Discussion Post: Week 3
At last, our first round of presentations is underway! What did you think about the presentations you have seen so far? Was it what you expected? Did you pick up any techniques that you can use in your future presentations (or, for that matter, anything that you want to be sure not to do)? And for those of you who already delivered Presentation I, how was the experience? What would you like your peers to know about your preparation and the presentation itself?
Andy Roddick’s run at the U.S. Open finally ended on Wednesday, as a rain-delayed four-set loss to Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro — 6-7 (1-7), 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, 6-4 — finished his career. As we discussed last week, Roddick announced that this tournament would be his last, so this loss effectively closed the book on his time as a professional tennis player. Roddick was one of the most consistent players in the game, holding a top-ten ranking nine years in a row, and was indubitably the top American man for most of the past decade.
Over the course of his career, Roddick made it to a total of five Grand Slam finals but had the misfortune of losing four of them to Roger Federer, his nemesis and the man currently ranked #1 in the world. In fact, while the shining moment of Roddick’s career was probably the only Grand Slam tournament he won (the 2003 U.S. Open), many say that his best match was the tremendous 2009 Wimbledon final against Federer, where Roddick fell short in a marathon 5-7, 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 16-14 defeat.
Roddick’s runner-up finish in 2009 was especially painful since it was his third time losing to Federer in a Wimbledon final. To add insult to injury, Federer needed two tiebreaks in the second and third sets to claim victory. (In fact, Roddick held a 6-2 lead for quadruple set point in the second set tiebreak, but proceeded to drop six points in a row.) The historic match was, based on the number of games (77), “the longest Wimbledon final of all time, plus the longest final played at any of the four majors, and the 30-game fifth set was the longest played in a title-match at the majors.” Federer’s narrow victory made him a legend, giving him a record 15th Grand Slam title (Pete Sampras had 14), but it certainly makes one wonder what Roddick could have accomplished had he not competed in the same era as the most successful tennis player of all time.
In any case, meeting del Potro at the U.S. Open was probably a fitting way for Roddick to end his career. Roddick’s only major win, remember, was at that very site nine years ago. That was the last Grand Slam win by an American man. Roddick was also the last American on the men’s side of the tournament this year. Then we look to the other side of the court. Since the 2005 French Open, only one man not named Federer, Rafael Nadal, or Novak Djokovic has won a single major. That man was Juan Martin del Potro, who took home the 2009 U.S. Open title. The last American to win a men’s singles major title, playing the last match of his career against the last guy outside the top three to bring home a major of his own.
Roddick’s powerful first serve left him as Tuesday’s match dragged on, as it had many times in the toughest matches of his career, but he nonetheless made del Potro fight for every last point even as the outcome grew certain. Many players would have leapt in jubilation at reaching the U.S. Open quarterfinals, but del Potro had been quiet and classy throughout the match; he maintained that spirit afterward, pointing to Roddick and ushering the retiree back onto the court for the last standing ovation of his tennis career. Instead of basking in the glory from his win, the reserved del Potro merely stood behind the sidelines and joined in the applause. All in all, it was a touching farewell for Roddick at the end of a marvelous career.
Moving forward, the men’s semifinal match between Djokovic and David Ferrer was suspended late in the first set due to the impending threat of severe weather. With Djokovic uncharacteristically out of sorts and Ferrer up 5-2 in the set, the stadium was hurriedly evacuated in advance of a line of storms. The winner of the Djokovic-Ferrer showdown will face Andy Murray, who overcame swirling, disruptive winds as well as his opponent, Tomas Berdych, to win in four grueling sets. The winds were so bad that play was interrupted repeatedly due to garbage and other objects flying onto the court. At one point, a chair full of clothing and equipment toppled onto the court just as Berdych was launching his serve, which forced the point to be replayed. One has to feel for Berdych, who pulled off a shocking upset over top-ranked Federer in the quarterfinals just to reach yesterday’s semifinal. The wind seemed to affect him much more than Murray, especially since his playing style relies so much more on powerful serves. (One of his first serves was a laughable 77 mph, which was just more than half of his first serve speed through most of the tournament.)
The women’s draw will feature a high-profile final later today between American Serena Williams, who has taken the tennis world by storm once again after recovering from a life-threatening blood blot and a series of injuries, and Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who is currently ranked #1 in the world. Their final, like the Djokovic-Ferrer semifinal match, was postponed from its scheduled start yesterday by the inclement weather. Although Azarenka is technically the favorite by ranking, most expect Williams to make quick work of her, noting that her #4 ranking is still climbing after taking a massive hit from her year out of professional tennis. Perhaps the headline by Lindsay Sakraida of New York Magazine says it best: “Serena Williams Vs. Somebody Else in US Open Final.”
Oh, that’s right — football season is starting, isn’t it? The Dallas Cowboys traveled to New York and took down the Giants 24-17 in the league’s season opener on Wednesday; everyone else is starting today or tomorrow night. As nice as it is to start the season without the labor disputes that threatened 2011-12, this season is starting under its own cloud of controversy. Avid football fans already know about the “bounty” scandal, in which New Orleans Saints players were offered performance-based bonuses over the course of the past three seasons. This violated NFL rules on salary caps, but more disturbingly, the program allegedly included bonuses for intentionally injuring opposing players. It’s especially troubling given the flood of evidence over the past few years that football players’ bodies and minds are irreparably damaged by the constant barrage of crushing hits and concussions.
Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams — who apparently also operated a similar program with the Washington Redskins from 2004-07 — was suspended indefinitely (he can apply for reinstatement at the end of the 2012-13 season, at the earliest), while head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire 2012-13 season. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis was hit with an eight-game ban, while assistant head coach Joe Vitt earned a suspension without pay for the first six games of the year. The organization was also hit with a number of fines and lost several future NFL draft picks.
But the story doesn’t stop there. Most at the managerial level lodged minimal protest against the sanctions, but some of the players involved in the bounty scandal fought back against their own suspensions. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who was supposedly one of the bounty program’s ringleaders, was banned for the entire 2012-13 season, while three other defensive players were suspended for between three and eight games based on their respective roles. The four promptly appealed their punishments, and in a stunning development, a three-member arbitration panel overturned commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision, forestalling the implementation of any sanctions against the players. The panel did not dispute any of the claims made by investigators, but effectively told Goodell to “reconsider the punishment” as being unnecessarily harsh given the players’ respective roles in the program. Trimmed-down sanctions are surely in the works, but the appeal does guarantee that the players will at least be eligible to play in the first week of the season. However, some are concerned that this could re-open last year’s conflict as a new rift between players and league management, particularly given that this was such a rare victory for the NFL Players Association against a league that has otherwise doled out suspensions where they want, how they want, and when they want, with questionable degrees of consistency. Much will become clear about that relationship over the next few weeks.
In the political realm, things haven’t gotten any kinder between rivals Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, who traded barbs in the lead-up to the Democratic National Convention. The event began with testimonials by Michelle Obama and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, the latter of whom was the first Latino to deliver the keynote address. (We could see more of Castro in the future, as the DNC keynote is often a launching pad of sorts for Democrats. Consider the 2004 keynote, for instance, which was delivered by a little-known Illinois senator named Obama.) Former president Bill Clinton was also among those speaking for Obama, an endorsement that Romney promptly tried to use against him. (On the other hand, the Romney endorsement that grabbed the most headlines last week came from a new Nicki Minaj song.) Still, Romney has spent much of his time over the past few weeks preparing for the nationally televised debates against Obama.
Of course, Obama’s chief audience wasn’t in the crowd, as he had to rely on technology to reach the critical undecided voters who will likely decide this election. It’s reminiscent of the social media campaign strategy he used in 2008 to tap into the younger voting demographic. But some were disappointed with Obama’s nomination acceptance speech (which had its location moved at the last minute — like the Republican National Convention, weather played a role). After all, Obama had promised key policy details in his speech, noting (as I did last week) that Romney offered very little information about what he would actually do if elected president. Obama’s policy details, however, also never emerged, much to the chagrin of many who were hoping that he would close the deal and halt Romney’s momentum in the polls. It’s little wonder that some analysts are tired of hearing Obama blame the economy on his predecessor and still want to know what he is going to do about it beyond the “hope and change” tagline.
However, many Democrats blamed those Republicans currently sitting in Congress for the still-stagnant U.S. economy, arguing that those on the right side of the aisle are in fact inhibiting Obama’s power to push a recovery forward. It was a subject on which Obama preferred to allow others to take the lead during the convention, which is understandable given the declining growth and soaring national debt over the past several years. Economists, however, are divided on how bad the situation really is. Some have likened our economic state to a “death spiral” from which the country may not be able to recover. Others claim that there are still positive economic indicators, so we’re unlikely to see a landslide like that of the 1980 election, when Ronald Reagan took advantage of the devastating economic decline at the end of Jimmy Carter’s presidency. Obama’s team also argued that the country is, in fact, better off than it was four years ago in the wake of the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac subprime loan crisis. They also noted other key accomplishments that came during Obama’s presidency, like the killing of infamous al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
During the DNC, former Ohio governor Ted Strickland argued that Romney lacks “economic patriotism” based on his overseas investments and the labor outsourcing while he headed Bain Capital. Democrats have also challenged Romney on his apparently flexible abortion stance. In the meantime, though, Obama has had surprising difficulty keeping pace with Romney’s fundraising, and while the incumbent’s job approval rating is at a 15-month high in the wake of the DNC, he otherwise hasn’t seen the typical bounce in the polls from his party’s convention. It’s possible that he may receive a late bump after the convention, but at present the two candidates are effectively neck-and-neck.
There’s been some further international turmoil in the past week, as well. The Taliban launched a deadly attack on a U.S. military base in Afghanistan on September 1, killing 12 people and injuring 60 with a truck bomb detonated near the base. Two Afghan policemen and ten civilians were slain, while two U.S. soldiers and 58 others were wounded by the blast. Local authorities indicated that the attacks were clearly targeted at the base, even if most of the harm was done to Afghanis. Furthermore, there have been 34 “insider attacks” by Afghan soldiers and police officers on their domestic and international comrades during this year, with 12 of those coming in August alone. Given that 45 international soldiers have been killed by the very militia members they were trying to train, the U.S. military decided to suspend training for Afghanistan’s local police and special operations forces for at least a month while they review the attacks and the vetting process for recruiting new members. While those divisions only account for about 7% of the country’s security forces, and while the hold on training is only temporary, it still demonstrates the deeper effect of these attacks.
The Israel-Iran conflict also remains tense, with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu calling for the international community to give Iran a “clear red line” after last week’s news that the country has taken further substantial steps toward nuclear arms development. While Iran’s leaders say that its nuclear program is purely peaceful, most of the western world has dismissed it as a bogus claim given the international aggression the country has long shown, including numerous calls for Israel’s annihilation.
Still, while Israeli leaders say that continued apathy by the international community may force them to attack Iran in self-defense, the Obama administration has voiced opposition to such unilateral action, with General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, saying that he would not want to be “complicit” in such a strike by their longtime allied nation. After all, he said, such a move would likely cause a spike in gasoline prices and inevitably draw U.S. troops into the conflict during this election year. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, on the other hand, said that he felt the comments were largely political rhetoric and that he believed the U.S. would join its ally if an attack on Iran became necessary. The diplomatic confusion has left some calling this a victory for Iran against the western world, which has long tried to restrict its access to nuclear arms. Iran’s top military advisor, Major-General Yahya Rahim Safavi, also said that any attack on Iran would provoke immediate retaliation.
Let’s lighten things up a bit. Are you an avid consumer of organic meat and produce? Maybe you don’t need to be. Scientists at Stanford University examined four decades of research on organic fruits, vegetables, and meat products, and found no nutritional advantage from going organic instead of eating conventional food products, a finding which surprised the researchers. That has spurred renewed debate over whether organic food is really a healthier option for those who want to avoid synthetic pesticides, hormones and additives, or whether it is little more than a marketing tool that artificially inflates prices. The study did note that conventional food products tended to have traces of pesticide residue, although its authors downplayed that finding, noting that such traces “were almost always under the allowed safety limits.” Advocates for organic food immediately called out the research team for not focusing more on that issue, saying that pesticides are the very reason why many people go organic, regardless of whether conventional pesticide use falls within somewhat arbitrarily devised limits. After all, they say, “it doesn’t make a lot of sense to assume the application of pesticides would have much impact on a fruit’s vitamin content. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t safer to eat.”
On the other side of the health spectrum, a pair of baffling studies in the European Heart Journal indicated that not only is it possible to be obese and heart-healthy, but in fact, patients with heart disease may find that obesity actually reduces their risk of death, a phenomenon termed the “obesity paradox.” Still, while it’s possible to be obese and yet have good cardiovascular health, “relatively few people are,” and the behaviors which help fend off heart disease almost inevitable result in shedding pounds, as well, so the “obesity paradox” isn’t the boon that some might wish. According to the Center for Disease Control, 36 million Americans have out-of-control blood pressure. 67 million have what would be called high blood pressure, and over 20% of them (14 million) aren’t even aware of their condition.
On a completely unrelated note, the State Fair of Texas crowned the winners of its annual Big Tex Choice Awards, a culinary contest in which the only requirement is that everything must be fried. Butch Benavides’ fried bacon-wrapped cinnamon roll won the award for most creative dish, while the best-tasting dish was prepared by Abel Gonzales, Jr. for his deep-fried jambalaya. Gonzales, the “Friar of Fried,” has taken home multiple prizes at Big Tex in the past for such masterpieces as his fried cookie dough, fried Coke, and fried butter. Yum!
If you thought we already knew everything about the human genome, think again. Geneticists are finding that our genetic structure is far more complex than we believed just a decade ago, particularly since bit of DNA that were previously considered disposable “junk” increasingly appear to play essential roles. Apparently these DNA fragments are loaded with over four million “switches” that essentially dictate how tissues and organs behave, which may explain such puzzling cases as why one individual may suffer from severe cancer or depression while an identical twin remains completely healthy. This realization is quickly leading researchers to identify key links between genes and diseases that were once shrouded in mystery, as evidenced in a set of publications within the scientific journal Nature that culminate in the most detailed map of our genome ever constructed.
In contrast with the excitement among geneticists, the tech world has been rather subdued over the past week in the wake of a strange hacking scandal surrounding Apple and, oddly enough, the FBI. The Operation AntiSec hacking movement, a joint effort by the notorious Anonymous and the hackers of LulzSec, released a set of 1,000,001 Apple Unique Device Identifiers (UDIDs) that they claimed to have obtained by hacking an FBI agent’s laptop. The hackers also said that their release was only a small portion of the 12 million they actually snagged. These UDIDs are unique serial numbers for every Apple device that can be used to track user activity, a practice which evidently spurred Operation AntiSec to take action. Numerous media outlets acted to warn consumers about the breach, particularly given what Operation AntiSec’s hackers or other unscrupulous individuals could do with the data; there are now step-by-step guides on how to check if the UDID for one of your devices was among those released. (There’s no way to know if any UDID was one of the 11 million withheld, of course.)
But not so fast. Apple and the FBI denied any such breach of data, saying that there was no evidence to support AntiSec’s claims. The FBI said that none of their computers showed any evidence of being compromised, while Apple added that they never gave any UDIDs to the FBI (or any other organization, for that matter). Still, if Apple had disclosed UDIDs to an outside party, this wouldn’t be the first time that a company tried to downplay a security breach. (See my commentary on the PlayStation Network breach earlier this year.) And sure, the FBI says that it hasn’t seen any evidence of a breach, but that could just mean that the hackers did a good job covering their tracks. Many media commentators and security professionals alike still believe that the FBI did indeed fall prey to a phishing attack. If it’s true, AntiSec certainly uncovered some strange activity between the federal agency and Apple.
A major cheating scandal has rocked the foundations of Harvard University in the past two weeks. On August 30, The Harvard Crimson reported a shocking cheating scandal that ensnared almost half of the 279 students enrolled in last spring’s freshman-level “Introduction to Congress” course. All of the incriminated students submitted very similar answers on the final take-home exam, clearly indicating either inappropriate collaboration or outright plagiarism of others’ responses. In short, they copied each other’s answers. University officials quickly condemned the 125 students’ actions, saying that they “represent totally unacceptable behavior that betrays the trust upon which intellectual inquiry at Harvard depends.” They also announced that the university is looking into instituting an honor code to supplement their official policies, which state that students must “assume that collaboration in the completion of assignments is prohibited unless explicitly permitted by the instructor.” Harvard hasn’t had an honor code at any point in its 400-year existence (at least, as far as anyone knows), but this incident is making administrators consider whether the university needs one now.
Some have lauded Harvard’s idea to create an honor code to which incoming students must agree, saying that while it requires consistent effort to make it successful, such systems have great benefits for any university. Advocates for an honor code note that while they are rare — only about 100 college campuses in the U.S. have one — and while they only have an impact where students can feel the palpable history and tradition behind the academic environment into which they are entering, Harvard and other Ivy League schools have the sort of culture where an honor code can be effective. Others, however, say that the problem is much deeper than what an honor code can resolve, particularly given the widespread belief among many students today that “the main objective should be to pass, not to learn.” If all that matters is passing, they say, then it doesn’t matter if you forego learning by cheating your way through. As long as you pay tuition for four years, you’ve “purchased” your degree and are entitled to it. Honor code critics argue that we must “[a]ddress the pressure-cooker culture at Harvard and Yale; address the perception that grades are somehow correlated with moral worth; address the prevalent I’ll-just-do-it-at-the-last-minute attitude.” It’s not about having an honor code in print, but about ingraining it in the students and the university themselves, distinct from any written mandate. College, after all, is meant to be about building skills, knowledge, and maturity, not about building a transcript.
Let’s go back overseas for a bit. McDonald’s is planning to open two new franchises in India next year. The catch: these franchises won’t serve meat. At all. McDonald’s already has a few other locations in India, where most of the population is either Hindu or Muslim, and those restaurants don’t serve beef or pork because of the dietary restrictions of those religions, but these will be the burger chain’s first fully vegetarian restaurants. That means no chicken nuggets or fish sandwiches, either. In lieu of meat products, the vegetarian locations will likely serve some combination of the vegetarian products already in its other stores as well as new items made especially for these venues. Expect the McAloo Tikki burger, the top-selling item at the existing Indian McDonald’s locations, to be a big hit at the new locations as well. (The McAloo Tikki features a fried potato patty at its core, and it alone is responsible for a quarter of McDonald’s sales in India.)
Last Sunday, Joan and Robert Vanderhorst of California were preparing to depart on their flight home from Newark with their 16-year-old son, Bede. When they prepared to enter the American Airlines gate to take their first-class seats, however, airline staff stopped the family forbid them to board, since they deemed Bede a flight risk.
You see, Bede suffers from Down Syndrome, and American Airlines representative said that he was running around agitatedly and without regard to others prior to the flight. As the Vanderhorsts have described his condition, he may be 16 years old, but he behaves like a “4 or 5 year old.” According to the representative, staff members tried to calm him down and make him comfortable beforehand, but that they were unable to do so. In order to protect the safety of their other passengers, they had to make the difficult decision to prevent the family from boarding. So the three were transferred to a later flight on United Airlines, which the family took home.
The Vanderhorsts, however, paint a very different picture. They said that Bede was calmly playing with a baseball cap in his chair before the flight, and showed a smartphone video that his mother took as proof. According to them, the airline simply didn’t like the fact that their tickets were for first-class, which was why they moved the family to the later flight — their first-class upgrade was not applied to the later flight. They believe that had they held economy tickets, the staff would have had no problem with them boarding. Consequently, they’re planning to sue the airline over discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was expanded in 2009 to include airline regulations.
On a very different subject, we have the 36-year-old man who got into an argument at a party on September 1. In the least intelligent moment of his life, Adris McCullough of Detroit retrieved a gun and returned to open fire on the partygoers. Two men were seriously wounded, and two others died.
About two hours after the incident, McCullough went to the local fire station “and indicated that he was connected to the shooting.” In other words, he turned himself in, expecting that the police would come and haul him away.
But no one showed up. McCullough waited patiently — well, as patiently as someone can wait to be arrested for a double homicide — and no police officers came. Eventually, McCullough decided that he was tired of waiting to be thrown in jail, so he left the fire station and drove to a police station, where he surrendered himself as a murdered for the second time that day.
As the police explained in a statement, “Due to area patrol units being busy handling high priority runs, no units were dispatched to the location.” One wonders what the entire police force was doing that was more important than arresting a double murderer, but hey.
Given that Detroit’s police force has undergone major cutbacks due to budget issues, reporters naturally asked representatives about the adequacy of their staffing. They gave no comment.
Other articles of interest:
Bomber Kills at Least 20 at Afghan Funeral
Judge to Fort Hood suspect: Shave or be shaved
Magnitude 7.6 Quake Knocks Out Power in Costa Rica’s Capital
Why does Social Security need 174,000 bullets?
‘It was a Katrina for some,’ says Louisiana senator, as displaced residents question preparedness
U.S. officials sound worldwide alert for Yosemite hantavirus risk
Thalidomide victims: German drugmaker’s apology not enough
Indiana Teacher Evaluations Law Will Add To School Principals’ Workloads
FAMU suspends dance team after hazing reports
Joe Paterno’s FBI file reveals threatening letters
Tulane’s Devon Walker breaks neck
Nats shut down Stephen Strasburg
Michael Strahan makes debut as ‘Live! With Kelly’ co-host; After months of searching, Kelly Ripa taps ex-Giants star for seat
More to Love in Southwest Airlines
Ahead of the Bell: Facebook up on Zuck pledge
Amazon refreshes Kindle lineup, including 3 new Fire models
Upset! iPhone 4S surrenders U.S. crown to Galaxy S3
Cambodia will deport Pirate Bay co-founder to Sweden
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII announced by Square Enix
Voyager 1 Reaches Pocket of Calm at Solar System’s Edge
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