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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Markets shake 

Shiny Dubai

While most American's were munching (hopefully gratefully) on turkey and stuffing, events halfway around the globe were once again roiling financial markets worldwide. Today the NASDAQ and the New York Stock Exchange were closed in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday. In a dubiously timed move, Dubai, the most gleaming of the United Arab Emirates, stunned bankers and investors by asking debt holders to allow its Dubai World, the government’s main investment vehicle, and Nakheel, the emirate’s property development unit, to suspend its debt repayments for six months.

Stock markets across the globe reacted sharply negatively: the FTSE 100 index in London lost 3.18 percent, the DAX index in Germany fell 3.25 percent and the CAC-40 index in France lost 3.41 percent. Heavily exposed companies also took a hit including banks: HSBC Holdings, Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays, Deutsche Bank and ING Group which all declined by 3% or more, also hurting, at least in stock value, were Airbus, LVMH Moët Hennessy, Daimler and BMW, all highly vulnerable to the vagaries of the Middle East's noveau riche.

The Dubai government’s total debt is estimated at about $80 billion. Much of the problem stems from the bursting of a property bubble. Fortunately, in terms of contagion, as much as 80% of the debt may be locally held. But it bodes badly for states throughout the Middle East, and could pose a dangerous risk to political stability in places where massive government handouts keep a lid on disaffection and potentially volatile unemployed and underemployed youth.

One more sign that the global economy is a long way from out of the proverbial woods. America should consider itself lucky if the worst has already passed.

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Double Standard Continues 

The CBS Early Show this week continued to reinforce American culture's sexually exploitative, anti-feminist treatment of homosexuality. It aired footage of former American Idol finalist Adam Lambert kissing his male keyboardist at the American Music Awards with the big moment blurred out. "Oh the horrors," men kissing! Surely, the American public isn't ready to be exposed to that kind of open homosexuality. Unless... Wait for it...

Right. If it is ladies, it is A-okay, as the Early Show blatantly demonstrated when moments after airing the blurred male on male kiss, by Lambert and keyboardist, it showed Madonna and Brittney swapping tongue with nary a bit of discretion. No blurring necessary. The difference is ugly gender stereotyping that treats women as the objects of visual male sexual gratification.

Disney owned Good Morning America took an even more openly anti-gay stance when it canceled Lambert's schedule appearance the day after the American Music Awards.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Watts-Hillandale House tour 

It was not that long ago that one of the members of the Clarion Content's editorial board was delighted to be able to go on a tour of the Watts-Hillandale neighborhood of Durham with a dear friend. We have been meaning to post the snaps and some of the tidbits garnered that day ever since. We have finally gotten them up over on the Pop Culture section. The houses of Watts-Hillandale are a delight. Check a few of them out through these links.

1111 Iredell Street

2301 West Club Boulevard

2422 West Club Boulevard

2215 West Club Boulevard

2310 West Club Boulevard

2016 West Club Boulevard

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The Clarion Content had not even gotten the chance to congratulate long time whipping post Michelle Wie on winning her first professional tournament before she pulled another stunt. The much hyped, minimally accomplished Wie followed her first LPGA tournament victory with a "withdraw." She ostensibly turned her ankle in an encounter with an overzealous fan. She quit after one round leaving the fans, sponsors, and the cratering L.P.G.A. at the Houstonian Golf and Country Club without her marquee name. She shot an even par 72 in windy conditions, six shots behind thirty-time LPGA tour winner Lorena Ochoa.

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The Good and the Bad of college football 

This weekend is a perfect exemplar of the good and the bad of college football. In Durham, North Carolina, the staff of the Clarion Content is hanging on breathlessly hoping that somehow, some way the Duke Blue Devils can pull out a road upset against the all-world athletes of Miami of Florida. Were Duke able to pull off the win, they would remain bowl eligible going into their final game of the season against Wake Forest.

This is the good. The argument is that every game matters. Michigan versus Ohio State today, records aside, the game still has serious bragging rights at stake. Just because coach Rich Rodriguez is a trainwreck at Michigan does not make the game less valuable to the Big Blue alumni. You think Ohio State's fans want to win any less just because Michigan is terrible? The fact that Michigan is about to complete it's first back to back sub .500 seasons in more than 40 years would just make it all the more frustrating for Buckeye backers were their team to lose.

Despite our interest here in Duke, and the great rivalry game the midwest, or even other matches of consequence like North Carolina vying for bowl seedings versus Boston College in Chestnut Hill, or Arizona and Oregon meeting in a PAC-10 match-up, there is a problem. It does not infect the great PA battle between Lafayette and Leigh, which has the Lafayette Leopards hoping for a big win to secure an at-large bid into the Division I-AA, playoffs. And there it is! The geniuses that run the BCS refuse to allow any semblance of on the field battle for the national championship of Division I.

This beauty contest/gymnastics/figure skating method of voting for the best team rather than deciding it on the field incentivizes awfulness. This weak, whoops, week, #1 Florida is playing Florida International of the Sun Belt Conference. #2 Alamaba is playing Chattanooga of the Southern Conference. As of this moment they lead by a combined 80 to 3. Cupcakes for all! Even Texas with a potentially more legitimate opponent from the Big 12, has lucked into, the 1 up and 5 down in conference, Kansas Jayhawks. There is but a single match-up of top 25 teams, the Stanford-Cal game. This is the bad of college football. And its pretty putrid, because...

The faux national championship is securely in the hands of the judges. Boise State and TCU may be preemptively ruled out. Sorry. The winner of SEC conference title game is guaranteed a spot, allegedly. Cincinnati is be punished for being from the least favored of eligible conferences. Who is the best team? How would anyone know?

The Clarion Content would love to watch the coaching savvy of Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson in an eight team playoff. Too bad.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

New Study 

The Clarion Content was surprised to be engaged by someone who came into one of our offices for an entirely separate reason about a newly released study on mammograms. This male fellow, perhaps a crank or an alarmist, but nonetheless engaging, said that he had worked for the pharmaceutical industry for years. He said, with the conviction of a passionate conspiracy theorist, that the big drug companies had been preparing for the government takeover of health care for years and would respond with a series of studies suggesting that American's need less early screening and less preventative care.

This is a sophisticated angle on the traditional argument that reads, government managed health care equals rationing of the care and medical services available. This says the way in which care will be rationed is that medical service providers will be reluctant to treat the maybes, people not yet diagnosed as sick. The not yet sick, would represent a less securely billable revenue stream than the actually already sick, which the government would surely reimburse the medical service providers for treating. The same would apply to the pharmaceutical companies, they would find it far easier to get the government to reimburse for drugs for the already ill, rather than preventative medication for the not yet ill (something hardly exists in the status quo either).

Interesting, if nothing else this argument augurs how deeply the government will have to get involved in the management of care if it nationalizes the health system outright. It will have to function as the arbiter at thousands of levels of health care policy, everything from the right to treatment for addiction to the number of days post-birth mothers stay in the hospital. It is only because the insurance companies have done such an awful, callous, profit driven job of this management that the American people are even remotely willing to turn this task over to the government.

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Careful with your lawnmower 

A newly released report by the Journal of Safety Research says that over the five year period studied 66,000 Americans ended up in emergency rooms with injuries caused by lawnmowers. Nearly 100 people were run over by lawnmowers during that time, including children who had been riding on the laps of the mowers. An unfortunate six folks met their demise by lawnmower in the five years studied.

Be careful with the lawnmower, America. Read the whole story here in the BBC. (Over in England they have got a special Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents or RoSPA. Here in America, we have lawyers to sue the lawnmower company ex post facto.)

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Latest from Duck and Cover 

The Clarion Content always supports people telling like it is...

Read our friends Duck and Cover at the Blue Pyramid...

They are on point!

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Break up the Hawks?!? 

Talk about a sentence we never thought we would write, break up the Hawks? But, believe it or not, the Hawks are hottest team in the NBA right now. Does anyone in the sports apathetic city of Atlanta care? Who knows.

But the Hawks, led by Joe Johnson, are rolling. They own the NBA's best record at 9 wins and 2 losses. The ended Portland's six game winning streak last night in OT. (A streak that incidentally coincided with the Clarion Content's criticism of the Trail Blazers.) The Hawks have now beaten Portland twice. Last night they dominated Portland's highly touted inside duo, LaMarcus Aldridge, the fourth player drafted in 2006, and Greg Oden, the first player drafted in 2007. Aldridge and Oden combined for 29 points and 16 boards. The Hawks Al Horford and Josh Smith had 35 points and 26 boards. The Hawks outscored Portland 56-38 in the lane.

Atlanta has also beaten the Eastern Conference favorite Boston Celtics this season and blew out another quality opponent, the Denver Nuggets.

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Careful with that 

There is probably still not enough concern out there about the massive and deteriorating stocks of weapons in the former Eastern Bloc; the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries. For years, Senator Sam Nunn has been raising consciousness about loose nukes in those places. For the Clarion Content, those nuclear weapons are probably the single biggest risk to global political stability. Securing them must be a priority. However, Russians, Eastern Europeans and Americans alike also have to recognize the threat posed by stockpiles of conventional weapons in these states, too.

Theft and black market sales of such weapons were the main manner of supply of anti-imperial Chechen rebels. A massive series explosions at weapons depot, deep inside the former Soviet Union brought this threat back to the forefront of the conscious again this weekend. The Associated Press reported, huge explosions and fire ripped through a Russian military arsenal at a naval munitions facility in the Ulyanovsk province, killing two firefighters and prompting the evacuation of thousands of civilians nearby. The AP quoted locals saying the secondary explosions went on interminably, "There was a loud bang, then there was silence and then there were explosions, explosions, explosions, like fireworks on New Year's."

It is essential to world peace and security that the Russians keep tight control of their arms supplies. Read the whole story here.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Knicks are so awful 

Cool enough by itself?

The Knicks are terrible. As the Clarion Content warned preseason this Knicks team could challenge for the worst record in franchise history. They are already off to the worst start in franchise history, an ignominious 1 up and 9 down. They are so bad, Knicks fans can hardly gain any pleasure in smirking at the even more putrid Nets, who lost last night on a D-Wade buzzer beater to fall to 0 and 10.

So the Nets suck worse. But when one's team hardly tries, plays no defense, and lacks a cohesive plan on offense, it is hard to watch. The Knicks allow opponents to shoot better than 50% from the field. They have yet to have a single game where they have topped the 50% mark for their own shooting percentage. The Knicks are getting stomped by more than ten points per game. Mike D'Antoni has been an unmitigated disaster as coach, General Manager Donnie Walsh should have seen that coming. D'Antoni rode Steve Nash's coattails in Phoenix, and was consistently overmatched and outcoached in the playoffs.

The tragedy is that the Knicks, without a first round pick, are pinning their hopes for the future on their ability to recruit free agents. When your franchise stinks to high heaven, how are you going to talk the best people into coming there? Strictly because the Garden is the coolest arena in the league? And New York City is the coolest city in the land? We hope so.

It is a tough time to be a Knicks fan.

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Yuri Foreman wins 154lb title 

The New Champ

Yuri Foreman spent a quiet Sabbath day in his Las Vegas hotel room, no television, no phone calls, no work. After sundown he went out and whipped the favored title holder, thirty-four year-old southpaw, Daniel Santos of Puerto Rico. Foreman is now an undefeated 28 and 0. He won by a three to nil decision. Rousing the crowd waiting on the main event, Manny Pacquiao-Miguel Cotto, he knocked Santos down in the second round and again in the final round, when the veteran Santos, trailing on the judges' cards, knew he had to go for the knockout.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009


A Santa Clara school district has just finally moved to fire a twenty year employee, a janitor who used the high school he worked in as a place to recruit female models. The janitor claims he is being made a scapegoat because the school district recently faced the arrest of a teacher, who is charged with having sex with a student. The principal of the Wilcox High School knew about the use of student models by custodian Joe Miller more than two years ago. Not to sound like one of the patron saints of P.C. but, c'mon! Really?!?

More than once, janitor Miller pulled students out of class to discuss modeling. His website features photos of current and former students in bikinis and topless poses. The mother of a sixteen year-old female student filed a harassment claim against Miller, saying he made the girl uncomfortable while recruiting her to become a model. The school administrators either oblivious or culpable were warned in the Spring of 2008 about the appropriateness of Miller displaying his photos on campus. Their defense, he was a good guy who did a lot for the school.

As one anonymous horrified teacher noted in the San Jose Mercury News, "You don't teach beauty in high school. You teach academics." We could not have said it better. As much constant cultural over-emphasis as young ladies face about the importance of looks, the last thing the school apparatus needs to be doing is reinforcing that demeaning message.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Balloon Boy hoax plays out 

In what seemed a Calvinesque story last month the "Balloon Boy" transfixed the Clarion Content, along with the much of America. His parents frantically told authorities that he had floated away in his father's helium experiment. Planes and rescue crews were dispatched, air traffic was diverted, CNN was apoplectic. It was all a hoax. Various news media outlets are reporting that the father will plead guilty to the more serious felony charge of attempting to influence a public servant, and the mother, Mayumi, will plead guilty to false reporting to authorities, a misdemeanor.

The most serious charges these folks could have faced would have meant a maximum of six years in prison. They are going to get off with probation. The Clarion Content surely hopes it comes with a fine commensurate with the cost of their escapades. They were hoping to get a reality television after appearing in a few episodes of "Wife Swap."

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2016 West Club Boulevard 

From the Watts-Hillandale house tour

The house was originally built in 1920 and 1921. It was once owned by the Dean of Duke's Law School Charles Lowndes. Lowndes time at Duke overlapped with that of famous Duke law school graduate, Richard Nixon. The neighborhood legend has it that Nixon once slept at #2016 W. Club. The house is still being remodeled.

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Interesting Sports links 

We have a couple quick interesting sports links for your perusal, dear readers. They both come from the New York Times. The first was sent our way by a reader, recently returned to the Durham area from a sojourn to Boston. He must of known it would hit our spot, because the article is both about politics and the Yankees!

Did you know that the Yankees last eight World Series victories took place on the Democrats’ watch, during the terms of Presidents John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton? Or how about that they never won the World Series during the terms of President Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, Bush I or Bush II? Remarkable coincidence? We dunno, but we might have changed our baseball predictions had we heard this stat preseason. It surely makes sense that an Obama presidency would propel a Yankees run to the title.

Read the article by King George II's former press secretary, Ari Fleischer here in the New York Times.

From an article by a Jewish guy, to an article about a Jewish guy, the Times published an interesting piece about (believe it or not) a Jewish boxer fighting for the World Boxing Association championship at 154 pounds Saturday, on the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Miguel Cotto match at the MGM Grand casino in Las Vegas.

Yuri Foreman is 27-0 as a professional fighter. He lives in Brooklyn, but has traveled a long road, growing up poor in Belarus and immigrating later with his family to Israel. He learned to box in the slums of Haifa. Readers of the late Red Smith will attest that Foreman is neither the first, nor the best Jewish boxer ever. Who can forget "Battling" Levinsky, Charlie Gellman, Abe "the Little Hebrew" Atell, Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom, Barney Ross and Ruby Goldstein? It has however been a long minute, the Golden Age of Jewish boxers was before WW II, since we heard that one was fighting for a world title.

Read the whole story here.

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Lost and Found 

More likely to find one that looks like this than the pristine one in our story...

Thirty-five years ago Michelle Squires had her 1965 blue-and-white Volkswagon Van, with the accordion sunroof, stolen in Spokane, Washington. Last week she happen to catch a news brief about customs officials discovering a 44-year-old bus running perfectly and in pristine condition with 70,000 miles on the odometer in routine search of a container bound for Europe by customs officials at the port of Los Angeles. It looked very familiar. With a call to the insurance company, she was able to verify it was indeed the van she had lost so long ago.

She is now fifty-eight. The van was stolen during the 1974 World's Fair in Spokane. She filed a claim with All-State back in the day, which paid her $2500. In 2009, she drives a Chrysler mini-van. Customs officials say the VW van has changed hands several times since 1974 and that the Arizona businessman who tried to export the car isn't a suspect in the case. He loses out though because All-State is now the rightful owner of the old beautiful restored vehicle worth and estimated $30,000.

Read the whole delightful story here in the Wall Street Journal.

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Snake Oil salesmen are slippery 

The federal government is going to have an awfully hard time taking anyone to task for the financial meltdown the occurred at the end of the reign of George Bush II. By-in-large, the government bailed out the institutions involved, and short of the out right thievery of the likes of Bernie Madoff, the law is not written to prosecute the fund managers.

This week the government couldn't convict the first two Bear Sterns guys they prosecuted because they couldn't prove malicious intent. The problem prosecuting almost all individuals involved will be the same, intent. These people are salespeople. How can the government distinguish? Were these guys deliberately trying to deceive investors or were they just trying to put a positive spin on selling a crappy product in a declining market?

The Wall Street Journal notes, "while certain statements by executives ultimately proved incorrect, they can make a case that they believed what they were saying."

Defense attorneys spin it even further, "[they] were not trying to swindle widows out of their future; they were mismanaging the crisis."

The defendants didn't even find it necessary to take the stand in their own defense. This despite the reality that the two Bear Stearns funds that they managed lost more than $1.5 billion.

The government can indict individuals for the failings of capitalism, but short of embezzlement, it will never be able to successfully prosecute them. Capitalism itself is to blame. Capitalism, as it is currently constituted, institutionalizes spin and deception.

Read more on this story here in the Wall Street Journal.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

We salute you 

Words can hardly express the debt of gratitude all Americans owe our servicemen and women. Whatever our critiques of the American way, we gratefully lay our heads down at night to sleep safely thanks in no small part to their efforts. The Clarion Content humbly thanks and salutes all of our service people. We pray that those serving overseas may soon be reunited with their families. We pray that they are able to come home without firing another shot in anger, without losing another friend to war.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Michigan, not much to like 

The Clarion Content found one more reason to dislike the University of Michigan athletic department yesterday. Two different students reported incidents with retiring Athletic Director, Bill Martin. The school's department of public safety reported a brusque Martin shoved past one and in an another case grabbed a student's windbreaker.

The Associated Press report says,
Michigan student Jackie Turner says she told Martin he needed a pass to enter the regents guest area of the press box Sept. 12 during a game against Notre Dame. She said he pushed her shoulder and walked past her.

"Honey, I am the athletic director," Turner quoted him as saying, according to a university report on the incident.

On Oct. 17, Eastern Michigan student Arif Khan said he told Martin and a female companion they needed passes to enter the area after a game against Delaware State. Khan said Martin grabbed his jacket.

"I am the athletic director, I can go in," Khan quoted Martin as telling him.

Sounds like a nice guy. This is the jerk who brought in the slimeball football coach, Rich Rodriguez. Well, it is not like one might expect anything low out of the Michigan athletic department.

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2310 West Club Boulevard 

From the Watts-Hillandale house tour

This house was built in 1915. It is a classic one and a-half story, side gabled bungalow. The original owner was a local doctor, Dr. Baird Brooks. He was one of many doctors who originally settled in this neighborhood near Watts hospital (now the North Carolina School of Science and Math). Although he only lived there until 1921, he had the noted Durham architect, George Watts Carr, built him another recognizable Durham building, his medical offices. The apartments still at the corner of West Chapel Hill Street and Gregson Avenue were constructed for Dr. Brooks.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Bay Bridge nightmare 

We were warning you, dear readers, just a few days ago about the massive backlog of infrastructure work America must do. Everything from bridges, to highways, to water mains are falling apart in this country and need a massive capital re-investment. Tragically, the repair work that could and should be done is trading off with America's wars and efforts at nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq. America is pouring the Cold War dividend into the sands of the Near and Middle East where it will disappear without a trace. The central example of failing and old infrastructure we used in this most recent article was the Bay Bridge from Oakland to San Francisco.

Unfortunately, the on-going infrastructure story of the Bay Bridge, the construction and repair issues, caught our attention again this morning in a most horrifying manner. The driver of a Safeway Grocery eighteen-wheeler perished driving the Bay Bridge late last night. He and his eighteen wheel truck plunged to their demise at one of the new S-curves caused by the on-going construction and repair work. According the California Highway Patrol, there have been more than 42 crashes in the curved area since it opened barely two months ago. This was the first fatality. About 3.30am last night, the driver attempted to negotiate the S-curve at too high a speed. He lost control of the truck, plunged through the safety railing, and crashed 200 feet below into Yerba Buena Island, spilling gasoline and produce over a wide area. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene.

Read the whole chilling story here in the San Francisco Chronicle.

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2215 West Club Boulevard 

From the Watts-Hillandale house tour

The house was built in 1923 by the prolific Durham builder, John T. Sally. It is a Craftsman style brick bungalow. Sally built another Craftsman style house across the street at 2212, as well as simpler houses at numbers 2405, 2407, 2409, 2411, 2413 and 2415 Club. The original homeowners, the Tottens, lived in the house during the height of the Depression with nine other people, including five nurses from nearby Watts-Hospital. The house towers above the street and is a spacious 3000 square feet.

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

2422 West Club Boulevard 

From the Watts-Hillandale house tour

The house was built in 1914. It is the oldest house on the street. It was originally built by a Southern lawyer, Sumpter Brawley and his wife, the civic activist, Margaret Brawley. He served in the North Carolina House of Representatives and the State Senate. She is credited with staging a sit-in outside the Durham City Manager's office until he agreed to plant hundreds of trees along Durham's streets. Between 1970 and 1998 the house was divided into in a multi-unit set-up, with many tenants and even a day-care. It has since been converted back. It features a huge backyard and five bedrooms.

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Ole Miss tries to ban chant 

The University of Mississippi long considered a bastion of the old South is trying to change a tradition. Ole Miss was the site of a bloody standoff, less than fifty years ago, when in 1962 it admitted its first black student, James Meredith. The university still has to address its reputation and legacy. Six years ago the university got rid of its on-field mascot, Colonel Rebel, a white-haired old man who carried a cane and resembled a plantation owner. Now the school is trying to mover further out of the shadow of its old image.

The school is trying to ban the chanting of the phrase, 'The South Will Rise Again,' at the end of the marching band's medley 'From Dixie With Love.' The school's chancellor has suggested replacing the traditional chant, with 'To hell with LSU.' No luck yet. Some students are willing to go along with change, others are resisting. The medley played by the school band is based on the Confederate Army's fight song, "Dixie," blended with the Union Army's "Battle Hymn of the Republic." The song itself may have to be banned to end the chant.

Read the whole story here.

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2301 West Club Boulevard 

From the Watts-Hillandale house tour

The house was built in 1924. It is a classical revival cottage. The first homeowner, Dillard C. Mitchell, Jr., was the bookkeeper for the Durham Lumber Company which was owned by his father. The master bath features an original commode with 1924 stamped into the lid. The garage, never used for automobiles, was moved to the property from another location in 1967. Side note, Club Boulevard used to be called E Street in this part of town.

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There's a map for that 

The clever new Verizon campaign, "There's a map for that," has drawn a lawsuit from the mocked competitor, AT&T. Verizon's slogan is a cutsie play on AT&T and Apple's tag line, "There's an app for that," which refers to the iPhone and its endless array of independently designed applications. And while the applications are phenomenal, Verizon has correctly chosen AT&T's area of vulnerabillity with its ads, coverage.

Verizon's map shows that AT&T's coverage while great if you are in SoCal, Silicon Valley or the New York metropolitan area, fades badly once you get outside of those urban centers. Don't count on AT&T's service to keep your laptop connected to the internet as you travel across the country, to the beach or to a SEC football game. The AT&T coverage map has huge holes.

Now AT&T's lawsuit is premised on the idea that coverage map Verizon shows is based on 3g covergae, not standard cellular coverage, but as PC World points out, that is where the cellphone paradigm is heading, mobile computing devices. And AT&T's signature product, the one with the app for that, the iPhone, is already there, so 3g coverage, or lack thereof, is absolutely a relevant critique. AT&T only draws attention to their lack of coverage through this lawsuit. AT&T marketing claims that it has the 'fastest 3g network', but how relevant is that to those who live where AT&T has no 3g service.

Read more here.


Friday, November 06, 2009

Torture is wrong 

Long time Clarion Content fave, Andrew Sullivan wrote a fascinating piece in last month's Atlantic. It is structured as a personal letter from Sullivan to George Bush II. Sullivan, a little "c" conservative, makes a brilliant argument that frames the stain on the American nation wrought by torture. He eviscerates the counterarguments for torture. He lays out how the act of torture (bruises or not) is the antithesis of the social contract presumed by the nominal American embrace of the Golden Rule and Judeo-Christian ethics. Torture by government fundamentally undermines what American stands for, Sullivan explicates how so. He is not just a complainer without a solution, however. He explains in great detail why an apology for torture and an admission of personal culpability by the man that this journal likes to refer to as King George the II would help begin to dissolve the stain on the America's character.

Read his piece here.

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1111 Iredell Street 

From the Watts-Hillandale house tour

This house was built in 1922, in the Craftsman style. Iredell was known as 8th street until 1960. The original owner Andrew Dennis was also the owner of Dennis Grocery, which was started by his father. It was once located at 1110 Broad St. The house cost less than $2,000 to originally build. It has a beautiful back garden.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Failing bridges 

The Bay Bridge that carries upwards of 260,000 vehicles a day failed again last week. Metal parts in a brace that was installed Labor Day weekend to relieve stress on a cracked structural beam called an eyebar cracked and the bridge had to be closed. It sent 5,000 pounds of metal into rush-hour traffic. (Miraculously no one was killed, one person suffered minor injuries and three cars were damaged.) The first repair cost an estimated $1.5 million. The second repair had the bridge closed for six days, the longest closure for the bridge since part of the span collapsed during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Caltrans doesn't yet have figures available on cost of the second round of bridge repairs. The Bay Bridge was built in the 1930's and is in need of constant repair. According to the Associated Press, "The parts that failed had been installed over the Labor Day weekend...[and] were expected to last until a new bridge opened in 2013."

Why would the American taxpayer possibly be in favor of spending billions to build infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan when America's own infrastructure is falling apart? Deteriorating bridges have been in the news of late, but in the next few years expect to see a deluge of stories about disintegrating and failing urban water systems. Most water mains in major United States cities, especially east of the Mississippi River, are approaching their useful age limits. Far too little has been spent on their maintenance in recent decades. Yet America is pouring billions into providing potable water to Iraqi and Afghani citizens.

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Mish Mash 

One of the Clarion Content's favorite things about chili is its flexibility. Surely we have recipes we follow and adore, but some nights when we want chili it is simply a matter of grabbing some ground beef on the way home from the office, seasoning it to taste, and finding the right mish mash of ingredients in the pantry.

This experiment in pantry chili went over fairly well at a Monday Night Football gathering.

2 lbs ground beef, cook in a skillet with 1/4 stick of butter until meat is full browned. Season to taste throughout with salt, pepper, garlic, and chili powder. Our recommendation be liberal with all the seasonings but the salt. (This is the base for most of the Clarion Content's chili recipes)

Drain most of the grease from the frying pan and combine cooked ground beef in a large soup pot with two cans of drained black beans, one can of refried beans, and one can of tomato paste. Keep over low heat for at least thirty minutes, stirring occasionally. Continue to season with black pepper and chili powder. For extra kick, we added a couple of healthy dashes of habanero sauce.

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Don't eat the meat in the tube 

A dear friend of the Clarion Content's editorial board works as a butcher in our local Durham, North Carolina area. The butcher says, "Don't eat the meat in the tube." If you are buying ground beef, get the stuff that is saran wrapped on the white tray. The difference? It is packed locally, whereas, the meat in the tube is mass wrapped in distant locales, hopefully kept cold, and shipped to your local grocery store. (In Durham, that would be a Harris Teeter, Kroger and Food Lion or retail giants Wal-Mart and Target.)


Longest serving prisoner 

The longest serving prisoner in America has been behind bars for 63 years. He was known in the day as the "Lipstick Killer." A seventeen year-old University of Chicago student when he was arrested, William Heirens, turns eighty-one next week. There is still quite some debate about whether or not he committed the horrific crimes he was convicted of.

CNN quotes his lawyer, "Heirens was subjected to days of brutal interrogation. He also was beaten and given sodium pentothal to make him tell the truth, Drizin (the lawyer) said. He underwent a spinal tap, another extreme measure to compel him to talk."


The crimes: one Josephine Ross was the first victim, a forty-three year-old, she was found stabbed to death in her own apartment. Five months later a Frances Brown was discovered in her bathroom. She was stabbed through the neck and shot in the head. CNN reports, "The killer left a message on the wall. It said, "for heavens sake catch me before I kill more I cannot control myself." It was scrawled in red lipstick." A sensationalist press in Chicago dubbed it the work of the "Lipstick Killer." The final gruesome murder followed the abduction of a six year-old girl. Her dismembered body parts turned up individually.

William Heirens was busted by Chicago cops five months later for burglary near the home where the sleeping six year-old had been kidnapped from a second story bedroom.

Sixty-three years later some believe a brutal murderer is behind bars, others an innocent or at least redeemed man.

Read CNN's whole story here.

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Oden over Durant 

Is there anyone out there still defending the drafting of Greg Oden ahead of Kevin Durant? The Clarion Content hopes not. Oden is averaging a measly 6.8 points per game. He is grabbing a handful of boards, 9.8 per game, and blocking a couple of shots, 2.2 game, but if that is what he is!?! A defensive rebounding specialist who's career peak is below that of Ben Wallace. Egads, what an egregious decision to draft him ahead of the electric Kevin Durant. 25.3 points per game last year, a contender to win the scoring title this year, even if hasn't shot a lick yet.

It says here that Trail Blazers mini run peaked last year at a first round playoff loss. Portland coach Nate McMillan is already calling out Oden and the team for a lack of effort, "We're not playing as hard as we need to win games." And he lit up his interior players for their lack of defense rotation and hustle,"We broke down and they were able to get to the paint and get layups without our bigs stepping in to help." McMillan indicated it was a problem morphing into a bad pattern.

See ya back at the lottery Portland, and don't do anything dumb like picking Oden over Durant or you will be right back here again.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Africa splitting 

And no, we don't mean that figuratively, Africa is literally splitting in two according to geologists from the University of Rochester. A thirty-five mile long gash opened up in Ethiopia as recently as 2007, it is twenty feet wide in places. Scientists say the process mimics rifts that open on the bottom of the ocean floor. Fox News reported, "the rift tore open along its entire 35-mile length in just days. Dabbahu, a volcano at the northern end of the rift, erupted first, then magma pushed up through the middle of the rift area and began 'unzipping' the rift in both directions.

The African and Arabian tectonic plates meet in the remote Afar desert of Northern Ethiopia. They have been spreading apart in a process that moves at a speed of less than 1 inch per year, over the past 30 million years. This rifting process formed the 186-mile Afar depression and the Red Sea.

Read more here.

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