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Sunday, July 6, 2008

Ramble On ...

As noted on the Fourth of July, I will not be making daily posts for about a month or so, say from July 4th to August 10th. I will post items and updates and any breaking news on life, family, moving, you name it. In the meantime, my Ramble On column will continue once a week through September.

Ramble On: Cuban's view on the Olympics "using" the NBA and its Players...

Mark Cuban is on record and is repeatedly posting on his blog that the Olympics "Use" the NBA and its players - free of charge - as the players and the Games are a giant TV show orchestrated by GE. (NBC Sports and NBC Universal).

He is half-right.

Here is another viewpoint, posted to Cuban on Blog Maverick:

Hey smart guy? Care to re-think your premise?

NBA Uses Olympics to Tap China's `Amazing' Potential

On BLOOMBERG.COM, Wing-Gar Cheng writes "the National Basketball Association, the most-watched sports league in China, is opening its first stores in Beijing and using the Olympics to boost popularity in its biggest overseas market. Two merchandise stores in downtown Beijing, smaller-scale versions of the league's flagship in New York, will open this month and are the first of 500 to 1,000 planned in China, NBA China Chief Executive Officer Tim Chen said. Sales of NBA goods at the 50,000 current licensed outlets may rise 40 percent this year, buoyed by the Aug. 8-24 Olympics, he said."

PS: The NBA also works with a lot of the international TV stations that air the Olympics. Cuban, with his very limited and domestic viewpoint, overlooks the fact that the NBA is also in the global TV business.


Ramble On: Mocking the Mock Drafts...

A blog for sports media analysis took a look at the results of all the basketball pundits as they tried to predict the outcome of the NBA Draft in their various mock draft columns. here are the blogger's results with a "High 5" to Ian Thomsen and a big ? to Hollinger and Chad Ford:


Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thomsen claimed the overall top spot after ranking 4th in the correct pick portion of the analysis and topping the pick difference analysis. Closely trailing Mr. Thomsen were Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, Sam Smith of Sporting News, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle and Krista Jahnke of the Detroit Free Press. The Orlando Sentinel’s Tim Povtak,’s Todd Robinson,, the Chicago Sun-Times’ John Jackson and the Boston Herald’s David Moore rounded out the top 10. Although he performed well overall, Mr. Feigen deserves some criticism here for completely forgetting (I assume) about Eric Gordon. Not only did he not have Gordon going in the Top 10, as almost every other mock draft did, he completely left him out of the first round.

Mr. Thomsen’s win was fueled by his dominance in the Second 10 picks of the draft. He was the only sportswriter to correctly guess more than two of the Second 10 picks – Robin Lopez to the Suns at #15, Marreese Speights to the 76ers at #16 and JJ Hickson to the Cavaliers – and his picks in the Second 10 averaged only 3.1 draft slots away from where they were actually drafted. No other prognosticator had an average less than 5.0 during the Second 10. Additionally, Mr. Thomsen’s overall average pick difference for the 1st round was 3.667, the only average under 4.0. Finally, Mr. Thomsen finished in the top seven of every single category, with only Mr. Bonnell joining him as a Top 10 finisher in every category. Dominant indeed.


On one hand, I hate to highlight the people who did not perform particularly well on the mock draft, but that is exactly why it is important that someone do this analysis. At some point, we as readers have to trust our sources of information, and it only makes sense that we analyze them to find out who among them is consistently full of it. Much to my own personal surprise, two of my favorite NBA writers – Chad Ford and John Hollinger – were woefully bad on their mock drafts.

It’s not a huge surprise that Mr. Hollinger was off but I had always presumed that Mr. Ford would be at or near the top in an objective analysis such as this considering the amount of coverage he gives the NBA Draft. Mr. Ford was especially dreadful in the Second 10, in which he did not pick a single player correctly and he averaged a second-worst 8.2 draft slots away per player. In addition to picking two players in the Second 10 who were not drafted until the 2nd Round – Mario Chalmers and DeAndre Jordan – he slotted both Kosta Koufos and Donte Greene towards the top of the Second 10.


"Paging Mr. Sal Monella ... Please call your office, Mr. Sal Monella."

Can you believe this? The quote of the year: "Tomatoes aren't off the hook". You can't make this stuff up:

By Lauran Neergaard, AP Medical Writer | July 1, 2008

WASHINGTON --Adding to tomato confusion, the government is about to start testing numerous other types of fresh produce in the hunt for the source of the nation's record salmonella outbreak -- even as it insists tomatoes remain the leading suspect.

Investigators are mum on exactly what other vegetables are getting tracked.

Items commonly served with fresh tomatoes is the only hint Food and Drug Administration food safety chief Dr. David Acheson would give, calling it "irresponsible" to point a finger until he has more evidence that some other food really deserves the extra scrutiny.

"Tomatoes aren't off the hook," he stressed. "It's just that there is clearly a need to think beyond tomatoes."

Still, Acheson widened FDA's probe on Tuesday, activating an emergency network of food laboratories around the country in anticipation of lots of additional samples to test.

The reason is that the outbreak continues, with 869 people now confirmed having taken ill. Most troublesome, at least 179 of them fell ill in June, the latest on June 20. That is more than two months after the first salmonella illnesses appeared, meaning the outbreak is continuing weeks longer than food-poisoning specialists had expected -- and suggesting the culprit is still on the market.

Over the weekend, disease detectives with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began interviewing people sickened in June to find out what they ate and to compare their diets with those of healthy relatives and neighbors. Officials wouldn't reveal early findings, except to say they supported the investigation's new move.

Among the possibilities FDA is exploring is whether tomatoes and other produce are sharing a common packing or shipping site where both might become contaminated, or whether multiple foods might be tainted while being grown on adjoining farms or with common water sources.

Pressure is increasing on the FDA to solve the case, with the tomato industry suffering millions of dollars in losses and pushing for Congress to investigate how the agency handled the outbreak.

But Acheson said Tuesday that there's a growing misconception in the public that if tomatoes really were to blame, the outbreak would only have lasted six weeks.

That's just not true, he said, pointing to farms that rotate harvests so as to keep producing tomatoes for months.

Tomatoes first became a suspect because of what are called "case-control" studies rapidly conducted in New Mexico and Texas, the outbreak's center, CDC food-poisoning specialist Dr. Robert Tauxe said.

Those kinds of studies compare the sick to people who are otherwise similar -- in income, lifestyle, where they live -- but healthy. In those initial studies, about 80 percent of the ill reported eating certain types of fresh tomatoes, far more than the healthy group did, Tauxe said. Statistically, the association was too strong to think it a coincidence.

Some food-poisoning experts say the CDC missed a key step in not taking those studies a step further and trying to trace why some of the healthy ate tomatoes without harm.

For now, the FDA continues to urge consumers nationwide to avoid raw red plum, red Roma or red round tomatoes unless they were grown in specific states or countries that the agency has cleared of suspicion. Check the FDA's Web site -- -- for an updated list. Also safe are grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and tomatoes sold with the vine still attached.

That advice is coming under fire too because tomatoes are sent through multiple repacking and distribution sites around the country, even to Mexico and back, regardless of where they're grown. But Acheson said the advice would be fine-tuned only if new science emerges.

Even Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt expressed frustration Tuesday that the case isn't solved.

Blame it on the Jalapeno?

This on the news wires as of July 5th:

Jalapeno peppers are a new focus of the investigation into the salmonella outbreak that has sickened hundreds of people in at least 40 states, according to media reports.
Government health investigators had initially focused on some types of fresh tomatoes, which have been removed from menus across the country, but are turning toward jalapenos as sicknesses continue. Salsa ingredients cilantro and Serrano peppers are also under scrutiny, according to reports.

"Recently, many clusters of illnesses have been identified in Texas and other states among persons who ate at restaurants," according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statement. "These clusters have led us to broaden the investigation to be sure that it encompasses food items that are commonly consumed with tomatoes."

As of Friday evening, 943 persons infected with salmonella Saintpaul with the same genetic fingerprint have been identified in 40 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada, according to CDC. Illnesses are believed to have begun in early April.
CNN reported that the U.S. investigation is focusing on imports from Mexico, and that starting Monday inspectors will stop shipments of produce for common Mexican cuisine ingredients. So far Texas is by far the leader in reported illnesses, with 356 reports of ill people as of late Friday. New Mexico has 98 reported illnesses, while Illinois has 93.

Government investigators have been looking for the source of the salmonella outbreak for weeks -- a frustrating experience that highlights the need for more resources dedicated to improved food-safety science. Last month, the FDA's food-safety plan came under intense criticism from the Government Accountability Office, which voiced concerns about its direction and resources.


A note from the Asbury Park Press - another sad day on E Street...

Boardwalk fortune teller Madam Marie dies

It was one line from a Bruce Springsteen song that made the boardwalk fortune teller world famous. And now, "Madam Marie" has passed away.

Marie Castello, who had told fortunes since the 1930s and became famous for her presence and predictions on the Asbury Park boardwalk, died Friday, her great-granddaughter, Sally Castello said.

The psychic reader and advisor was 93. She became known worldwide from Bruce Springsteen's homage to her in his music.

"Did you hear the cops finally busted Madam Marie,'' Springsteen sang in his 1973 song, "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)'' "for tellin' fortunes better than they do."

"That was just the Boss,'' said Asbury Park Deputy Mayor Jim Bruno. "She was never arrested. But Springsteen turned her into an icon.''

Madam Marie bragged that she had told the fortunes of everyone from Judy Garland to Springsteen himself. Legend has it that she told Springsteen he was going to be a success. Springsteen later joked that she told all the musicians that.

And Springsteen never forgot Madam Marie.

"He always comes by to say hello," she told Press columnist Bill Handleman in May. "He knows where he came from."

Word of Castello's death spread along the Asbury Park boardwalk over the weekend. The American flag flying over the Convention Hall-Paramount Theatre complex was lowered to half staff in her honor, and it remained that way today.

"Of course, Madam Marie is our longest running tenant here on the boardwalk. ... She's an Asbury Park tradition,'' said Gary Mottola, president of investments for developer Madison Marquette, the lead partner in a joint venture with Asbury Partners to restore or rebuild the boardwalk's entertainment buildings. "We felt that honoring her by lowering the Convention Hall flag to half staff is the right thing to do.''

Marie Castello closed down her regular operations on the boardwalk in the mid-1990s after a dropoff in business. She continued telling fortunes in Ocean Township.


Did they Blink in July?

McCain Orders Shake-Up of His Campaign


WASHINGTON — Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign has gone through its second shake-up in a year as Mr. McCain, responding to Republican concerns that his candidacy was faltering, put Steve Schmidt in charge of day-to-day operations and abandoned an effort to have the campaign run by 11 regional managers, the senator’s aides said Wednesday.

Mr. Schmidt is a veteran of President Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign and he worked closely with Karl Rove, who was Mr. Bush’s political adviser. His installation at Mr. McCain’s headquarters sharply diminished the responsibilities of Rick Davis, who has been Mr. McCain’s campaign manager since the last shake-up nearly a year ago.

Mr. McCain’s advisers said that Mr. Davis would continue to hold the position of campaign manager, but that Mr. Schmidt had taken over every major operation where Mr. McCain has shown signs of struggling: communications, scheduling and basic political strategy.

The shift was approved by Mr. McCain after several aides, including Mr. Schmidt, warned him about 10 days ago that he was in danger of losing the presidential election unless he revamped his campaign operation, according to two officials close to the campaign.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ian T wrote on "I had the first eight picks right and nine of the first 11, which, as I stand today upon the mountaintop of NBA mock-drafting, makes me feel like a total nerd. I mean, is there an emptier, more hollow victory in sports than to win the NBA mock draft?"