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Amputee runner Oscar Pistorius wins appeal
By COLLEEN BARRY, Associated Press Writer
MILAN, Italy (AP)His Olympic dream suddenly revived, Oscar
Pistorius can get back to what he loves mostrunning.
The double-amputee sprinter from South Africa was cleared Friday to
compete in his bid to qualify for the Beijing Games.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned a ruling by the
International Association of Athletics Federations that barred the
21-year-old runner from the Olympics and any other able-bodied
competition because of his prosthetic racing blades.
Pistorius broke into a broad smile to a roomful of applause when the
decision was announced. He reached toward his manager, Peet van Zyl,
for a victory handshake.
"I am ecstatic," Pistorius said. "When I found out I was crying. It
is a battle that has been going on for far too long. It's a great
day for sport. I think this day is going to go down in history for
the equality of disabled people."
He is the first to acknowledge it will be a challenge to make it to
the Aug. 8-24 Beijing Games. He holds the 400-meter Paralympic world
record of 46.56, but must reach the qualifying time of 45.55 to
compete in the individual event in Beijing.
"My hopes are very big for the Olympics for 2008," Pistorius
said. "I think the time period at the moment is very short.
Obviously, I have the opportunity, so I am not going to let it go
but it is going to be very difficult in order to run those times."
However, Pistorius also could be invited to join the South African
relay team, which would not require him to qualify.
"We are very much hopeful that he will be part and parcel of our
team," said Leonard Chuene, president of Athletics South Africa.
If Pistorius does go to the Olympics, he will be competing alongside
another amputee South African athlete: Natalie du Toit, who
qualified for Beijing in open-water swimming.
Pistorius was born without fibulasthe long, thin outer bone between
the knee and ankleand was 11 months old when his legs were
amputated below the knee.
"Oscar Pistorius is a determined and gutsy athlete who will now no
doubt put all his energy into reaching the qualification standards
for the Olympic Games," the International Olympic Committee said in
a statement. "If he makes it we would be delighted to welcome him."
Pistorius will resume training in South Africa on Monday, before
returning to Europe on May 28. Van Zyl said Pistorius will be
running in able-bodied races July 2 in Milan and July 11 at the
Golden Gala in Rome, and that many other offers have been coming in.
"A lot of the time we've had this year we've devoted to the court
case," Pistorius said. "Now when I get home my time can be dedicated
to training. I am going to have to start thinking about getting my
body in shape in order to run those (qualifying) times. I am hopeful
there will be enough time but it is going to be very difficult."
Regardless of whether he runs in the Olympics, Pistorius plans to
compete in Beijing at the Sept. 6-17 Paralympics. He will prepare by
running in disabled events in the Netherlands and Germany.
Pistorius appealed to CAS, the highest tribunal in international
sports, to overturn a Jan. 14 ruling by the IAAF. Track and field's
ruling organization banned him from competing against able-bodied
runners on grounds that his carbon fiber blades gave him a
A two-day hearing was held before three arbitrators at CAS
headquarters last month. The panel said the IAAF decision
is "revoked with immediate effect and the athlete is eligible to
compete in IAAF events."
"Oscar will be welcomed wherever he competes this summer," IAAF
president Lamine Diack said in a statement. "He is an inspirational
man and we look forward to admiring his achievements in the future."
Even if Pistorius fails to get the 400-meter qualifying time, South
African selectors could add the University of Pretoria student to
the Olympic 1,600-meter relay squad if it qualifies for the games
among the top 16 in the world.
Pistorius would not require a qualifying time and could be taken to
Beijing as an alternate. Six runners can be picked for the relay
The IAAF based its January decision on studies by German professor
Gert-Peter Brueggemann, who said the J-shaped "Cheetah" blades were
Pistorius' lawyers countered with independent tests conducted by a
team led by MIT professor Hugh M. Herr that claimed to show he
doesn't gain any advantage over able-bodied runners.
CAS said the IAAF failed to prove Pistorius' running blades gave him
"If I had to look at the situation, how many amputee athletes use
the exact same prosthetic leg as I do and don't run nearly close to
the same times?" Pistorius said. "I think running has become my
purpose in life. It has become my calling in life."
Associated Press Writers Graham Dunbar in Geneva and Celean Jacobson
in Johannesburg, South Africa, contributed to this report.
Mondavi's legend began with a fistfight
By Jerry Shriver, USA TODAY
The legend of Robert Mondavi began after a fistfight with his
brother and ended with his family empire disassembled and swallowed
by a giant beverage company a truly American saga with overtones
of Shakespearean tragedy.
But in the four decades in between he did more than anyone to turn
America into a wine-accepting nation and Napa Valley into a world-
class tourism destination. Like his close friend Julia Child,
Mondavi was a key pioneer of the so-called foodie revolution that is
now entrenched in the American mainstream.
Mondavi, who died Friday at 94 in his Napa Valley home, was a
tireless and classy promoter, a combative taskmaster and a
passionate lover of the good life all of which made him ideally
suited to try and drag America out of its Prohibitionist mindset and
point it toward something more sophisticated. To anyone who would
listen, the diminutive dynamo with the rugged Romanesque profile
preached that fine wine could be made in California, and that wine-
drinking could be part of a healthy, intellectually rewarding
lifestyle that included food and the arts. It was a message that
baby boomers were primed to receive.
"We as a country are beginning to get much more mature in the way we
view wine and the part we play in the world of wine," he said in a
2003 interview with USA TODAY. "We were not considered at all in the
ball game 20 years ago."
Though his name seems to have resonated forever, Mondavi didn't
begin his true missionary work until the second half of his life. In
1965, at age 52, he split from the Charles Krug winery that he ran
with his brother Peter and with whom he often clashed. Though
strapped for cash he built Napa's first modern showcase winery, in
Oakville, and it became a beacon both for tourism and for wine-
The success of that venture brought enormous wealth and fame to his
family and to Napa Valley in general, but Mondavi, the son of
Italian immigrant parents, still sought to be included among the Old
World's elite winemaking community. This he tried to accomplish by
forming a partnership with Bordeaux's Baron Philippe Rothschild to
make Opus One, essentially America's first "cult" wine, and through
later partnerships with the Frescobaldis of Italy and Eduardo
Chadwick of Chile. Those ventures, as well as his fateful decision
to take his company public in 1993, met with varying success. But
they didn't detract from his overall goal of modernizing California
winemaking and making the bounty accessible to mainstream consumers.
"Now there are many more top winemakers than ever," he said in
2003. "And when you combine that with the worldwide competition,
which we spurred, you end up with more wines being made that are
gentle and friendly and with more layers of flavor. The wines we're
making today, without a doubt, are greater than they've ever been."
Mike Huckabee's Wacky Sense of Humor...
May 16, 2008
Huckabee Jokes About Obama Getting Shot At
During a speech to the National Rifle Association convention in
Louisville, Kentucky Friday, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee
joked to the audience that an offstage noise was Barack Obama
"That was Barack Obama, he just tripped off a chair, he's getting
ready to speak," Huckabee said. "Somebody aimed a gun at him and he
dove for the floor."
The line was met with laughter.
Friday, May 16, 2008
John Cusack's War: The Actor Battles to Un-Embed Hollywood With His
New Film, `War, Inc.'
by Jeremy Scahill
Back in 1989, in his smash hit "Say Anything," John Cusack famously
stood with a boom box above his head outside the home of the woman
he loved blasting Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes." With his latest
films on the Iraq war, Cusack is standing outside Hollywood with a
TV above his head broadcasting his political movies calling on the
public to wake up and "Do Something."
John Cusack began working on his new film "War, Inc.," which
premieres in LA and New York May 23, about a year into the US
occupation of Iraq. From the moment US tanks rolled into Baghdad,
Cusack was a voracious consumer of news about the war. He took it
deadly seriously, regularly calling independent journalists and
asking them questions as he sought as much independent information
as he could. Watching the insanity of the erection of the Green Zone
and the advent of the era of McWar, complete with tens of thousands
of "private contractors," Cusack set out to use the medium of film
to unveil the madness. He wanted to do on the big screen what
independent reporters like Naomi Klein, Nir Rosen and Dahr Jamail
did in print. Over these years of war and occupation, Cusack has
become one of the most insightful commentators on a far too seldom
discussed aspect of the occupation: the corporate dominance of the
US war machine.
Cusack is no parachute humanitarian. While he continues to do the
Hollywood thing with big budget movies, he is simultaneously a
fierce un-embedded actor/filmmaker who has been at the center of two
of the best films to date dealing with the madness of the Iraq war.
Without big money sponsors and the backing of powerful production
companies, Cusack has spent a lot of his own money on these projects.
Cusack's film "Grace is Gone," was one of the most under-rated and
under-viewed movies of 2007. Cusack should have been seriously
considered for an Oscar for his portrayal of Stanley Philipps, a man
whose wife dies while deployed as a soldier in Iraq. The film
centers on Philipps's painful inability to explain to his two young
daughters (powerfully played by two amateur actors, Shélan O'Keefe
and Gracie Bednarczyk) their mother's death. Instead of telling his
daughters the terrible news, he embarks on a surreal road trip to a
theme park with the girls as he fights for his own sanity and
grapples with his own support for the war that has just taken the
life of his wife. The film is a jolting picture of a man caught in
the free fall of a nervous breakdown and the ricochet impact of the
death of soldiers in the war. It was an outright shame that "Grace
is Gone" did not get wide distribution. I was at a screening of the
film in New York and there were not many dry eyes at the movie's
Perhaps the film's lack of commercial success was due to the so-
called "Iraq movie fatigue" that took hold in Hollywood a couple of
years ago. But "Grace is Gone" is not simply an "Iraq movie" or
a "war movie." It isn't even really an "anti-war" movie. It is a
haunting and moving film that cuts across political lines to tell
the story of the suffering and shattering of so many US military
families with loved ones deployed in Iraq. Had it received the
distribution it deserved, "Grace is Gone" would have resonated
strongly with both supporters and opponents of the war, a rare
"War, Inc." is a radically different kind of movie. In fact, it
really defies genre. It is sort of like this generation's Dr.
Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange and The Wizard of Oz mixed together
with the un-embedded reporting of Naomi Klein, spiced up with a dash
of South Park. It is a powerful, visionary response to the
cheerleading culture of the corporate media and a pliant Hollywood
afraid of its own shadow.
On the surface, "War, Inc." appears to be a spoof of the
corporatization of the occupation of Iraq. Cusack plays a hit man,
Brand Hauser, deployed to Turaqistan with the mission of killing a
Middle Eastern oil baron (named Omar Sharif). Hauser's employer is a
secretive for-profit military corporation run by the former US vice
president, played by Dan Aykroyd. We first meet Aykroyd's character
as he sits, pants down, on a toilet seat during a closed-circuit
satellite videoconference call to give Hauser his mission. Hauser
arrives in the Turaqi capital and heads for the "Emerald City"
(read: the Green Zone), where his cover is director of a trade show
for the military corporation, Tamerlane, which is basically running
the Turaqi occupation. Hauser soon falls for a progressive
journalist, played by Marisa Tomei, who is in Turaqistan to
investigate Tamerlane, and what follows is an insane ride through
Cusack's interpretation of the radical corporatization of war.
Singer Hilary Duff gives a surprisingly fun performance as a pop
star, Yonica Babyyeah, who performs a song in the war zone with the
lyrics, "You say you want to invade me, baby/Enslave me, baby." As
Duff delivers the song, she caresses a phallic gas nozzle decorated
with diamonds while singing, "I want to blow you .up." Obviously
Cusack and his co-writers, Mark Leyner and Jeremy Pikser
(REDS/Bulworth), sought to tap into the extreme nature of the
corporatized war and take it to another level, but anyone who thinks
the premise behind "War Inc." is "over-the-top" has not been paying
attention to real life.
Cusack, Leyner and Pikser are not predicting the future, they are
forcefullyand with dark humor and wit branding the present for
what it is: the Wal-Mart-ization of life (and death) represented in
the new US model for waging war. With 630 corporations like
Blackwater and Halliburton on the US government payroll in Iraq
getting 40% of the more than $2 billion Washington spends every week
on the occupation, Cusack's "futuristic" film is not far from the
way things really are. A powerful, for-profit war corporation, run
by the former US vice president "owning" the war zone; tanks with
NASCAR-like sponsor logos speeding around the streets firing at
will; "implanted journalists" watching the war in IMAX theaters in
the heavily-fortified "Emerald City" to get "full spectrum sensory
reality" while eating popcorn; a secretive "viceroy" running the
show from behind a digital curtain are all part of Cusack's
battlefield in the fictitious Turaqistan. But how far are they from
the realities of the radically privatized corporate war machine
Washington has unleashed on the world?
"War, Inc." is already an underground cult classic and will likely
remain so for years to come. The film is not without its
shortcomingsat times it is confusing and dragsbut its faults are
significantly overshadowed by its many strengths. It also
accomplishes the difficult feat of being very entertaining and
funny, while delivering a powerful punch of truth. "War, Inc." is a
movie that deserves a much wider viewing than the barons of the film
industry are likely to give it. But by filling the theaters in the
opening days, people can send a powerful message that there isand
must bea market for films of conscience.
Visit the official website of "War, Inc." or John Cusack's website
to view trailers, get info on tickets for the premieres and to read
more about the film.
Jeremy Scahill's New York Times best seller, Blackwater: The Rise of
the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, is now available in
substantially updated paperback form.
Suggestions to make interleague play better
By Jeff Passan, Yahoo! Sports
May 16, 2008
I like interleague play.
Wow, that felt good.
There is no support group for the afflicted. Though Major League
Baseball contends that interleague play is popular and backs it up
with compelling attendance figures, the advocates get drowned out by
the minority, who are a lot like Ron Paul supporters: loud,
passionate and fighting a fight that was long ago lost.
So with that in mind, and with a bull's-eye on interleague play's
problems, the challenge to improve it was on as its 12th season
commences Friday. And the five resulting suggestions aren't
egregious OK, four aren't are feasible and would make it better.
Now, this isn't proselytizing. Converts should come on the merits of
interleague play, and those who consider themselves purists or
pragmatists, because of the detriments aren't likely to switch
teams anytime soon.
One player who traded honesty in exchange for anonymity started the
exercise in style, responding to the question of how to improve
interleague play in one breath: "Get rid of it."
Not happening. But these ideas should.
The brilliant idea: Home-field advantage in World Series goes to the
league with the best record in interleague play
All the credit goes to blogger extraordinaire Kevin Kaduk for this
nugget of genius. In the absence of awarding home field in a fashion
that makes sense you know, uh, giving it to the team with the best
record this is a compromise that energizes interleague play and
ends the All-Star game farce.
It's rather easy: Add the records of the teams in each league at the
end of interleague play, and the World Series representative of the
winning league plays Games 1 and 2 at home.
In the past, the plan would have behooved the American League, which
has won interleague supremacy seven of the 11 years. Though before
the AL's current four-year winning streak nothing compared to the
11 straight victories in non-tie All-Star games the NL actually
held the power in interleague play.
Imagine this season. The NL is outplaying the AL in nearly every
facet. Will that translate over the interleague schedule? There's
Frankly, you could flip a coin for World Series home field and it
would be better than sitting through an exhibition and realizing
that its results will skew the sport's championship. Get a bigger
sample size there are 252 interleague games this season and
reward the best league for success in games that matter, not the
best players for winning a glorified sandlot game.
The logical idea: Designated hitter in both parks
To make the first idea fair, MLB needs to implement this one. Don't
punish the AL by making its pitchers hit. Give NL fans a chance to
see the DH in their home parks a few times a season.
If these games are going to count for home field, there can be no
sign of league bias.
The simple idea: Better rivalries
OK, we've got the Subway Series, North Side vs. South Side, the
Beltway Series, L.A.'s Freeway Series, the Highway Series (I-70 for
St. Louis-K.C. and I-71 for Cleveland-Cincinnati), the Bay Bridge
Series, the Lone Star Series and the biggest of `em all this year,
the Sunshine Series.
Now can we please take care of some issues, like the Cubs playing
the AL East this season and not facing the Red Sox or Yankees. Or
the White Sox and Brewers, about a 90-minute drive, not playing
Right now, baseball sticks with rather hard-and-fast rules about
"The first priority is to get teams where they haven't been," said
Katy Feeney, who is in charge of putting together baseball's
That's important. It's not fair to starve fans from seeing certain
teams. At the same time, it's imperative that the matchups stay
relevant, that the best non-natural rivals don't wait years to play.
The progressive idea: Neutral sites for non-traditional matchups
Not that baseball plans to expand soon, but if MLB president and
chief operating officer Bob DuPuy surges ahead and lifts the
blackouts from television broadcasts, places such as Las Vegas and
Puerto Rico and Portland, Ore., need to establish themselves as
viable baseball locations. So treat them as such.
Every team would play one neutral-site series, each city would host
five series and the money from the games gets pooled and split
evenly among the home teams, which would need the extra revenue to
offset the losses of missing three home games.
There will be whining. The facilities and the travel and the minor-
league feel, oh my! Don't listen. The greater good wins out.
The outlandish idea: The interleague draft
Feeney started preparing the 2009 schedule in November 2007, so it
makes the next idea a logistical nightmare. But, hey, MLB figured
out how to get the Spider-Man logo off of bases. Surely it can
implement a plan that would liven its product.
Drafts provide great entertainment when the commodities are known,
and in this case, the commodities would be teams. Every other year,
one league's teams would "draft" opponents for one series.
For example: Pittsburgh finished last in the NL last season, so it
would get the No. 1 draft choice this year. Would it pick Oakland,
because the A's were supposed to be rebuilding? Or might it have
chosen Boston, a superior team that would almost guarantee sellout
crowds for three consecutive nights?
The Marlins would go next. They could select the Mariners and make
them take a six-hour flight to Florida. Or they might opt for
Detroit, so Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis would return one
Endless drama would spill out of draft day. Teams disrespected for
going too early. The best in one league having to draft the best in
the other, creating more must-see series. And all the potential on-
field fireworks that could help turn fudged rivalries into
Last season, Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones complained
interleague play wasn't fair because of an unbalanced schedule. I
disagree. In the end, it evens out.
And that's why MLB will be loath to accept any suggestions. It's got
a good thing going. It doesn't offend too many people. It's a money-
I like interleague play without these suggestions.
Just not as much as I do with them.
Jeff Passan is a national baseball writer for Yahoo! Sports.