s demands. The company’s loss required Yahoo to become one of the first to begin providing information to PRISM, a program that gave the NSA extensive access to records of online com­munications by users of Yahoo and other U.S.-based technology firms.

The ruling by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review became a key moment in the development of PRISM, helping government officials to convince other Silicon Valley companies that unprecedented data demands had been tested in the courts and found constitutionally sound. Eventually, most major U.S. tech companies, including Google, Facebook, Apple and AOL, complied. Microsoft had joined earlier, before the ruling, NSA documents have shown.

 
How Obama Became the Oil President

By Michael Klare

He once talked of plans to reduce oil consumption—now the US drills more than ever. What happened?

Considering all the talk about global warming, peak oil, carbon divestment, and renewable energy, you'd think that oil consumption in the United States would be on a downward path. By now, we should certainly be witnessing real progress toward a post-petroleum economy. As it happens, the opposite is occurring. US oil consumption is on an upward trajectory, climbing by 400,000 barrels per day in 2013 alone—and, if current trends persist, it should rise again both this year and next.

In other words, oil is back. Big time. Signs of its resurgence abound. Despite what you may think, Americans, on average, are driving more miles every day, not fewer, filling ever more fuel tanks with ever more gasoline, and evidently feeling ever less bad about it. The stigma of buying new gas-guzzling SUVs, for instance, seems to have vanished; according to CNN Money, nearly one out of three vehicles sold today is an SUV. As a result of all this, America's demand for oil grew more than China's in 2013, the first time that's happened since 1999.

Accompanying all this is a little noticed but crucial shift in White House rhetoric. While President Obama once spoke of the necessity of eliminating our reliance on petroleum as a major source of energy, he now brags about rising US oil output and touts his efforts to further boost production.

Just five years ago, few would have foreseen such a dramatic oil rebound. Many energy experts were then predicting an imminent "peak" in global oil production, followed by an irreversible decline in output. With supplies constantly shrinking, it was said, oil prices would skyrocket and consumers would turn to hybrid vehicles, electric cars, biofuels, and various transportation alternatives. New government policies would be devised to facilitate this shift, providing tax breaks and other incentives for making the switch to renewables.

 
The Benefits of Bad Relationships

The Benefits of Bad Relationships

By Mark B. Borg, Jr., Ph.D, Grant H. Brenner, MD, and Daniel Berry, RN, MHA

A truly intimate relationship is a deep, free, and responsive connection with another person who really matters to us. But when the other person matters a great deal to us, we also feel vulnerable to injury, rejection, and abandonment. Some people attempt to protect themselves from these experiences by forming what we call irrelationship.

 
Hollywood 'biased against gay actors'

Hollywood 'biased against gay actors'

Ben Child

Brokeback Mountain

More than 50% of acting union members consulted by UCLA academics say film-makers are biased against LGBT performers

The report from the Williams Institute, a thinktank on gay issues at UCLA, also found that more than 50% of respondents had heard directors and producers make anti-gay comments about actors. A third of gay respondents said they had witnessed disrespectful treatment of LGBT performers on set, while one in eight non-LGBT performers had seen gay actors treated poorly.

While 53% of lesbian and gay actors were “out” to all or most of their fellow actors, the report found that only 36% had revealed to agents they were gay, and only 13% had told industry executives. One-fifth of gay male respondents and 13% of lesbians said they had experienced discrimination in the work environment.

“We found that LGBT performers may have substantial barriers to overcome in their search for jobs,” said the authors of the study, the UCLA academics MV Lee Badgett, and Jody L Herman. However, 72% of gay or lesbian performers who had openly disclosed their sexuality said it had not affected their careers and would encourage others to do the same.

 
Is It Peacetime or Wartime in America?

Is It Peacetime or Wartime in America?

Obama is losing his battle with perpetual conflict.

By Uri Friedman

Barack Obama delivered a bewildering speech on Wednesday. The pledge to "destroy" the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria; the deployment of U.S. troops to do just that; the flag-flanked, sober-sounding president addressing the American people behind a podium in prime-time—all appeared to amount to a declaration of war.

But Obama never used the word "war" to describe his decision to launch airstrikes against ISIS and provide military assistance to regional forces fighting the extremist group. When he employed the w-word, it was to clarify what this is not. It's not "another ground war in Iraq." It's not Afghanistan. It's a "counterterrorism campaign" to "take out ISIL wherever they exist." Obama didn't say how long the campaign would take, or how we'll know when its mission is accomplished.

The effect was to thoroughly blur the boundary between peacetime and wartime. And maybe that was on purpose. After all, it was less than a year and a half ago that Obama promised, in an address at National Defense University, to remove America from the "perpetual war footing" it had assumed since the September 11 attacks. On Wednesday night, he seemingly tried to honor that pledge while simultaneously preparing the country for military operations against ISIS. Did the president announce a war? A military action? Targeted strikes? Are there meaningful differences between these terms? It's not all that clear.

In the 13 years since 9/11, Americans have grown accustomed to the ambiguity of U.S. efforts to deter, disrupt, and preempt the threats posed by a shape-shifting cast of terrorist groups. The ebbs and flows of America's inexorable counterterrorism campaigns have produced a tangled web of terminology.
 
Skills Gap Bumps Up Against Vocational Taboo

Skills Gap Bumps Up Against Vocational Taboo

The Obama administration and governors from Michigan to South Carolina have a solution for some of the U.S. manufacturing sector's woes: German-style apprenticeship programs. But American firms are reluctant to buy in.

The Obama administration and governors from Michigan to South Carolina have a solution for some of the U.S. manufacturing sector's woes: German-style apprenticeship programs.

But their success is proving to be unusually one-sided, mostly drawing firms based in Germany and other non-U.S. countries. In South Carolina, "Apprenticeship 2000," a program combining classroom work and on-the-job training, has drawn numerous German companies but so far only two U.S. firms, Ameritech Die & Mold Inc. and Timken Co.

In Michigan, where Republican Gov. Rick Snyder promised last year to "Americanize" the German model in his state, almost three-fourths of the participants are firms based overseas, mostly in Germany.

Both the White House and governors are trying to fight a so-called skills gap among U.S. workers that many businesses blame for the slow labor-market recovery. Although plenty of Americans are looking for work, employers often lament a lack of qualified workers—particularly young people.

Germany, in contrast, has a long record of finding a stronger fit between employees' skills and employers' demands. The success is reflected in a youth unemployment below 8%, the lowest of any advanced country and about half of the U.S. level. The apprenticeship system is credited as a leading driver of what many European economists call the German labor-market "miracle."

"Vocational training is a well-recognized career in Germany that offers good income opportunities, whereas in the U.S. it is often associated with people who did poor at high school," said Robert Lerman, an American University economics professor who studies apprenticeships.

Unlike in the U.S., where workers are largely hired and then trained for a company's particular needs, German vocational training normally takes three years and is supposed to give apprentices a broader qualification beyond a single employer's needs.

 
Arabs Give Tepid Support to U.S. Fight Against ISIS

Arabs Give Tepid Support to U.S. Fight Against ISIS

Many Arab governments grumbled quietly in 2011 as the United States left Iraq, fearful it might fall deeper into chaos or Iranian influence. Now, the United States is back and getting a less than enthusiastic welcome, with leading allies like Egypt, Jordan and Turkey all finding ways on Thursday to avoid specific commitments to President Obama’s expanded military campaign against Sunni extremists.

As the prospect of the first American strikes inside Syria crackled through the region, the mixed reactions underscored the challenges of a new military intervention in the Middle East, where 13 years of chaos, from Sept. 11 through the Arab Spring revolts, have deepened political and sectarian divisions and increased mistrust of the United States on all sides.

“As a student of terrorism for the last 30 years, I am afraid of that formula of ‘supporting the American effort,’ ” said Diaa Rashwan, a scholar at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, a government-funded policy organization in Cairo. “It is very dangerous.”

The tepid support could further complicate the already complex task Mr. Obama has laid out for himself in fighting the extremist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria: He must try to confront the group without aiding Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, or appearing to side with Mr. Assad’s Shiite allies, Iran and the militant group Hezbollah, against discontented Sunnis across the Arab world.

While Arab nations allied with the United States vowed on Thursday to “do their share” to fight ISIS and issued a joint communiqué supporting a broad strategy, the underlying tone was one of reluctance. The government perhaps most eager to join a coalition against ISIS was that of Syria, which Mr. Obama had already ruled out as a partner for what he described as terrorizing its citizens.

 
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